Towards a Post-Baconian Science?

Any theory of the emergence of national consciousness is incomplete without an analysis of the component of culture which underpins technical and technological competence. Current theories, of which that of Gellner(5) is perhaps typical, need enrichment in this direction.

There is a background in the comparative historiography of science which suggests a core-fringe model, as developed by Crawford(14), Ben-David(16) and others, in the context of which science in Ireland can be seen to some extent as participating in the 'core' (due to proximity to England and mobility of personnel) but institutionally to be 'fringe'.

In the historiography of science the problem of how scientific knowledge transforms itself into technologicial utility, in the specific national context, tends not to be addressed.

In the background comparative historiography of technology emphasis is placed on ease of access to scientific knowledge via technical education of artisans, innovators and entrepreneurs, as outlined by Inkster(9).

In this context in Ireland the key role of the movement for technical education needs to be analysed, and its relationship (or perhaps lack of relationship?) with the emerging national cultural and political movement.

The association of prominent core-science figures, such as Tyndall(10) and Fitzgerald(11), with technical education is noteworthy; the relationship of this aspiration with the perceived benefits of core-association with the British Empire, and the Faustian pact with the military-industrial complex need analysis.

The relationship of scientific knowledge to the needs for independent democratic development of nations emerging from under imperial hegemony is complex; clearly the type of knowledge generated by what has come to be seen with hostility as the Baconian imperial scientific machine is not often relevant to their needs.

There is a need to develop a post-Baconian model, in which apropriate institutions are developed to empower people to use scientific knowledge in the generation of utility in a sustainable ecologically benign economic system, and to decouple science from its Faustian pact with the military-industrial complexes of the imperial powers.

There exists in Ireland core-quality science, with a long tradition, in a technolgically and economically fringe situation, without State commitment to military-industrial R&D, a combination which perhaps is unique in Europe, and capable of providing a laboratory for the research and development of the benign post-Baconian developmental model suggested above.

Perhaps Porter's(31) critical core-physicist's analysis of the Third World fuelwood crisis can be regarded as the first swallow of the Irish post-Baconian summer?

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