From Harry Boyte – “Civic Science – Renewing the link between science and democracy”

The following is excerpted from an October 8, 2014,  Huffington Post article by Harry Boyte, Director, Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg College. Contact Harry Boyte at boyte001@umn.edu. Click here to read the entire post.

Science is not value neutral. It depends on democratic values of cooperation, free inquiry, and a commonwealth of knowledge. Before World War II, a broad group of “scientific democrats” including John Dewey and thousands of other scientists, described in Andrew Jarrett’s recent book, Science, Democracy, and the American University, helped to lead the movement for deepening democracy in America.

It is crucial to renew the explicit ties between democracy and science, declared Gerald Taylor, one of the nation’s leading community organizers, on October 2, to a diverse audience at the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Virginia. Otherwise science can become a tool of oppression in extreme cases. The Nazis, after all, conducted first class scientific experiments – on human beings. So did the U.S. government, in the infamous Tuskegee experiment. Between 1932 and 1972 the U.S. Public Health Service intentionally infected a group of rural African American men with syphilis, who thought they were receiving free health care, to study the disease’s untreated progression.

Taylor spoke at a workshop on civic science at the National Science Foundation, October 2-3. The meeting brought together a diverse group of scientists, community organizers, political theorists, social scientists, humanities scholars, graduate students, leaders in cooperative extension, humanity centers and science museum directors, federal administrators, program directors from the National Science Foundation, the United States Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Health, and others. For two days the group discussed the relevance of science to the complex problems of our time and the future of democracy…

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