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Saturday 22 September 2012

On culture dependence of knowledge

Prof. N. A. de S. Amaratunga in his note published in the opinion page on the 13th of September 2012, claims that those “who say science is nothing but just another narrative are echoing the ideas of philosophers with a postmodernist bent such as Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996), Paul Feyerabend (1924-1994)  and Michael Polyani.” I am responding to Prof. de S. Amaratunga, as one who is of the opinion that western science is another story constructed by westerners based on their Greek Judaic Christian Chinthnaya relative to Judaic Christrain culture. However, I say that I am not echoing the ideas of Kuhn, Feyerabend or any other westerner.  Kuhn or Feyerabend is not considered as postmodernists and they have not said that western science is created relative to any culture. Kuhn is famous for his incommensurability  of  scientific theories and paradigm shifts, while Feyarabend wrote mainly on non existence of a scientific method. It is true that I was influenced to a certain extent by Feyarabend on non existence of a scientific method after reading his “Against Method” but I was more influenced by Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda Thero’s  “Concept and Reality”. Though I may have been influenced by some western sociologists of knowledge who have said that knowledge is a social construction without mentioning a culture in their stories I am more influenced by Avijja paccaya Sankara of Paticca Samuppada. I must also say that I do not believe in existence of objects as such as I am a Theravada Buddhist who does not believe in Thithi. I  am not a Sauththranthika Buddhist and I do not subscribe to Uppada Ththithi Bhanga. S. Amaratunga says “Kuhn and Feyerabend vehemently criticize science and its methods. But, one could ask the question how they came to the conclusion that science was another narrative and that it was based on culture” . I am afraid the learned Professor has not got his facts correct as Kuhn did not vehemently criticize science and its methods. He only said that the ordinary scientists are not interested in falsifying science as such and that they only do what could be called as ordinary science applying existing theories to solve problems within existing paradigms. What he said was that there are times when scientific revolutions take place which are often associated with paradigm shifts. On the other hand Feyarabend did not have to criticize scientific method as he did not believe that there is a scientific method. In any event they never said science was another narrative based on culture. It was I who said all knowledge whether western science or anything else is created by human beings based on a chinthanaya relative to a culture. I am not after any credit for saying this first and I would be grateful if anybody gives me the reference to a statement that creation of knowledge is due to avidya of anatta, dukka, anatma, and that it is created relative to the sense organs, the mind and the culture based on a chinthanya.    

 I have been influenced by Thervada Buddhism and Ven. Nanananda Thero in coming to this conclusion and it is true that I have closely examined certain works of the western scientists, western sociologists and western philosophers as well. However I have not used any so called scientific method and if reading books is the scientific method then it had been there long before Galileo and others who came after him.

 Western science is nothing but the stories on Genesis Exodus and others found in the Bible said in a different language and though there is no creator as such in western science there is creation. I as a Sinhala Buddhist believe in Agganna Sutta and the evolution of universe and life stated there and not in Big Bang and Darwinian evolution. These two stories are culture dependent and based on two different Chinthanayas and Prof. de S. Amaratunga or anybody else  cannot believe in both.

Copyright Prof. Nalin De Silva