Sunday 9 October 2011

The main reason science has declined


The main reason that science has declined - that it has become absolutely, not just relatively immune from any form of evidence, including evidence of its own corruption and careerism - is that professional science no longer believes in reality.

Science (scientists) no longer believe that reality is real, no longer believe that there really is a reality underneath all of the peer review, bureaucracy, consensus, and competitions for status, security and salary; punditry and prizes...


Or, if some individual 'scientists' do believe that reality is real, then they do not see reality as important; they do not see themselves (qua scientist) as having a duty to reality -  a non-negotiable and bounden duty to seek-for and speak only this reality - so far as they best understand it.

They simply don't feel this.

For modern 'scientists', reality is just one of the options.


So, the root of the problem is that science is nihilistic (nihilism means the belief that there is no reality).


It is the unbelief in reality which allows science to be, to any extent which is expedient, untruthful - non-truth-seeking.


Because science is only self-correcting when scientists believe in reality, want to know about it, and believe they must always be truthful about what they (think they) know.


When scientists believe in reality and are motivated to seek the truth about it, then science will work.

That is all that is needed.

Therefore real science is very, very simple.

Questions of scientific methods are irrelevant, questions of organization are irrelevant - such real scientists will find a way.

But, since the pre-requisites are rare (not many reality-based people are truly truth-seeking and truthful), and the pressures for corruption are so strong, that real science is both rare and fragile.



When scientists do not believe in reality and are not bound by truth; then the fact that all methods are selective and biased approximations and there is always wriggle-room and loopholes; and when science is done in (scientist-choosing) organizations instead of (scientist-chosen) alliances - these mean that the door is opened to limitless deception (of the self, and of others).

So.... here we are!



Anonymous said...

The political correctness pressure begins even before kids attend elementary school here in the US.

The science classrooms of the high school in which I taught for decades were as full of the blather as any social science or arts classes.

I do believe this continues throughout the university education of those kids who go into the sciences almost as much as it happens to those who go into the soft subjects. Sad, but true.

Academia is a mess. It's that simple.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Anonymous - well, we need to know the reason why academia is *now* in a mess, and (implicitly) why it did not use to be in *such* a mess.

It is blazingly obvious to me that the mass of people are much, *much* less honest (in their professional lives, in public discourse) that they were 30 years ago - but I am amazed that almost nobody else ever mentions the fact.

The only groups exempted from this decline are those who were already very dishonest - journalists and politicians for instance.

But (in the UK) administrators used to be much more honest 30 years ago than they are now - indeed they were basically honest; and since administrators make-up the bulk of the modern ruling elites, the significant decline in the honesty of bureaucrats has had a massive effect.

a Finn said...
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The Crow said...

Science did just fine, considering what it was about, until scientists started messing with quantum particles.
Then they were suddenly faced with matter behaving in ways it was expected to behave, depending upon what each different observer expected.
That's a real shock to a mind that sticks labels on everything and declares it "solved".
No wonder science is unraveling, all over!
You would unravel, too, if you discovered God was whatever you thought he was, whenever you thought it.

Thursday said...

I think you're seriously discounting the end of the cold war as an explanation for the decline of science. The U.S., and let's face it the U.S. is where most of the good science in the last half century has come from, doesn't have the incentive anymore to either to keep ahead of the Soviets in military technology or to keep ahead of them in prestige.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Crow - I don't think most modern scientists have a clue about quantum physics or what it means. Most modern scientists are hard working, but don't know much about anything except the tiny sliver of the job the are paid to do.

@Thursday - I date the decline of science from long before 1989 - it had certainly begun by the 1940s, but in reality it was probably declining in honesty and truthfulness from the moment it began to become professionalized, late 19th century.