• darthbarracuda
    3k
    I am of the moderately educated opinion that it is time to discard the term "science". It does not refer to anything but a loose federation of people of various fields, investigating different things that sometimes overlap in subject matter, methodology or equipment. There is no essential feature that makes a field "scientific", and there is no such thing as the "scientific method". The structure of the educational institution is perhaps the greatest overall similarity between the sciences.

    Continuing to use the term "science" adds no value to discussion. A physicist can explain to someone how they are a physicist and get all they need to say from only this, labeling themselves as a scientist does nothing additionally. Calling yourself a scientist only opens the door to what sort of scientist you are - thus giving the false impression that there is some thing called Science that is unified, organized, official and genuine.

    Furthermore, science has become a term of abuse, especially in politics, where the term is slapped around to help justify a poorly thought out policy. Since it is not specific, a shoddy proposal can use the term "science" and get away with murder because nobody knows what specific field they are referring to. It is an abstract, vague, nebulous concept that nobody really knows anything about but what seems to be important and impressive.

    Then there is the issue of demarcation, especially "pseudoscience". Since there is no acceptable definition of what makes something scientific, calling something "pseudoscientific" is meaningless. It also fails to actually explain what is wrong with the theory, and gives the impression that anything that comes with the label of "science" is "better than" other forms of inquiry, even if they may be legitimate themselves.

    In conclusion, then, "science" has become an honorific term that is exploited and abused, including "scientists" themselves (to promote their social status image as a modern priest of knowledge of sorts, something some will not easily let go of), when in fact this term cannot be uncontroversially defined and has no practical use. It is time to transition away from this term and embrace a more anarchistic and nominalistic conception of inquiry. (A better term for a "scientist" is a "researcher").

    Doing so will erode the shallow public image of science as some "other" entity of sorts, as well as the obsession with demarcating what is science and what is not. Physicists will work as physicists, psychologists as psychologists, philosophers as philosophers, artists as artists. There is absolutely no need for the additional term of "science", and it should be jettisoned.
  • visit0r
    25

    I agree that the word is often abused, but is it possible that you are tilting against windmills? This is maybe just my bad habit, but I tend to check whether 'oughts' are connected to realistic opportunities for change. Is it likely that a preference like yours will put a dent in the general (relative) stupidity? I stress that stupidity is relative. If we enjoy feeling smart (and we do), then we need the stupid(er) as our foils. And is 'science' really so useless a word? Or is it just used stupidly by those who use most abstract words stupidly, since they are not yet (and maybe not to be) invested in a notion of intellectual virtuousness? Maybe I'm playing the game right now, but I suspect that "oughts" tend to signal virtue or taste rather than represent the desire for change. Or I suspect that our presentation of the ought tends to be impure. Part of us needs the violation of the ought, so that our speech act can "jut out" heroically/conspicuously. We largely exist as the willful negation what is. Fix one thing and we'll find or become the negation around another disclosed-as-broken thing.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.8k
    Does "Philosophy" refer to anything? Is it useful?

    It does not refer to anything but a loose federation of people of various fields, investigating different things that sometimes overlap in subject matter, methodology or equipment. There is no essential feature that makes a field "philosophical", and there is no such thing as a "philosophic method".

    Continuing to use the term "philosophy" adds no value to discussion. In conclusion, then, "philosophy" has become an honorific term that is exploited and abused, including "philosophers" themselves (to promote their social status image as a modern priest of knowledge of sorts, something some will not easily let go of), when in fact this term cannot be uncontroversially defined and has no practical use. It is time to transition away from this term and embrace a more anarchistic and nominalistic conception of inquiry. (A better term for a "philosopher" is a "parasite").

    He knows more than you do. He has a masters degree -- in PHILOSOPHY!
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2k
    It's my impression that, in the United States at least, scientists feel more unified as a group now than they had for, I don't know, generations, precisely because there is a pattern of attacks on one discipline after another. Biologists got hammered by "cdesign-proponentists". Physicists watched Congress fail to build the SSC, and then watched all their grad students head for Europe and elsewhere, when America basically owned the field of high-energy physics throughout the twentieth century. And now there's climate science. There are a lot of people who most definitely believe the word "science" refers to something in particular, and they're agin it. So now scientists are closing ranks, defending biology as science, climatology as science, physics as science.

    @Bitter Crank just got in the philosophy comparison. Mine was going to be "art," which would fall immediately to your criticism.

    I wouldn't really care if the terms "art" and "philosophy" went away. But in these times, the word "science" is a fighting word, and you're on the wrong side.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2k
    He knows more than you do. He has a masters degree -- in PHILOSOPHY!Bitter Crank

    I saw what you did there.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.8k
    I don't have a problem with the term, science -- or philosophy either. They aren't precise terms, but they don't have to be, either. People in the "arts" actually do specific, technical work -- not "art in general" and the same goes for philosophy, science, literature, and so on. Scientists don't do "science" they do fresh water biology or QM physics.
  • Wayfarer
    9.9k
    I am of the moderately educated opinion that it is time to discard the term "science"darthbarracuda

    Good luck with that. Pray to St Jude the Apostle.
  • intrapersona
    558
    The second any of those fields/disciplines loses this structure then you can invent a new name for them all.

