Science

The Stepford Daughters of Brexit and Slavery and the Emergence of Capitalism

Yesterday for our amusement the awesome Kerry Anne Mendoza posted a video on twitter made by two very definitely overprivileged girls talking about the evils of socialism. The two young ladies were Alice and Beatrice Grant, the privately educated granddaughters of the late industrialist and former governor of the Bank of England, Sir Alistair Grant. With their cut-glass accents and glazed, robotic delivery of their lines, they seemed to fit the stereotype of the idiotic Sloane perfectly, right down to the ‘Okay, yah’, pronunciation. Mendoza commented ‘I don’t think this was meant to be a parody, but it’s the perfect roast of the “yah-yah” anti-left.’

Absolutely. In fact, what the girls were describing as socialism was really Communism, completely ignoring democratic socialism, or social democracy – the form of socialism that demands a mixed economy, with a strong welfare state and trade unions, progressive taxation and social mobility. It also ignored anti-authoritarian forms of socialism, like syndicalism, guild socialism or anarcho-Communism. They were also unaware that Marx himself had said that, regarding the interpretations of his views promoted by some of his followers, he wouldn’t be a Marxist.

But it would obviously be too much to expect such extremely rich, public school girls to know any of this. They clearly believed, and had been brought up to believe, the Andrew Roberts line about capitalism being the most wonderful thing every invented, a mechanism that has lifted millions around the world out of poverty. Etc. Except, as Trev, one of the great commenters on Mike’s and this blog, said

If “Capitalism works” why are there a million people using foodbanks in Britain today? Not working that well is it? Why did the Government bail out the Banks using our money? Why did the Banking system collapse in the first place, was it because of Socialism? I don’t find these idiotic spoilt brats in the least bit funny, I feel bloody angry. When was the last time they ate food they found in the street? Bring back the Guillotine!

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/08/14/these-young-ladies-of-brexit-need-to-be-seen-to-be-believed/

The two girls were passionate supporters of the Fuhrage and his wretched party, and were really looking forward to a no-deal Brexit. It shows how out of touch these girls are, as Brexit is already wrecking the British economy, and a no-deal Brexit and subsequent deal with a predatory America would just wipe it out completely. Along with everything that has made post-war Britain great – the NHS and welfare state. But these girls obviously have no connection with working people or, I guess, the many businesses that actually depend on manufacturing and exports. I think the girls’ family is part of financial sector, who stand to make big profits from Brexit, or at least are insulated from its effects because they can move their capital around the globe.

The girls’ views on the EU was similarly moronic. They really do seem to believe that the EU is somehow an oppressive, communistic superstate like the USSR. It wasn’t. And the reason anti-EU socialists, like the late, great Tony Benn distrusted it was partly because in their view it stood for capital and free trade against the interests of the nation state and its working people.

And they also have weird views on slavery and the EU’s attitude to the world’s indigenous peoples. To the comment by David Lammy, the Black Labour politico, who dared to correct Anne Widdecombe for comparing Brexit to the great slave revolts, they tweeted

“Lammy being pathetic as usual. The chains of slavery can be intangible, as amply shown in China, the Soviet Union and the EU; to deny that just shows your ignorance and petty hatred for the truth”.

To which Zelo Street commented that there two things there. First of all, it’s best not to tell a Black man he doesn’t understand slavery. And second, the EU isn’t the USSR.

They were also against the Mercosur deal the EU wishes to sign with the South American nations, because these would lead to environmental destruction and the dispossession and exploitation of the indigenous peoples.

“As usual the GREED and selfishness of the EU imposes itself using their trade ‘deals’ in the name of cooperation and fake prosperity. The indigenous tribes of the Amazon need our protection not deforestation”.

To which Zelo Street responded with incredulity about how they could claim environmental concern for a party headed by Nigel Farage.

