Dear Stuart:

Thank you for the insightful comment and your article (makes me want to subscribe to the journal--which I wanted to do if not for its steep annual rate for individuals).  

I acknowledge that modern science arose co-incidentally with capitalism and became submerged into it after the Industrial Revolution.  This requires a separate analysis, of course.  However, modern science and capitalism both emerged because of already existing social processes.  This longer historical tendency characterized by domination of nature by humans and domination of other humans in class societies merit its analysis as well and can shed light on trends we see today (the converse as Marx explained is also true).  From the point of view of the desire to control our environment there is certainly a continuity, admittedly such desire has accelerated much in capitalism. 

The idea is not to give up scientific inquiry but to free it from the desire for control and domination of nature and society.  How that is done requires much talent and creativity. It is something worthwhile that people on this list can contribute to and I look froward to learn about.

Best regards,

Kamran

On Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 7:05 PM, Stuart Newman <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Dear Kamran,

I agree with you that our modern society has apparently assumed a more
alienated and instrumental stance towards nature and our fellow humans
than others have. I also, believe, though, that science, as we understand
the concept, arose coincidentally with European capitalism beginning in
the 16th century.

There were other practices of societies and cultures organized along
different lines - agriculture, metallurgy, and so on - that yielded useful
products and principles. The systematic knowledge of hundreds of scarce,
and at first glance, unpromising foodstuffs and other natural products of
the Australian aborigines, whom you mention, was probably comparably
or more sophisticated than any body of knowledge in pre-20th century
Europe. But none of these practices had the progressive and accelerating
features of science.

I doubt that a society such as ours can take up the values and
conceptual framework of a culture that has followed a different path for
tens of thousands of years. But we may moving in the wrong direction
even in our own cultural landscape. I have attached an essay I recently
wrote about the emerging field of "synthetic biology" that argues that
there are commercial and governmental pressures that are encouraging
us to abandon some of the best features of scientific theory and practice.

