Aborted Discovery Science and Creativity in the Third World review by John Brown.pdf

Aborted Discovery Science and Creativity in the Third World review by John Brown.pdf
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    ReviewReviewed Work(s): Aborted Discovery: Science and Creativity in the Third World bySusantha GoonatilakeReview by: John BrownSource: Technology and Culture,  Vol. 28, No. 4 (Oct., 1987), pp. 899-901Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press and the Society for the History ofTechnologyStable URL: 07-09-2018 19:36 UTC   JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a widerange of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity andfacilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at The Johns Hopkins University Press, Society for the History of Technology   arecollaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Technology and Culture  This content downloaded from on Fri, 07 Sep 2018 19:36:40 UTCAll use subject to   TECHNOLOGY AND CULTURE Book Reviews 899  most theories of rights derive their ethicaljustificat  what is natural and common to humans.  De Gregori deserves praise for attempting to deliver us from the  ignorance and hyperbole of many doomsayers. Unfortunately, instead  of giving us analysis and argument in his apologia for unrestrained  technology, he is too often content with platitudes and question-  begging generalizations.  KRISTIN SHRADER-FRECHETTE  DR. SHRADER-FRECHETTE is graduate research professor of philosophy at the Univer-  sity of South Florida. Holding degrees in mathematics, physics, and philosophy of  science, she has written five books on science policy and economic methodology and is  currently completing a book on hazardous waste.  Aborted Discovery: Science and Creativity in the Third World. By Susantha  Goonatilake. London: Zed Press, 1984. Pp. iii + 191; notes, bibliogra-  phy, indexes. ?14.95 + 75p handling (cloth); ?5.95 + 75p handling  (paper)/$23.25 + $1.50 handling (cloth); $9.25 + $1.00 handling  (paper)/$C32.00 + $C2.00 handling (cloth); $C12.95 + $C2.00  handling (paper). Available from Biblio Distribution Center, 81  >Adams Drive, Box 327, Totowa, New Jersey 07512; DEC Book  Distribution, 229 College Street, Toronto, Ontario M5T 1R4,  Canada.  Aborted Discovery is Susantha Goonatilake's second attempt to ra consciousnesses in the Third World concerning the ways in which activities are defined by Western values and especially Western indu trial commitments. (His first was Crippled Minds: An Exploration in  Colonial Culture, published by Vikas in 1982.) Goonatilake's particul task here is to persuade his fellow scientists that they do not have slavishly follow Western scientific paths, that doing so leads only t  bankrupt and secondhand science. He also wants to identify opport nities to escape from the thrall of Western science and to develop genuinely indigenous Asian science.  To do this, Goonatilake has to overcome several impediments that knows are associated with socialization into Western science. This is  especially so for practitioners who are not working at the frontiers of  their disciplines or are applied scientists-the situation for almost all  Third World scientists, he argues. He attempts to disabuse his col-  leagues of several assumptions. The first is that the scientific enterprise  is owned by the West in the sense that the exploration of physical reality has been an exclusively Western obsession imported by other  cultures. On the basis of recent work on the Chinese and Indian  traditions of inquiry into physical phenomena, he shows that it is much  more universal and has an equally long history in Asian intellectual traditions, many of which preceded European discoveries by many  centuries. This content downloaded from on Fri, 07 Sep 2018 19:36:40 UTCAll use subject to   900 Book Reviews TECHNOLOGY AND CULTURE  By sketching out a conventional Western histor  lake tries to show how it has tended until recent  tradition that excludes all but Western activities. In fact, there has  always been a considerable amount of creative interaction between  Eastern and Western centers of learning, and the direction of innova-  tion often has been from East to West. He mentions, in particular, early  Renaissance navigation that included significant borrowings from the  East, especially in mathematics and techniques for the newly important  arts of navigation, astronomy and warfare (p. 49). Indian medicine, too, provides a particularly vivid example; vaccination against small-  pox was practiced in India until it was banned by the British in the first  decade of the 19th century (p. 52). Indian steel technology was in- fluential in early European steel development. Another decaying ghost of the scientific imagination that Goonati-  lake exposes is the ancient dogma that science is value-free. Science, he  argues, is essentially a culture-bound process. Since the culture that science currently espouses is the dominant culture of Western indus-  trial society, its tacit commitments are vested in maintaining Western  values and Western cultural domination of all world systems. Since  Goonatilake wants to reform Asian science, he wants to show the ways  in which its dependence on contemporary Western centers of scientific education and orthodoxy define and inhibit creativity. He tries to show  that technology transfer involves more than upgrading the scientific  traditions of the Third World. When Third World peoples adopt  Western science, they are not adopting a value-neutral technology.  