Philosophy of Science

We think that the philosophy, methodology and ethics of science are in urgent need of an upgrade. Here are a few pointers:-

The Royal Society's motto is "Nullius in verba" ("take nobody's word for it").


Alistair Haimes in his article below quotes a professor of physics at Oxford University saying that the three most scientific things you can say are "I don't know", "Prove it", and "I've changed my mind". 

Dr Roger Hanna, physics teacher and researcher: "Why is not a scientific question". He's right, but to want to know WHY is useful because it drives our curiosity or perhaps our moral outrage - and when we find ourselves asking "why?" that can reveal our own hidden assumptions. First find out "what" and "how", and then the why usually becomes plain.

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'Independent Committee on Geoethics: the bedrock of Quality and Integrity'


Here are the abstracts from the International Conference on Geoethics held in Prague in October 2015:


After Prague followed Paris (2015), London (2016) and Porto (2018) meetings. 

Porto Conference 2018  


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Borders and boundaries matter - so that we can distinguish one thing from another, and classify them, and then begin to understand them. So that words have agreed definitions without which we cannot communicate. Within a boundary we can establish what we agree upon, and then examine the edges and work out what we disagree on, and then perhaps learn and deepen our understanding.  This sounds as if it will be a useful book: Why borders matter by Professor Frank Furedi, July 2020. "If we destroy the notion of borders and distinctions, what happens to judgement?". Book launch through Academy of Ideas

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'The Theory of Critical Social Justice is hostile to science. This hostility is so profound that we can claim that the whole point of Critical Social Justice (and much of postmodern Theory) exists to undermine scientific credibility without bothering to learn any science at all. Critical Social Justice sees science as just one way of knowing among many and considers it a cultural artefact of white, Western, masculinist cultures, and in need of being dismantled and deconstructed.'

The boundaries to debate.  There's no point in discussing things with people who repudiate the essentials of rational facts (unless the actual topic is science fiction or number theory).  James Lindsay at New Discourses found that people who support 'Critical Theory' now deny that 2+2=4 (August 2020).

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Canaries In The Mine, June 2020, by Rudolph Kalveks.

"The philosopher of science, Willard Van Orman Quine, coined the phrase “Underdetermination of Theory”, which applies in the situation where different theories are consistent with the same body of evidence. Models are inherently underdetermined and it is easy for their assumptions to take on a life of their own and to start predicting phenomena that are pure model artefacts rather than being representative of the physical system being studied." 


Science should begin with accurate observation. There are many ways to record observations. The process of recording necessarily involves filtering the information and tends to introduce patterns that may or may not be spurious.  Correlation, random or significant? Causal? Significant data omitted? Various problems to be recognised and minimised. During this process the human brain looks for patterns and begins to build ideas about cause and effect. Proposed causal relationships and  physical mechanisms can be gradually formalised and tested – by trying to disprove the ideas.


Nils-Axel Mörner co-founded a periodical named ‘Pattern recognition in Physics’. This was dropped by the publisher for refusing to comply with the IPCC. The story is told here:

More from Nils-Axel Mörner:

“In science, there are ethical rules of how to behave. Besides the obvious roles of no plagiarism, there are the rules of

• All available facts on the table

• Never hide or ignore troublesome facts."    Quoted from this paper


Here’s why Rosie thinks that the current practice of the ‘Scientific Method’ needs a complete overhaul – essentially because the current practice begins with the hypothesis instead of with observation and then pattern recognition. It also pretends it can take human ‘bias’ out of it by using the passive voice, and also denies the value of human emotion and natural interaction.

Instead it boils down to think of a hypothesis and then go out and test it. This is often counterproductive because:

  • How do you come up with anything new unless you use the human brain’s extraordinary capacity to observe and recognise pattern?

  • Inevitably going to dumb down human thinking, all on the idea that we can’t be objective (“Scientific”) in our thinking and must have “controls”

  • Inevitably going to lock in unidentified assumptions

  • Too difficult for most people to use properly

  • Far too likely to skew the facts to fit the theory

  • Too open to enforced compliance to the status quo

  • Not how most scientific discovery and understanding has been made

  • The attempt to strip out human emotion also means that most of our human brain-power & nervous system is unused. Ethical considerations vanish alongside the emotional content. When emotion-free processing is needed, use a computer.

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“Yet somehow between the 1970s and today, human knowledge regarding disease prevention and control — a product of informal institutions and cultural mores — was lost or forgotten; and into the vacuum swept the rigidities of top-down edicts informed by scientism: technocrats wielding agent-based models."

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Willard van Orman Quine 1908-2000; U.S. logician & philosopher



A computer program that produces its own source code as output.


To deny the existence or significance of something obviously real or important. 

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Face masks make you stupid, Patrick Fagan, July 2020 

plus many other things that reduce intelligence