Toward a better common understanding of science and scientific epistemology


There is a reason why it takes many years of arduous work and dedication to become a scientist. Rest assured, the scientific cognoscenti have long understood that science is a process of coming to know that involves "hypothetico-deductive" reasoning (see any book on the philosophy of science) that occurs on multiple time scales, of which an independently documented "experiment" is just one slice (see, e.g., Ryan, T.A., 1962. The experiment as the unit for computing rate of error. Psychological Bulletin, 59, 301-305.) Science, more than any other secular endeavor, is self healing and publicly accountable. It learns from itself, it learns about itself, it relentlessly adapts, and inevitably it does so in the light of day.

"The [sic] scientific method" centers on falsification. Most analytical methodologies of science, in other words, are designed to identify and eradicate untruth. This has proven to be quite powerful in the engagement of human beings with reality (for good or ill) but it is not all science has to offer. Over time, trustworthy claims and narratives emerge through an accumulation of evidence from an increasingly diverse (rich) array of sources. (As a rule of thumb, 30 years has been suggested as a good time scale for scientific coming to know.) This process of crystallization helps us understand the multiple facets of our subject of inquiry (see e.g., work of Norm Denzin and other scholars of "qualitative inquiry").

The take-away point from this comment and the New Yorker article is that we must learn to learn, embrace the reciprocal interactions between theory and praxis, and don't wait for someone (in popular media) to give us "just the facts" and implicitly to tell us what to think.


Gary Riccio

As a partner and as a consultant, I deliver value by identifying, aggregating, and developing previously undervalued assets--people and systems, internal and external, public and private, scientific and technical--for exceptional impact.