The Unifying Aspects of Cultures


Socially Acceptable Sciences

Chair of the section/Suggestions, Abstracts, Papers to:
Email: Michael Strähle (Vienna)

ABSTRACT: Public trust in scientists is declining, criticism of the sciences is increasing even from within and the importance of the sciences for politics is dwindling. The media are already bringing out controversies over new scientific results and technologies. What are the social tasks of the sciences? This question is being asked more and more frequently. Politics thus is confronted with the responsibility of bringing the forced economic utilization of scholarly knowledge into harmony with the expected ecological and social compatibility of the sciences. In view of this situation, to believe that scientific knowledge, above all in the Natural Sciences and Technology, originates uninfluenced by special interests, seems singularly naive.

How do we envision socially compatible science? How is it organized and institutionally integrated?

The claim of the sciences is total. Making life scientific - and by this means delegating it to professionals - leads to the loss of knowledge of practical life (Gernot Böhme). How much science do we need? What scientific approaches are there to avoid this colonization of the world of life? Methodological arguments cannot show that the sciences are superior to other traditions, nor can one privilege the sciences over other traditions on the basis of their results (Paul Feyerabend). The sciences are only a bundle of forms of knowledge among others. What role could be given to the sciences? Can scientific knowledge be combined with other forms of knowledge without dominating them? What epistemological and methodological consequences would a non-comprehensive claim of the sciences have?.

In the meantime there is a series of measures, initiatives and proposals such as, for example, consensus conferences, science shops, expanded Peer Review and the inclusion of consumers in research projects, which have to do with fostering the social compatibility of the sciences by the participation of people who are not members of the scientific community. Is participation really being practiced here or are special interests being involved? Are the non-science people viewed as partners or as supplicants? How will the social compatibility be presented?

Many of the initiatives that make an effort to carry out socially compatible science move to the margin or outside of the scientific realm, if they do not remain invisible. Apparently social compatibility is not inherent in the field of science. What prevents socially compatible sciences?

The universities are no longer the sole places, which evaluate whether knowledge is scientific or not, that is to say: whether the knowledge has been gained in a legitimate way. The manner of maintaining discipline over the forms of knowledge is changing. What new forms of oversight have been introduced? In what relationship do they stand to the demanded social compatibility of the sciences?