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"Why Science Is Not Necessarily Self-Correcting" - free paper from John P. A. Ioannidis

Discussion in 'Other Health News and Research' started by Dolphin, Nov 13, 2012.

  1. Dolphin

    Dolphin Senior Member

    John P. A. Ioannidis is a highly respected researcher. I haven't read this myself yet.

    Free full text:

    AFCFS and biophile like this.
  2. AFCFS

    AFCFS Senior Member

    Makes some sense, I would just add a slight counter claim that the notion of "Self-Correcting" is not well defined in the context of time.

    "The trajectory of scientific credibility can fluctuate over time, both for defined scientific fields and for science at-large.
    History suggests that major catastrophes in scientific credibility are unfortunately possible"

    This seems to me to strike at the premise of the argument - if history suggests such then is it not the case that "the science" is then actually in question, with questioning a preliminary aspect of "correction?"


    "and the argument that “it is obvious that progress is made” is weak."" - Well yes, but then the author did really not define he construe as progress. A look at the history of science will show that there is much that is not linear, as one might expect from the suggestion of "progress." If progress is not linear and really not well defined in the total, then self-correction is a rather mute point.

    For instance to argue that much progress has been made in the studly of virology may be a fair claim in one context - say immunizations. But if the immunizations end up some how killing off the species, then that thought of progress may need to be rethunk.

    In less dire example, off the top of my head, without knowing knowing the details, I would suppose that alchemy may have looked like good science for quite some time. But now, only in retrospect, across centuries, do we see it as a pseudoscience. And yet someday again it may we may be the forefront of modern science, its process more clearly revealed.

    I think the author suggests such things in this in the article - he writes and cites well - but then uses them more to extend (or entwine) his argument rather than annihilate it. The use of the term "fluctuating trajectory" seems to give him ample wiggle room.

    For me, in total the paper gives an interesting but circular argument. But for all we know, it may lend itself to self-correcting scientific progress across a fluctuating trajectory.
  3. alex3619

    alex3619 Senior Member

    Logan, Queensland, Australia
    Hi AFCFS, not just alchemy but astrology was considered good science for a long time. Eventually it was debunked, though this wasn't easy as there was some experimental evidence apparently supporting both positions, and eminent scientists practiced them. The science of a thousand years from now will consider much of our science to be quaint mistakes at best.

    Science only corrects problems if enough attention is paid to them, and the right methodology is available. We could not do much modern research without a computer or genetic tools such as PCR, or even just advances in basic materials science. What will technology and methodologies of the future allow? With new technology and altered perspectives, what corrections will be made to what we think of as science today? In any case such corrections will only be made if people pay attention to them. Backwaters in science may go uncorrected forever if the opportunity never arises. For example, suppose the early science on some extinct species is wrong. Suppose also that we don't have enough intact DNA to resurrect the species. What more can we learn? What can we correct?

    Suppose instead that the wrong science is in some obscure discipline. Only a handful of people work in it and it becomes unpopular. How can anyone go back and fix things when nobody is looking?

    From reflecting on this there is one good item: things which are important, which are frequently looked at, and for which new technology and methodologies become available, have a much higher chance of being corrected.

    Bye, Alex
    AFCFS and merylg like this.

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