Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Doing real science after the corruption of science


The following is a version of the deleted-ending of my forthcoming book Not even trying: the corruption of real science


Real science is still possible, but in the future real science could happen only under what are likely to seem rather restrictive conditions.

Still, restrictive or not – they are perfectly possible.


Drawing together the threads of this book – the conditions for real science can be summarised as:

  1. Reconnect

  1. Bind yourself to the iron law of truth

  1. Follow your motivation

  1. Find a Master

  1. Be an amateur

  1. Read the real literature

  1. Get methods from the problem

  1. Critique yourself

  1. Communicate truthfully

1.      1. Reconnect with the tradition of real science. To do real science from where we now are is a matter of ‘reconnecting’ with a broken tradition. You are in a similar situation to the scholars of the dark ages in Europe who tried - and succeeded - in keeping alive a slender thread of classical learning handed on from the broken Western Roman Empire (the Eastern Empire centred in Constantinople being largely inaccessible).

2.      Truth is an iron law. Only do science if you are genuinely motivated to discover the truth and will practice the habit of truth.

3.     2. Follow your motivation. Your motivation to discover and describe truth will need to be somewhat specific, as the advantage of science comes from focusing time and effort somewhat more narrowly than is normal – but no more narrowly than you spontaneously feel is interesting.

4.      3. Find a Master. You must spiritually apprentice yourself to a Master. This may be someone you can actually work with on this earth; but more likely someone you have never met - and it may be someone who died a long time ago. But you need someone to model yourself upon, learn from and imitate. By ‘imitate’ I mean empathically-identify-with such as to intuit their essence, and then try to model your own behaviour on this intuited essence. So this will be someone to whom you will pay close attention, and in whose presence you will spend a lot of time (although this time and attention may be to printed words – articles, books, histories, memoirs biographies etc). Nonetheless, although in a spiritual condition of apprenticeship, you will physically be working mainly in solitude.

5.      4. Be an amateur. Do not expect to make real science your livelihood. Devotion to truth almost certainly means you must practice science as: 1. A self-funded amateur; and 2. Out-with the normal career structures of science, including outside the professional research literature - since otherwise you will almost certainly be corrupted by the requirements. If you are a professional researcher you will spend most of your time fighting-off your own corruption by ‘the system’, and will have little enthusiasm, energy and effort left-over for real science.

6.      5. Read the real science literature. You need to understand what is already validly known. The answer is ‘probably not all that much’ – but either way you need to discover it. But where should you look? The short answer is to start again from scratch and use ‘discernment’ (which needs to be developed). Believe what you personally observe, and what people whom you trust are sure about. Probably, you can read only old research literature, except when you have specific reason to be highly-confident that a particular modern researcher is honest and reliable.

7.      6. Derive methods from your problem (not vice versa). What you actually do - your methods - will depend on your talents, your interests, your opportunities – these will arise from the interaction between yourself as an individual and the ‘problem’ you are tackling. Your methods might be theoretical or empirical. If theoretical they might be critical or constructive. If empirical they might be statistical, observational, experimental. And so on. It is hard to be more precise than that.

8.      7. Critique yourself. Critique will be, in the first place, self-critique – if you are obsessed with your ‘problem’, thinking about it a lot and looking for relevant knowledge and alert for observations; then this will happen spontaneously.It need not be contrived nor forced, it is merely a consequence of being bound by the Iron Law.

9.      8. Communication. Communication is dictated by the nature of what is available, whether you have any co-workers etc. But whatever the mode of communication it must, non-negotiably be compatible with absolute truthfulness. This usually rules-out peer reviewed communication – since this will usually entail changing your communications in order to achieve publication.

You must never get into a situation where what is published in your name is anything other than the truth as best you understand and can express it.