"Relations between Science and Culture in the Ideal Polity: An Anthropological View"

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Science and religion tend to occupy polarised positions in our everyday conceptions and categorisations of the world in the West: science, we might say, deals with an actual apprehension of the world, and religion with a moral evaluation. But while useful ideology and common rhetoric this polarisation is not a necessary one. Indeed, there is much to be gained in overcoming it: to recognise in science a fuller worldview than it has formally allowed itself in seeking to distinguish itself from religion. Western science grew out of a Judaeo-Christian cosmology in which fact and value were combined, in which 'is' and 'ought' were inextricably conceived. Why may not science still contain within itself notions of good, ethical practice; a moral message, concerning not only its own methodology but also a 'social methodology'? Science is part of a moral history, why might it not embody a moral presence? In a wide ranging discussion, drawing in particular on the work of Karl Popper and Ernest Gellner, this essay suggests an affirmative answer to the above questions and argues that scientific practice affords a lesson in openness; an openness which characterises alike good science and a liberal society potentially supracultural, universal, in its provenance. The precise balance to be sought would be between a societal domain run according to the best scientific data concerning the nature of human beings, their needs and wider global environment, and a cultural domain replete with community groupings whose memberships were voluntary and whose affairs were symbolically freestanding. The 'scientific society' might thus be seen as responsible for encompassing (regulating and legitimating) a plethora of cultural communities while remaining itself a 'culture free' zone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-31
Number of pages7
JournalInterdisciplinary Science Reviews
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2002


Dive into the research topics of '"Relations between Science and Culture in the Ideal Polity: An Anthropological View"'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this