Sunday, January 15, 2006

There's Science, and Then There's the Real World, Part 1

In World Magazine's Interview: Endangered species, Marvin Olasky interviews Dr. Charley Dewberry, a highly experienced field researcher, who asserts that science needs to be saved from itself.

Dewberry's research involves many years of examining problems of salmon restoration in the Pacific Northwest.

..."That may seem like a narrow topic, but Mr. Dewberry's analysis of salmon research shows why there's something fishy in much of science these days."...

..."He questions whether scientists who spend little time in the field really understand their subject."...

..."Salmon recovery in the Pacific Northwest is helping to define science and its role in culture nationally, not just regionally."...

..."The scientists looked to as the authorities—are they really skilled in making judgments regarding salmon recovery?"...

..."Most people selected for key roles in salmon recovery are scientists selected because of their publishing record in peer-reviewed journals. I don't believe that's a good basis for selection. A person's publishing record tells us little about his ability to make decisions. What should matter instead is a track record showing experience and a demonstrated ability to make good judgments."...

..."If science is viewed as a method that leads to more certain knowledge than other pursuits, then doing science is reduced to carefully following the method which has a mechanical nature; the mechanical method, not the scientist, ensures the outcome."...

..."Unfortunately, science can never be reduced to this mechanical process. Doing science is an art. It is a human endeavor that takes skill and genius as well as a little luck to be great. Skills are honed by experience."...

..."Furthermore, reviewers are doing much more than checking the experimental methods, data collection, and the appropriateness of the conclusions, and thus their beliefs and values enter into the process at many points."...

..."Who, then, wears the robes of authority concerning the truth of science?"

"Virtually everyone involved... assumes that the authority of science rests with the scientific community through the peer-review process. I find this curious and ironic."

"At the dawn of modern science, it was the Catholic Church that argued that the authority of science rested with the community of practitioners (theirs, of course). It was the Copernicans, especially Galileo, who argued that the authority of science and truth rested with the individual scientist. Moving the authority of science to the individual scientist was one of the key steps in the Copernican Revolution and the foundation of modern science. We have essentially come full circle. We just replaced one priesthood for another. We have returned to the model of authority of the medieval Catholic Church."...

..."What I find curious is why scientists are picked to respond to questions such as "What is science?" or "What is good science?" These are not scientific questions, and the methods of science are not useful nor appropriate for answering these questions. They are philosophical questions and fall within philosophy of science."

"The fact that scientists are virtually the only people asked to respond, and that they are more than willing to respond, is a symptom of a serious problem. As long as scientists believe that they are the final authorities and they continue to make pronouncements about subjects in which they have little background or experience, it does not bode well for science over the long run."

"As long as scientists really believe everyone else, including philosophers of science, possesses mere anecdotal knowledge and has no platform from which to speak, we will not have any reasoned discourse about Intelligent Design."

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I had a professor once who actually argued with practitioners because they did something on a daily basis that was different from what he had read. We made formal, written complaints. He's not there anymore.

Because we tend to rely on documentation to prove "expertise" we will always have this problem. Someday, though, experts will be forced to be active in their field in order to be called experts. That will kick ass.

LibertyBob

Sandi said...

I'm more concerned with the outright fraud we are beginning to see in scientific research. Several in the last month alone.

My guess it that too much politics gets into the mix andtrying to attract funding.

Sandi

tee bee said...

Tracked back: The Quotable Blogger.