Making Science Serve the People

Science is currently the domain of government military interests and large-scale industry. The establishment controls the funding for scientific research, and hence gets to decide what type of research is done. The ruling class maintains power by not funding projects that put science to work bettering the lives of oppressed people. Medical research supports the health concerns of rich people (plastic surgery, laser eyesight correction), while ignoring the high infant mortality rate for babies of color and the low life expectancies on Native American reservations. Lesbian health needs are not yet on the horizon of mainstream gynecological research. Geologists can often only find jobs in the oil industry; little funding is available for investigating claims of contaminated soil and water made by environmental justice organizations. “Pure science”, or research for truth’s sake, is not exempt: The Department of Defense and the Department of Energy disproportionately fund “pure” research in areas such as optics and plastics development in anticipation of new weapons materials. The current science is a vehicle of oppression.

But science can be a powerful tool in the construction of a liberated society. Converting science from a corporate puppet to a process accessible to all people will deal a major blow to the capitalist information-based economy. Science and the resulting technology have built the current exploitative “information age.” We must take science back. Science must not be seen as a force of oppression, but as a tool that can be used for liberation. We must re-channel science to clean up the social and environmental legacies of the current industrial/information society, and to support a new society where science contributes to all communities. Applied research can focus on topics ranging from public transportation to contaminated land and water cleanup to health care suited to each individual. Basic science research should be pursued with respect for the natural world it seeks to understand, and only after critical consideration of possible applications of the research.

The creation of a science that works for all people requires that people from all sectors of society understand and participate in science. The corporate elite can control science because the general public perceives science to be the mystical realm of experts. The establishment perpetuates the myth that science requires a higher level of intelligence, and that science is most easily done by people who are white and male or who “think like men.” In response to mainstream feminism and race-related civil rights battles, the military and corporate controllers of science have established several scholarship programs targeting women and people of color. However, recipients of the fellowships are frequently required to work for the military/corporate sponsor for at least a short period after graduation, and are thus sucked into the corporate science system through the promise of job security. Most people not from backgrounds of privilege are tracked away from science through racist and classist educational systems, and through media manipulation of the scientific process which feeds the elitism bestowed upon the scientist.

In fact, science can be done by anybody. The type of reasoning used in science is not inherently oppressive, male, or white, but can be used by anybody in everyday actions such as finding the fastest route to work or determining the best combination of groceries while shopping on a budget. People working on engines in shops use skills and thought processes called scientific when done by a Ph.D. Children have an innate experimental ability in their creativity, questioning, and theory-testing. The process of identifying herbal medicinal treatments is as scientifically valid as research done in the medical establishment. Indigenous and independent farmers do science as they identify the growing conditions and soil types that best suit certain plants.

Empowering people of diverse backgrounds to learn science is essential to reclaiming scientific knowledge and tools for everybody’s use. Equally important is the restructuring of the funding process. Research must no longer be funded by organizations within the military-industrial complex. Funding must be delegated by bodies directly responsible to the people. One suggestion is a committee of people chosen possibly at random and representative of all populations within an area. The committee would listen to presentations by research groups seeking funding, and would award funding after investigating multiple views on a project. The money would be public in origin, and the people would have to be generally satisfied with the research to keep contributing money. Research would then be truly responsive to the community’s needs.

Ideas for new research projects:

  • Birth/sperm control taken by men

  • Alternative sources of energy

  • Better mud control methods at construction sites

  • City lights that cause less light pollution

  • Studies of the ecology of all parts of the earth, and how humans have affected the ecology

  • Survey and remediation of contaminated water sources