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What role should ideologies play in scientific research/studies

  1. Mar 20, 2017 #1
    I am going to be writing an argumentative essay on the topic, and was wondering what people think about ideologies and their influence on the sciences. I have not been on the forum before, but from what I have seen this seems like a good place to get some interesting feedback. Thanks in advance.

    *My full research question is "What role should ideologies play in scientific research/studies?", but I could not fit the entire thing in the thread title.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 20, 2017 #2
    Scientists have ideologies. Science does not.
     
  4. Mar 20, 2017 #3

    fresh_42

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    Ideologies are pretty much the exact opposite of science and don't have the least place in it. Scientist cannot be called as such if they aren't open minded. Ideologies require to be narrow minded and restricted. So the simple answer has to be. NONE.
     
  5. Mar 20, 2017 #4

    Choppy

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    I agree that an ideology - defined as an idea that serves as the basis for a political theory or policy - should not play a role. Science should be informing political positions, not the other way around. But ideologies often do influence scientific research, and therefore there is value in wrestling with this question. It can help to determine how can science minimize bias in the presence of ideologies.

    If you're looking for one potential advantage of having ideologies present in science, you might want to consider funding to do the science in the first place. I suspect a lot of funding gets channelled into specific questions that carry political weight - funding that otherwise may not exist.
     
  6. Mar 20, 2017 #5
    An ideology is a preconceived notion of what things 'ought to be' so that they fit with a chosen political or religious point of view. or so on.
    Science should not work that way of course, but it's not rare.
    You only have to look at the science carried out supposedly which supported the extreme ideologies of Hitler and Stalin.
     
  7. Mar 20, 2017 #6

    fresh_42

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    Yes, there even had been Aryan mathematics. What a big b... Ideologies are the natural mortal enemies of science. Another example is the history of religions. Look where science prospered in the Middle Ages and where it didn't.
     
  8. Mar 20, 2017 #7

    ZapperZ

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    But these are all the practice of science, not in the science. Ideologies may favor the funding of certain science, or it may even influence the initial steps and beginnings of a scientific study, but we are all forgetting one very important thing: Mother Nature is the final arbiter of what is valid and what isn't. No matter how much one wishes for something to be true, it won't be if it isn't.

    Zz.
     
  9. Mar 21, 2017 #8
    You may want to inform the "March for Science" of this. Or at least point out that it would be more honest to name the event "March for (some) Scientists."

    I try and be guided and teach by the Richard Feynman idea:

    Thee first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.

    I find it healthier for scientists to acknowledge their ideologies and the likely biases that might be introduced into experimental designs and interpretations. Selecting collaborators and co-authors with differing ideologies is also a good way to reduce odds of being fooled. Peer-review used to be more useful than it is now, as I have noticed a distinct trend for peer-reviewers to be more guided by their ideologies than by evidence and critical thinking.

    When it comes time to publish, a scientist should work hard not to convey greater confidence in the results or conclusions than warranted by the data. If in doubt, it is better to understate the importance of the findings and overstate the potential limitations. For sure, one wants to be careful to avoid generalizing a result too broadly.

    I like the formula of describing the method and results accurately and matter-of-fact followed by a discussion of what it _MIGHT_ mean, keeping in mind the general principle that hypotheses can only be disproven by experiment, they are never really proven (even if they support my ideological leanings).
     
  10. Mar 21, 2017 #9

    Ryan_m_b

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    Ideology/philosophy plays a key role in the pursuit of science through what is deemed a priority and what is deemed to be unacceptable methodology. Most people would agree that it's more important to fund research into diseases that are more common and more debilitating than those that are not. And most people would agree that performing experiments on humans without their consent is unacceptable.
     
  11. Mar 21, 2017 #10
    If a scientist were a pacifist he/she would not intentionally do research in any area that could be applicable to weapons development.
     
  12. Mar 21, 2017 #11
    Dunno. For example, almost any alternative fuel tecnhology may be applicable to tanks and jets and missiles.

