Science, let’s talk: your friend, all other knowledges

The purpose of the Sustaining the Knowledge Commons research program is to help in the process of transitioning to a stable global knowledge commons, through which everyone can access all of our collective knowledge free-of-charge and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions and to which all who are qualified are welcome to contribute. One common problem that I see in the open access movement and in the scientific community (OA or not) is a tendency to conflate knowledge and science. I argue that this is a serious problem not only for other forms of knowledge, but a potential immanent existential threat to science itself. At a recent talk I presented a brief explanation of the argument. Following is the abstract and a link to the full presentation.

Presentation by Heather Morrison Feb. 26, University of Ottawa, as part of the CC- UNESCO Science as a Human Right Series.

Abstract

Article 27.1 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits”. The central argument of this presentation is that in order to achieve the goal of scientific advancement and its benefits it is necessary to understand science as one of the interdependent forms of the knowledge of humankind. To understand human rights, we need to understand the current and historical struggles through which the needs for human rights were identified and fought for. The conceptual development and implementation of human rights comes from philosophy, law, and politics, not scientific method. Science itself cannot function without logic, and is best not practiced without ethics; both logic and ethics, essential to scientific practice, are philosophy. Science needs philosophy.

Climate change is presented as evidence of why global policy based on scientific evidence is essential to the future, perhaps the very survival of the human species, and why global policy based on scientific evidence depends on more than science alone. If science alone were enough, the scientific consensus on climate change should have compelled effective action a long time ago. Science alone is not enough; political change requires political action. In the area of policy, belief in progress through science is just that, a matter of belief that competes with other belief systems. To help people change, to achieve political change, we need to understand not just what we know (the science), we need to understand how people think (social sciences and humanities) and how to effectively communicate with people (arts). If we in the developed world were to learn from our First Nations peoples about long-term planning, the ideas that we do not inherent the world from our ancestors but rather borrow it from our children, to plan for the seventh generation, we would have the knowledge to understand why we need policy in this area that is informed by the science. In conclusion, as a holistic scholar who is indigenous to, and cares above, the planet earth, on behalf of all the other forms of knowledges, I extend this invitation to science: let’s talk.

Link to download the full presentation: https://ruor.uottawa.ca/handle/10393/38890

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