Dr. Sundar Sarukkai presents the MacLennan lecture in the History of Science and Technology.

Dr. Sarukkai, a Professor of Philosophy at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Indian Institute of Science Campus in  Bangalore, is the inaugural History of Science and Technology Programme Visiting Scholar-in-Residence. During his residency, he will spend time with King’s students in a seminar setting in addition to this lecture.

Science and the Rationality of the Social

The national discourse of science in India has been premised on the claim that science has a capacity to make people think and behave ‘rationally’. This association is so strong that the Constitution of India lists ‘scientific temper’ as one of the constitutional duties of an Indian citizen. The belief that something called a scientific temper can remove ‘blind beliefs’ and ‘superstitions’ continues to resonate even in contemporary rhetoric of scientists. Similar claims appear in the public domain on climate change and creationist debates in other countries. The claims about this capacity of science are based on certain assumptions about science and its presumed opposition to religion, rituals, authority and tradition. Are we asking too much of science in expecting it to do this task of creating a ‘rational’ public? Can scientists themselves bear this burden? In this talk, I will explore whether, and how, the rationalities of particular kinds of practices of science (or other humanistic disciplines) can impact the beliefs and actions of the larger society.