INSTITUTIONAL DEGENERATION OF SCIENCE
Since Popper and Lakatos, the demarcation line between science and non-science has been considered one of the fundamental issues of the philosophy of science. According to Lakatos, pseudoscience is a non-science, which appears as science, using science’s public authority. Since then, mountains of texts have been published on how non-sciences, such as astrology, are not sciences.
But the enemy is not on the other side of the border. The enemy is in our midst.
I remember one science fiction story in which there was approximately the following dialogue:
— “From what direction the enemy is threatening us?” they asked.
— “From the inside!” answered The Bag of the Wisdom.
The scientificity of the research should be evaluated according to the methodoloy used in the study. However, usually it is the areas of research that are classified as scientific or non-scientific. Moreover, the research is often classified as scientific or non-scientific purely on the grounds of what institution was performing the study. Even more: in the elite universities, there is a tendency to regard all research activities performed outside of them as non-scientific.
However, many studies classified as non-scientific are quite scientific, while a massive amount of scientifically-declared texts are meaningless non-science.
A meaningful text about the area regarded as a domain of non-science and written by the non-scientist can be more scientific than a publication about the area regarded as science and written by the individual, who earns scientist’s salary.
The best way to do the pseudoscience is to fuss inside the big enterprise that has been recognized as science.
We are not living in the era of Francis Bacon.
The science has been institutionalised, a large number of scientists earn salaries. The scientists constitute the caste of priests. They are interested in keeping others back from the pie.
There is a competition between the scientists. The competition, however, is not always good. Instead of searching for the truth, one starts to think about the rivals. Negative competition appears — envy, slandering, etc.
The institutional decadence of science is comparable to the history of church. Several church reforms have been performed in history. Finally, Kierkegaard says that the church is entirely corrupted and that it is not a faith what is going on in this institution.
There are millions of scientists on the Earth. Millions of publications. Thousands of years of the history of philosophy. How can they manage this informational mess? — I think they cannot.
Some words about the scientific information systems like ETIS — Eesti Teadusinfo Süsteem [Estonian System of Scientific Information].
There have been many philosophical discussions about measuring the IQ — whether it is meaningful, whether and how it can be used, etc. However, I am concerned about measuring the scientists. The scientific information system, based on the number and rank of scientific publications, is complete nonsense. It is particularly harrowing for the philosophers.
The scientific infosystem is one of the modes of modern scientific bureaucracy to produce priests’ class, generating the noise and maintaining their power. The system produces the quantity, and these are the normal scientists in Kuhn’s sense, who are staying in it. They are mechanically repeating the same method, applying it to different objects. Today, they are counting the sand grains here, tomorrow there.
In the publications of the so-called school, the holy cows have to be quoted, and the critics should not be quoted. This is a circular warrant system.
After a while, real scientists have begun to work as miners, firefighters and night watchmen, because the priest class has pushed them out of the subsistence hierarchy.
This is a pokazuha-science.
At first, the alien who gets on the planet is confused. In the end, the alien realizes: it’s just like in Poe’s horror novel about a madhouse visited by inspectors. The doctors were locked in the basement, and the crazies had white smocks on and pretended to be the doctors.
How to otherwise interpret the society that burns and starves its geniuses and regards as science the army of mediocre interpreters who teach the texts of geniuses in the universities, but usually only after their death?
Even the philosophy of science is a hypocritical theological justification for the class of priests.
- Eintalu, J. (2019) “Teaduse institutsionaalne mandumine.” Teeside raamat. XV Eesti Filosoofia Aastakonverents. Digiühiskond: filosoofilised perspektiivid. Tallinna Tehnikaülikool, 30–31. August 2019, lk 7–8.
- Kierkegaard, S. (2009) The Moment and Late Writings. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (transl), Princeton: Princeton UP.
- Lakatos, Imre (1973) “Science and Pseudoscience” BBC Radio Talk.
- Poe, Edgar Allan (1844) System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether: autograph manuscript.
- The Empire of Chance. How probability changed science and everyday life. (1993) Gerd Gigerenzer (ed). Cambridge: Cambridge UP. First published 1989.
– Presented in Estonian language at the
XV Annual Estonian Philosophy Conference
The Digital Society: Philosophical Perspectives
TalTech (Tallinn Technical University), Estonia, 30–31 August 2019
SOME QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS AT THE PRESENTATION
— Don’t you think that you have made an unwarranted inductive generalization from some rare cases of corruption in science to the whole science?
— I have heard such a criticism before. My answer is that it is rather you who are making unwarranted generalizations.
First, from some rare mental pictures of the “real scientists” like Newton or Einstein the inference is made to the whole system of science.
Second — I object to Ryle’s “category mistake” here — , from some rare successful scientists in the university the inference is made about the whole university, spreading the authority, while it is very well known that there are other departments in the university that are weak.
Besides, the myth about the progress in science is itself a generalization.
— But there are cases when the competition is fruitful?
— Sometimes the competition is fruitful and sometimes it is not. This is a modern myth that the competition is a general solution to all problems. In economics, it is based on some model. However, it is only a model and as such, it has some assumptions. These conditions are not always satisfied. How else to explain, for example, the fact that there has been a competition between the newspapers, but the quality of the newspapers has seriously degenerated?
— Maybe the result is finally not so drastic?
— Yes, I do not know. I have presented a possible black scenario. How is it possible, that the society exists, despite there are many criminals in the society? How is it possible, that the society survives, if there are so many liars in the society?
Perhaps some model of the evolutionary game theory works, there is some stable equilibrium, for example, that 40% of the scientists are liars and 60% of the scientists are real scientists?
But perhaps there is a competition between the states. If the war begins, that side of the war that believed one’s own mistaken propaganda, has reduced one’s probability to win that war. The side with more degenerated science may lose the war.
— Your philosophy is pessimistic, there is no optimism in it.
— The optimistic point is that there is nothing supernatural. It has happened before, that the civilizations have died out.
Translated by the author Jüri Eintalu
The whole article can be read in Philosophy Study.