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Question Of Ethics In Indian Science

Shiju Sam Varughese

Edited by Rajeswari S. Raina
Orient BlackSwan, Hyderabad, 2015, pp. xviii 294, Rs. 675.00


Science and technology are often understood as socially disembodied and outside the cultural domain of values, although this view has been criticized by scholars working in the field of Science, Technology and Society (STS) Studies since the 1970s, and the scholarly endeavours resonated well with the civil society critique of the epistemology of modern science and the moral universe S&T was embedded in. In more recent times, there is strong public scepticism on the scientific and technological advancements which generate a spectrum of environmental and socio-economic risks. The perception and negotiation of the risks created by science and technology and the development pathways informed by them are often linked to a conflict of moral values. However, this aspect of public engagement with S&T is seldom acknowledged in the Indian policy discourse. It is in this context that the volume under review demands our attention. It poses the question of values vis-à-vis science, technology and development in the Indian context and brings in a variety of perspectives on the same. In her introduction to the volume, Rajeswari S. Raina suggests the urgency of a critical evaluation of the values that inform the production of scientific knowledge and technological projects as well as the employment of S&T in development related decision making. On one hand, Raina suggests, scholarly attention should be on ‘the hidden norms or values that we take for granted, which have been bred into our sciences, our policy making processes, our teaching methods or health services, our ways of working’ (p. 9). On the other hand, the chapters of the volume are concerned about the need to seek better ethical practices in the contexts of knowledge production, shaping of technologies and developmental decision making that are informed by S&T. Together these two emphases, the volume suggests, will catalyse democratization of science in India. From this perspective, the twelve essays in the volume are organized around four different themes, and each section consists of three essays. The first section (‘Mores and Moral Communities’) has essays focusing on the moral communities of science and the values nurtured by them—this includes scientists, engineers, technocrats, rural public, self-help groups or the bureaucrats. Agricultural development in India and its policy frames (A.R. Vasavi), the rare case of expert advice extended by the Indian scientific academies during the Bt Brinjal controversy (Gautam I. Menon and Rahul Siddharthan), and the ...

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