The Echoes of the Mind (171) Science


Scientists have a bad habit of abandoning theories, systems, or programs prematurely, playing science as if it were a winner-take-all game. By abandoning theories and choosing a single favorite, for often unfounded reasons or reasons that may be as much sociological as scientific, we implicitly subscribe to a monistic view of science – in which there is always one, and only one, right answer. Not only is this probably incorrect, it is terribly limiting. Even if ultimately there is 1 correct answer, we are nowhere near ultimately in any of our sciences.

As obviously sensible as pluralism sounds, this project is nonetheless a very difficult one. That’s because most scientists don’t realize how monistic they and their fields are. ~ American biologist Stuart Firestein

In researching Spokes, the author repeatedly came upon salient fignorance, even denial of basic well-established facts, by scientists reporting in major journals. One common motivation is pride: articles frequently claim to be first to discover something already known within the field.

Beyond vanity, many researchers simply do not know their own field very well. Further, the emphasis on specialization in pursuit of higher educational degrees practically precludes a broad-based grounding in subject matter, which is often essential to placing findings in proper context.

Fundamental assumptions are rarely brought into question, even as evidence presented does so. Unsubstantiated hypotheses are instead premised as axiomatic.

The built-in biases prevalent in science are partly a product of institutionalization. Heretics are unwelcome.

Budding cosmologists that do not hold with cosmic inflation will be denied their advanced degree by professors who do. Skeptical psychologists are not welcomed in departments where the mind as a figment of neural jiggery is taken for granted: the study of cognition now ubiquitously called neuroscience – the most laughable fiction science has conceived.

This intellectual herding dynamic severely limits the discourse between contrary views, and so hinders scientific progress at its foundation: conceptualization. Long gone are the debates common in scientific societies during the Age of Enlightenment: not because the fundamentals have been rightly decided, but because the environment for them is no longer conducive.

As scientists are now unswervingly matterists and naïve empiricists, they are lost among the trees of facts, unable to understand the forest of Nature, which hides its roots beyond view.

Learning religion is part of human nature. Learning science is a battle against human nature. ~ English evolutionary biologist Dominic Johnson

Belief systems in science run as strong as they do in religious circles. As it is, science is a religion with a heavier fact base. Inconvenient facts that do not fit the prevailing picture are shunted aside, even shouted down if the occasion arises.

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. ~ German physicist Max Planck

Revisions in the religions of modern science are always incremental: an accumulation of contrary findings on the edges that eventuate to an utterly different premise. This happened in the 1st decade of the 21st century with epigenetics, and is happening at the end of the 2nd decade, with epigenetic inheritance in evolutionary biology as the physical correlate to adaptation, even as the dogmatic Darwinist fictions prevail, and as the fundamental question of how adaptation can even happen is ignored, as there is no possible matterist answer.

At a more basic level, disorganization plays a part in dispersing scientific illiteracy, especially in schools. There is no concerted effort to produce quality textbooks that encapsulate current knowledge. The content of textbooks is either chosen by the writer that finds favor by acceptance of a school board, or viewpoints outright dictated by a committee. The result is much the same, in that controversies, when presented at all, are slanted.

The mythology of science asserts that with many different scientists all asking their own questions and evaluating the answers independently, whatever personal bias creeps into their individual answers is canceled out when the large picture is put together. This might conceivably be so if scientists were women and men from all sorts of different cultural and social backgrounds who came to science with very different ideologies and interests. But since, in fact, they have been predominantly university-trained white males from privileged social backgrounds, the bias has been narrow, and the product often reveals more about the investigator than about the subject being researched. ~ Ruth Hubbard