science and liberation

Image: João Nitsche


Commentary on the book by José Leite Lopes

For SBPC, 72 years old, which is completing the science and art of its Congress at UFRN.

"... the atoms of the Sun dialogue with the atoms of the eyes through the language of light, and the reason why we see lies in this identity of nature between the detector and the receiver". (Michel Cassé, children of heaven)

“You chose hope, decency, science and, yes, truth” (Kamala Harris, first post-election speech, November 07, 2020)

Publisher Paz e Terra published, in 1969, Science and liberation, work of the Pernambuco scientist Leite Lopes, at the same time that he, returned to his country, was again expelled by the AI-5, the idolized object, for use and consumption, by Bolsonaro-Mourão and his entourage. Lopes had already worked in Europe and the United States and had experienced the controversies and murmurs that led to the criminal bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The theme of this text is not atomic polemics, but the thought that the work reveals, 51 years later, regarding the horrors committed against science, the natural environment and education in this country that is a guinea pig for malefactors.

Leite Lopes was a professor, politician and scientist in the thematic movement of the aforementioned book and was willing to carry out the three gifts well. Max Weber had already discussed some meanings of the three careers, or gifts, in his liberal but shrewd and courageous way. In the sometimes rude and ironic language chapter Politics as a vocation (1963, p. 98-153) he offers ideas for discussion. According to Weber, there is a “relatively small number of men” […] “primarily interested in political life” (p.121). At this point in the analysis, he discusses the sycophants who usually accompany politicians, as well as politics as a profession, the passive electorate, the role of social communicators, especially journalists, and the performance of party officials. In any case, it is not out of place – despite so many ills – that there are people with a political vocation, capable, therefore, of building something new within citizenship.

At the end of the chapter capable of projection, he reveals the value of politics and the greater sense of walking through it (p. 153): “Politics is like the slow drilling of hard boards. It requires both passion and perspective. Certainly, all historical experience confirms the truth – that man would not have achieved the possible if he had not repeatedly attempted the impossible. […] Only those with a vocation for politics will be sure not to fall apart when the world, from their point of view, is too stupid or too mean for what they want to offer it. Only who, in the face of all this, can say 'Despite everything!' has a vocation for politics”.

We Essay (2002, 37-58), the German sociologist and jurist denies the scientist any right to be a prophet, or savior. The scientist in Weber is an explainer, but his explanation is not negligible, as it can lead the interlocutor to recognize his condition in the world, who he serves, who he depends on and perhaps how to free himself from social ties.

At this point, Weber associates scientific thinking with the “special discipline of philosophy” as well as “methodologies from other disciplines”, that is, he creates connections between different scientific attitudes, as long as they are all at the service of clarifying and demonstrating the phenomena of science. life. The scientist, then, is also a professor and has a political disposition for the debate. It ends with the proclamation that the scientist – as well as the professor – will have to be stoic explainers of reality. Science does not have the gift of saving, but of clarifying the phenomena of life. It is necessary, says Weber, to respond to the demands of each day.

The set of dispositions in Leite Lopes, educated to intervene widely in the life of Brazil that he knew and saw as dependent and thirsty on the song of the sirens from beyond the sea, has important elements in Weber's reflection.

To better understand the integrated trio of professor, scientist and politician that prevails in the thinking and practice of the nuclear physicist,[I] It is worth quoting Guerreiro Ramos, made in a work on critical sociology. In a chapter in which he discusses the evolution of Brazilian society, between nationalisms, xenophobias, dependencies and efforts to seek autonomy, Guerreiro Ramos (1957:51) considers that the country did not have institutional guidelines to build its nation project. In these absences, factions tried to find ready-made formulas, which were imposed according to the purposes and interests of groups in power. Is there anything else in Brazilian politics today?

Ramos concludes the chapter: “Brazilian society, a member of the periphery of so-called Western civilization, cannot escape the cultural influence of the dominant societies in this civilization. This cultural conditioning, closely linked to economic imperialism, can only be neutralized when certain objective conditions are reached that only recently took shape in our country”.