And they went on. And on, going on about how the EU was a threat to civil liberties. And there was more than a touch of racism in their statement that Sadiq Khan should be more concerned to make all Londoners feel safe, not just EU migrants. They also ranted about how Labour had sold out the working class over Brexit in favour of the ‘immoral, money hungry London elite’. Which shows that these ladies have absolutely no sense of irony or any self-awareness whatsoever.

In fact, Zelo Street found them so moronic and robotic, that it dubbed them the Brexit party’s Stepford Daughters, referring to the 70s SF film, the Stepford Wives. Based on the novel by Ira Levin, the films about a community where the men have killed their wives and replaced them with robots.

See:  https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/08/brexit-party-presents-stepford-daughters.html

There’s a lot to take apart with their tweets. And perhaps we shouldn’t be two hard on the girls. They’re only 15 and 17. A lot of young people at that age have stupid views, which they grow out of. But there is one issue that really needs to be challenged.

It’s their assumptions about slavery and the genocide of indigenous peoples. Because this is one massive problem to any assumption that capitalism is automatically good and beneficial.

There’s a very large amount of scholarship, much of it by Black activists and researchers, about slavery and the emergence of European capitalism and the conquest of the Americas. They have argued that European capitalism was greatly assisted by the profits from New World slavery. Caribbean historians like Dr Richard Hart, in his Blacks in Bondage, have shown that transatlantic slavery was a capitalist industry. For the enslaved indigenous peoples and the African men and women, who replaced them when they died out, capitalism certainly did not raise them out of poverty. Rather it has done the opposite – it enslaved them, and kept them in chains until they were able to overthrow it successfully with assistance of European and American abolitionists in the 19th century.

And among some left-wing West Indians, there’s still bitterness towards America for its constant interference in the Caribbean and Central and South America. America did overthrow liberal and progressive regimes across the world, and especially in the New World, when these dared to challenge the domination of American corporations. The overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz’s democratic socialist regime in Guatemala is a case in point. Arbenz was overthrown because he dared to nationalise the banana plantations. Which upset the American United Fruit Company, who got their government to overthrow him in coup. He was replaced by a brutal Fascistic dictatorship that kept the plantation workers as virtual slaves. And the Americans also interfered in Jamaican politics. They were absolutely opposed to the Jamaican Labour party politician, Michael Manley, becoming his nation’s Prime Minister, and so did everything they could to stop him. Including cutting trade.

And then there’s the enslavement and genocide of the indigenous peoples.

Before Columbus landed in the New World, South America had a population of about seven million. There were one million people in the Caribbean. I think there were similar numbers in North America. But the indigenous peoples were enslaved and worked to death. They were also decimated through diseases carried by Europeans, to which they had no immunity. The Taino people were driven to extinction. The Caribs, from whom the region takes its name, were able to survive on a reservation granted to them in the 18th century by the British after centuries of determined resistance. The conquest of the New World was a real horror story.

And Britain also profited from the enslavement of indigenous peoples. I doubt the girls have heard of it, but one of the scandals that rocked British imperialism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was that of the Putomayo Indians of South America. They had been enslaved by British rubber corporations. It was this abuse of a subject people that turned the Irish patriot, Roger Casement, from a British civil servant to an ardent Nationalist.

On the other side of the world, in the Pacific, British imperialism also managed to dispossess an entire Polynesian people and trash their island. This was in the 1920s. The island was rich in mineral deposits, and so moved the indigenous people out, ultimately relocating them to Fiji. Their island was then strip-mined, leaving it a barren, uninhabitable rock. In the 1980s the survivors were trying to sue the government over their maltreatment, but with no success.

This is what unfettered British imperialism and capitalism did. And what I’ve no doubt Farage and other far right British politicians would like to do again without the restraints of international law. It’s why I believe that, whatever the demerits of the Mercosur agreement are, it’s probably better than what individual nations would do without the restraint of the EU.

The girls are right to be concerned about the fate of indigenous peoples. But they are profoundly wrong in their absolute, uninformed belief that unregulated capitalism will benefit them.

