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POLITICS AND SCIENCE: An Historical View / Vol. 73, No. 4 (Winter 2006)

Arien Mack, Editor

This volume of Social Research follows on the heels of an issue that shares its focus, but with one difference. The earlier issue, “Politics and Science: How Their Interplay Results in Public Policy” (Fall 2006), contained papers delivered at the fifteenth Social Research conference, held in February 2006. Both the conference and the fall 2006 issue focused on the current state of affairs in the United States and looked back only at recent past in this country. What distinguishes the current issue is not only its focus on the more distant past, but also that it sets out to examine the relationship between politics and science in a far broader political and cultural context -one that looks at other countries, at other times.

The article discusses authority, political theology and the politics of knowledge in the period of medieval to early modern Catholicism. Historical episodes of the calendar period wherein ideas of Catholic tradition related to faith and doctrines are presented. The manuscript is given in contribution to an alternative narrative, rising above literature, describing the period of Counter-Reformation by the Catholic Church. It further illustrates the division and authority among the Church and the state during the Middle Ages and its implications in the later periods.

The article features Hermann von Helmholtz and his mark as chancellor between science and politics. He is noted to be a beneficiary and contributor to the profound institutional changes implemented in the German university system and the new standards of research. His edge in binding concepts of politics and science is his background of taking Medicine at the Medizinisch-chirurgisches Friedrich-Wilhelms-Institut in Berlin and practicing as an army physician later on. The manuscript utilizes von Helmotz' career and achievements to embody an understanding of the relations of science and the state in nineteenth-century Germany.

The article discusses the application for patent rights and laws concerning inventions, constructing rights and authors. Intellectual property is innately political as viewed from balance between public and private incentives to innovation. Political and cultural debates to the concept and ideas of patent applications for intellectual property remain open. Specification requirements to qualify for a patent right after a formation of a credible patent system is a visible resolution by politics. It is but essential to define the bounds of information disclosure regarding the property.

The article illustrates the interrelation of science and politics in Bolshevik, Russia. The intertwining of both aspects are seen visualized social cataclysms affecting power structures and relations, such as wars and revolutions. Science and politics both require and acquire power. In history, particularly in Russia during the 1910s to the 1930s, the intensity and significance of their interactions mark up to a large extent. The Bolsheviks in particular, analyzed the institutional and professional structures brought about by the dynamics of science and politics as a result of the Bolshevik Revolution in Soviet Russia.

The article presents an essay that ponders on the epistemological problems with democracy which resulted from the knowledge and systems that generate and sustain public good. The essay studies philosophers' concentration on skeptical problems and analysis of the concept of individual knowledge. Topics discussed include the needs and interest of potential knowledge-seekers, having a criteria of important properties including significance, reliability and transparency, and the inquiry-and-information-system, which is directed to gain and distribute information.

The article discusses the corruption of science brought about by the power struggle in politics as seen in Nazi and Stalinist denunciation of genetics. American physicists in the 1950s, who worked to study about their Soviet counterparts, were among the science workers who used their knowledge in political liberation. The abuse of the power of science for political purposes are visible in historical episodes discussed including Geoffrey Chew's influential nuclear democracy in application of hydrogen-bomb tests and the Korean War in the 1950s.

The author reflects on the politicization of science in the US. The author points out that there is an attempt by the government to control the content of knowledge and direction of research and suppression and distortion of the scientific findings. Political manipulation of science goes back to the 1970s but flourished in 1994 known as the Gingrich Revolution. Commercialization also poses problems as patenting could disrupt scientific progress through refusal to share information, materials and instruments.

The article suggests that scientific research cannot stand apart from charged public issues. While conceding the legitimacy of political judgment in deciding how to use the information as basis for action, its methods are taken as the ground for social science objectivity. The accepted role for social science as a resource to which legislators can look for information and analysis is discussed. Topics discussed include the evolution of the scientific study of social quantification, scientific interest in information science and the rise of decision technologies like cost-benefit analysis and risk analysis.


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