Indeed the author of Administration and Brazilian context had some objective conditions to present in this time of the second industrial revolution in Brazil, from Estado Novo to Developmentalism. I saw the transition from semi-colonialism to emancipation (as eighteenth-century intellectuals tried to see the end of feudalism), I saw the recognition of an incipient management culture, capable of opening gaps in the bureaucratization modeled by the dominant factions, and I saw how it was possible to create new competences human rights based on merit (without creating a meritocracy) and in a new sense of development, throwing back the ghosts of racism, lordly rights, denial of modern rights, such as education, culture, decent work.

It is there that Leite Lopes prepares and works, both in Brazil and abroad. When discussing science and development, there is a sister text to that of Ramos: “underdeveloped peoples, and the reserves and wealth of their countries, remain at the mercy of developed peoples, until favorable forces and conditions arise in the former, capable of establishing structures adapted to a development that has social significance and political autonomy, that is, without the ancient or modernist characteristics of colonial domination and exploitation” (LEITE LOPES,1969:14).

Common assertion, odd details. Leite Lopes adds that the colonizing action is present in its time. In this he agrees with Furtado de Who Are We? (1983), and other scholars of dependent modernization, who saw in the colonial statute competence to meddle in the heart of modernity by reorganizing former discourses through the sometimes brazen costumes of the “new” and, thus, capable of provoking changes so as not to change anything that would upset the political and economic elites.

Mário Schenberg (1968:87-93) also entered the debate by stating that the 1914th century had begun in 1960 and its first half had concluded around XNUMX. , Oil, Steel and hydroelectric area), which separates developed from underdeveloped peoples. More problematic, however, is the formation of models: “All of our technological thinking was formed using Europe and the US as a model, not taking into account certain realities (…) Technological solutions are not always in the country's interest. (…) There is often an over-mechanization that does not interest us. Super-mechanization requires capital that, as it turns out, we don't have. We need to appeal to a development process that combines the factors of production”.

The text that closes the reflection of the scientist, patron and art critic is precious for the scope of this memoir, as Leite Lopes and his friend Mário had common struggles: “What we witness today in Vietnam is the presence of an overwhelming material power of a side, defeated by a superior organization on the other side. And here we touch on a fascinating point. For Toynbee, humanity has already overcome the technological age and entered the organizational age. And today's problems are organizational ones”.

Finally, Mário Schenberg's living hope is realized in knowledge and in the aesthetic attitude in the world. When dealing with peoples emerging from underdevelopment, he predicts: “Knowing past experience, they will not incur errors (such as the excessive production of objects), but will place emphasis on investments more directly related to human life and organization”.

Reduce illusion = create knowledge

Leite Lopes elaborates his proposals based on similar findings. It worked in favor of a dependent country, whose intelligence proposed to buy the technological objects of the developed countries, in which ignorance of the ways of organizational management of goods abounded, allied to the lack of vision about the new ways of influence and expansion of dependence, which they give “less for vice-governors and occupying troops than for scientific knowledge…” (op.cit. 25). Finally, the absence of new and productive methods of education for real children and youth in Brazil and other Latin American peoples.

The nuclear physicist reaffirms that science and technology must develop within countries, in partnerships “with the whole world” (op.cit.: 26), but in favor of national interests. This means both the effort not to lose scientists through their adequate absorption and the demand from the State for large companies to open laboratories in underdeveloped countries. He recognizes that the man and woman of science cannot exempt themselves from responsibility in the construction of scientific policies (which they usually do in the name of funds for their personal and corporate projects).

In this direction, people of science are colluding with ignorance, hunger and misery. They stop working for the good of humanity, for what is common to all. Worse: they fail to see (even in 1969) that: “the fundamental characteristic of this end of the century is the social phenomenon, the demands that populations everywhere are irrevocably making and who are not satisfied with going hungry or living in misery” (op.cit.: 66).

Note that the discourse on common – human – goods in Leite Lopes is not limited to general scientific messages, but goes to “applications of technologies for the country's economic development” (op.cit.: 40). It is also essential to “have access to the means of production of scientific and technological knowledge”. (op.cit.: 40). There, the semantic field of liberation was formed at that time: knowledge managed in favor of the majority, the break with dependencies, universal and quality education for children and youth, and mastery of the means of production of science and technology. In a pioneering way, the scientist advocates integrated policies, although he only sees them as possible through democratic governments.

