Thursday, June 23, 2016

Instrumentalism and Modern Science

AK Haart
, a cherished curmudgeon from over in Pommyland, who is one of ten blogs on my reading list,  was discussing his disdain for the current state of science in Climatology.   He discussed the poor relationship between predictions made and results gathered.

Now this is refreshing.

From Wikipedia.
In the philosophy of science, instrumentalism is the view that a scientific theory is a useful instrument in understanding the world. A concept or theory should be evaluated by how effectively it explains and predicts phenomena, as opposed to how accurately it describes objective reality. 
Instrumentalism avoids the debate between anti-realism and philosophical or scientific realism. It may be better characterized as non-realism. Instrumentalism shifts the basis of evaluation away from whether or not phenomena observed actually exist, and towards an analysis of whether the results and evaluation fit with observed phenomena.
Having been a working scientist for around 25 years (before my current employment as a low-level government functionary), I can tell you that this attitude is about as welcome in a scientific research establishment as a fart at the prom.

Over the past century to ideal of science has shifted from the understanding of the world to the creation of devices/services.  Pure science is loaded into cosmology (which is rapidly becoming an exercise in furious handwaving) and computer models of climatology (which appear to be suffering the same fate.).
There have been quite a few articles lately concerning the state of research in any number of fields.  Just to keep my few readers amused and off of a barstool, I present the following:

A brutal takedown of a Psych study

When an Economist can cast stones at other field

An oldie but a goodie

Science has been our priesthood for my lifetime and more.   But I think that we are going through a phase somewhat analogous to the Medici popes.  It will be interesting to watch this reformation.

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