    If a biofuel works well enough to displace fossil fuels in non-war transportation applications, then it will likely also work well enough to be used in weapons systems. In fact, nitrocellulose (the most common fuel in firearms) is a biofuel.

    I tend to separate intended uses of scientific developments from incidental and untended applications. Any true scientific result that is useful for good can also be twisted for evil. That's a fact of the human condition.
     
  13. Mar 21, 2017 #12

    StatGuy2000

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    As an aside, this raises the question about to what extent scientists have a say in how the implications of their research can be applied. For example, one could argue that scientists, given their knowledge and expertise, are uniquely placed to be able to assert and influence the direction to which their research can be applied in a manner that is beneficial to humanity as a whole.
     
  14. Mar 21, 2017 #13
    What is the old saying "scientist advise, ministers decide"?
     
  15. Mar 21, 2017 #14

    jack action

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    I would of thought science couldn't even exists if it wasn't for ideology. I see science as a methodology to prove or disprove something. If there are no ideas or beliefs to begin with, why would we need science?

    Humans and dogs have been watching the sun since they've been on this earth.

    Humans began to believe to sun was revolving in the sky, which seems logical to anyone noting this phenomenon. Some of them began to think it was the earth that was revolving around the sun. Science was the methodology that was used to prove or disprove these beliefs. This new knowledge then helps developing more ideas, more beliefs, that will generate more science.

    Dogs, on the other hand, never developed an opinion about the sun position in the sky. Thus they don't have the need to prove or disprove such an idea.

    Science is now so important that it can also be seen as an ideology itself, i.e. science is now believed by most of us to be the best methodology to prove and disprove ideas.
     
  16. Mar 21, 2017 #15
    I disagree. Science is not anywhere near that general. Science only arbitrates between competing ideas in the realm of natural law. Science is powerless to address questions of ethics, morality, beauty, personal preference, love, and religion. It is more appropriate to address some public policy questions than others.

    It is a bad idea to replace Constitutional representative government with government by science, because government by science can really only mean a ruling elitist oligarchy lacking the checks and balances of a Constitutional representative government.
     
  17. Mar 21, 2017 #16

    russ_watters

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    To add to what you touched on in the last two words, the philosophy that goes into scientific method itself can be considered an "ideology".
     
  18. Mar 21, 2017 #17

    russ_watters

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    That's a non sequitur: No ideology addresses every aspect of ideology....though I would argue that science addresses more of those than you think.

    At its most basic, science is an ideology that values facts and logic over faith and desire.
     
  19. Mar 21, 2017 #18

    Andy Resnick

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    I think most of the replies missed the point- ideology (a system of ideas and ideals) has had, and will continue to have, a central role in scientific thought. For example, reductionism is an ideology, as is it's converse, emergentism. Reductionism has had (and continues to have) a central role in the physical sciences while emergentism is typically associated with biological sciences. Those ideologies are increasingly blending together in several fields: soft matter and complex systems are two examples.

    Ideology is, by definition, required for quantitative analysis: the creation of a mathematical model that can be used to analyze physical systems relies on an ideological view of reality that postulates the existence of universal, ideal, forms.

    If, on the other hand, you are restricting your use of 'ideology' to subjective political debates, then most of the above replies stand- the practice of science as discovery of facts is not subjective.
     
  20. Mar 21, 2017 #19

    jack action

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    I'm not sure what you are referring to with "natural law" (It sounds like the scientific version of "God"), but whether we agree or not on the validity of science in certain fields, science is used in a lot of those you mentioned:
     
  21. Mar 21, 2017 #20

    ZapperZ

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    But again, just because science was used in those fields it doesn't mean its usage is valid. Deepak Chopra is notorious for bastardizing quantum mechanics to justify his views on spirituality. And creationists continue to misuse Thermodynamics 3rd Law to "prove" that evolution violates the laws of physics.

    Zz.
     
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