“Shall we substitute for the opium of religion an opium of science.” – Joseph Needham, 1935i
With the rise of dissociation came a culture of individualism and survival of the fittest. Wealth centred in individuals and happiness was expected to come from individual achievement, in both life and afterlife. The philosophy, politics and religions of hierarchical societies were all teaching extreme individualism, free will and dissociation from nature and body. Instead of proving his existence by measuring his effect on surroundings, as a part of a whole, Descartes’ first principle proved his existence in his own head with I think therefore I am.ii The soul had little concern with bodily functions as the body was only a temporary residence. The farther removed a mind was from corporal matters the more evolved it was considered. Buddha was a deadbeat dadiii who reportedly named his son Rahul for the meaning fetteriv before abandoning him for seven years. As caregivers were pushed lower in status, those who cared for no one, who put a sociopathic philosophy they claimed as reason above human empathy, were ever more celebrated.
Most old religions had people living with their gods and their actions were believed to have immediate impact on the gods’ lives and tempers. The gods were frequently of the ecosystem, as in animism, and did not tolerate disrespect. The major religions of the trade empires, all of which began on or near the silk road and were spread by the trade routes from that region, put the worship of man ahead of everything else in the ecosystem. Earth in these religions was temporary and existed to be used in the service of man’s temporary time on earth (as did women and children usually). This was the trade economy encoded in theology. Anything that didn’t suit the idea of isolated personal autonomy, that reduced the amount of control of man over his environment or self, was rejected. The individualism in popular thought reached an obsessive plateau with the popularization of science in Europe. Science became the embodiment of these beliefs and a way to insist on the credibility of an omnipotent and autonomous man and discredit all other beliefs. Science is a method which achieved the status of an evangelizing religion.
Science became an attempt by powerful men of Europe to discover, catalogue and own all of the supposed secrets of the universe, including those previously widely collected, catalogued and distributed through the Islamic world, India and China and those newly discovered through European empires. European science was marked by two features: the isolation and control of each tiny element in the universe, and the obsession with credit to and ownership by European men of each supposed discovery. Science was a continuation of trade exploration, intended for ownership and profit, not for expansion of tribal knowledge. Access to knowledge was strictly controlled by those universities which admitted almost exclusively wealthy European men. Ownership of knowledge was strictly controlled by copyrights and patents, almost exclusively granted to wealthy European men. The so-called intellectual property that forms the basis of wealth for almost all of the world’s most wealthy today began with an aggressive global scramble to seize and control all of the world’s knowledge.
The fact that a great deal of the knowledge these men sought was already held by indigenous people, women and other empires around the world was not an issue for them as they decreed that nothing could be acknowledged in science unless it was scientifically proven and written in scientific papers. In other words, no knowledge was real knowledge until it came from the mouth or pen of a western man. This idea quickly extended to all knowledge as even on the ground news reports today are labeled not verified until someone has paid a western journalist to repeat them.
Patents which had previously been granted to the medieval hoarders of knowledge in the form of guilds became available to individuals and corporations. Patents and copyrights pretended that each little piece of knowledge was not dependent on all others and could be individually owned and sold. With their requirement that the secrets contained be published for all to see, the new patents broke the power of the guild class. The secrets which were previously hoarded by the craftsmen using them were isolated and dissociated. Patents freed knowledge in order to hoard it in a higher class. Those with the power to purchase secrets no longer required the old societal ties to do so.
Patents and copyrights also solved the problem of most knowledge being already held by others for centuries or millennia because it granted ownership not to the origin of knowledge but to the first to file patents, almost always western men. Patents and copyrights are exclusionary rights. They are not rights to do something but rights to stop others from doing it. They do not exist to directly empower the owner, they exist to empower him in relation to his colleagues by restricting them. University accreditation and licensing act in the same way. Institutionalization and professionalization allowed control of the sources of knowledge and its use by the men of the dominant social classes, a situation still true today. Ownership and controlled access to knowledge established the new floor the upper classes stood on, the ceiling for everyone else.