It doesn’t. It enslaves, dehumanises and dispossesses. Which is why we need international organisations like the EU, and why the Brexit party isn’t just a danger to Britain, but to the world’s weaker, developing nations and their indigenous peoples.

Johnson’s Fascistic Denunciation of ‘Collaborators’ with the EU

Yesterday Mike put up a piece commenting on Johnson’s Fascistic rhetoric describing those opposing a no-deal Brexit in parliament. Simply put, he described them as collaborators with the EU. The Blonde Beast said

There’s a terrible kind of collaboration as it were going on between people who think they can block Brexit in Parliament and our European friends, and our European friends are not moving.

We need our European friends to compromise and the more they think that there’s a chance that Brexit can be blocked in Parliament, the more adamant they are in sticking to their position.

As Mike points out, Johnson is falsely claiming that the ordinary people, who don’t want a no-deal Brexit, have teamed up with the EU. It also identifies his enemies as a unified cause, which is also one of classic features of Fascism. Following the infamous forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Hitler viewed everything that he considered damaging to Germany to be part of a massive Jewish conspiracy. Financial capitalism, socialism, Communism and democracy were all parts of this conspiracy to undermine Germany and destroy and enslave the White, ‘Aryan’ race. As were decadent modern art, music, literature and unAryan scientific theories, like Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, because Einstein was Jewish.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/08/14/terrible-collaboration-speech-johnson-flashes-his-fascist-credentials/

Johnson hasn’t gone quite that far yet, and Mike points out that he isn’t a Fascist. But he is showing many of the warning signs. So much so that one tweeter put out a picture of BoJob with the caption ‘This man is the biggest threat to Britain since Adolf Hitler’. It’s an exaggeration, but a forgivable one, considering that BoJob’s Brexit is already wrecking British economy and industry, and that he and his backers in the Murdoch press are looking forward to a trade deal with Trump’s America which would see our agriculture and industry bought up by the Americans, including the Health Service, the welfare state dismantled, workers’ rights removed completely, along with our environmental protection laws. All so that BoJob and the elite rich can enjoy absolute unfettered capitalism and massive profits for their own businesses.

And I’m not surprised that Johnson is sounding like a Fascist. He’s a massive egotist, like Donald Trump, and both men are extremely authoritarian. Trump talked about having newspapers and press people, who criticised him shut down. Johnson, when he was mayor of London, spent millions of taxpayers’ money on three watercannon that were illegal in mainland Britain. And BoJob’s the leader of a highly authoritarian party. Under Thatcher the Tories had links with very unpleasant South American Fascist regimes, like Chile’s General Franco. The Libertarians in the party, including Paul Staines, used to invite to their annual dinner the leader of one of the Fascist death squads in El Salvador. The Freedom Association also wanted the suppression of trade unions, workers’ rights and the welfare state and NHS, and unfettered capitalism. It was very much freedom for the rich, and wage slavery for the poor.

And he’s supported by a fanatically authoritarian press. Remember how the Tory papers demonised the judges and lawyers, who had ruled against one of Tweezer’s Brexit plans as the enemies of the people. It was the classic rhetoric of authoritarian, Fascist regimes.

And you can bet that as opposition to Boris mounts, he and his backers in the media are going to become even more splenetic and Fascistic in their denunciations. They’re already demanding anti-democratic measures to get what they want. This is the suspension of parliament, as advocated by the Torygraph, so that BoJob can force through Brexit without opposition from MPs. Who are our elected representatives.

BoJob is a menace to British prosperity, British industry, British working people and British democracy. Get him out!

 

Local Coke Dealers Resent Cross Fit Gyms Taking Away Their Clients

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 12/08/2019 - 8:08am in

Tags 

Science, Cocaine

drug-dealing-men

Local Cocaine dealers are up in arms after a number of their usual clients have turned their backs on them in favour of joining a cross fit gym.