    450px-The_Scientific_Method_as_an_Ongoing_Process.svg.png

    It is just useful to distinguish those fields (biology, physics, chemistry, etc) from other fields like fashion design, carpentry which is more of art or practice.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    I am of the moderately educated opinion that it is time to discard the term "science". It does not refer to anything but a loose federation of people of various fields, investigating different things that sometimes overlap in subject matter, methodology or equipment. There is no essential feature that makes a field "scientific", and there is no such thing as the "scientific method". The structure of the educational institution is perhaps the greatest overall similarity between the sciences.darthbarracuda

    First off, I like how you claim that the term doesn't refer to anything, but then you immediately tell us what it refers to.

    And there is a scientific method. That some branches of science or activities in the sciences don't follow it "to a T" doesn't mean that there's not a scientific method. It's just like there being a recipe for a cake, but not everyone follow that recipe to a T. That latter fact doesn't imply that there's no recipe for the cake.

    Science isn't something where there's a robotic, simple black and white definition, simple set of demarcation criteria, etc. where things completely fit or not. What the word refers to is a bit complex and messy. That's the case for many words if not most. Property clusters are good approaches for defining those things.
  • jkop
    533
    Science is the name of possible knowledge, and when the knowledge is very selective or very general it tends to be useless or misleading, whereas relevant knowledge tends to be useful or right or necessary even.

    Knowledge of metaphysics, say, Kant's categories, might be an example of knowledge about something so general that it becomes useless or misleading in case one would attempt to shoehorn all beliefs and statements as coherent parts of it. It occurs to me that a lot of philosophy becomes useless or misleading because of such or similar attempts to understand too much or too little.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    I agree with the OP. Science is essentially an umbrella marketing term for fundraising and shielding against criticism. There are no standards, there are no methods. Just some claims that are rarely challenged since the industry has so thoroughly insulated itself both in academia and commercial industry. Once in a while though there are some articles that challenge the scientific method myth, that are accepted in some journal, which are quickly shot down by the industries' hired censors self-named skeptics.
  • jkop
    533

    How is science challenged by the selective idea that it would be a term for marketing? Has anyone other than ideologues taken it seriously? (e.g. religious, new-age, or others whose claims and authority is threatened by knowledge).
  • Galuchat
    792
    Science is essentially an umbrella marketing term for fundraising and shielding against criticism. There are no standards, there are no methods. — Rich
    This discussion just got interesting all of a sudden.

    In spite of the fact that I have a science degree, have spent my entire career applying science, and find it useful to refer to science in both a general and particular sense, I am genuinely intrigued by the possibility that science could actually be a hoax perpetrated by conspirators in academia and industry. And I might even believe that I have been brainwashed if you could answer a few questions for me:

    1) Who uses the term "science" for fundraising and/or as a shield against criticism?
    2) Please elaborate upon the scientific method myth. Has the scientific method ever existed or been practiced? If not,
    3) What is the basis for consensus in the various scientific communities? Hush money? Kickbacks?

    Even if science is a hoax, could I still use the word "science" for convenience sake? It's much easier than saying something like, "that thing people in research labs make you think they are doing, but really aren't."
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    Marketing/fundraising circa the 16th century though? And "industry" is certainly questionable there.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.8k
    Science is essentially an umbrella marketing term for fundraising and shielding against criticismRich

    Rubbish. But there is a range of quality in science from base to solid gold.

    When someone does a retrospective survey of 500 people and asks them what they ate for breakfast for the last 5 years and whether they have had a heart attack, and then claims in a journal article that eating oatmeal reduces cholesterol, that's bad science. It's not even science. It's a subterfuge of the oatmeal conspiracy.

    On the other hand, if you conduct a tightly controlled double blind study on 500 people of the effects of a compound over a period of 2 years to determine whether it lowers cholesterol by a certain percentage without causing untoward consequences, that's better science. The work done in bio-molecular labs that shows how the molecules in the compound reduce the production of cholesterol in humans is better still.

    That real science is done in the service of Pfizer and Glaxo Smith Kline does not detract from its quality, any more than writing novels for Random House detracts from the quality of the books. (And, of course, science is done without profit in mind, too. But somebody has to pay for it.)
  • jkop
    533
    Since there is no acceptable definition of what makes something scientific, calling something "pseudoscientific" is meaningless.darthbarracuda

    Nosense. In disputed cases it might be dubious or meaningless to call them scientific or pseudoscientific before it has been settled. .