Stuart


On Wed, 29 Feb 2012 17:56:18 -0800, Kamran Nayeri
<[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>Dear Herb, Stuart and all:
>
>I am not a scientist and recent member of SftP. So, I may be naive or
>misinformed. But is there not something in the enterprise of science
itself
>that goes beyond its (mis)use by the capitalist system?
>
>Science and technology seem to have arisen in our species quest to
>understand and CONTROL. The curiosity about the world around us is
shared
>with some other species. But the desire to control nature and society is
>particularly human and originate *before* the rise of class society.
>
>To understand the scope of the problem let us contrast our collective
>outrage at the example Stuart has brought to our attention  with how
>commonplace is the acceptance of manipulating nature around us,
including
>almost any species we have found "useful" to us (think of breeding
wolves
>into dogs of all kinds, including "toy" dogs).
>
>In such cases at least two factors are at work. First, it is our collective
>desire to control our environment (nature and society). Second, science
>(and technology) is (are) the social processes that make this happen.  Of
>course, when the ends are consistent with our ethical believes we see no
>problem either with the desire to control or science as the means to
>achieve such control. However, when the proposal offends our sense of
>ethics we find fault in the group of policymakers and scientists
>responsible.
>
>If any of this makes any sense at all, I think a solution might reside in
>merging science and technology with wisdom of the aboriginals who did
see
>themselves as part of web of life and tried--at least in large measure
>successfully--to adapt to their environment as opposed to changing it to
>fit their desire. "Science for the people" would become the science that
>show us how to live as part of the web of life without a desire to make it
>in our own image; that is to be in harmony with the rest of nature as
well
>with our own kind.
>
>A modern day example is permaculture that tried to mimic nature in
setting
>so modified by humans that is no longer hospitable to the web of life.
An
>ecological socialism of this kind can be the society in which such science
>will flourish.
>
>Kamran
>
>
>On Tue, Feb 28, 2012 at 12:18 PM, herb fox
<[log in to unmask]>wrote:
>
>>  Thanks Stuart for your food for thought.
>>
>> Regardless of tthe reactions this article induces (laughter, fear,
>> disregard, etc), recognizing that it is serious thinking by serious
minded
>> thinkers provokes one to understand what it represents in a larger
>> societal context.  It is a marvelous example of how much the
hegemonic
>> culture penetrates even the most imaginative and well meaning
thinkers of
>> today.  It is all clearly laid out in its opening remarks.  What is
>> accepted as immutable: "ordinary behavioural and market solutions
might
>> not be sufficient to mitigate climate change."  In essence the
underlying
>> premise is that capitalism is not to be questioned; rather humans are
to be
>> modified to accomodate it.  Stated in this bald-faced way, one has to
>> accept that this is the dominant thinking among intellectuals in general
>> and among scientists in particular.  Moreover the behavioral
modification
>> of humans to accomodate capitalism is active in countless ways with
>> scientists participating enthusiastically usually rationalizing their
>> participation as being helpful.  Historically i have in mind Count
Rumford,
>> whose contributions to themodynamics are admirable and whose
contributions
>> to accomodating the poor to their oppression is less discussed.  (It is
>> also relevant that his understanding of heat came about as he
engineered
>> the boring of cannon.)
>>
>> One of the ways that we scientists in the United States are made
integral
>> to capitalism and its incessant need to participate in wars, etc is
through
>> the generalization of the Mansfield amendment concept.  I was made
acutely
>> aware of this recently when a colleague asked me to be co-PI with him
on a
>> proposal he was submitting.  The proposal was not being submitted
to the
>> DoD or NSF or, whatever, but to an internal university source of seed
>> funding.  Upon reading his proposal, which will, if successful ,enable
>> significant improvements in some fundamental research, i found
references
>> to how this work will enhance such things as detecting terrorists and
>> making stealth vehicles.  Apparently this is what we must do to obtain
>> support for scientific endeavors.  So we do it believeing we are using
>> "them."  But, in fact, they are using us.
>>
>> We are confronted with the conundrum that, in this society, to do
science
>> that requires material resources beyond our individual capability to
>> provide, we usually must participate in enabling the use of our science
for
>> anti-human purposes.  The article demonstrates that at one extreme
we
>> accept their motivation as ours and are creative in propagating their
>> values in our science.  At the other extreme we abandon science,
which is
>> itself a conundrum, considering that one who doesn't practise science
can
>> no longer be considered a scientist.  Most of us sit between these
>> extremes.  We attach some kind of ethical value to the very pursuit of
>> science and to the production of new scientists, and hold ethical values
>> regarding society, war-work, etc.  Consequently we are almost always
living
>> a contradiction of ethical values.
>>
>> All this leads me to wonder if practicing scientists and engineers, are
>> the ones who are going to make over the pursuit of science into a
pursuit
>> of science for the people.  It may be that "the people" in the process
of
>> reorganizing society will call upon us to break oour ties to the curently
>> hegemonic class and serve instead the people, while providing us the
>> resources to do so.  It is my fervent hope that my students will find
that
>> including in their proposals reference to war usefullness and terrorist
>> supression etc will make the proposals unacceptable, while reference to
>> enhancing the value of human life, reduction of environmental threats,
etc
>> will make them acceptable.
>>
>> Tell me. please, brothers and sisters, what can we do here and now,
as
>> scientists, that will advance the practical realization of Science for the
>> People.  For the article is but an exaggerated, gung ho, manifestation
of
>> the integration of science into the motivation and maintenance of
>> institutions of the most advanced, creative, inhuman and destructive
form
>> of social organization known to history.
>>
>> herb
>>
>>
>> On 2/27/2012 6:24 PM, Stuart Newman wrote:
>>
>> Thanks for these comments, Claudia. I originally thought this might
be a
>> Swiftian "modest proposal" as well. But then I recognized the name of
August
>> Sandberg, a prominent Trashumanist:
http://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/our_staff/research/anders_sandberg
>> and looked up Liao and Roache and found that they are also
philosophers in
>> the transhumanist Future of Humanity Institute, though Liao seems
to have
>> moved to NYU. They're not kidding.
>>
>> Transhumanism is easy to ridicule, but it is an extension of 20th
century
>> eugenics, which also looked like a crackpot venture, until it was not.
>> Transhumanism has gained some traction at the Google-sponsored
Singularity
>> University in California. I've written a bit about the history of these
>> movements in the attached article.
>>
>> Stuart
>>
>>
>> On Mon, 27 Feb 2012 13:01:59 -0700, Claudia Pine
<[log in to unmask]>
<[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>
>>
>>  To be honest, after the first few paragraphs I concluded it is a
>> tongue-in-cheek satire on all of this expensive, techno-driven chatter
>> about how we should change the planet - or here, the people - rather
than
>> take the simple solution of changing our stupid, shortsighted,
ethnocentric
>> and profit-driven behaviors.
>>
>> After all, their proposals that we genetically and pharmaceutically alter
>> human size, appetite, etc., on a massive scale are no more ridiculous
>> ("worthy of ridicule") than the equally massive geoengineering
proposals
>> that the authors are ridiculing.  Either approach would require so much
>> money, so many kinds of complicated and untested technologies, so
much
>> coercive and centralized government, compared to the simple solution
of us
>> just stopping any substantial combination of the ridiculous
overpopulation,
>> overconsumption of resources, and overproduction of waste that we
now
>> engage in, for few reasons other than careless habit and thoughtless
greed.
>>
>> But then, I kept reading their carefully laid-out arguments. They seem
to
>> be serious! They advance various examples or experimental data that
they
>> suggest backs up the feasibility of their proposals. Of course, the work
>> referenced is heavily cherry-picked. It's highly selective, and ignores
>> many, many other considerations, requirements, and implications,
that would
>> come into play if you started giving people a drug that causes them
to eat
>> less beef because it makes them nauseous when they smell it.
Needless to
>> say, few current hamburger fans would agree to take this drug - and
even
>> fewer fast-food chains would agree to add it to their beef!  Talk about
pie
>> (or beef pie) in the sky.
>>
>> So I'm torn. Do these authors realize they've written a total farce? Is
>> this article meant as a complete, Jonathan Swift-style satire of the
whole
>> techno-optimistic silliness that has so many scientists and politicians
>> constantly proposing trillion-billion-dollar engineering fixes to far
>> simpler problems of everyday human behavior?
>>
>> At the end, I have taken it as a brilliant satire, whether it was intended
>> as that or not.  It's like Mitt Romney saying "and my wife drives a
couple
>> of Cadillacs" thinking that this shows he understands the ordinary
>> wage-earner. Whether the speaker is aware of it or not, his words
>> demonstrate how out of touch with reality he is.
>>
>> I'm absolutely delighted Stuart Newman posted the link - thank you,
Stuart!
>>
>> Claudia Pine
>> Idaho, USA
>>
>>
>>
>