The scandal of the “biotechnology evangelist” erupted in Korea at the beginning of the new year: a commission from Seoul National University announced that it had proof that Dr Woo Suk Hwang, considered one of the world’s foremost experts on cloning by nucleus transfer, had manipulated the data concerning experiments in human cell cloning and the creation of eleven lines of stem cells from human embryos published in two different articles in the journal Science in 2004 and 2005.
The article reports the outcome of an analysis of the reception of Bertolt Brecht’s play, "The Life of Galileo", as presented by Giorgio Strehler (Milan, 1963) and Brecht himself in collaboration with Erich Engel (East Berlin, 1957), carried out on respective press reviews. The reviews were examined by the application of quantitative analysis based on the recurrence of determinate themes associated with images of science. In comparing the results of the analysis of each of the two press reviews, it appears that different images were conveyed by the same play performed in two different contexts for different audiences. Italy, in particular, showed a more frequent recurrence of the conflict between science and religion as a result of the ongoing cultural and spiritual authority of the Church, whereas in the German Democratic Republic’s communist regime, where Brecht is a troublesome but tolerated intellectual, the topics of the scientist’s freedom within the Establishment and intellectual courage were more frequent.
The use of various expressive artistic forms in science centres and in interactive museums is becoming increasingly widespread. This paper proposes an interpretation of this phenomenon that emphasises how contemporary art contributes to experimentation with new forms of scientific communication. Furthermore, it examines the considerable overlap apparent between the themes addressed by contemporary artists and current scientific developments. Indeed, just as can be seen in science centres, artistic experimentation has assumed a new role: raising public awareness of what is happening around us today.
The people of Val di Susa (Italy) blocked the construction of the new high-speed railway line that should connect Turin with Lyons (France). This project is regarded as a strategic achievement for the economic development of the European Union, but local communities have a different concept of development and are asserting their rights through ad hoc experts’ reports and the production “from the bottom” of new specialised knowledge. We shall describe these events as a case study to put ecological democracy to the test of facts, also through a comparison with the experimental actions taken in some Southern countries of the world. From Europe to Brazil, the debate on health and environmental risks resulting from modernisation is upsetting democratic societies and urging new forms of participation in the decision-making process. There is a clash between different “concepts of the world”, in which communication strategies play a crucial role and from whose outcome the society in which we wish to live in will emerge.
Do we have to drag in the thought of Michel Foucault to show the political (and not neutral), partial and local (and not universal and non-historic), active (and not merely transmissive) face of science communication? Do we need the work of the controversial French intellectual to dispute the anxious search – almost a quest like that for the Holy Grail – for the “best practices” in the dissemination of scientific culture? If we read over the pages that Foucault dedicated to words and things, to the archaeology and genealogy of knowledge, to biopolitics, we have few doubts. Two elements, on the one hand the central nature of discourse and “regimes of truth”, on the other the concept of biopower (a “power over bodies”), enable us to reflect both on the important specific features of modern science in comparison with other forms of production and organisation of knowledge, and on the central role of its communication.