One of the many professions of faith spread on the generalist media is that according to which science, according to some of the gurus with abundant greasepaint on their cheeks, is not “democratic”. But what does this statement really mean?
Isn’t saying that science is not democratic an indirect way of affirming that science can lend itself to anti-democratic modalities and thus attribute to it an at least politically authoritarian character? Or it could mean that science does not stoop to the delusions of will to powerperhaps continuing to reiterate the ancient “yet it moves” in the face of those who would even like the cosmos to kneel, once again, in the face of the many ambitions of the temporal powers?
Is it perhaps enough, in the eyes of our age, for science to reaffirm the primacy of rationality and experimental observation to flaunt it as “undemocratic” and, therefore, dangerously inimical to the liberal conquests of recent centuries? Or is this the same old trick of politicizing the neutral to strengthen one side in defiance of another?
What concept of democracy emerges, or does one want to propose, from such a declaration of the alleged anti-democratic nature of science? Will it not be precisely those who want to impose an authoritarian change in society to transfer these tyrannical ambitions of theirs to a representation of science which, on the other hand, does not possess a political character in itself? We are not here, once again, at the crossroads between the neutrality of scientific thought that tries to make speeches about what’s this and events with the sole intention of better understanding the realities of the world and of the particular powers which, instead, want to make him say what is most convenient for them?
The shrewd who, in their life, have opened a few books in addition to the manuals useful for obtaining qualifications, or those who have reasoned a little on the subject, know that science is not, and cannot be, what is blathered about in the gazettes and in televisions: those are, at most, chatter and screams available to the highest bidder. Science, on the other hand, also listens to a child if he says something true, since the dividing line of scientific discourse is right there, but this age that thinks it knows everything, in the end reveals itself as an age that knows nothing, except that which is told by the baronies of power.
If, then, we peek into certain classrooms, some would say, perhaps repeating without saying Bacon and Descartes, that science is a method, while others, without thinking too much about repeating Popper’s words, would also add that it is based on “falsifiability”. Science, with the dutiful addition of “modern”, certainly is also a method, but it cannot – or should not – be reduced solely to this. Science that is interpreted as only method is mere blind application, that is techno (τέχνη), which we translate with “technique”, but it would be more correct to translate with ars which, in the language of the Greeks, is a term opposed to Nature (φύσις). There techno of the ancients it was also represented as a goddess who, among the many mythological enterprises, helps Icarus in his mad enterprise: this representation, as well as many others, already contains a warning and a connection between the technique and the dangers of arrogance (ὕβρις) , as will be the case for the unhappy adventure of the son of Daedalus. Here too the ancient Greeks come to our aid by showing us, through the luminosity of their allegories, that technique moves away from physis where it comes from. The modern term of “physics” derived from the Greek indicates, in fact, a discipline dedicated to the systematic observation of nature and in an authentically rational context, or in a truly advanced society, physics should not be subordinated to technique, but vice versa.
It is as curious as it is tragic to observe how the contemporary age that most clamors at the word “science” is, then, the one that has distanced itself the most from it, plunging science into mere technology at the service of profit. Science, in the truest sense of the term, can instead be better defined as a rational discourse based on the critical observation of facts and their synthesis through the application of logical criteria reconciled in a theoretical generalization.
To put it in simple terms: Isaac Newton sees an apple fall from a tree and this is a fact that he summarizes in the logical-mathematical formulation of the universalized law of gravitation through a theoretical generalization. This is an operational definition of science that ignores the many whims of the contemporary era and has, paradoxically, become incomprehensible to those experimenters who move away from the general criteria of scientific discourse, falling into the restricted ancillary observations, as Nietzsche already criticized, in a scene with a strong comic connotation, writing about that man bent over in the mud of a swamp and intent on studying the brain of a leech with all his heart, while Zarathustra accidentally steps on it. The individual that Nietzsche openly mocks is found at home and in his domain immersed in the mud, bitten by leeches in the quagmire, and confesses: “near my science lies my black ignorance.” He is the one who, in the work of the Röcken thinker, declares without worries: “I am blind and I want to be blind.” In other words, I want this method which, apparently, brings me closer to reality in a fundamental way, in practice, infinitely distances me from it.
Nietzsche’s parody of this comic and grotesque figure, folded and concentrated on the tiny brain of the leech, means that he is not, in reality, a man of science and, therefore, not even of conscience. Then it would have been enough to read it Zarathustra to find the surly and angry faces of certain well-known television celebrities who, attracted by new types of leeches and mirages, claim to lead us all, ex authorizedamong the swamps of their irrational and anti-democratic delirium.