For context, in philosophical terms I am (approximately) what is termed a scientific realist, meaning that (a) there are objective truths about the physical world, whether we know them or not - 'Realism' - and (b) science is our best tool for edging towards knowledge in that realm. I say 'edging' because there's nothing linear, predictable, or even inevitable about how scientific knowledge advances. Arguably, it sometimes even goes backwards.
There are complexities along the spectrum which we may identify as stretching from maths & formal logic at one end, to "social science" at the other. Maths and logic advance ratchet-wise: since the late 19th C, what constitutes a proof is not in contention, and new results layer atop old ones in an ever-growing edifice built on firm foundations. It's fair to say there are some philosophical challenges in figuring out the 'meaning' of some results in formal logic: but results they are.
At the far end of this continuum, use of inverted commas is essential: how much of "social science" really deserves the moniker? Even linguistics has thus far disappointed, for all the claims that Chomsky's work is a science. But formal logic sets the standard; physics and chemistry, at least, reckon to be bound by it, and I think we broadly know what we mean by (real) Science.
That said, professional scientists frequently let the side down in a big way, with weaknesses in several dimensions (not necessarily all at once):
- they tend to forget that, Newtonian physics having been well and truly shown to be in error (even though admirably and formidably consistent mathematically), almost any current theory is up for revision. They sort-of know this, but often don't behave accordingly.
- many, if not most of them are cowards (i.e. 'just human'), and won't go against the prevailing dogma - whatever their own results and reasoning suggest. The dominant dogma in question might be the current scientific paradigm, or some crazy political diktat, but they ain't gonna be the ones to rock the boat. This makes their claims to objectivity and purity of method particularly galling.
- many are venal (i.e. 'just human') and money speaks very loudly, in science as elsewhere ...
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