    Pseudoscientific means to appear or claim to be scientific without satisfying the conditions for being scientific. For example, reproducable tests.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.8k
    This is a great example of junk science.

    Here is an example of bad science from today's Guardian (June 6, 2017): Is white bread better for you than brown sourdough?​ It depends on your gut

    10 subjects ate factory made white bread for 1 week, while 10 other subjects ate sourdough whole wheat bread for one week. Then they switched for a second week. Meanwhile, the subjects' blood was checked for several markers.

    On average, it didn't make any difference, but individually, there were varying responses.

    What does this tell us?

    Nothing.

    One would expect that what one eats would have an effect on one's biome, one's blood profile, and so on. Bread supposedly made up 20% of the subjects' calories, but no effort was made to track what else the subjects had been eating, aside from bread.

    1 week on factory bread then 1 week on the sourdough bread? Way too fast to detect significant differences. No effort was made to determine what differences in the individual resulted from either no response or some response to the different bread diets.
  • Galuchat
    792
    This may be a good place to start researching the subject. — Rich
    Your charges were not directed toward Pharmacology in particular, but toward Science in general. The burden of proof is yours.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k


    It's difficult to have questionable research standards if there are no research standards.

    It's difficult to do bad science if there is no such thing as science.
  • Galuchat
    792
    Thanks for the links, but you still haven't answered my questions.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    Proof? If only the science industry held itself to the same standards that it holds everyone else, it would shrink to almost nothing overnight.
  • geospiza
    102
    I can detect at least four different issues raised in this thread:

      [1] whether the word "science" is so hopelessly vague that it is devoid of communicative value;
      [2] whether the disunity within science is so complete that any association between scientific disciplines is misleading or false;
      [3] whether the deployment of scientific language for rhetorical purposes is ethical; and
      [4] whether or not there is anything remedial we can do about issues 1-3.

    Are there additional issues I have missed, or would anyone frame the issues differently?

    With respect to issue [1], I would submit that context is key. The word "science" is utilized differently in different social situations. Its communicative effectiveness will vary depending on the situation. There is also a historical dimension to consider. Once upon a time in Europe mathematics was considered to be a science, and much of what we would recognize today as science was referred to as "natural philosophy".
  • Sivad
    143
    in these times, the word "science" is a fighting wordSrap Tasmaner
    Science is a method and the body of knowledge established by that method. As far as I can see there is no opposition to science as such, the disputes are mostly over what qualifies as science. Everybody wants science on their side, unfortunately not too many of us are actually on the side of science. Science is mostly abused in our society, some claim the science is settled when it isn't and others bastardize the method to produce convenient junk science or pseudo science. It's all a big farce really and it shows that science can't save a species that is fervently devoted to bullshit.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2k
    As far as I can see there is no opposition to science as such,Sivad

    If you think that, you must not live in the United States. Here there is most definitely widespread opposition to science as such.
  • Sivad
    143
    If you think that, you must not live in the United States.Srap Tasmaner
    I've followed most of the major conflicts fairly closely and it's clear to me that there's dishonesty and delusion on both sides of these issues. Climate change is probably the best example, one side is claiming far more certainty than is warranted and being alarmist while the other side idiotically denies that there very well may be a serious problem developing. Both sides are mightily steeped in bullshit and neither side is coming off it any time soon.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    I can detect at least four different issues raised in this thread:

    [1] whether the word "science" is so hopelessly vague that it is devoid of communicative value;
    [2] whether the disunity within science is so complete that any association between scientific disciplines is misleading or false;
    [3] whether the deployment of scientific language for rhetorical purposes is ethical; and
    [4] whether or not there is anything remedial we can do about issues 1-3.

    Are there additional issues I have missed, or would anyone frame the issues differently?
    geospiza

    Very reasonable way to frame the issues.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    I've followed most of the major conflicts fairly closely and it's clear to me that there's dishonesty and delusion on both sides of these issues. Climate change is probably the best example, one side is claiming far more certainty than is warranted and being alarmist while the other side idiotically denies that there very well may be a serious problem developing. Both sides are mightily steeped in bullshit and neither side is coming off it any time soon.Sivad

    Rather right on point. The trouble is that nowadays, whatever position a group takes, undo (alarmist) great or undo (way over optimistic hope) is the fastest way to do it. If is not too difficult to concoct a story that serves such purposes.
  • Sivad
    143
    the fastest way to do it.Rich
    That sort of expediency comes at a price and it's effectiveness is questionable to begin with. Also in context of the bigger picture it's just bad strategy, it's a bad idea to polarize society with deceitful tactics.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    That sort of expediency comes at a price and it's effectiveness is questionable to begin with. Also in context of the bigger picture it's just bad strategy, it's a bad idea to polarize society with deceitfulSivad

    I agree, but such people are rarely looking at bigger, longer term affects.
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