On Becoming a Nomad Scientist
The problem: the intensification of a tendency within science—what Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus call “state science”—which has led to routinization, de-skilling, industrialization, theoretical stagnation, a lack of political response, and a massive amount of waste—machinic, chemical, biological, and informational. State science functions top-down, imposing abstract theorems and controlling the material world in order to reproduce its ideals. It indoctrinates the young with a naive scientific realism. It rarely experiments, mostly demonstrates, fitting well with a capitalistic, profit-based science and an affirmation of the status quo. The solution: learning to again perceive another tendency within science, what Deleuze and Guattari call “nomad science,” in order to then intensify it and manifest it, thus transforming modern science away from its destructive tendencies. Nomad science is a kind of science that works from the ground up, from matter up; by paying generous attention to the vitality and expressive difference of matter, nomad science is imaginative, creative, and artisanal. Examples of past nomad sciences range from the quadrature, to certain practices in Gothic architecture, Indigenous wisdoms, acupuncture, and metallurgy (all of which I discuss). But it is hard to learn this kind of science because there are no strict rules or memorizable patterns: it is inherently and constantly differing; so the task in becoming a nomad scientist is one of learning a kind of perception, an openness to difference. I consider these problems under the conceptual lens of Deleuze and Guattari (and as an exegesis of the twelfth chapter of A Thousand Plateaus), along with a parallel discussion on chemistry research and science education, reformulated with the intent on growing a new generation of nomad scientists.