I got into an interesting argument with a prototypical scientist-who's-been-taught-facts-but-hasn't-been-taught-how-to-think, and he made the following argument:
Science, ungtss, is a community, where everyone discusses and argues and adds to the body of working knowledge through the every changing process of research. The corpus of that research is called "THE PEER-REVIEWED LITERATURE."
I responded (in pertinent part):
Science is not a community. Science is a process -- the process of observation, analysis, and interpretation of facts. Kuhn did a great job describing and analyzing what science as a community yields -- institutional stubbornness and refusal to give the facts a fresh look.
Man oh man, I love seeing the anti-intellectualism at work! The blatant disregard for how science is done or practiced! I'm glad you are not a doctor, Ungtss...I'd hate to see your clinical trials...Science is a community, populated by people. Your weird aristotelean/neo-platonic "science" would require that, EVERYTIME WE TRIED TO STUDY SOMETHING, we'd have to independantly come up with gravity, hydrdynamics, etc. The peer-review literature lets us draw on the knowledge and expertise of many other workers, providing us with data and interpretations that no one individual could ever match.
I found his response fascinating, because it illustrates two different understandings of what science is. To him, science really is an organic community of people. Put 10 scientists in a room and ask them what they think about an issue, and you have "science." It's personal, charismatic, and subjective.
To me, science is a process. Put 10 scientists in a lab and let them do their thing. Then examine their results. Experimentally supported results are Science -- or in the case of competing explanations for a given phenomenon, Science is the last explanation standing after the others have been falsified. Science is not exclusive to the scientific community. It is a process that can be done by anyone, but which is done primarily by the scientific community, because they are uniquely suited to do so. However, just because they are uniquely suited to perform science does not mean that whatever opinion they have is "scientific." Their beliefs are still subject to the scientific method which (unfortunately) few of them are actually taught at a philosophical level.
This really reflects the difference between the views of Feyeraband/Thagard and the views of Popper. Popper thought science was a process. Feyeraband and Thagard thought science was whatever scientists think.
What difference does this make?
1) It makes "scientists" like this monkey respond very personally to every challenge to their ideas. Challenge their opinion, and you are not challenging an objective experiment -- you are challenging their status as part of "science" -- and it makes them very angry.
2) It leaves "scientists" like this monkey unable to critically evaluate and interpret the facts, and vulnerable to group think -- because science is primarily about what the other scientists think, not the logical basis for their opinions. Present them with a challenging fact, and they don't know what to do with it. They'll just attack you personally as not being as "scientific" as they are.
3) It slows down the process of science, because scientists are not in the habit of challenging what "the scientific community" thinks -- they are in the habit of reading what all the other supergeniuses think, and concurring.
4) It makes "scientists" like this monkey attack any challenge to their paradigm as "anti-intellectual." Because if I am science, and you are challenging me, then you are challenging science.
WJM Throws Down the Gauntlet
3 hours ago