When they adopt our technology they adopt the values that are em- bedded within it: The introduced technology... may be compared to  a societal 'gene,' building aspects of its srcinal social world out of the  hardware and personnel of the society of adoption (p. 131).  Having sketched out the cage that Third World scientists are locked  into, the next task is to suggest a way out. Goonatilake finds oppor- tunity in the exponential growth rate of Western science itself. Like many observers inside and outside science, he sees the multiplication of more and more esoteric specialties as eventually limiting and self-  destructive. He sees opportunity too in the current loss of certainty in  science, mathematics, and physics, in the very epistemology of science.  A possible revolutionary strategy is complete detachment from the center. Citing the Pol Pot and Cultural Revolution examples, he quick- ly recognizes its weaknesses. The solution he finally recommends is the  one that prompted him to write Aborted Discovery. It is the alternative he  calls transcending the links by social, psychological and epistemologi-  cal means (p. 151). If Western explorers and industrialists and psy-  chologists have been foragers and legitimizers in Asian science,  Asian scientists should become foragers and legitimlizers, knowledge  adventurers in their own cultural traditions. Also, to escape from the  chains of the Western science ideology, a certain intellectual detach-  ment is required. This is to be achieved through a sociology of knowl- This content downloaded from on Fri, 07 Sep 2018 19:36:40 UTCAll use subject to   TECHNOLOGY AND CULTURE Book Reviews 901  edge an anthropology of scientific culture. Wh  tive areas in which it may be possible to find oppor  Ayurvedic medicine and Yoga as having proms has a clearly defined and demonstrated need fo  I amfamliar wth the problemthat Goonatilak  that facing someone who wshes to present hu One has to undo a whole collection of assumpti  unreflective positivistic perspective of many peo  science and more especially admnistrators of ficult task Even wth a large body of literature topic a comparatively small number of scholar  come to appreciate the case that is being made. a single volume is a very ambitious undertakin  Nevertheless it is a worthwhile undertaking a  a considerable amount of understanding to it. tant book for the community of Asian scientists  and arresting. It was particularly helpful to me Third World to have a Third World perspective included a number of elements that I had never considered even  though I had tried to sensitize myself to my own ethnocentricis  JOHN BROWN  MR. BROWN is both a civil engineer and a social scientist. He is a consultan  communications and development and works in North America and South and So east Asia. His academic interests include the anthropology of engineering, huma for engineers, and the relationship among science, technology, and society.  Revolution in Science. By I. Bernard Cohen. Cambridge, Mass.: Belk  Press of Harvard University Press, 1985. Pp. xx + 711; notes, bi  liography, index. $25.00.  Nowadays, a mere reference to the words scientific revolution to mind the substantial scholarly literature spawned since 1962 Thomas Kuhn first published The Structure of Scientific Revolu  Historians of science have tested Kuhn's model; philosophers analyzed and dissected it; and social scientists have applied it to p  nomena possibly never envisioned by Kuhn. In this book Ber  Cohen does not address directly the issues debated by Kuhn's adh ents and critics. Instead, his purpose is to trace the application o word revolution to events involving significant scientific adva  and to test by means of historical analyses which major conce  innovations or transformations deserve the designation scientific olution. Cohen makes his judgments on the basis of his belief that a scientific  revolution encompasses four necessary stages, coupled with his convic-  tion that four criteria give unmistakable evidence that a revolution  indeed occurred. The stages are: (1) the birth of an idea in a scientist's This content downloaded from on Fri, 07 Sep 2018 19:36:40 UTCAll use subject to
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