Science, People & Politics. Issue five, September - October, 2009, volume i, Volume II.


Science in action, or historiography.

In this issue, Science, People & Politics summarises and reviews how two voices of authority - the Roman Catholic Church and The Royal Society of London - position their current concepts of science within their view of human affairs. This is meant as a practical service for readers, not as an analysis of either world view in their different societal and regional settings, nor of the significance of science in the modern world. Science is still understood by people in many different ways, even among those who earn their living by doing science. And the magazine is not intending to judge either voice of authority, because those voices are empowered by a democratic mandate granted by those who voluntarily participate in some or all of their formalised activities whilst retaining the right to criticise the authority, methods and words of the leaders of each.

Consider that anyone wanting to sell goods or political ideas to the world's Roman Catholics - claimed to number about 1 billion, not all of whom I would guess are practising - might like to know how the Church presents science and technology within its social teaching. Inevitably that social teaching is embedded in the Church's aspiration to emulate the social teaching of Christ, who, reportedly, had clear views of fiscal policy (render unto Caesar...), the value to society of economic activity and the place in society of a spiritual priesthood integral to and participating in its local political, power structures but, ultimately, with a remit other than and taking precedence over any local fiscal, political or economic policy.

Whilst anyone thinking that science, as an activity independent of any other world view, might have something positive to offer them might be interested in the report Hidden Wealth published in July by The Royal Society. And, I write somewhat snippily in view of the report, the Royal Society has not yet changed its name to be the Royal Society of Science for the UK, which is not clear from Hidden Wealth.

In my experience The Royal Society and the Roman Catholic Church share more in their respective understandings of science than each might realise. And it is just possible that what they share is a lack of empathy and deep understanding of the discomfort and alienation from science that people feel who do not share their view and understanding of intellectual arguments about science today and through the centuries.

Both organisations have placed their work on line, so misinterpretations by me, writing for this magazine, will be easy to pick out.

Input: Caritas in Veritate into whichever language browser you use to check on the work by Benedict XVI. You might have to hunt a little more for the report by The Royal Society of London.

And in a departure from usual practice I have decided to present my editorial for this issue in a slightly different way: as an illustration with an accompanying fragment of poetry.

Science in action,
 illustration, copyright Helen Gavaghan, border=
Illustration: Helen Gavaghan©

This music was known first with innocent joy,
Hope's herald sustained by plangent chords
Discernible to those who acknowledge fear.

I was not one, but still fear came,
Devastating, rending life,
That which should not be was.

Now the mind vibrates to ears* attuned...

Fragments from lost poetry,
written by Helen Gavaghan
in the early 1990s.


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