A basic excerpt from his texts connects him to the socio-economic thinking of national autonomy and makes up the movement of the three angles of his socio-political vision: “If they are not accompanied by a national policy of intensive economic development, educational programs will give way, ultimately, the emigration of scientists and technicians from less developed countries to advanced countries – in parallel with the export of raw materials (coffee, cotton, cocoa, iron ore) as the basis of their economy. Programs and policies for integrating the economy with education, culture and science can only be formulated by national governments that represent the aspirations of the majority of the population: the constant rise in their standard of living together with the affirmation of a national culture, integrated into the universal culture, but without losing its own characteristics and richness” (op. cit.: 23).

In the chapter on science, humanism and the third world (p. 61-67) Leite Lopes organizes the dream that, as expected of this restless spirit, does not end in conformism or any image that interferes in his language. He makes an eye-popping set of quotes from creators: Tiziano, Cervantes, Erasmus and Leonardo. He then jumps from this renaissance to another, from Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Galileo and Kepler, and is armed with his questions, which range from the Protestant Reformation to Mechanics, from the Bases of Physics to the breaking of dogmas, which consubstantiate scientific methods and the historical sequence of transformations, which also goes through Karl Marx.

Halfway through, he asks himself, between assertion and dream: on the eve of the 1967st century (63!) it is not known how to solve the problem of the existence of a rich minority and “an impoverished, exploited and dispossessed majority” (p. XNUMX). .

Between pages 63 and 67 Leite Lopes has questions and answers for scientists and humanists. She questions whether they should ignore political instability, the anachronism of universities, cultural fragility, the lack of a job market for scientists and technicians and the high percentage of illiteracy. Assuming not, she recalls the delay in the liberation of peoples in Africa, Latin America and Asia. She recalls that the contemporary scientific and humanist attitude will have to think of progress no less than for all peoples, under strong general exchange and guarantee of the nation's sovereignty. After stating that large economic groups “prevent the universalization of the results of science (p.65)”, he launches one of his maxims of thought: “[…] science is an integral part of humanism, one of the fruits of the spirit of nonconformity and renewal started at the time of the Renaissance”.

For Leite Lopes, there is no chance of a people developing communities and civilization subjugated by the spirit of conformism and subservience (p.66). Scientists and humanists must be fully involved in these tasks; This is the central motif of the work.

In chapters of more personal language, the author of science and liberation he notes a string of mishaps, his own and that of fellow scientists, for the establishment of courses and research projects. Embarrassed, he sees the impossibility of building a modern Institute of Physics in Rio de Janeiro “since it is not possible to establish such an Institute on the basis of the teaching staff that already exists, with the salaries they receive, when they receive them, nor with the working time regime. which leaves the University City Block and its classrooms idle for most of the day” (op.cit.: 170).

Systematically, he compares the struggle for science in Brazil with scientific promotion in the United States. In addition to the millions of dollars raised in the leading country, he reports that he had asked Capes and the Board of Higher Education of the MEC, at the end of 1967, for resources “to date not received” (op.cit.: 170). It was about 150.000 new cruzeiros. He asks: “How, then, is it possible to realize the minimal aspirations of students?” (p. 170)

In any case, the scientist and thinker does not falter. He notes that it is up to the State to finance research, because the large industrial plants, branches of organizations based in scientifically advanced countries “do not see the reason to encourage 'native' scientific research since they benefit directly from the scientific and technological knowledge of developed countries” and adds that in the case of research financed by companies, it is oriented towards specific activities.

Leite Lopes completes his thought by suggesting a balance between vectors: financing, valuing people in science and technology, projecting scientific work into all of social life, building a democratic culture and education, dialogue with the world and harnessing the intelligence of youth.

