Science or Cultural Relativism:


What d o we know?

Ever had any doubts ? The findings of contemporary research elevated to undisputed axioms is a silly notion we share with the history of science in all cultural contexts. Science, as we seem easily to forget, is not an Occidental invention, nor does it by any means start in Classical Greece. The semantics of the word are used dead seriously in tribal cultures on Papua Guinea and in experimental quantum physics in Switzerland. The reason why we call Papuan knowledge cultural belief instead of science are resting on socio economical parameters and ethnocentrism.

The findings, whether in remote selvatic parts far from the capital Lae, Moreobe Region or at the Weizmann Institute of Science, are equally ”true” or ”false” because findings are but interpretations of a hypothesis, a question dependant on the cultural mindset, a set up of culturally understood entities and as such never definitive. We do not ask questions which never occur to us and yet the existence of an ongoing, invisble and present ”reality” is there although overlooked and unknown.

The tiresome credo of Schopenhauer seems to encarcerate the Occident and occidentally influenced science globally. Deductions that are not in sync with the criteria of science in this culturally defined tradition will be disregarded in the the same pattern as the heliocentric theory was ridiculed in previous important scientific centers such as Persia of old or China, but at the same time accepted by the Caracol Mayan astronomers in Yucatán.

Occidental science seems particulary hostile to metaphysical or supranatural ”truths” which are fiercly condemned since the 18th century Enlightment and onwards. What puzzles me is the massive ridicule of findings or relevant existential experiences such as living in four dimensions in theAustralian Aboriginal Culture. Is it reasonably possible to disqualify the aboriginals experiences?If so, there is only one solution: all aboriginals suffer from dissociative personal disorders.

Why the unsophisticated attacks? The arrogance, self sufficiency and self-righteousness are hard to be understood from any other perspective than a witless phobia of doubt, of lost omnipotence and, socially and financially, status and prestige. This is as true for the shaman in a Navajo Idian settlement as the quantum physicist and at least lead to a plausible deduction: Knowledge equals power in all societies.

Recently I watched a documental on Swedish television with prominent scientists discussing the existence of God. Five participants, whereof three atheists, one gnostic and one believer ( a former atheist and ageing scientist). They all hurried to the Positivist trap: Lengthy ellaborations of philosophical nonsense and intellectual masturbation until the climax:

The non-believers:   You can not prove that God exists. Therefore He does not exist.

The believer:         You cannot prove that God does not exist. Your deduction holds no information.

The gnostic:               Sorry, I don´t get it...


My personal experience, working with victims of war and torture, is that those clients blessed with a strong credo, be it spiritual ( I do not use the word religious) or ideological, healed and recovered much faster and with durable results. Not even medical science denies this phenomenon but choose to call it Placebo, an entity the medical scientists are prepared to acknowledge. The confusion of precise research becomes evident. As a Social Anthropologist I recognize the opposite, the deadly “Nocebo”, (Voodo, inter alia), which is disregarded by medical science and psychiatry as superstition.

Science will continously be the cornerstone of all developing societies. But we must not confuse it with truth in another understanding than according to our capacity to aks relevant questions. And the latter are resting on the socio economical and cultural concept of existence where they are being raised.


The Biblical warning not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge is a sophisticated metaphore, or truth, according to belief.. If we know everything on beforehand, why live?


Douglas Modig 2012