chapter  3
3 Defining ‘science’ in a multicultural world
Implications for science education
ByWilliam W. Cobern, Cathleen C. Loving
Pages 1

Is science universal? Only recently has this question been given any serious consid-

eration at all. In the tradition of science as practised in the West for the past 300

years, and in the tradition of school science, the answer has been, ‘Of course

science is universal’. As Richard Dawkins likes to put it, there are no

epistemological relativists at 30,000 feet. But today some will say, ‘Not so fast!’

Dawkins offers a brute definition of universality completely devoid of any nuance

of understanding and equally devoid of relevance to the question at hand. No one

disputes that without an aeroplane of fairly conventional description, a person at

30,000 feet is in serious trouble. The question of universality does not arise over the

phenomenon of falling. The question of universality arises over the fashion of the

propositions given to account for the phenomenon of falling, the fashion of the

discourse through which we communicate our thoughts about the phenomenon

and the values we attach to the phenomenon itself and the various ways we have of

understanding and accounting for the phenomenon – including the account

offered by a standard scientific description.