Scientists are fond of fundamental theories, the sets of principles that purport to explain everything that they observe in their respective fields. Theories, we've been led to believe, drive the production of scientific knowledge: they provide crucial frameworks for designing experiments and interpreting results.
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While scholars like Karen-Sue Taussig and Rachel Schurman are examining how culture affects the way we relate to science, Steven Manson and C. Kenneth Waters are studying another part of the equation—how our relationship to science affects actual scientific results.
Karen-Sue Taussig's research has taken her into an uneasy realm of scientific smoke and mirrors. It is only when cultural influences on science are exposed, she says—when the great and powerful Oz is revealed to be, in the end, a man behind a curtain—that we can begin to understand the American love affair with genetic research.
“Pesky environmental crazies?" For fifteen years, Rachel Schurman says, that was how many in the biotechnology industry referred behind closed doors to activists who opposed the use of emerging technologies to modify the genes of organisms like plants and fish.
No one knows better than Kathleen Collins that research isn't all about poring over books, Web sites, and microfiche. Sometimes it means traversing dangerous terrain and putting everything on the line.
Like most scholars, Colin Kahl is something of a bookworm, often content to be buried in academic journals, history books, and the latest edition of The State of the World. But when it comes to researching current affairs, Kahl believes there's no substitute for gathering subject matter firsthand. That's why he went to Iraq last June.
As endless wars go, the “war on terror? would appear to be Exhibit A. As the war in Iraq continues unabated, how do we talk about it and react? And how does democracy fare as war rhetoric heats up and restrictions on civil liberties are imposed in the name of national security? These are questions that Ron Krebs is exploring in his study of 21st century war.
As a student in the mid-1980s, Ann Hironaka was like a lot of her peers. A nuclear showdown between superpowers still seemed possible, and there were ongoing conflicts in Angola, El Salvador, Lebanon ... seemingly too many places to count. Hironaka and her fellow activists took aim at these wars, trying to stop them. But, says Hironaka, "The solutions that people were proposing were not very convincing to me. My dissatisfaction with the activism was that the answers were just too simple."