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Wed May 4 18:08:57 EDT 2011

but what scientists do) is part of the political dialectic. IMHO though,
the most pertinent materialist interpretation of science is a feminist
one as exemplified by the writings of Carolyn Merchant and Susan Griffin.
<p>Souscayrous wrote:
<blockquote>Science treats the world as an
<br>array of Things to be studied, and misses their whatness (quiddity).
<br>Science treats the world as Things and thus we have technology.&nbsp;
Now the
<br>world has become a vast array of material for humankind to use as it
<br>(See Heideggers 'Question Concerning Technology') There are more fundamental
<br>ways of understanding the world.
and S.K. Harrison [Sean] replied
<blockquote>If you believe that your account of the saw
<br>qualifies as a more fundamental way of
<br>understanding the world, you have missed the
<br>whole point of my comments earlier in this
<br>thread. Scientific inquiry today--with its
<br>supercollider, hubble telescope, mainframe
<br>computers and mathematical models--has *evolved*
<br>over millenia from instances like those I gave
<br>above about the solstice and the rock.</blockquote>
The problem that I have with this reply (albeit partially answered later
by S.) is that it postulates an evolution of science which is inherently
progressive and therefore better and/or more accurate and/or more complete
etc. From this point of view the subjective experience of Souscayrous'
and his saw counts for naught - but just because you can operate a supercollider
doesn't mean you can operate a saw!
<p>Let me give you a feminist permaculture example - the practice on Australian
farmland up until a very few years ago was to clear all native bush and
to plant wall to wall crops and or pasture. This was dictated by the banks
backed up with scientific research about yields and productivity. This
was in spite of the fact that it had been well established since 1910 that
land clearing led to dry land salinity which resulted in a permanent and
catastrophic loss of productivity.
<p>It is a well reported fact that many farmers wives ( in the 70 years
between 1910 and 1980 the majority of farmers were considered to be men)
cajoled, pleaded and persuaded successfully their husbands to preserve
the remaining few acres of bushland that was uncleared on their block for
usually very 'feminine' reasons (it was beautiful, it's where we have our
picnic's, it's where our third child was conceived, the wild flowers are
lovely in spring etc. ) . This is not to say that some of these women did
not also use more 'scientific' arguments ( there are rare plants there,
the water's always been the best from that bore etc.)
<p>Since the economic consequences of salinity and loss of biodiversity
have made themselves apparent - these remaining few acres have increased
in value as has the role of women in farming decision making. Nowadays,
'scientific' arguments about the preservation of bushland and the planting
of trees have usurped the 'feminine' arguments. Yet it is still widely
apparent in rural political discourse in this country that the protection
of biodiversity and the sustainable use of land are essentially sissy concerns
and that real men should take every last surplus tree out of the ground.
<p>Souscayrous wrote:
<blockquote>&nbsp;It is the death of God, the end of the belief in progress,
<br>fracture of the self, the end of meaning and indeed my inflated,&nbsp;
'all words
<br>lie'.&nbsp; Here lies the impasse.&nbsp; This is my exit from academe.</blockquote>
A melancholy position. It reminds me of the existentialist position of
Camus in The Plague. He is not alone in this response to the history of
science and politics in Western Europe from the time of Galileo onwards.
Even if his position infuriates Sean Harrison. who responds:
<blockquote>Philosophical or technical notions of self don't
<br>play a role in the evaluations of the Udeghe, the
<br>!Kung, the Pitjantjara, the Yezidis, the Inuit,
<br>the Tuvans, not to mention the lay majority of
<br>westerners and the vast numbers of Chinese,
<br>Japanese, Arabs, etc. In other words, there's
<br>nothing to fracture.</blockquote>
But indeed they do - in particular in relation to the cultural clash that
arises upon the contact between Western European and these cultures. The
Ptitjantjatjara ( the correct spelling) with whom I'm personally acquainted
and Aboriginal culture in Australia generally is rife with discussions
about the notion of self and the consequences of the two very different
viewpoints. The most ubiquitous point of contention and discussion is the
position of one self as separate from one's relations in European culture
and the reverse in Aboriginal culture. This reflects directly upon issues
of exchange, fairness, reciprocity and selfishness. A European uninterested
in this discussion will get short shrift in any Aboriginal community (urban
or Western desert).
<p>IN the interests of discussion let me just challenge once and for all
the notion that there is such a thing as human progress which seems to
underlie Sean Harrison's defence of scientific method. To argue that the
world in 2001 is better off than it was in 1801 or 1901 is, I would contend,
fraught with problems. It would be like arguing that the world of Rome
in 300 AD was better than the world of Rome in 200 AD etc. At the time,
it may seem patently obvious - but within 50 years Rome was sacked and
the world entered a Dark Age ruled by petty tyrants and the occasional
Arthurian legend. I need hardly point out the consequences of the depletion
of the earth's resources and the unsustainability of current practices
to people reading a permaculture news list. Why are they here in the catacombs
of the internet after all?
<p>Bob Howard


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