With science began the discrediting of thousands of years of knowledge and the establishment of professions such as medicine as the exclusive domain of the caucasian men who had access to the universities and literacy. The creation of officially sanctioned knowledge and reassigning of credit removed ownership of knowledge from women, indigenous societies, peasants, and all lower classes and placed it all under the rigid control of the scientific class. Practices which had been used and tested for centuries were not considered official or tested until men of science approved and claimed ownership of them. Most prior knowledge had been transmitted orally, at least off the main trade routes. Even knowledge that had been written down was later transferred to manuscripts copied, purchased, stored and taught by wealthy men. The credit deserved by many great scientists and historians for their work in preserving a small part of these oral traditions does not mitigate the fact that almost all knowledge was needlessly filtered through western male bias and misunderstanding before it was accepted into the halls of officially accredited knowledge.
This collection of knowledge allowed social independence or dissociation to those with access to universities. Self-congratulatory science produced generations of wealthy boys accustomed to the idea that their institutions already possessed all answers for all things and they no longer needed the listening skills and respect for their elders, colleagues and trade partners formerly necessary to acquire knowledge. Even in media and politics, young male pundits were depicted as having all of the answers to everything without needing to consult anyone actually involved in an event and, as in science, all stories were presented through the filter of the western men who held the microphones. The institutions which controlled the certification of knowledge then blocked the majority of the world from access to knowledge which was previously available to all as commons property. The face of a western man became the face associated with expertise. The face of an old woman became the face of old wives’ tales and the face of indigenous people became the face of superstition. Science is depicted as the source of all modern knowledge but it has, for centuries, stood in the way of the vast majority of people who may have contributed and has also ensured that all knowledge developed and disseminated was to the benefit of the powerful.
Science is not a source of knowledge; it is a gate. Knowledge was gathered from the global commons and then restricted by science, academia and licensing exactly like all other resources were gathered and then restricted by the trade economy. Knowledge was held to not exist until science discovered it, just like resources were claimed to be unowned until Europeans discovered them. Scientists and academia effectively burned the world’s oral libraries of tribal knowledge and went back to playing with alphabet blocks until they could rediscover what was already known and patent it. The amount of knowledge irrevocably lost to this scientific cleansing is a global tragedy and the restriction of all forms of study to wealthy western men has retarded human progress for centuries.
Science and the trade economy were depicted as the only conceivable path to progress. All prior beliefs were subject to the burden of proof but everything said by the great religion of science was held to be true until proven again and again to be untrue. No matter how many times they failed, the scientific class was always held to be infallible. Scientists could, like Thomas Aquinas, prove that god existedv or like René Descartes, declare knowledge of god innatevi, and be given credibility. Skepticism was reserved for the old beliefs which were always derided as old wives’ tales and superstitions. Scientific beliefs were proven wrong every day by scientists themselves. It was not scientific methods or ideas being presented as infallible, it was the scientific class. They reserved the right to point out errors to themselves alone. To the people being studied by anthropologists, having their homes explained by biologists and their news reported by journalists, the experts were invariably ignorantvii, but they had no voice to say so. It was rare that they even had access to read what was being said about them. The knowledge experts prided themselves on their detachment from the objects of their study and called their ignorance impartiality.
The isolated thought bubbles of science and academia developed schools of western masculinist theory in service to industrial progress that were almost unusable when applied to the needs of the real world. It is only after intensive critique from the rest of the world, large scale adoption of knowledge from international sources and the commons, and frequent disastrous failure that science has made the contributions they are credited with. Even with the body of academic and scientific knowledge that has finally been built, progress is stalled by funding, credibility and fame that is only available in the west. The vast majority of funding and research is spent on topics that interest neither the researcher nor anyone else but serve to fulfill employment, accreditation or funding requirements. Topics which could be of huge benefit to wider society are not studied if they are not within mandates or of interest to funders or if they are not in the interests of state and industry. Research is driven by power, not need. Like silicon valley’s endless parade of apps of use only to the frat boys creating them, science and academia study issues that affect wealthy old western men from the lens of wealthy old western menviii.
After years of ignoring the empires Europe has been trading with for millennia and pretending that Europe was unique in the development of complex societies and empires, archaeologists are finally studying the great kingdoms of the rest of the world. Nearly every one of the sites newly receiving attention is headed by a western academic. One of the world’s most important sites is the Caral-Supe site in Peru. The research at Caral has been headed by Peruvian Ruth Shady Solís since it began in 1994. She published her findings regularly and in 1999 was invited to the U.S. to give a talk, by two U.S. researchers who then visited the site for one weekend in 2000.ix They offered to use their well funded U.S. university to assist with carbon dating in exchange for their names appearing on her paper. They then used the appearance of their names on that paper to set up a parallel research group which receives far more funding and publicity than hers and to claim that they discovered the site she showed to them.x They also renamed her Caral-Supe civilization ‘Norte Chico’, a designation the English media and resources such as Wikipedia have used since.
