Science for the People

science for the people

Science for the People is a left-wing organization that emerged from the antiwar culture of the United States in the 1970s. A similar organization of the same name was founded in 2002.

The original group was composed of professors, students, and other concerned citizens who sought to end potential oppression brought on by pseudoscience, or by what it considered the misuse of science. ‘Science for the People’ generated much controversy in the 1970s for the radical tactics of some of its members.

Herb Fox, one of its founding members, wrote: ‘I was a founder in 1969-70 of Science for the People. It originated in the coming together of the then one-year old Scientists and Engineers for Social and Political Action (SESPA) and a group of Harvard and MIT students who had been invited to participate in a session of the AAAS annual meeting. SESPA itself was formed in the aftermath of a struggle in the American Physical Society led by Charlie Schwartz and Martin Perl and others to get the APS to take a stand against the Vietnam war.

SftP’s disruptive tactics at the AAAS meeting and at many scientific meetings thereafter increased its exposure and the participation of the younger and more militant among scientists and science students. The first issue of ‘Science for the People’ (1970) was produced and edited by me with a comrade who is now my wife. Subsequent issues were produced by ever changing editorial collectives. Over its first few years differing views arose on what SftP should be.

One group wanted ‘Science for the People’ to assume a supportive role in the class struggle with special attention to the issues of science. Another group wanted to work towards ‘A Science for the People.’ Most wanted to be the voice of critical consciousness from within the scientific community exposing science against the people and the dangers of the misuse of science. The struggle was painful and disruptive and not carried on with great clarity. Eventually those who were more interested in third world and workers struggles etc. than in science itself left the organization. Over the ensuing years the organization became primarily identified with its magazine which became an outlet for critical discussion of the misuse of science. In the process it became identified with well known critical academic scientists such as Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin.

In 2002, a group formed using the same name and promoting the same general views. It described its mission as follows: ‘Science for the People’ is a website and journal written by working scientists for scientists. At a workshop on science in Florence on November 8th, 2002, a few of us decided to start a magazine for Working Scientists active in the Anti Capitalist Movement, as part of the European Social Forum. The magazine will publish our experiences in popularizing science in the European mainstream media, whilst at the same time attempting to give our contributions a political dimension. The purpose is to claim ‘Science for the People.’ Original articles written by ourselves and published will be republished in the magazine so each of us may learn from the experience of the others. Although the newer group is organizationally unrelated to the 1970s group, the new group received a message of approval from Herb Fox, one of the founders of the original organization.

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