“Ah look mate it’s just not right you know,” said a dealer from Sydney’s Eastern suburbs. “I work hard you know, I cater to these people 24/7 whether it’s late on a Friday night in Bondi and the boys want some nose candy. Or Saturday arvo at Randwick when a bit of a bump makes a day at the races tolerable.”

“All this and they just dump me for some flavour of the month workout program, where’s the loyalty?”

When asked how much of a hit cross fit gyms have had on the industry the Dealer said: “Mate it’s not good, the Eastern suburbs are almost all off the gear and on this bloody cross fit. I’ve had to head on over to the Inner West to try and sell some of my excess merch to the hipsters.”

“Tell them it’s the only pure 100% renewable, vegan party drug.”

Police have put out a warning to the general public not to approach a Cross fitter. Unless they are prepared to endure an grueling hour long lecture on how cross fit and keto had totally transformed their lives.

Mark Williamson
www.twitter.com/MWChatShow

You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter or like us on facebook.

Guy Who Hasn’t Changed His Bong Water For 6 Years Worried The Chemicals In Detergent Are Poisoning Him

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 09/08/2019 - 8:09am in

sad man window

Shayne Fraser, a 38-year-old part-time IT consultant from Byron, has real concerns about whether the chemicals they put in everyday cleaning products like dish washing detergent are poisoning us all.

“I dunno man, I just don’t trust that shit,” Mr Fraser told The (un)Australian as he pulled another cone from a bong filled with pitch-black water that hadn’t been changed in six years, or ever seen any cleaning or sanitising products.

“Christ knows what they put in it, but I reckon it’s making us sick for sure,” he added before collapsing on his couch in a full-scale coughing fit that lasts five minutes.

When he finally recovered, a thoughtful Mr Fraser offered, “It’s like sunscreen. They say it protects you but I read this thing on Facebook that said it actually gives you cancer,” as he lent forward to roll a smoke from the pack of white ox on the coffee table.

Carlo Sands

You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter or like us on facebook

Climate Emergency? Then Why Are These Scientists In Greenland Having A Tropical Beach Party?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/08/2019 - 11:18am in

Crowd people friends sunset beach holidays

The warming alarmists would have you believe we are facing a so-called “Climate Emergency”, but The (un)Australian has been given access to exclusive photos that paint a very different picture.

Far from being gripped by panic, they show climate scientists currently based in Greenland kicking back at a tropical beach party.

If, as the panic merchants keep saying, we are on the verge of an utter catastrophe without radical action, then how are we to explain the photos of scientists in board shorts and bikinis on a tropical beach on the beautiful Greenland coast?

We are constantly being force fed the line that without drastically reducing carbon emissions and reorganising the global economy away from fossil fuels, we face a spiraling ecological crisis in which each new tipping point passed sets off a chain reaction so that melting permafrost unleashes the far worse greenhouse gas of methane, and that melting ice allows previously reflected sunlight to directly hit the water, further heating an already rapidly warming oceans, further unleashing methane on the ocean floor, causing temperatures to rise further which causes the melting of  permafrost and ice to further increase, but then how do you explain why a climate scientist can clearly be seen sipping a margarita on a beach towell in the Arctic?

We reached out to the scientists to explain the photos, and received the response that it was simply their one day off for months to unwind from collecting the evidence to convince humanity how dire the situation is, and of the need for very rapid action preferably starting three decades ago, and that actually, you aren’t really meant to get palm trees in Greenland, but all we heard was “nah nah nah we’re hypocrites who don’t know what we’re talking about so there’s no need to worry”.

We don’t know about you, but we declare our minds officially at rest.

Carlo Sands
http://www.twitter.com/carlogrubsands

You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter or like us on facebook

Crowdfunded Solar Sail Spacecraft Makes Successful Flight

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 07/08/2019 - 5:19am in

Bit of science news now. Last Friday’s I for 2nd August 2019 reported that a satellite developed by the Planetary Society and funded through internet fundraising had successfully climbed to a higher orbit using a solar sail. This propels spacecraft using only the pressure of light, just like an ordinary sail uses the force given by the window to propel a ship on Earth, or drive a windmill.