This type of appropriation is not unique. It is structural in the way academia and science operate. A system of knowledge ownership, reciprocal citation and promotion, industrial funding and regional wealth is toxic and incompatible with a level or open system of study. Academia and science still parasite off of people worldwide with knowledge to contribute and no way to fund it or be heard without attributing their work to someone with more power. Travel bans, sanctions, intelligence sharing and trade alliances restrict the free global exchange of information. Ownership of ideas then continues to enable disparity of income and power and the cycle continues. The so-called scientific community is really a scientific class that hoards knowledge from the classes below and is in service to the classes above.
Science is not a synonym for verified knowledge. Science is a class structure in a hierarchical trade economy which regulates knowledge and controls access to it.
The average person has difficulty understanding a whole system at once (perhaps especially male people and even more especially those who are attracted to the study of the minutiae of science).[cite] In order to maintain control over a specimen for study they must break it into tiny pieces and view them in isolation where they will lose all context and relevance. The division of labour in factories helped efficiency by allowing people to build without understanding how to build the entire product. Science was supposed to allow study with the same compartmentalized efficiency, but in science no one understood the whole. Like humans, animals and nature do not respond well to isolation and torture. They must be considered as a whole of interrelated parts observed in their natural habitat for any understanding.
Scientific isolation has, for centuries, left us a legacy of medicine which seeks to kill disease instead of improve overall health, and agriculture which seeks to grow isolated crops by killing everything except the chosen plant. All of the old knowledge which looked at ecosystems and organisms holistically and sought to work with them were replaced by petri dishes and attacks on every aspect of nature. Empathic and intuitive knowledge, where women were perceived to be stronger, were derided as unscientific. Science centred on isolated, sterilized experiments that explain how with obsessive mania without ever inquiring why. After centuries, science has yet to answer or even ask a single why and prides itself on its myopic views as indicative of reason.
Science encouraged the dissociation of all of its products from their natural origins, of medicine from plants to pills, of food from gardens to plastic bags of products unrecognizable as food. Medicine was conquered and in service to man instead of the former herbs and rituals working with nature and the body. Medicine, cosmetics and food, once inseparable, became isolated to the point that cosmetics were poison and food caused sickness. The hunt for wild animals, where people were joined in contest with the animal and grateful if they won, was replaced by domestic animals raised in factories under complete domination, torture and slavery. Prayers to thank the souls of animals for feeding them were replaced by assertions that animals were machinery made up of nothing more than working parts. Occasionally this isolation and dissociation was necessary but far more often it was to enable copyrights and patents for industrial control. The legacy of this isolation is a knowledge class that is dangerously removed from the world it studies.
Science sought to remove spontaneity as other institutions removed society. Biodiversity was shunned and Monsanto became rich on a promise to kill all that was unapproved. Human efficiency was studied like that of battery hens and both are isolated in corporate factories to maximize production and eliminate any life not related to service of trade. Isolation of work has been transmitted even to homes where isolated people argue about chores rather than gathering as communities to share work. William Petty’s Political Arithmetickxi allowed the reduction of people to numbers and value and the importance of individual experience was lost. The seed of collateral damage was born. Every plant and animal, like every human, must prove its usefulness to the trade economy. We now have corporate valuations of both people and nature and both must prove their worth to industry to be permitted to survive. Corporations are omnipotent, like gods, and have no duty to provide any social good or obtain any social approval. Science funded by corporations is more interested in mining asteroids than in rediscovering who we are or preserving life on earth.
Our world is in crisis. Verified knowledge has never been more necessary. Study, experimentation, analysis, publication and critique are necessary. Epistemic communities are necessary. Sometimes solving problems in isolation is necessary. Even various scientific methods, empiricism and also rationalism are necessary. What is not necessary, and is blocking achievement of the collective knowledge we so urgently need, is a social class that sets themselves up as the closed arbiter and keepers of all knowledge and operates in service to the trade economy.
Excerpted from Autonomy, Diversity, Society. Citations will be transferred when I get a minute.