The scientific method defined and described


Science fails to fulfill its cultural and social roles



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Science fails to fulfill its cultural and social roles


SCIENTIFIC DISCIPLINES ARE FRAGMENTED

There is an information glut

Henry Margenau (prof. of physics and natural philosophy, Yale) et al., The Scientist, 1964, p. 107

“It is estimated that between one and two million papers are being issued yearly in some 35,000 scientific journals throughout the world. Even in his own narrow field of interest, a specialist can scarcely keep up with new developments. Yet anyone who disregards the outpouring of compressed technical information runs the risk of overlooking and duplicating costly programs of research.”
Information is flowing more quickly

Daniel Bell (prof. of sociology, Columbia Univ.), “The Post-Industrial Society” in Technology and Social Change, ed. by Eli Ginzberg, 1964, p. 45

“This growth of the output of scientific knowledge seems to be occurring at an exponential rate. The holdings of major libraries, according to an estimate by Ridenour, can be expected to double every 16 years.”
Nobody comprehends the whole of science

Henry Margenau (prof. of physics and natural philosophy, Yale) et al., The Scientist, 1964, p. 103

“The last men who ventured to claim they had all science within their ken lived about 350 years ago in the latter part of the Renaissance. Today no reputable scholar would boast that he had mastered even one sector of science, such as plasma physics or ornithology.”
Specialization breeds jargon

James Burke (BBC science correspondent), Connections, 1978, p. 292

“The more the knowledge in a certain field increased, the more esoteric became the language. The reason for this is simply that ordinary everyday language has become incapable of encompassing scientific subject matter. As the amount of knowledge in each field increased, the percentage of language shared only by others in the same field grew.”
Jargon creates barriers to communication even within science

Henry Margenau (prof. of physics and natural philosophy, Yale) et al., The Scientist, 1964, p. 103

“Even within the scientific fold, a curtain of unintelligibility too often separates one specialist from another.”
Specialization has ended the common interests of scientists

Henry Margenau (prof. of physics and natural philosophy, Yale) et al., The Scientist, 1964, p. 107

“Along with their continuing problem in getting across to the public, scientists face mounting difficulties in communicating with each other. Increasing specialization, as a result of which a herpetologist is fully intelligible only to another herpetologist, and a magnetohyrdodynamacist only to another magnetohyrdodynamacist, is one basic source of trouble.”

THERE’S A GULF BETWEEN SCIENTISTS AND NON-SCIENTISTS

The complexity of science is unknown to the layman

Henry Margenau (prof. of physics and natural philosophy, Yale) et al., The Scientist, 1964, p. 75

“At last count, the number of branches of science listed by the National Science Foundation had reached 620, most of them unheard-of by the average citizen.”
Academic science alienates the nonscientist

Henry Margenau (prof. of physics and natural philosophy, Yale) et al., The Scientist, 1964, p. 105

“By and large, what the intelligent nonscientist wants of science is some understanding of its significant ideas. He would like to know something of the general nature of the universe and its constituents, something of the major scientific theories and the technological possibilities inherent in them. This desire is often frustrated by the scientist’s tendency simply to record what he has done and thought without any effort to interpret, persuade, or entertain. Backed by experiment and proof, he feels that his facts and logic will speak for themselves.”
Scientific jargon excludes the nonscientist

Henry Margenau (prof. of physics and natural philosophy, Yale) et al., The Scientist, 1964, p. 103

“As if the sheer quantity and intrinsic abstractness of science were not enough, it is made doubly difficult to grasp by the academic way in which scientists frequently express themselves.”
Scientific jargon wards off the nonscientist

Henry Margenau (prof. of physics and natural philosophy, Yale) et al., The Scientist, 1964, p. 103

“But like other scholars, they [scientists] tend to bring to their published works much ready jargon and little simple language; much microscopic detail and little telescopic perspective; and in general, a fear of seeming opinionated, undignified, or colorful. All too often, a layman reading their efforts succumbs to a drowsy philistine urge to remain ignorant.”
Jargon disenfranchises the common man

James Burke (BBC science correspondent), Connections, 1978, p. 292

“Today, the man in the street is often prevented from sharing in scientific and technological discussions not by mental inadequacy, but because he lacks certain key words and an understanding of their meaning.”
Two cultures develop

Henry Margenau (prof. of physics and natural philosophy, Yale) et al., The Scientist, 1964, p. 104

“A few years ago, the British novelist and physicist C.P. Snow suggested that science and humanism has drawn apart into two mutually uncomprehending and mistrustful cultures.”
The ability of science to improve society is often overestimated

Friedrich A. von Hayek (1899-1992, political philosopher and economist), The Pretence of Knowledge: Nobel Laureate Lecture to the memory of Alfred Nobel, December 11, 1974. Online: http://www.mises.org/story/3229, retrieved February 1, 2009

