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Thread: Is science a democracy?

  1. #1 Is science a democracy? 
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    When achievements in science are reached in the context of not being able to piece it all together, is science best considered a "democracy".............of scientists?


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    Science surely is the classic example of a meritocracy ...... which applies more to ideas than it does to people.

    You could be the scientist who writes the definitive paper on some new insight. The paper gets cited in every new paper written in that field for the next 15 years. You might also be the least persuasive, most socially inept participant in any meeting ever held - and no-one can be bothered with trying to get you to attend meetings because you're not much of a debater or contributor. (I realise that this combination of skill and cluelessness is pretty unusual, but it's possible.)

    But the scientific knowledge/ analysis/ technique/ insight/ conclusion prevails anyway.


    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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    I just re-read your post and I realised you were talking specifically rather than generally.

    Surely the prime feature of science as against other dealings in life is that scientists will withhold judgement in the absence of good data. They're willing to do their best in the face of insufficient data - but that's what error bars are for. The group will come to a conclusion - but that conclusion usually reads "More research is needed."
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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  5. #4  
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    Science surely is the classic example of a meritocracy ...... which applies more to ideas than it does to people.

    You could be the scientist who writes the definitive paper on some new insight. The paper gets cited in every new paper written in that field for the next 15 years. You might also be the least persuasive, most socially inept participant in any meeting ever held - and no-one can be bothered with trying to get you to attend meetings because you're not much of a debater or contributor. (I realise that this combination of skill and cluelessness is pretty unusual, but it's possible.)

    But the scientific knowledge/ analysis/ technique/ insight/ conclusion prevails anyway.

    "Meritocracy". I like that.

    It's no money though, right?
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    I just re-read your post and I realised you were talking specifically rather than generally.

    Surely the prime feature of science as against other dealings in life is that scientists will withhold judgement in the absence of good data. They're willing to do their best in the face of insufficient data - but that's what error bars are for. The group will come to a conclusion - but that conclusion usually reads "More research is needed."
    More research? More funding-research.

    Why not "be" a democracy: hit high-tech......go research agency.......
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    Quote Originally Posted by theQuestIsNotOver View Post
    When achievements in science are reached in the context of not being able to piece it all together, is science best considered a "democracy".............of scientists?
    When there is no clear "right" answer (i.e. a theory which is widely accepted because of overwhelming evidence) then there will be a whole bunch of different theories and hypotheses supported by different groups. There is no need (or desire) to get together and select the best of those as the "right" answer.

    I suppose the best example right now may be quantum gravity, where there are several different ideas being worked on. The competition between these is healthy and helps drive things forward by challenging any new ideas that come up.

    p.s. the last line of your sig should probably say, "I haven't told and can't tell anyone about this".
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    Thankyou .

    So science doesn't confirm a "theory forward" attitude? Based on results? Like a Democracy. you know.......
    Last edited by theQuestIsNotOver; December 17th, 2011 at 10:28 AM.
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  9. #8  
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    Science is not a democracy. Never was. Never will be. As adelady said, it is a meritocracy. What wins is not the greatest number of votes, but the greatest success in resisting falsification by empirical testing.

    Example
    Einstein came up with a quantum idea to explain the photoelectric effect. An American scientist - Dr. Robert Millikan - was greatly offended by this explanation. There was no "putting it to the vote". Instead, what Millikan did was set out to test Einsteins ideas through a series of careful experiments, with the intent of proving Einstein wrong.

    The end result is that Millikan totally failed. He could not prove Einstein wrong. The reason, ironically, is because Millikan was too damn good as a scientist. His experiments were beautifully done, and very accurate. He ended up proving Einstein was right. Millikan then showed his own true greatness by changing his view and admitting Einstein was right.

    No voting. No democracy. Just solid empirical testing, and discovering the truth by this means.
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