The article on this by Joey Roulette on page 23 ran

A small crowdfunded satellite promoted by a TV host in the United States has been propelled into a higher orbit using only the force of sunlight.

The Lightsail 2 spacecraft, which is about the size of a loaf of bread, was launched into orbit in June. 

It then unfurled a tin foil-like solar sail designed to steer and push the spacecraft, using the momentum of tiny particles of light called photons emanating from the Sun – into a higher orbit. The satellite was developed by the California-based research and education group, the Planetary Society, who chief executive is the television personality popularly known as Bill Nye the Science Guy.

The technology could potentially lead to an inexhaustible source of space propulsion as a substitute for finite supplies of rocket fuels that most spacecraft rely on for in-flight manoeuvres.

“We are thrilled to declare mission success for Lightsail 2,” said its programme manager Bruce Betts.

Flight by light, or “sailing on sunbeams”, as Mr Nye called it, could best be used for missions carrying cargo in space.

The technology could also reduce the need for expensive, cumbersome rocket propellants.

“We strongly feel taht missions like Lightsail 2 will democratise space, enable more people send spacecraft to remarkable destinations in the solar system”, Mr Nye said.

This is very optimistic. The momentum given to a spacecraft by the Sun’s light is very small. But, like ion propulsion, it’s constant and so enormous speeds can be built up over time. It may be through solar sail craft that we may one day send probes to some of the extrasolar planets now being discovered by astronomers.

In the 1990s, American scientists designed a solar sail spacecraft, Star Wisp, which would take a 50 kg instrument package to Alpha Centauri. The star’s four light years away. The ship would, however, reach a speed of 1/3 that of light, meaning that, at a very rough calculation, it would reach its destination in 12 years. The journey time for a conventional spacecraft propelled by liquid oxygen and hydrogen is tens of thousands of years.

Although the idea has been around since the 1970s, NASA attempt to launch a solar sail propelled satellite a few years ago failed. If we are ever to reach the stars, it will be through spacecraft and other highly advanced unconventional spacecraft, like interstellar ramjets. So I therefore applaud Nye and the Planetary Society on their great success.

Giles Coren Racially Abuses Megan Markle

Just as the CST this weekend decided to smear 36 people as anti-Semites, largely because they supported Jeremy Corbyn, and hated the Tories, Rachel Riley, and Tom Watson, Times‘ columnist Giles Coren made his own racist comment about Prince Harry’s consort, Megan Markle. Harry had said that he intends to have only two children because of the the current environmental crisis. So Coren jumped in and declared that he really said it because Markle had ‘raised the drawbridge’ and it was really due to domestic squabbles between the royal couple. He then went on and declared that they had booked a meeting with a marriage guidance counselor, but had got Jane Goodall instead.

That’s Jane Goodall, the primatologist, who studied gorillas.

The good peeps on Twitter were not amused, and pointed out just how racist the tweet was. It’s the old sneer about Black people being subhuman monkeys. They also predicted that if Coren was taken to task for it, he’d immediately start trying to excuse it by saying he wasn’t being racist, honest, and then give out some remarks supporting him by his White friends, while issuing some kind of non-apology.

Zelo Street concluded his article on this nasty little piece of privileged racism

From Coren there has so far been silence. But he will have to say something, even if he attempts to cover his tracks by pretending he didn’t mean what he clearly did mean.

Attempts to normalise racism are worrying. Attempts to normalise racism coming from a supposedly quality paper are not just worrying – they are totally inexcusable.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/08/giles-coren-right-royal-racist.html

Coren is the Times’ restaurant critic, and like several other ‘slebs, he has quaffed deep of the well of mediocrity. It’s unlikely he would have got his job, and appeared on TV – he was one of the ‘Supersizers’ who every week looked back at the cuisine in different periods of the past with Sue Perkins – if he didn’t come from a privileged background.

