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Language of Science

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To know something well, you must know the language. The Language of Science is constantly changing and hard to keep up between countries, especially first and third world countries. There seems to be a invisible wall between the scientific community and the general public. The reason why there is a invisible wall is because the general public is not familiar with scientific knowledge. There is a gap and that can cause misunderstanding between the two sides. An example may be the importance of global warming to the general public and to the scientists. There are many different viewpoints and the media isn't helping either. Science and politics can be overwhelmed and can cause problems. Mostly the scientific language is usually done in english, therefore third world countries that are struggling with scientific studies and are behind compared to other nations. This type of problem leads to our reading in the "Snow Brown and the Seven Detergents." The three different endings could also be different endings that we as humans may have to face. There is no right answer on which is correct by how to manage the science community when they are on different levels like advanced countries.


Thomas Jang

The readings and the clip that we watched in class on Henrietta Lacks, her immense importance to the scientific community, her lack of recognition, as well as the interesting questions surrounding the harsh racial climate of the 1950's made me, as an english major, think immediately of Phillis Wheatley, who was the not only the first African American to be published, but was also the first African-American woman to be published. As an African-American writing around the time of the American Revolution, one the most pronounced eras of hipocritical social theories surrounding emancipation and liberty from within a slave society, she was celebrated as one of major poets of the American Revolution, and gained her freedom through her poetry. And yet she died, alone, poverty-ridden, during childbirth in a delapidated shack in the poor neighborhood of Boston.
I think these two African- American Women of intense importance must be compared for both were important in the context of racial theory. Here we have two women who, despite the immense importance to American and scientific history, died in relative obscurity.
Racial Theory has taken many forms throughout history, and these two examples, as seen through two different lenses, respectively, offer an interestingly similar story. Phillis Wheatley was the most potent argument against racial theory in revolutionary/antebellum America, which spouted African-Americans as being mentally incapable of learning to read, write, have feelings, or have any other higher mental functions. When she first published her poems she was fifteen years old, and her poems featured introductions from prominent white men of Boston, ensuring audiences that an African American had indeed written the poems, and that were worth reading.
On the other side of the spectrum, Henrietta Lacks was born into the stultifying environment of racial segregation and institutional poverty, the latter of which her family still suffers. And her amazing contribution to medicine was not recognized until much after her death. Thus two incredibly important African American women died, their immense contributions to American society having changed veritably nothing, with the dominant racial theories persisting. Interestingly, someone mentioned in class on Wednesday that a possible reason for "keeping secret" the origins of the HeLa cell was due to racism and the possible denial of its usage by doctors and patients alike.
Contrary to Wheatley's poems, which needed proof from prominent white men that they were in fact poems of some merit, and induced white audiences to read them, the cells of Henrietta Lacks didn't even get this treatment, despite the 175 or so years separating them. Simply, after that many years, and after Wheatley and many other African American writers, scientists, etc. have proven wrong the theories of racism, time and time again. Yet, the same forces were at work in the lives, and more importantly the deaths, of Wheatley and Lacks, one of "scientifically proven" racial theories, supression, and forced obscurity.

Continued Pursuit for Truth

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In science research and investigation, the common teaching is to be wary of biases and how they can influence reasoning and judgment. Although this concept was taught, in my mind, it was not explored enough to the point where I understood how critical of a role culture plays in science. In order to gain a clear objective, one must step outside of the realm of science and consider the intertwined fabric of gender, race, an sexuality that clothes scientific understanding. It is important for the observer to see how these stereotypes may guide or influence the mind's thoughts. The "natureculture" issue is obviously one that has been recognized and addressed as "the Pursuit for Truth continues," as Subramaniam describes (303). As this CNN news clip shows, improvements have been made in our science system from the unjust, patriarchal, power inequities that used to predominate, and we have Snow Brown to thank.

Being that culture is a part of who we all are, it seems as if the best choice to progress in the movement of science is to embrace our encompassing gender differences rather than ignoring them. However, is this integration truly beneficial when it comes to gaining further insight into science, or does it create a deeper hole in which we would have more sifting to do? In other words, does uncovering "natureculture" truths lead to further questioning of standing prejudices, and would these efforts be in vain? Can we ever reach the "Post modern Fantasy" that Subramaniam refers to, or is this simply just a postmodern fantasy (303)? As seen in the video, younger generations are being taught against particular stereotypes allowing them to overcome boundaries. Along with education, are there other ways that would prove most affective in conquering science-culture conflicts? Could this clip be viewed as being somewhat bias at all in its reference to all an American female sweep of the contest?

The Language of Science

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One of the most important aspects of science is one that is not readily noticed: language. To anyone who wishes to study, practice, or understand science and research, he or she must first learn the language of science. This may be though technical terms, abbreviations, acronyms, specific slang words, and chemical designations, usually delivered in a more high-brow manner. This week's readings really brings that into perspective, with the controversy over the poor communication with Henrietta Lacks's family and with Subramaniam's expression of her desire for a worldly and integrated manner of scientific practices in "Snow Brown and the Seven Detergents". From the part of the Lacks's, it is clear that there is a definite barrier between the science community and the general public, particularly in the language department. As a result, it is supremely difficult for someone not familiar with scientific writings to be able to access first hand research or to easily mis-interpret the data. This has most especially been seen with science and politics such as the controversies generated over global warming and the media's interpretations of science. This becomes all the more complicated when language itself comes into play. The vast majority of all science papers are now written in English and is creating many more barriers to the integration of science as Subramaniam would fantasize about. This is very clearly seen in the difficulties that Africa has been having with their scientists.

Now we must wonder, is it possible (or probable) for us to find a way around these communication problems and barriers? Would doing so, such as creating a uniform language for discussing science, remove cultural identities like with Sneha? Or create more barriers to those outside the scientific community? Or, should there even be an attempt to bring science together across the world and tear down these barriers?

Fear and Coincidence

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Racism is driven by fear. Fear of what is different from yourself and of what you know. Misinformation also drove the fear, as scientists used anatomy to predict intelligence and behavior. They also used a theory of recapitulation that compared the intelligence of a black adult to that of a white child. They even went as far as to compare the intelligence of same adult to that of a female or a senile white. Is this the ultimate grouping of fear for scientists? Is this all based upon botched experiments and false information? And how did they possibly make the masses believe all this falsity?

Before Darwinism, two categories started to appear while researching the origins of race. Polygeny, which acknowledged different races as a different species, was widely accepted by American scientists and [polygeny] became known as the "American School of Anthropology." Even those who considered themselves monogenists, held tight to a form of racism. The monogenist theory even conveniently fit with the standard Christian origin of all races descending from the "original and pure whites." Monogeny accepts that non-white races are of the same specie but just varied and possibly a mutated form of a white. This theory starts to mesh with that of polygeny which then blurs the boundary of the two categories. So then are the two categories really all that different or do both contribute this scientific racism?

Illustration-in-indigenous-races-of-the-earth.jpg

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the 4: Intersectional Approaches (9/26, 9/28, 9/30) category.

3: Epistemologies of Ignorance (9/19, 9/21, 9/23) is the previous category.

5: Feminist Science Studies (10/3, 10/5, 10/7) is the next category.

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