There Is No Scientific Method?

Jerry Coyne ranting in response to this NYT piece by James Blachovicz.

A recurring topic, but I had to react to this:

Blachovicz: Scientific method is not itself an object of study for scientists, but it is an object of study for philosophers of science. It is not scientists who are trained specifically to provide analyses of scientific method.

Coyne: All I can say here is “WTF”? Does this man have any inkling of the difference between science on the one hand and philosophy or poetry on the other?

All I can say is WTF? Does Jerry Coyne have any inkling of the difference between philosophy and science?

The issue is that science uses many methods, many of the creative ones it uses are shared with many other arts and crafts, but the real point must surely be which particular methodological aspects distinguish it as science as opposed any other rational pursuit. Obviously rationality is part of it, but it’s part of any rational pursuit, and simply leaves us with narrow or broad definitions of rationality to worry about instead of definitive features of science. No progress there. (Good news is that Coyne respects Dennett on being helpful to science as a philosopher. Maybe he’s also noticed Dennett is not a fan of premature definitions or greedy reductionism.)

Blachovicz is right, and Coyne wrong, on his meta-point that scientists may self-identify as such, but cannot thmselves define what makes them so. That’s on another level, one for the philosophers.

My own thrust is that the definitive feature of science is the repeatable empirical falsifiability, where scientific empiricism demands tight & closed, objective & logical, framing of the hypothesis and of any repeatable test(s), in order that a conclusion (false or not) can follow from any test result.

This limits science to those fields usefully amenable to such closed objective definitions. For so many fields of human endeavour it may not be the most useful approach to understanding and problem solving. Experienced human empiricism may not be scientific but is nevertheless “real”. Much human endeavour, even life in general, can never really be a repeatable experiment, and indeed the exclusively objective rationality of science is (by design) ignorant and even destructive of subjects, human or otherwise.

Reinforces my impression to date, that Coyne may be a staunch defender of the place of (Darwinian) evolution in science, but is not sophisticated epistemologically, nor particularly scientific or rational in his approach.

[Hat tip to @ChrisOldfield for sharing the original link.]

[Post Note – Tangentially related, but distinguishing wrong thoughts and beliefs from wrong ways of thinking and rationalising them is the key here. The one is meta to the other. Here Alan Rayner’s Best Thinking reinforces the point again:

And in fact the same “scientism” thread pretty much continues in the next post …..]

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