A new cut is utilized to expose scientific literacy and the specific vivisection employed refers to the specific Foucauldian and Deleuzian cut and reconceptualization of the Dogmatic Image of Thought and its related concepts. This is very much an active movement of thought—hence the term vivisection—and it entails cutting up live formations of discourse, opening and dissecting thinkers, and so forth. In other words, it is a cut on the surface of thought, related to certain method of dramatization (Deleuze 2004b) and Foucauldian interpretive analytics (Dreyfus and Rabinow 1983). The dramatization evoked here is based on Deleuze’s method of dramatization related to actualizing the Idea (here scientific literacy): “Through dramatization, the Idea is incarnated or actualized, it differentiates itself.” (Deleuze 2004b, p. 94). The actualization of scientific literacy is being traced in three instances or events: Herbert Spencer’s scientism, Eliot’s ideas regarding reform of the American science curriculum and education and finally PISA06.
Scientific literacy is a concept involving at least two specific aspects: (1) a specific desired scientific Mind/Cogito linked to Being-Scientific (Bang 2014), which is contemporarily explained as scientific competencies, skills, awareness, and so forth (Hurd 2002), and (2) a modicum of scientific knowledge, both of science itself and science’s role outside of itself (society, the State, social perspectives, etc.) (Laugksch 2000). These aspects can be exposed and understood using Foucault’s notion of rationalities (Foucault 1972). These rationalities are actualized as the very framework, membranes, and corners of the discursive formation (Foucault 1972, pp. 41–42) of scientific literacy connecting it with other concepts and Diagrams.
Deleuze (1986) used three concepts regarding Foucault’s specific methodology and two in particular are outlined as a topology in this vivisection: the notions of the Archive, the Map, and the Diagram. The Archive is linked to the particular actualized discursive formation examined in the writing of PISA06, Spencer, and Eliot—that is, texts and statements. The Map is connected to their spread—science education practices, curricula, and other instances—an aspect only briefly touched upon here. Finally, the Diagram, the coiling abstract machine of the Ouroboros, represents a particular relation of forces that constitutes Power and these manifest in a given epoch and subsequently change and shift in time. As Deleuze wrote:
What can we call such a new informal dimension? On one occasion Foucault gives it its most precise name: it is a ‘diagram’, that is to say a ‘functioning, abstracted from any obstacle … or friction [and which] must be detached from any specific use’. The diagram is no longer an auditory or visual archive but a map, a cartography that is coextensive with the whole social field. It is an abstract machine. It is defined by its informal functions and matter and in terms of form makes no distinction between content and expression, a discursive formation and a non-discursive formation. It is a machine that is almost blind and mute, even though it makes others see and speak. (Deleuze 1986, p. 34, my emphasis)
The Diagram(s) are a multiplicity of heterogeneous relations in the social field(s). There is thus a diagram of science education and, more specifically, of scientific literacy, of forces and Power, that serves as the condition of thought and un-thought in science education. Diagrams influence diagrams, meaning that the diagram of late capitalism (or similar epochal diagrams) and its specific axiomatic flows of deterritorialization and reterritorialization (Deleuze and Guattari 1983) (colonizing and remaking everything according to the logic of capitalism) influence and connect with the diagram of scientific literacy:
The diagram or abstract machine is the map of relations between forces, a map of destiny, or intensity, which proceeds by primary non-localizable relations and at every moment passes through every point, ‘or rather in every relation from one point to another’. (Deleuze 1986, p. 36)
These specific rationalities, composing and connected in the Diagram of scientific literacy, almost exorcise the irrationalities of un-thought (the monstrous Becoming’s) and reduce them to infinitesimal instances, their dark twins or monsters, so to speak (the Becoming-Ouroboros).
What is particular about the discursive formation of scientific literacy is a twin set of rationalities, which both structure and manifest upon the surface of the discursive formation. These rationalities are connected here to the image of the Ouroboros and are conceptualized as (1) the Helix, referring to the cyclical and spiral form progress of science and the eternal return of the Möbius strip, and (2) Momentum, referring to the continuous movement, unrest, and desire/appetite of science. These two rationalities are proposed as the necessary movements actualized within the concept of scientific literacy, movements revolving around a churning Abstract Machine dissolving itself and its creations, in a dynamic continuous genesis. In a Spinozist sense the two rationalities, and their movements, form the essence of scientific literacy, and it can thus be seen as a certain kind of extension of thought (the Helix) and a certain appetite to connect/reconnect bodies (Momentum), in this case knowledge.
There is a reason the depicted image of the Ouroboros (Fig. 1) is coiled like a Möbius strip: a dynamic is enveloped within these two rationalities, an empty square where the object = x resides, the paradoxical element that drives the Abstract Machine itself (Deleuze 2004a).
These rationalities are gathered in the Diagram of the Ouroboros to emphasize two things: (1) the intrinsic connection between specific Becomings and science (Deleuze and Guattari 1987) and (2) that these are a part of a pre-symbolical, almost mythological totemic becoming or dark side of Science and the Diagram and fresh Image of Thought of the Ouroboros help capture this aspect of scientific literacy. In other words, the rationalities of Momentum and the Helix envelop a particular Abstract Machine within science that creates a dynamic movement here called ouroborossification, which, as a whole, threads together the discursive template of the Man of Science—consisting of the rationalities of the Helix and Momentum (and potentially related to other rationalities). Between the two rationalities of the machine is a differentiation between the Helix and Momentum, similar to Deleuze’s use of dy/dx (Deleuze 1994); there is a ‘finite’ infinity of multiplicities of actualized manifestations between these two rationalities. These rationalities are revealed in the respective analyses below (i.e. Spencer, Eliot, and PISA06) in their various manifestations.
The problematic of contemporary scientific literacy is especially connected to the workings of this Abstract Machine: Scientific Literacy has become too bloated, no longer destroying itself adequately, and is nearing a critical resting point. The Ouroboros thus functions as a Fresh Image of Thought (Deleuze 1994), revealing the intrinsic necessary conflict/essence within scientific literacy, opposing the dogmatic Image previously associated with scientific knowledge and scientific literacy.
To summarize, scientific literacy is an inadequate idea (Spinoza 1996) in the Spinozist sense, an inherently flawed concept that does not fully grasp the abstract machine coiled within. In other words, scientific literacy is a conceptual monstrum (Bang and Valero 2014) encased within a discursive formation. The vivisection and specific gaze applied here will overturn the concept, affirm it, and assemble it anew and show how it is connected to Becoming and the Diagram or the Abstract Machine of the Ouroboros. The conceptual monstrum is traced in Spencer, Eliot, and PISA06 and placed within the grid of its birth and transformations, that is, the topology of the Archive, the Map, and the Diagram. First, however, the gaze turns to an Archive of the present before carefully vivisecting the transformations of the Ouroboros and scientific literacy and locating shifts and turns.