Noodling around on my nascent book (stay tuned!), I saw this note and felt it was worth posting, although I’ve quoted Nelson & Vucetich several times here before:
Michael Nelson and John Vucetich (2009) noted “All citizens have a moral obligation to actively promote in their society that which they are justified in thinking is right or good and to actively oppose that which they are justified in thinking is wrong or bad. Consequently every scientist has an obligation to be a just and transparently honest advocate… When scientists reject advocacy as a principle, they reject a fundamental aspect of their citizenship. Rejecting one’s responsibility as a citizen is unethical.”
I’ve yet to hear a counterargument that did not fall into either (1) “but advocacy risks my standing as a scientist,” or (2) “but I don’t want to.” Nelson and Vucetich cover both of these. (And numerous other arguments for and against advocacy.)
Long story short, if one accepts that citizens have moral obligations as citizens, there is no simple escape to their logic. Having other priorities or desires does not expunge ethical obligations (N&V point out that most of us would agree that obligations to one’s scientific career does not, for example, excuse one from obligations to care for one’s children).
Let me be the first to say that all decisions should not be purely based on one’s conception of cold, hard logic. But given that many scientists claim to want more decision-making based on evidence and logic, I am still awaiting good arguments gainsaying N&V’s point that depend on some kind of systematic/evidence-based reasoning rather than feelings. And of course, even then, one’s feelings can’t exclusively determine our obligations, otherwise, when we don’t feel like it, we could skip reasonable suggestions for revisions to our papers; we could not pick our children up when we were feeling too tired; we wouldn’t have to run that fourth replication or re-calculate our statistical tests. “I don’t want to have to be a responsible citizen” should be no more compelling than “I don’t want to reconsider my paper’s conclusions based on this new evidence.”
With apologies to Cosma Shalizi (and an inability to be equally pithy):
If strong reciprocity is indeed an important, if not fundamental, part of the social character of humans, then scientists wishing members of any given community to expend resources on issues the scientists consider of highest priority, will need to expend their resources on issues that community considers high priority.
And no, attempting to convince a community that your highest priority should be their highest priority doesn’t count.
As scholar Juanita Sunberg writes of this 2014 piece by Indigenous scholar Zoe Todd,
“A thoughtful and insistent piece about the necessity of thinking and pursuing decolonial practices.”
As political ecologists maintain, ignoring the kind of critique that Todd makes, this lacuna in prominent Western thought, makes our analyses and science less rigorous. The can be no apolitical ecology; the alternative to political ecology is ecology that willfully ignores the real and existing politics and power present in all of our work.
Source: An Indigenous Feminist’s take on the Ontological Turn: ‘ontology’ is just another word for colonialism
Urbane Adventurer: Amiskwacî
Personal paradigm shifts have a way of sneaking up on you. It started, innocently enough, with a trip to Edinburgh to see the great Latour discuss his latest work in February 2013. I was giddy with excitement: a talk by the Great Latour. Live and in colour! In his talk, on that February night, he discussed the
climate as sentient the climate as a ‘common cosmopolitical concern’ [thank you to commenter Philip for pointing out my error in my recollection of the nature of Latour’s assertion about the climate — discussion of this in the comments below]. Funny, I thought, this sounds an awful lot like the little bit of Inuit cosmological thought I have been taught by Inuit friends (friends who have taught me that the climate is an incredibly important organizing concept for many actors). I waited, through the whole talk, to hear the Great Latour credit Indigenous thinkers for…
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