The politics of certainty: Conceptions of science in an age of uncertainty

Science and Engineering Ethics 6 (4):499-508 (2000)
The prestige of science, derived from its claims to certainty, has adversely affected the humanities. There is, in fact, a “politics of certainty”. Our ability to predict events in a limited sphere has been idealized, engendering dangerous illusions about our power to control nature and eliminate time. In addition, the perception and propagation of science as a bearer of certainty has served to legitimate harmful forms of social, sexual, and political power. Yet, as Ilya Prigogine has argued, renewed attention to the irreducible reality of time has brought us to “the end of certainty”. As we enter the age of uncertainty, there is disagreement about how science should be understood and communicated. Some scientists cling to the ideal of certainty, while others emphasize the creative potential of spontaneity, novelty, and surprise.
Keywords science  humanities  certainty  spontaneity  novelty  time
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