Criticism of Science

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Science can be understood and criticised on a variety of levels. The three most interesting ones are:

Science’s characteristics on these three levels lead to the marginalisation or ineffectiveness of voices that are critical of science’s societal or ecological impact (e.g. economics) or the effectiveness of science to influence wider trends (e.g. Climate and Ecological Breakdown) – until the consequences can’t be ignored anymore.

In addition, they are causing not only social inequality (and hence injustice), but also “epistemic injustice”: Models and Theories get selected due to social and motivational factors like status seeking or Ideology, not only for their scientific merits.For a concrete example, see Ideology in Geology.

These factors are not correlated with empirical success, and if they are unevenly distributed between competing of models and theories, the choice between them becomes skewed.Solomon (2001), 76 ff.

This is often the case when non-scientific interests promote models and theories (e.g. in economics) that support or justify their political, social or economic agenda. This not only strengthens these interests’ power, but also weakens science.

To remedy these issues, science has to be transformed as an institution, which would also change discourse and culture in the long run. But that has to be achieved against capturing interests, which is very hard.Acemoglu (2006)

But while there is a deep tension between science‘s truth and status claims and the relativisation of any scientific truth, “scientism”, an alleged ideology of scientific overreach, is a straw man: The above problems with science can and should be researched and understood scientifically themselvescf. Dennett (2004)

– if its scope and critical potential are freed from ideological shackles and hubris about its presumed objectivity, there arepace Haack 2017

no a priori limits to what is a proper object of scientific inquiry.

In focusing on criticisms of scientism, people avoid thinking about and doing the hard work that is really required, which is institutional reform – or a revolution to change science’s environment so it has to adapt.

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