Sadly, those days are over. For some time now, according to philosophers of science, scientists have beeen working in a 'scientific paradigm' in which the 'paradigm' is said to be more important than the science. This is, if you like, subjective science, in which the more people who agree with an idea -- the more consensus that builds around a notion -- then the more scientifically successful that notion is considered to be. This is in contrast to the idea that the more facts explained by an hypothesis, and the more comprehensive the testing of that hypothesis, the more successful it is.
Consensus is now king, as Terence Corcoran explains in Canada's National Post:
Throughout the 20th century, science was overwhelmed by the sociology of science and "sociological explanations of knowledge." At the extreme, we end up with the idea that there are no facts and nothing is verifiable. "Customs and conventions are seen as the creations of human agents, actively negotiated and actively sustained, under the collective control of those who initially negotiate them.... Scientific knowledge is seen as customarily accepted belief."Ed Younkins explains how this post-modern science fits into post-modern discourse:
Postmodernism encompasses the idea that people tell stories in order to explain the world. None of these stories is reality but are simply representations of reality based on incomplete and often inaccurate information. There are a variety of socially constructed realities, belief systems, and stories that attempt to explain the world. People construct stories that seem to fit the information at their disposal. This is analogous to Thomas Kuhn's idea of paradigm shifts in science. When experiments yield evidence that does not fit the reigning paradigm, then eventually a new paradigm that better explains the evidence at hand is adopted.But note that at no time does the post-modern consensus scientist take a view on facts as such. The paradigm does not seek to explain reality, he seeks only to fit with or to build a consensus. Consensus is the new reality.
As Corcoran explains, the highest profile example of this particular view of science is seen in the sciecnce of global warming, where 'consensus' is seen to outweigh scientific findings that don't fit the prevailing model. Rather than seek to integrate and explain new and troublesome facts, the 'consensus scientist' chooses instead to ignore them as irrelevant, and to paint them as outside the consensus. After all if they don't fit the 'consensus,' how could they be relevant?
In short, under the new authoritarian science based on consensus, science doesn't matter much any more. If one scientist's 1,000-year chart showing rising global temperatures is based on bad data, it doesn't matter because we still otherwise have a consensus. If a polar bear expert says polar bears appear to be thriving, thus disproving a popular climate theory, the expert and his numbers are dismissed as being outside the consensus. If studies show solar fluctuations rather than carbon emissions may be causing climate change, these are damned as relics of the old scientific method. If ice caps are not all melting, with some even getting larger, the evidence is ridiculed and condemned. We have a consensus, and this contradictory science is just noise from the skeptical fringe.And as we all know, the skeptical fringe are all lunatics in the pay of the oil companies anyway. Read on here.
LINKS: Climate Consensus and the end of science - Terence Corcoran, National Post
Consensus science - Wikipedia
Paradigm shift - Wikipedia
The plague of post-modernism - Ed Younkins, Le Quebecois Libre
TAGS: Science, Philosophy, Global_Warming