09/22/2022 | Merida Yucatan
Nalliely Hernandez Cornejo
In recent days, radio hosts Eduardo Videgaray and José Ramón San Cristóbal prepared a very indignant criticism of the SEP primary school textbooks for their description of science. popular entertainment show the cornet He comments on notes on entertainment, politics and public life in general, with his particular humor and a certain air that intends to be critical. In the broadcast of last August 30, José Ramón (La estaca) was outraged by the way in which science was explained in the primary school textbooks of the SEP (Youtube). Taken from a Twitter thread by the writer Mauricio Schwarz entitled “The New Mexican School or How to Destroy the Future of a Country by Brutalizing its Children”, the announcer exposes the quote from the textbook that says: “Science is construction, among many possible, to explain physical reality, which in turn is conditioned by cultural and historical factors.
Faced with Schwarz’s quote, the startled announcers assert that science is not determined by cultural and historical factors, but is determined by the scientific method, adding that the scientific method does not vary with the times. Then they continue with the quote from the thread taken from the textbook: “As a cultural construction, it cannot be said that it is superior to other knowledge systems, since each explanation can be adequate to a greater or lesser extent depending on the context in which it is presented. apply”. At this point, José Ramón affirms: “Science is the best system of knowledge we have, there is nothing else beyond or better than the scientific method”, and he explodes saying that the text is stupid, rubbish, an ideological question that it has nothing to do with science.
At first glance, it seems useful and interesting that the discussion about the philosophical conception of science that we want to cultivate in children circulates in the public debate, both on social networks and on the radio. However, this debate implies a social responsibility of the actors, in this case, of the Twitter account of the writer and the speakers in question. Although it is not that only the experts can give their opinion, it is expected that if it is a public matter of such depth, such as the type of education that we want as a country, easy, immediate and uninformed disqualification will not be resorted to. .
Perhaps the ridicule of the text of the SEP books to which both the writer and the announcers attend seems obvious and intuitive, however, the description of science that the aforementioned book makes is not incorrect. In fact, it is a contemporary and nurtured description of many critical studies of science made from philosophy or sociology in recent decades.
Let’s review the text in some detail: is science one construction among many possible ones conditioned by historical and cultural factors? Indeed, prominent philosophers such as Thomas Kuhn or Paul Feyerabend, and more recently, Peter Galison, Ian Hacking or Helen Longino have carefully described how scientific theories have always been conditioned by elements of history and culture: Newtonian theory influenced by theological convictions of the English scientist; the theory of relativity due to the technical need to synchronize trains in Europe; the Darwinian theory for the Victorian morality of the time, among many other examples. As a historically and culturally conditioned practice, it is a social construction that allows us to predict and control physical reality or other natural domains. This does not imply that it is arbitrary or detracts from its success.
Also, these studies describe that scientists use a diverse set of procedures, which vary greatly depending on the different disciplines and subdisciplines, but also with the evolution of each of them: more experimental or more formal, causal or statistical forms, qualitative or quantitative, etc. For this reason, they have pointed out that it is more about procedures based on trial and error that are transformed, and not a single, timeless and universal method as the speakers suggest.
Similarly, although the Modern Age promoted a society in which science was definitely superior knowledge, both history and epistemology have shown that there are other types of knowledge that may be more appropriate than the first, depending on the purposes. what we chase If modernity considered that science would solve all our problems, contemporary societies have been scathingly critical of that perspective that has ultimately failed. As a consequence, today we know that we have other knowledge or other practices that can be more useful than science when we are not talking about prediction or control of nature, such as art when we are looking for moral education or aesthetic pleasure or local knowledge that are more respectful of the environment. Therefore, indeed, science can be better or worse depending on the context in which it is applied.
It is true that the philosophical discussion of science is an open debate, and that exposing these characteristics requires that the texts be carefully argued and with the nuances that this requires at each school level. This can and should be part of the public debate. That is, it is desirable that we jointly discuss how we understand science. But as citizens we have the responsibility to fairly inform ourselves about the arguments that exist in question when we want to participate in said debate, because the quoted text is not mere ideology or stupidity. It doesn’t dumb down anyone either.
*Professor of the Department of Philosophy of the University of Guadalajara
Edition: Ana Ordaz