The ideological denials imposed by Weber on the scientist, as well as the limits of prevarication by power, when referring to politicians, are not completely absent from Leite Lopes' field of meanings, who fights for an operative humanism, centered on the conditions of an invisible society , which is underdeveloped, evidently from the perspective of the most prestigious power niches. Weber regrets not being able to say more than he sees, between wars, not having been educated for any utopian operation. Husserl would not deny that “the ways of living, the acts and the correlates of acts” are a kind of prison for the phenomenological operation, which he believes to be the novelty, the search for transcendence.

However, this transcendence is knowledge with no strings attached. This is not something metaphysical, because, as Merleau-Ponty argues, one needs to overcome the illusion that one knows oneself, as it is indispensable to think “from the other”, which enriches our thinking. Therefore, some utopia of linguists is justified. Jakobson, alongside Lévi-Strauss, encounters a certain other, not at all illusory, existential, not known beforehand. This other is the historic encounter, within the interregnum of wars, of civilized and primitive thought. From this encounter, a globality conscious of its communicability could be born, above prejudices and prejudices. A new language, support of new social relations. A humanized existentiality. New language implies new rights, that “permanent wording” that Paulo Freire talks about in the process of cultural revolution in an authoritarian and colonized land.

Radical relations between civilization and primitiveness imply gradations. Almost primitive are the poor trapped in ignorance, made reclusive in the caves, outside the rights to social progress, illiterate or, as Leite Lopes showed, symbolized in that only child who, among the 1.400 who started primary school with her, managed to reach higher education Brazilian in 1966. The metaphor is full.

Leite Lopes' book carries a new language. It does not accept reality, as this is the illusion of a democratic society, with some promotion of science, some benefit to the world of work, a certain market, some education, some research institute. This real does not produce either humanism or the phenomenological condition of a new effective.

You need to break up with him. The many others are waiting, ready for dialogue, even if close to primitiveness. Bronowski, who had visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki shortly after the 1945 attacks, had said that there would be no Astrophysics, History or even Language if we humans were self-sufficient in our solitude, in our ego. If you really want to dialogue internationally; if the target is to expand rights; if there is a proposal for progress and development, then the intelligence movements undergo a reduction of the spirit of illusion (which supposed leaders seek to impose), make a break in the routine of thinking perched on the politics of the elites and point to the construction of an awareness of freedom, the only one that can manage innovative knowledge.

In the encounter with others, made invisible in the history of inequality, the transcendence of knowledge is built, which is indispensable when one wants to think globally. This is a condition for not being subservient or a doormat, as seen in the behavior of the captain-president of this sad country towards the lying Trump, who has just been (according to a memorable meme) “slingshot” by the Statue of Liberty. Hopefully several others will keep you company.

The last pages of Leite Lopes highlight the restlessness and non-conformism of youth, in which he gains strength, as well as the desire for advanced research institutes and new and unsubmissive universities. But the national dimension closes the work, to the horror of the contemporary liberal mind and those deluded in the fall of the Berlin wall:

“And without a nationalized industry, which employs our technicians and engineers, and above all that encourages our scientists to make new discoveries of interest to the national economy, there is no stable economic and political system” (p. 174).

It can be seen, therefore, that the spirit of the times woven in this way, gains more relevance when critical awareness provides precise, but ecumenical, non-sectarian or fundamentalist knowledge. Weber would say, repeating, that there would be the necessary and rare attitude of “facing the severe destiny of the present time head on”. The work of Leite Lopes, for all that can be learned and apprehended in it, would be of great value if it were distributed, alongside XNUMXth century classics, for reading by high school and higher education students.

*Luiz Roberto Alves is a senior professor at the School of Communications and Arts at USP.



Jose Leite Lopes. science and liberation. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Paz e Terra, 1969.



[I]Professor J. Leite Lopes taught theoretical physics at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. He accompanied the creation of CNPq and Capes and participated in their development. He worked at the Faculty of Sciences in Paris and was a research partner of Oppenheimer at Princeton. He suffered and fought in favor of the creation of institutes of higher studies, the public promotion of science and the development of universities committed to research and the best education of youth. Leite Lopes was a being menial in the construction of Brazilian science, which can be deduced from his correspondence, his search for scientific books, the work to create the minimum structure for research centers and the almost heroic effort to train staff in the incipient construction of democratic knowledge in Brazil .

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