“Yet the confidence in the unlimited power of science is only too often based on a false belief that the scientific method consists in the application of a ready-made technique, or in imitating the form rather than the substance of scientific procedure, as if one needed only to follow some cooking recipes to solve all social problems. It sometimes almost seems as if the techniques of science were more easily learned than the thinking that shows us what the problems are and how to approach them. ‘To entrust to science more than scientific method can achieve may have deplorable effects.’ The conflict between what in its present mood the public expects science to achieve in satisfaction of popular hopes and what is really in its power is a serious matter because, even if the true scientists should all recognize the limitations of what they can do in the field of human affairs, so long as the public expects more there will always be some who will pretend, and perhaps honestly believe, that they can do more to meet popular demands than is really in their power. It is often difficult enough for the expert, and certainly in many instances impossible for the layman, to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate claims advanced in the name of science.”
The scientist says: Science is best left to the scientists

David Baltimore (prof. of biology, Rockefeller Univ.; Nobel Prize in Medicine, 1975), “On Doing Science in the Modern World,” from The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Delivered at Cambridge University, March 9 and 10, 1992, p. 291; Online: www.tannerlectures.utah.edu/lectures/documents/Baltimore93.pdf, accessed April 30, 2008

“If it is not clear enough, let me state explicitly that I believe that science is best served, and therefore the public is best served, if the doing and evaluation of science is left to the scientists. The criteria that laypeople, especially politicians, might apply to science are likely to be wrongly focused because they will be evaluating science by myths rather than realities.”
The nonscientist gains an irrational view of science

John Langdon-Davies (British author and journalist, 1897-1971; founder of Plan International), “Science, the New Religion,” in The Fate of Man, ed. by Crane Brinton, 1961, p. 431

“Mean are today more than ever in danger of thinking that they use their reason, that they are guided and actuated by rational processes, that the days of blind faith and unsupported guesses are over, and that now society moves more and more toward scientific deliberateness and a spirit of ‘organized common sense.’ Now the truth is that even the modern attitude toward science is irrational to a degree with would be hard to overestimate.”
Society doubts that pursuing scientific knowledge is always good

David Baltimore (prof. of biology, Rockefeller Univ.; Nobel Prize in Medicine, 1975), “On Doing Science in the Modern World,” from The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Delivered at Cambridge University, March 9 and 10, 1992, p. 275; Online: www.tannerlectures.utah.edu/lectures/documents/Baltimore93.pdf, accessed April 30, 2008

“First of all the whole issue of whether scientific investigation is an unconditional good is debated widely. Many people argue that what scientists find is not necessarily good for society. The physicists in the post-atomic bomb era first raised these doubts and now, with Chernobyl and the ozone hole and industrial pollution, the doubts have become a widespread strain of concern. Research has become so much more expensive and so many more resources are going to research that the questions and doubts are multiplying and coming from more places.”
Science is treated as faith

John Langdon-Davies (British author and journalist, 1897-1971; founder of Plan International), “Science, the New Religion,” in The Fate of Man, ed. by Crane Brinton, 1961, p. 430

“In short, if we think for a moment of the world in which we live: a world of X-rays; of radium and radio; of telephones and telegrams; of magnets and magnetos; of light and heat as they are now conceived; of atoms, protons, and electrons; of finite and unbounded space; of every work of unknown and invisible force — how many of us can see such as world as credible by logic and reason alone? How much of all this must we not rather take on faith?”
Science becomes a religion

John Langdon-Davies (British author and journalist, 1897-1971; founder of Plan International), “Science, the New Religion,” in The Fate of Man, ed. by Crane Brinton, 1961, p. 431

“Men are born worshipers and only become reasonable and rational after a long discipline; but the modern passion for democratic education has given countless masses the implements with which to approach science without the discipline to approach it intelligently. And so the halls of science have been thronged with hosts who are only fit to worship and wonder, not to criticize and understand.”
To most people, science is now equivalent to a religion

John Langdon-Davies (British author and journalist, 1897-1971; founder of Plan International), “Science, the New Religion,” in The Fate of Man, ed. by Crane Brinton, 1961, p. 431

“Ninety-nine men out of every hundred approach science and its works in the same spirit and through the same gateway as their ancestors approached God and His [works].”
The gulf between scientist and non-scientist cases distress

James Burke (BBC science correspondent), Connections, 1978, p. 5

“As the technological support systems which underpin our existence become more complex and less understandable, each of us feels less involved in their operation, less comprehending their function, less confident of being able to operate without them.”
The gulf leads to social turmoil

Daniel Bell (prof. of sociology, Columbia Univ.), “The Post-Industrial Society” in Technology and Social Change, ed. by Eli Ginzberg, 1964, p. 49

“When a group in society finds itself dispossessed, a degree of rancor sets in. As technical competence becomes increasing the criterion for a position in society, for advancement, for mobility, an increasing number of specific groups may become dispossessed. This will of course create social tension.”