He is also sadly not alone in his sneers and abuse at Markle. The I’s Yasmin Alibhai-Brown commented on it in her column in this morning’s edition of the paper. She noted the ugly racism hiding behind these sneers. They’re based on outrage at an American woman of colour with genuinely feminist views marrying into the royal family. How dare she! Especially after she edited Vogue to list the leading, most influential and inspirational women.

I’ve no doubt that part of the sneer also comes from part of the Tory right’s bitter hatred of environmentalism. The Daily Heil published a whole slew of articles a few years ago declaring global warming to be fake, because the Russians apparently said so. And Trump’s government is doing its level, horrendous best to close down and silence the Environmental Protection Agency for the Republicans’ supporters and donors in the petrochemical industry, like the notorious Koch brothers. I’ve got a feeling the Times is one of the other newspapers, whose columnists have tried to discredit climate change. I seem to remember one of the producers of the BBC science documentary series, Horizon, remarking at a talk at the Cheltenham Festival of Science a few years ago how he had been forced to put right gently another very well established journo, who didn’t believe in it.

I believe a number of members of the royal family are also patrons of the World Wide Fund for Nature, what used to be the World Wildlife Fund, and so do have an interest in conservation. Which would suggest that Harry’s statement on why he was having no more than two sprogs is entirely genuinely. One of the problems is overpopulation, although in the West birthrates are actually falling to or below replacement level, so that there may well be a demographic crisis due to this. Quite apart from all the nutters, who believe that it’s all part of the ‘Great Replacement’ in which the Jews are secretly destroying the White race to replace them with non-White immigrants.

This isn’t the first Coren has expressed noxious, right-wing views either. A little while ago he took it upon himself to sneer at people from council estates. I have no idea why, except perhaps just sheer snobbery. Now he’s found a new target in Megan Markle. And it’s an example of the racism, snobbery and reactionary anti-environmentalism that now permeates and shames the Tory press. And it shows just how nasty the Times has become under Murdoch.

 

Book Review: Can Science Make Sense of Life? by Sheila Jasanoff

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 04/08/2019 - 7:00pm in

In Can Science Make Sense of Life?, Sheila Jasanoff questions whether the scientific capacity to manipulate life at the molecular level should also give science the authority to define what life is for. Exploring various cases to show how (techno)scientific knowledge embeds and is embedded in our social practices, identities, norms, institutions and ways of speaking, this book is a salient introduction to […]

Philosopher Wins €3 Million Grant for Project on Public Trust in Expert Opinion

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/08/2019 - 10:41pm in

Maria Baghramian, Head of the School of Philosophy at University College Dublin, has won a €3 million (approximately US$3.3 million) grant for three-year research project on “the role of science in policy decision making and the conditions under which people should trust and rely on expert opinion that shapes public policy.”


Maria Baghramian

The project, “Policy, Expertise and Trust in Action,” will, starting in 2020, “bring together 20 philosophers, social and natural scientists, policy experts, ethicists, psychologists, media specialists and civil society organisations to study trust in and the trustworthiness of policy related expert opinion,” according to a press release. It follows up on the earlier project, “When Experts Disagree,” led by Professor Baghramian and Luke Drury (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies). Others involved include Bobby Duffy (KCL), Gloria Origgi (CNRS, Paris), José Van Dijck (Utrecht), Onora O’Neill (Cambridge), Cass Sunstein (Harvard), Susan Owens (Cambridge), and Dan Sperber (CEU).

The funding is from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 program.

Professor Baghramian says the aim of the project is  “to better understand the nature and conditions of trust in the public domain and to discover indicators which can be used in measuring and establishing the trustworthiness of those involved in social and political decision making.”

There’s more information about the project here.

The post Philosopher Wins €3 Million Grant for Project on Public Trust in Expert Opinion appeared first on Daily Nous.

