The communication methods and educational systems that are applied to report scientific findings and technological advances to the public have come under repeated critical scrutiny during the past few years. This communication process, often overlooks deep seated philosophical and epistemological differences between cultures and continents. One prominent area of neglect is the failure to incorporate the specific knowledge(s) of traditional communities into mainstream epistemological discourse. Traditional knowledge has historically been restricted as ‘discoveries’ by outsider researchers. The traditional epistemic status of traditional communities, as a direct result, remains to be considered as incompatible with the ‘scientific’ and ‘progressive’ nature of modern western knowledge. Modern science and technology, therefore, is deemed to operate above (and beyond) the more ‘primitive’ processes of traditional scientific methods. Modern science is only prepared to acknowledge the ‘primitive’ methods of traditional knowledge systems in so far as the latter serves as confirmation of the formers’ alleged superior cognitive status. It is from this so-called superior perspective that modernity will allow itself to speak of ‘traditional agricultural methods’,traditional water harvesting methods’ or even ‘traditional craft production methods’.

In this paper I will argue against this artificial barrier in the communication of science. Considering science principles as universal, and acknowledging the historical role that philosophers play in contextualising science knowledge, I will present some options to guide the re-alignment of global science communication towards becoming a more inclusive activity between the industrialised and developing worlds by asking fundamental philosophical questions about social justice, agency and the possibility of change. My focus will be on Africa and India. I will mention, in specific, the work of western philosophers such as Jürgen Habermas (1981. 1987, 1994) and Richard Rorty (1980) and African Philosophers such as Paulin Hountondji ( 1997, 2002) and Kwasi Wiredu (1975, 2000). Their opinions will be juxtaposed against ideas that developed in India as explored by Amarthya Sen (2000).

">
 [PCST]
PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Social agency, justice and transformation in the quest for a globally representative communication of science

Hester du Plessis   University of Johannesburg, South Africa

The communication methods and educational systems that are applied to report scientific findings and technological advances to the public have come under repeated critical scrutiny during the past few years. This communication process, often overlooks deep seated philosophical and epistemological differences between cultures and continents. One prominent area of neglect is the failure to incorporate the specific knowledge(s) of traditional communities into mainstream epistemological discourse. Traditional knowledge has historically been restricted as ‘discoveries’ by outsider researchers. The traditional epistemic status of traditional communities, as a direct result, remains to be considered as incompatible with the ‘scientific’ and ‘progressive’ nature of modern western knowledge. Modern science and technology, therefore, is deemed to operate above (and beyond) the more ‘primitive’ processes of traditional scientific methods. Modern science is only prepared to acknowledge the ‘primitive’ methods of traditional knowledge systems in so far as the latter serves as confirmation of the formers’ alleged superior cognitive status. It is from this so-called superior perspective that modernity will allow itself to speak of ‘traditional agricultural methods’,traditional water harvesting methods’ or even ‘traditional craft production methods’.

In this paper I will argue against this artificial barrier in the communication of science. Considering science principles as universal, and acknowledging the historical role that philosophers play in contextualising science knowledge, I will present some options to guide the re-alignment of global science communication towards becoming a more inclusive activity between the industrialised and developing worlds by asking fundamental philosophical questions about social justice, agency and the possibility of change. My focus will be on Africa and India. I will mention, in specific, the work of western philosophers such as Jürgen Habermas (1981. 1987, 1994) and Richard Rorty (1980) and African Philosophers such as Paulin Hountondji ( 1997, 2002) and Kwasi Wiredu (1975, 2000). Their opinions will be juxtaposed against ideas that developed in India as explored by Amarthya Sen (2000).

[PDF 60.36 kB]Download the full paper (PDF 60.36 kB)

BACK TO TOP