Western science could learn a thing or two from the way science is done in other cultures What we understand today as being 'modern science' is in fact not that modern, but was born nearly half a millennium ago at the time of the Renaissance in Europe. But even if we think of great Renaissance thinkers, such as Galileo Galilei, Leonardo da Vinci or Sir Isaac Newton, as the first 'true scientists', we should not forget that all civilizations throughout history have produced and accumulated knowledge to understand and explain the world, a process that was often accompanied or stimulated by technological development. Indeed, the explosion of knowledge during the Renaissance was sparked by a reawakened interest in the writings of Greek, Roman and Arab philosophers and scholars—the word 'Renaissance' implying a renewed interest in classical culture and knowledge. But regardless of the various cultures and civilizations that have influenced science, what is common to all scientists is that they study natural phenomena, with an appropriate set of rules, to make generalizations and predictions about nature.
science is part of culture, and how ... science is done largely depends on the culture in which it is practised. However, most modern studies of the world around us are empirical, and there is clearly much more to understand than what is being studied by scientists. The understanding of complex systems remains a major challenge for the future, and no scientist today can claim that we have at hand the appropriate methods with which to achieve this. Thus, we cannot discuss the future of science without taking into account the philosophical problems generated by the study of complexity. Modern, or Western, science may not be best suited to fulfil this task, as its view of the world is too constrained by its characteristic empirical and analytical approach that, in the past, made it so successful. We should therefore remember the contributions of other civilizations to the understanding of nature—in particular the perception of the world in areas such as Asia and Africa, or among the indigenous people of Australia and South America. Such traditional or indigenous knowledge is now increasingly being used not only with the aim of finding new drugs, but also to derive new concepts that may help us to reconcile empiricism and science.