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Quote Unquote

In Quote Unquote, Science & Religion on June 28, 2010 by thesignalinthenoise Tagged: , ,

From James Ladyman in Understanding Philosophy of Science

Kuhn’s history of various scientific revolutions shows us that individual scientists do not live up to the philosopher’s ideal of maximally rational agents, always making decisions based on the evidence independently of their own personal interests and goals. On the contrary, according to Kuhn, scientists are often very much attached to a paradigm, and sometimes particular individuals will do almost anything to retain it in the face of contradictory evidence, including perhaps, distorting experimental data, using institutional power to stifle dissent, using poor reasoning and bad arguments to defend the status quo, and so on. Indeed, sometimes the established scientists will refuse to adopt the new paradigm and, rather than being persuaded by rational argument, eventually they simply die out, while the next generation get on with developing the new approach. Of course, disreputable behaviour and fallacious reasoning seem to be features of all spheres of human life, so it would be pretty surprising if they were never found in science, and clearly the idea that all scientists are saint-like pursuers of the truth is unrealistic to the point of being ridiculous.

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3 Responses to “Quote Unquote”

  1. You’d be amazed how many atheists agree with this. In fact the reason for supporting skepticism over dogma is that we at least have a chance to overcome and detect our own limitations and make progress.

    We do not need to be saint-like pursuers to discover the new. But if we respect ideas and actions without scrutiny we have a chance to get stuck with bad solutions. Solutions believed by people with no method but saint-like certainty that they have the answers.

  2. What is the point then to post a quote that paints scientists as fallible without explaining that the scientific process is robust against this fallibility?

    And what is the point of posting this if scientists don’t actually hold that they are “saint-like” and infallible.

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