“Science is certainty; research is uncertainty”


The Double-Bind of Science and Scientific research: are we seeking Scientific proof or researching the sciences?

“Science is certainty; research is uncertainty” (Latour)

The Double-Bind of Science and Scientific Research: Are we validating Science or researching?

As a rhetorician, coming to science and scientific conversations with rhetorical concepts in mind, I find that the recent “remarkable result” (OPERA/CERN laboratory’s finding suggesting that the neutrinos can travel faster than light) implicates far more than the upsetting of a singular theory. While disproving the theory of relativity – that nothing can travel faster than light in a vacuum (the foundation of physics) – the recent finding implies that the predictability that is assumed to follow from laws/absolutes is on shakier ground than presumed/preferred. While the finding itself is interesting and impressive, what’s far more relevant to a rhetorician like me is the implications of two things: first, how language used to articulate Science, the sciences, and researching always-already predicts the skepticism or validation of Scientific (fact-) “findings”/scientific research, and two, the public’s positioning about/responses to metaphysics as an object-oriented practice, one committed to researching, to doing, not “knowing” (Latour). Concerning rules/laws/predictability/certainty, we must reflect on what we (“the public”) are wanting. Are we wanting the rules to be reinforced by Science or “disproven” by the sciences – and what kind of reception are we emulating? How is the relationship between Science and society and (versus) the sciences and society always-already predetermined by the language used to articulate our Scientific/scientific goals? This is what I see as the purposing of the rhetorician – purposing with the “-ing” because it is in-and-of itself a recursive, infinite, researching of (the communicative component of) the sciences. The rhetorician doesn’t seek to understand the meta-details of the sciences, but seeks instead to understand the dynamics of the ways in which the sciences – the researching – are articulated, received, and re-purposed – by the public. Concerning this specific “remarkable result,” which Science is unable to explain, I am suggesting that – because, inherently, humans seek answers – our “answer” lies in a re-articulation of Science as the sciences, so that instead of being “unable to explain this remarkable result” (as both the Guardian and the Nature articles suggest) we ought to be able to explain that this remarkable result is one of many triumphs of the sciences; that it represents the foundation not of Science or physics, etc., but the (flexible/expanding/mesh-y) foundation/s of the sciences.

Such a (radical?) ideology may incite anxiety. This is understandable, and this anxiety isn’t self-induced, but rather indicative of how an aware, engaged, (United States) citizen would be expected to respond. However, such a (radical?) ideology – that of Latour’s sciences – does knock the stereotypical type of citizen off balance; it does “dis-equilibriate”. As I’ve mentioned in earlier analyses pertaining to Contemporary Rhetoric/Contemporary Rhetorical/Pedagogical philosophies, such “dis-equilibriating,” such “knocking-off-balance” is, from the way I see things, indicative of the precarious process of “learning.” If learning causes an psychological “imbalance,” and the type of (radical?) thinking involved in a Latourian ideology of the sciences causes similar ideological imbalance, is it possible that a Latourian position on researching – a  position that advocates the re-tying of the Gordian knot (of Science) – optimistically renegotiates “remarkable results” of Science not as those which dis-equilibriate the “foundation of physics,” for example – but those which “knock off balance” the ideology that inhibits a (radical?) openness (i.e. “Science”), and exercises the agency inherent in researching?

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About klangbehn

Doctoral Candidate: Rhetoric of Science University of South Florida 4202 E. Fowler Avenue Tampa, FL 33620-5550 View all posts by klangbehn

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