Science

For better or worse, a source of ignorance as well as knowledge

Authored by: Janet A. Kourany

Routledge International Handbook of Ignorance Studies

Print publication date:  May  2015
Online publication date:  May  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415718967
eBook ISBN: 9781315867762
Adobe ISBN: 9781317964674

10.4324/9781315867762.ch16

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Abstract

Science has traditionally been billed as our foremost producer of knowledge. It has rarely been billed, as well, as an important producer of ignorance. Yet, the production of ignorance by science may well be inevitable, at least as inevitable as the production of knowledge. In fact, the two may go hand in hand. Consider, for example, how ignorance as well as knowledge typically results from pursuing certain lines of research rather than others—research regarding cancer detection and treatment, for instance, rather than research regarding cancer causation and prevention. Or consider how ignorance as well as knowledge frequently results from organizing scientific communities in particular ways. Think, for example, of the knowledge that was lost to anthropology from such traditional contributors as travellers, merchants, soldiers, missionaries, and local intelligentsia when these “amateurs” were excluded from anthropology in the process of its professionalization, but think also of the knowledge that was then made available to anthropology by that same process of professionalization.

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