restricted access Science after theEnd of Science?
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• 1 In the february 2008 issue of Nature Nanotechnology, physicist Philip Moriarty published a commentary that aims to reclaim academic science from postacademic science. Even though many of his readers are not at all familiar with the terms “academic” and “postacademic” science, Moriarty makes clear that the stakes are high. He is debating no less than the question whether it is still possible today to uphold an idea of science that values above all intellectual qualities like curiosity, creativity, and knowledge, and that does so for the sake of the public rather than the corporate good. At stake in reclaiming this idea of science is what might be called an “epochal break”—the idea that there has been a transformation in the relation of science, technology, and society so profound that our received notions of “science” have been superseded by something else. It is telling that Moriarty’s intervention appeared in a journal devoted to nanotechnology, which for some (for instance, Thomas Vogt, Davis Baird, and Chris Robinson [2007]) is the prime exemplar of a new age of technoscience. In the case of nanotechnology, Vogt, Baird, and Robinson argue, it is so utterly misleading to speak of “pure science” that it is actually morally bankrupt to pretend otherwise. Only those who openly acknowledge the technical, comScience after the End of Science? An Introduction to the “Epochal Break Thesis” ALFRED NORDMANN, HANS RADDER, and GREGOR SCHIEMANN 1 1 2 • nordmann, radder, and schiemann mercial, societal character of nanotechnological research can realize its potential to benefit humankind. Moriarty (2008, 61) responds: “It is the focus on market-driven wealth creation within publicly funded academic research, and not the distinction academics draw between ‘pure’ and ‘applied’ science, which is morally bankrupt.” Another physicist, Richard Jones (2008, 448), comments on this exchange by remarking that scientists “for whom the traditional values of science as a source of disinterested and objective knowledge are precious” regard arguments for postacademic technoscience “as assaults by the barbarians at the gates of science.” Debates like this constitute one of the starting points of this edited volume. It is a debate about facts and about values. Has there been an epochal break or not? What happened to science as we knew it? And what does all this mean for science and society, for our intellectual traditions and the public good? Here, we first introduce the issue and the range of positions that have been adopted in the debate. In the second section we briefly summarize the chapters that make up this volume. 1. Introducing the Epochal Break Thesis Almost every year serves as a banner year for science: 2009 was a case in point with the four-hundredth anniversary of Kepler’s first two laws of planetary motion as well as Galileo’s first use of a telescope for astronomical observations. Even more prominently, that year saw the celebration of the two-hundredth anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth and the hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of his Origin of Species. Everyone recognizes the scientific accomplishments in all this—the advancement of knowledge toward a better understanding of the world, the conflict of science and religion, and a manner of inquiry that prizes critical thinking above all. Yet, even as we are celebrating these anniversaries and valorizing a certain image of science, we are expecting from contemporary research not primarily the discovery of truth but the solution of pressing problems —new ways to generate and store energy, cures for cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, innovative ideas for sustainable economic development. Evolutionary biology, the neurosciences, and theoretical physics still command interest and curiosity, but the most prestigious research nowadays comes under the headings of nanotechnology, genetic engineering, biomedical research, or synthetic biology. So, when we celebrate Kepler, Galileo, and Darwin as great scientists, are they representatives of science as we value it today? Answering this apparently simple question proves to be a difficult and controversial affair, and as Moriarty has demonstrated, there is a good deal at stake. Of course, one can quickly come up with symptomatic descriptions of chang- science after the end of science? • 3 ing conditions under which scientific research is undertaken—universities as patent holders, the computer as a powerful new tool, corporate sponsorship of research, and so on. However, this collection seeks to go beyond description. It also debates the meaning of these changes, since what is at stake is no less than a revered social institution that claims to...


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