SCIENCE IS IN TENSION WITH RELIGIOUS VALUES

Science and religion seem fundamentally incompatible

Jerry A. Coyne (professor in Dept. of Ecology and Evolution, Univ. of Chicago), “Seeing and Believing,” The New Republic, February 4, 2009, p. 33

“True, there are religious scientists and Darwinian churchgoers. But this does not mean that faith and science are compatible, except in the trivial sense that both attitudes can be simultaneously embraced by a single human mind. (It is like saying that marriage and adultery are compatible because some married people are adulterers.) It is also true that some of the tensions disappear when the literal reading of the Bible is renounced, as it is by all but the most primitive of Judeo-Christian sensibilities. But tension remains. The real question is whether there is a philosophical incompatibility between religion and science. Does the empirical nature of science contradict the revelatory nature of faith? Are the gaps between them so great that the two institutions must be considered essentially antagonistic? The incessant stream of books dealing with this question suggests that the answer is not straightforward.”
Strategies to reconcile science and religion only undermine religion

Jerry A. Coyne (professor in Dept. of Ecology and Evolution, Univ. of Chicago), “Seeing and Believing,” The New Republic, February 4, 2009, p. 33

“Theologians sometimes suggest a reconciliation by means of naturalistic deism, the idea that the creation of the universe — and perhaps the laws of physics — was the direct handiwork of a deity who then left things alone as they unfolded, never interfering in nature or history again. For the faithful, this has been even more problematic than pantheism: it not only denies miracles, virgin births, answered prayers, and the entire cosmological apparatus of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and much of Buddhism, but also raises the question of where God came from in the first place.”


THE SCIENCE ELITE GAINS CONTROL OF SOCIETY

Few people are scientists

Henry Margenau (prof. of physics and natural philosophy, Yale) et al., The Scientist, 1964, p. 30

“In this broad sense there are, all told, some six million scientists in the world today. Only a few hundred thousand hold PhD’s or teach in universities. Only a few hundred, in or out of the academic sphere, are recognized as prime creative talents.”
Communication gaps separate scientists from laymen, just as knowledge empowers them

Charles R. DeCarlo (education director, IBM), “Perspectives on Technology” in Technology and Social Change, ed. by Eli Ginzberg, 1964, p. 41

“Knowledge has become the major instrumentality for accelerating change. Those who can manipulate the frontiers of knowledge become very powerful. But such people comprise a relative small and esoteric group who cannot easily communicate with other people.”
Scientists become an elite group

Henry Margenau (prof. of physics and natural philosophy, Yale) et al., The Scientist, 1964, p. 34

“Our affluent society, our high productivity, our time-saving machines all hinge on his [the scientist’s] discoveries. He has become the quartermaster for mankind, issuing jets to generals, detergents to housewives, automation to manufacturers, and new channels of communication to politicians. As a class, therefore, research scientists find themselves playing a role unusual for people of their creative temperament: they have become a powerful elite.”
Scientists become cultural icons

Henry Margenau (prof. of physics and natural philosophy, Yale) et al., The Scientist, 1964, p. 34

“Increasingly, the scientist has become more than a distinctive personality, more than a fascinating public image. He has become a whole new force in the progress of civilization, an unprecedented source of cultural change, a dispenser of more miraculous inventions and more difficult ideas than anyone, scientists included, can keep up with and fully understand.”
Society divides into the scientific elite versus the disenfranchised

James Burke (BBC science correspondent), Connections, 1978, p. 294

“It seems inevitable that, unless changes are made in the way information is disseminated, we will soon become a society consisting of two classes: the informed elite, and the rest. The danger inherent in such a development is obvious.”
The elite scientist is independent of social control

Robert A. Liston (freelance author on science and social issues, former newspaper and magazine journalist), Promise or Peril: The Role of Technology in Society, 1976, p. 133

“The more advanced technology becomes, the more it controls society through the collective organization I have termed The Process. Advanced technology requires the specialized expertise of many people, who alone or even in small numbers can never know what the whole group knows or even control what it does. The expertise, to which a single person may contribute only slightly, dictates the decision and the result.”
Power shifts to the scientific elite

Charles R. DeCarlo (education director, IBM), “Perspectives on Technology” in Technology and Social Change, ed. by Eli Ginzberg, 1964, p. 40

“There has been a great shift of power to people who are working on the frontiers of knowledge. An example of the influences of scientists came right after World War II, when nuclear physicists became the advisers to the groups in Washington who were making policy. At that time, the scientists were the only ones with access to very specialized information and they took on roles far outside the proper jurisdiction allowed by their scientific knowledge.”



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