Week 4: Science and Politics

At first, science and politics don’t seem to exactly go hand and hand with each other. Except they do. In reflection of the group presentations (Adam and Chris—along with others) it was interesting to see how science at Oxford has developed in parallel with the needs of the time. When there was a need for science—such as during the World Wars—there was a boom in the field. War, amongst other things, acted as a catalyst for the need of the increase in scientific study. In the presentation, it noted that Oxford was becoming overlooked as a university because it focused on the humanities rather than science. Politically speaking, if the university wanted to ‘retain’ its standing, it would have to focus on the more ‘popular’ field at the time, which was scientific study. As a result, there was an increase of revenue towards science.


Another presentation that came to mind was the animal testing group. I thought it was interesting to consider how the animal testing developed and had ideas stemming from initial concepts of researching corpses. For the sake of science, people were trying to understand how the human body worked, but after a while of grave robbing and turning stolen bodies into a hot commodity, laws had to be put in place to control how bodies came into the hands of science. What is interesting is that the bodies being taken were those of a lower class and the drudges of society. In some perspective, this might be seen as using bodies that people might not miss (because they might have been considered unimportant) are therefore, perfectly acceptable for the use of scientific investigation. However, the introduction of laws controlling the ‘ownership’ of the deceased expresses political opinion on what bodies should be used and what society believed was the ‘proper’ way to obtain bodies for research.


In Edinburgh, the Scottish nationalism was felt throughout the museum. Many of the exhibits (though unfortunately, I did not have the chance to explore its entirety) often highlighted ‘Scotland’. Many instruments, ideas, etc. were accompanied by mentions of Scotland when explaining what they were or their important. Through Edinburgh itself, there was a great sense of ‘Scotland’ rather than ‘Scotland as a part of the Commonwealth and the UK”. One of the notable scientific ‘inventions’ was Dolly the Sheep. The cloning process took place in Scotland and Dolly’s presence in the museum, along with the many other artifacts, appears to let everyone who visits to see what Scotland has accomplished. That Scotland is independent, or that it can accomplish great things within itself.


Maybe this is my personal opinion, but I think Dolly the sheep put Scotland at the forefront of what was considered possible for science. Yes, there were many failures before Dolly, but the fact that there was a successful clone showed advancement in the scientific field. Looking at Cambridge, Oxford and all the other British universities with a focus in scientific research, the fact that Scotland was able to produce something like Dolly seems incredible. Even though it is just a commonwealth state, it was able to accomplish something great. Other than Dolly, I am not sure what other standout scientific research Scotland has accomplished, but in the eyes of politics, perhaps it showed a sense of personal growth. Even though England has so many research universities, Scotland was able to accomplish something like Dolly the sheep.

Science and politics doesn’t always seem to be clear. There is a relationship, but it appears heavily dependent on the public or nationalistic tendencies. Of course there may be other relationships, but science seems also driven by politics (take, for example, the nuclear arms race with Sputnik and America landing the first man on the moon).


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