Book Review: Can Science Make Sense of Life? by Sheila Jasanoff

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/08/2019 - 8:56pm in

In Can Science Make Sense of Life?Sheila Jasanoff questions whether the scientific capacity to manipulate life at the molecular level should also give science the authority to define what life is for. Exploring various cases to show how (techno)scientific knowledge embeds and is embedded in our social practices, identities, norms, institutions and ways of speaking, this book is a salient introduction to those new to Jasanoff’s ‘third-wave’ of Science and Technology Studies (STS) scholarship, recommends Anna Nguyen

Can Science Make Sense of Life? Sheila Jasanoff. Polity. 2019.

Find this book: amazon-logo

On 31 March 2019, at a workshop for the Canadian Network for Science and Democracy in Ottawa, Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies (STS) Sheila Jasanoff gave a keynote presentation in which she reflected on co-production as a method and her own expectations when introducing it nearly twenty years ago. Reminding the audience that co-production is not quite a method but is instead an ‘idiom’, she cautioned against using it as an explanation or fully developed theory. Rather, it is a way of thinking and talking about the ways in which the natural and social orders are produced together.

Jasanoff’s newest book, Can Science Make Sense of Life?, is an extension of her scholarship in STS, an interdisciplinary field that came into being through the seminal works of sociologists, philosophers, historians and political theorists, among others. To some, it may seem that STS is a very niche academic field, one that highlights the material instantiations of science and technology in society. Indeed, this is a core concern in the canon, but the emphasis is where materialist STS scholars and Jasanoff and her more humanist peers differ. In elaborating co-production and sociotechnical imaginaries, Jasanoff explicates that (techno)scientific knowledge embeds and is embedded in our social practices, identities, norms, institutions and ways of speaking. Because the technical and the material are already woven in social formations of life, STS scholars need not focus on just the technics, the ontological or the material but the complete sociotechnical picture of how we wish to live in society.

In the prologue, Jasanoff introduces her main objectives by rhetorically gesturing at the title of her new book. ‘What is life?’ and ‘what is life for?’ (9) are the broad moral questions she targets by examining science as a metaphorical tool in ongoing discussions of expertise and legitimation. Specifically, Jasanoff looks at biology and its impact on how we understand life. The foundational biological metaphor represents the human gene as the book of life. The case study of biology and biotechnology reveals how each has deeply impacted constitutional understandings of human subjects and the ways in which we choose to be governed, themes that she explores in the next seven chapters.

The image of Paul Gauguin’s 1897 painting D’où Venons Nous/Que Sommes Nous/Où Allons Nous (Where Do We Come From/What Are We/Where Are We Going) serves to illustrate the recurring questions that Jasanoff introduces in the prologue. Gauguin’s turn-of-the-century masterpiece, as Jasanoff describes, coincided with the revolutionary years of modern biology during the nineteenth century (14). Advances in science, specifically biology, afforded another type of material language that shaped our understanding of life and what it means. Like any kind of specialised language, the language of science gradually became both a descriptive and prescriptive force (15). Jasanoff points out that science does not explicitly claim to completely answer all of the questions she poses; yet, biology and biotechnology are regarded as important forces to make sense of life. Referencing American physicist’s Evelyn Fox Keller’s note on ‘the biological gaze’, Jasanoff empirically discusses how the rhetorical uses of science in society are linked with the privatisation of scientific progress. Metaphors of the coded alphabet of DNA (adenine, thymine, guanine, cytosine) and Vannevar Bush’s’ ‘endless frontier’ become driving forces in the institutionalisation of science (22-24).

