Friday, October 18, 2013

Paradigm shift thinking led to fraud

The philosophy of science is dominated by silly and destructive ideas about Kuhnian paradigm shifts.

A Finnish philosopher writes:
Research ethics and philosophy of science meet in one of the most disturbing and wideranging scientific frauds to date, the Stapel Case of the Netherlands. I will argue that, beyond the obviously blatant violation of research ethics concerning data cooking and deceit, the nature of the case raises issues about the implications of some relatively widespread issues in the philosophy of science. In particular, I want to point my finger at Kuhnian philosophy of science, or rather its later and largely derailed interpretations that came to be allied with the strong version of the underdetermination thesis. ...

What I want to argue here is that the overall increase in fraudulent practices that we have witnessed of late have become a symptom of two largely questionable and in many respects faulty ideas in philosophy of science having gone into their extremes: Kuhn's or his posse's willingness to displace facts and evidence with subjective interests and points of views, and Quine's thesis of underdetermination of theory by evidence under its strong interpretation. Stapel's case fits in with the pattern of strong underdetermination, and no more blatant and direct example of subjective interests driving the inquiry can be found. According to his own assertion, “the freedom we have in the design of our experiments is so enormous that when an experiment does not give us what we are looking for, we blame the experiment, not our theory. (At least, that is the way I work). Is this problematic? No” (Stapel 2000, quoted in LNDC 2012, p. 40). What goes under such freedom here? This guy in fact had directly admitted early on that he has no qualms accepting the strong thesis of underdetermination. ...

But unfortunately, philosophy of science has been contaminated by movements that do not strive to the understanding of the real content of scientific work.5 Courses in philosophy of science are often taught by scholars who do not endeavour to explain the nature of scientific practice, or the methodological tools employed, or the semantics of the key terms involved in the investigation. I feel that philosophers, sociologists or historians of sciences may in fact not the best persons to achieve that knowledge. Kuhn and Quine were outsiders to real science.

1 comment:

  1. still no answer to the dilemma of how to judge a theory when the only experiments capable of falsifying it run to the hundreds of billions of dollars. apart from that, I'm still reading Penrose, and it's interesting how quasi-Kuhnian he is in various parts. Penrose writes that sometimes, popularity is all potential acolytes have to go on.