Monthly Archives: November 2015

Learning to think differently – or is it going back to what we know?

Photo Ethne Davey

Photo Ethne Davey

photo Ethne Davey

photo Ethne Davey

 

How do we know what we know? Or do we not really know and are only too happy to take somebody else’s word for the truth?

 

 

Soap-making is equal parts arts and science. It helps me a lot in thinking around what science can and cannot do. Of course working my day job in climate change has focused the mind powerfully around the limits of science. There is a sense in which the current crisis constitutes a huge ‘Ooops’ on the part of Cartesian science.  It works very well when there is a single cause for a single effect – like combustion engines. But when we are confronted with a single cause which has multiple effects (like pesticide endocrine disruptors ) then science is stumped because the problem does not lend itself to the experimental method. Or when we see multiple causes having a single outcome (gender based violence, say, or global warming) then again the positivistic approach we have all been taught to revere as the fount of truth fails to provide answers. In fact, if anything the crisis teaches us to be open to humility. You don’t know what you don’t know and life has a way of rubbing your nose in it. Or, as at present, the entire planetary ecosystem…

But then again, this only confirms what organic farmers and indigenous peoples (or those of us who are mad enough to be both) have been saying for a long time. So where do we go from here? Do we look for other gods in human guise to provide the ultimate answers? Or do we – finally – learn to think for ourselves? I have attached a new paper: Epistemology of Intersectionality, where I try to go deep about these things.

 

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