Image Credit: (jesse orrico unsplash CCO)

Chapter Two continues this thread into the twentieth century. Jasanoff observes that science has tried to organise and direct life in two ways: how to manipulate it and how to profit from it (37-38). The ability to examine DNA and other small structures and processes became entangled with society’s concerns and desired futures, shifting from the lab to the market. And though we have seen tweets and papers concluding with the claim that ‘science is political’, few academics have attempted to grapple with the continual myth of science as pure and untouched from political and capitalistic forces (38). If ‘bad’ science is invoked, it is because money and politics are characterised as corrupting influences; most of the time, science is largely seen as autonomous and scientists as intelligent and curiously driven enough to self-regulate. Although Jasanoff rarely uses the academic term ‘technoscience’, she subtly gestures to the technological innovations of science as the tools that enable ‘the eureka moment’ (48). This is reminiscent of the fabled ethnography of the materialist scientist obsessed with paperwork and objects on their desk in Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar’s Laboratory Life. Like their constructivist parable, Jasanoff and others tell us that STS should grapple with the political, social and material forces of science studies. Otherwise, we have not yet moved on from the myth of science in modernity.

Chapters Three and Four remind us of Jasanoff’s own academic expertise in law. She describes how the Asilomar meeting in 1975 and the creation of the NIH Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC) were instances when law, science and society intersected. The Asilomar meeting was one of the first deliberations on the topic of lab-created biological entities, which raised concerns about who is categorised as human or what counts as a human subject (68) and what the opinions of the public represented. These early regulatory activities did not go unchallenged. In Foundation on Economic Trends v. Heckler, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit concluded that the NIH had not considered environmental impacts before releasing engineered life forms (75-76). Though Jasanoff notes that all three judges on the panel shared similar concerns about the conduct of NIH, this constitutional move did not cause other scientists, or science-minded academics, to reflect upon concerns regarding accountability and the commonwealth. In an essay in a Yale law journal, co-organiser of the Asilomar meeting Maxine Singer made a technocratically-charged suggestion that only scientific judgment should be accounted for in deciding whether research should proceed or be stopped (76). In the same essay, Singer proposed that, to prevent similar lawsuits, lawyers should be required to demonstrate basic knowledge of scientific languages in court and even on LSAT exams (78).

Another case that Jasanoff explores is the story of Henrietta Lacks, most famous for its illustration of racial politics in biomedicine and of constitutional responsibility (86-88). The argument that ‘cells are us’ calls into question how far science can go in using biological materials and how to accept the scientific promises of societal and technological progress. Further, in Chapter Four, Jasanoff turns her attention to recent and ongoing concerns: genetically modified organisms (GMOs), abortion, Roe v. Wade, the 14-day rule and stem cell research. Reiterating a comparative analysis between the US, Britain and Germany, as we saw in Designs on Nature, she notes that the 14-day rule appealed to different national commitments to protecting lives and human values and norms of public reasoning. The most recent case of human genome editing in the Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) is just one of the iterations of the ‘what is life’ question, a case that Jasanoff also cites in Chapter Five.

In Chapters Five through Seven, Jasanoff returns her attention to the broader aspects of the role of language in science. Citing Lugwig Wittgenstein’s ‘language games’ and Michel Foucault’s ‘biopower’, Jasanoff reminds us that science has become an origin story that has claimed control over the definition of life (121). The devices of language—models and metaphors—are some ways in which biologists have tried to understand life (173-74). Jasanoff herself only wants readers to ponder how science has come to be significant in questions of life and its meaning. For those who think science has been successful in making sense of life, the Jasanoffian follow-up question is ‘how has it made life meaningful?’ and how has this meaning been shared across many communities? Though rhetorical, there is no clear answer to this question, as Chapter Four’s title, ‘Life in the Gray Zone’, indicates.

For those who have long followed Jasanoff’s scholarship, this book echoes her previous works and her important contributions in STS literature. Building on her reliance on discourse, her final chapter, of course, ends with a humanist reflection. She emphasises that this book is very much about how science should be a communicable exercise not just to a technocratic-minded community or committee, but to all stakeholders. For those new to her ‘third-wave’ of STS scholarship, Jasanoff’s book can serve as a salient introduction to this approach, expressed through recurring aphorisms and parables.

Anna Nguyen is a PhD student at L’institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) in Montreal, Canada. Her research analyses discourses of innovation, novelty and expertise in the context of food literature and scientific food reporting.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 


Pages