The Science Wars, Ecology, and the Left

Dana Phillips

in The Truth of Ecology

Published in print May 2003 | ISBN: 9780195137699
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780199787937 | DOI:
 The Science Wars, Ecology, and the Left

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In the academy, the so-called Science Wars of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s were waged largely by those on the left who were interested in the theories and findings of the several disciplines in which historical, philosophical, political, and sociological science studies are pursued. These radical critics equated scientific knowledge with power, but made an exception for ecology, which they saw as utopian because they too readily accepted the popular view of ecology as holistic and communitarian, and therefore as radically unlike physics, which has long set the standard for reductive and mechanistic views of nature as well as for objectivity and certainty. Radical critics of science have no faith in the latter, believing instead in the social construction of scientific knowledge, and asserting that the goal of most scientific research and experimentation is the domination of nature. Their confidence in theories of social construction leads them to treat science as just one form of discourse among others, and to dismiss disciplines like sociobiology and genetics as politically suspect. But many of these critics of science — who are variously influenced by Critical Theory, cultural studies, ecofeminism, and so-called social ecology — seem blithely to accept sociological determinism (which would appear to be just as onerous as any other form of determinism) and seem to misunderstand scientific realism, which is a realism not about theories or “discourses” but about entities which cannot be understood as mere effects of meaning or artifacts of signification.

Keywords: Critical Theory; discourse; domination; ecofeminism; ecology; physics; social ecology; sociobiology; science studies; Science Wars

Chapter.  27493 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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