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The post-apartheid ANC government took pride in repurposing the country as a modern, democratic state and promoted a vision of science and technology for the common good. Astronomy was a particular beneficiary of the new dispensation. The Southern African Large Telescope at Sutherland was part of the dividend resulting from the country’s transition to democracy and the decommissioning of nuclear weaponry. Mandela’s successor, Thabo Mbeki, advocated national renewal through an ‘African Renaissance’ that promoted both indigenous knowledge and scientific ambition. Mbeki’s suspicion of the authority of Western science and his Africanist affinities impelled him to intervene in the controversy surrounding HIV/AIDS and to support AIDs denialism. It has often been alleged that Mbeki was caught between ‘indigenous’ and ‘Western’ knowledge, yet his scientific legacy was more complex. In fields such as ethno-botany, for instance, there is evidence of complementary research in post-apartheid South Africa between scientists and carriers of African knowledge of plant medicines. The process of developing a new spirit of ‘South Africanism’ in the post-apartheid rainbow nation meant greater openness to South Africa’s position as an African nation, while also inviting bids leadership of Africa through ‘big science’ initiatives like astronomy and Antarctic research.
Chapter 8 considers the widespread epistemic dependence that characterizes “big science,” and uses the information economy framework to dispel the worry that such dependence is inconsistent with the standards for scientific knowledge. This leads to a new argument against reductionism in the epistemology of testimony. First, reductionism is shown to be untenable for scientific knowledge. Second, if reductionism must be rejected for scientific knowledge, then it should be rejected more generally. This second idea can be vindicated in two ways. First, anti-reductionism about scientific knowledge entails anti-reductionism about knowledge in general, since anti-reductionism is best understood as the thesis that some transmitted knowledge cannot be reduced to generated knowledge. Second, if anti-reductionism is required for scientific knowledge, then reductionism for non-scientific knowledge is unmotivated. The most elegant position is anti-reductionism about knowledge transmission in general.
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