What role should ideologies play in scientific research/studies

  • #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.
 

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  • #2
.Scott
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Scientists have ideologies. Science does not.
 
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  • #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.
 
  • #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.
 
  • #5
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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.
 
  • #6
fresh_42
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You only have to look at the science carried out supposedly which supported the extreme ideologies of Hitler and Stalin.
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.
 
  • #7
ZapperZ
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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.

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.

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.
 
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  • #8
Dr. Courtney
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Scientists have ideologies. Science does not.

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 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.

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).
 
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  • #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.
 
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  • #10
gleem
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If a scientist were a pacifist he/she would not intentionally do research in any area that could be applicable to weapons development.
 
  • #11
Dr. Courtney
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If a scientist were a pacifist he/she would not intentionally do research in any area that could be applicable to weapons development.

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.
 
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  • #12
StatGuy2000
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Dunno. For example, almost any alternative fuel technology 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.

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.
 
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  • #13
gleem
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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.

What is the old saying "scientist advise, ministers decide"?
 
  • #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.
 
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  • #15
Dr. Courtney
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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.

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.
 
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  • #16
russ_watters
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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.
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".
 
  • #17
russ_watters
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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.
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.
 
  • #18
Andy Resnick
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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.

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.
 
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  • #19
jack action
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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.
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:
 
  • #20
ZapperZ
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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:

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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  • #21
Ddddx
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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:

Well, they certainly try to use science in love etc, but some would say that these people have a very limited reductionist worldview, who don't understand the purpose and limitations of thought, for example the whole "love is just a chemical reaction in the brain" and similar attitudes. One can argue that beauty, love etc. are not things that can be "explained."
 
  • #22
russ_watters
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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.
Nor is it necessarily invalid. Beauty, love and morality can all be/are examined from a biological/evolutionary point of view.

We're getting off track though. Using or abusing science to examine morality or whatever is not the same as whether science is/has ideology.
 
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  • #23
ZapperZ
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Nor is it necessarily invalid. Beauty, love and morality can all be/are examined from a biological/evolutionary point of view.

I never said the use is invalid. I said "... doesn't mean its usage is valid...". I tend to be VERY skeptical of someone who has only a superficial understanding of QM but made use of QM's principles to justify certain things.

Zz.
 
  • #24
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I think there is a basic ideology behind science, which is that truth is testable. This is very different from political or religious ideologies in which it is considered acceptable or even necessary to "respect other's beliefs." In science, this is absurd. We don't respect beliefs - we test them to see whether they are true or not.

-Dave K
 
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  • #25
russ_watters
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I never said the use is invalid. I said "... doesn't mean its usage is valid..."
Yes, I know: I was providing the other half.
 
  • #26
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Science and Ideology don't even belong in the same sentence. Ideology is a buzzword /synonym for religion, which is just a ritualistic practice of daily faith in something (not necessarily God though). One could argue that physics has an ideology, but it's a fool's argument. You can have a thesis or hypothesis based upon an observational belief or deduction. This isn't the same as believing in a concept or an abstract simply because you felt right about it without any indications as to the truth (and later disputing the truth if unacceptable to your ideology) To make matters worse, ideology is often an attempt to validate an abstract idea that can never be proven under ANY circumstance. In the physical realm, proof is always there. You just have to find it. An ideology doesn't require any validation whatsoever. It only requires a continued belief in the abstract.
 
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  • #27
jack action
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You cannot discard scientific researches in domains such as beauty & love because there are no solid scientific foundations for them.

I consider things such as astrology and alchemy to be part of the scientific way. With time, as science evolved, they were proven to be wrong, but we would of never got astronomy and chemistry without them. Anyway, what were the odds that we figured out nature on our first try?

Little personal anecdote:

One day, I was with a 3-year-old boy on the side of a small brook. Around 30 ft wide, but only about 1-2 ft deep. We were throwing rocks and, of course, the little boy was not throwing them very far, so we could see them lying on the bed of the brook. So I asked him why they were at the bottom, completely submerged in water. He answered: "Because rocks sink." But on the other side of the brook, they were huge rocks (more than 2 ft high) that we could see above the water level. So I asked him: "What about those? How come they are not totally submerged in water?" The kid was baffled for a few seconds and quickly answered: "There are rocks that sink and there are rocks that float." I would of like to cross the brook to let him see that the big rocks were also lying on the bed of the brook, confirming his first explanation and that sight can play mind tricks, but we lacked the time (and he probably really didn't care either).

When we got back to the camp to meet the other adults, I told one woman what happened and she replied: "That's stupid! Rocks don't float!"

The important thing I witnessed that day wasn't the fact that this kid was making a breakthrough in geology. It was rather the infancy of the scientific method. He observed rock after rock sinking to the bottom of the brook and made an hypothesis about his observations. When that hypothesis was challenged (me pointing another rock that appeared to be floating), he revised his hypothesis. That is pure science executed by a 3-year-old. It was easy for him to do so, because he was not yet subjected to peer pressure making us feel ashamed when we're wrong.

I thought it was amazing. It seems that other thought the kids was just saying stupid stuff.

An ideology doesn't require any validation whatsoever. It only requires a continued belief in the abstract.
Although I don't agree that ideology is restricted to religion, but if you use in that sense only, you cannot say that ideology doesn't require validation. I was just reading a thread on another (religious) forum explaining how the Earth is proven to be flat. I can assure you that the proof presented were fully validated by the words found in the bible. Many, many references. And since it was written under the inspiration of God, it was considered the only reliable source and anything coming from other sources was bound to be evil if it was saying the opposite. So there is a validation, just not a scientific one.
 
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  • #28
Dr. Courtney
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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.

Usually, it has been the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics that is misused by creationists. And most of the major creationist organizations (including Ken Ham's Answers in Genesis) in the US have recognized the flaw in the argument and are now advising against its continued use.
 
  • #29
Vanadium 50
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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.

I dunno. It worked out okay for the Science Council of Krypton. Well, until that last part.
 
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  • #30
russ_watters
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Science and Ideology don't even belong in the same sentence. Ideology is a buzzword /synonym for religion...
[google]
Wikipedia lists "ideology" as having four defining characteristics:
  1. it must have power over cognition
  2. it must be capable of guiding one's evaluations;
  3. it must provide guidance towards action; and
  4. it must be logically coherent.
I think science fairly contains 2, 3 and 4 but #1 is decidedly anti-science. So I must admit I'm abusing the definition.

Still, prior to science gaining a track-record, it required a certain amount of faith that science would consistently work and be superior to other more established methods of acquiring knowledge and making decisions/judgements about the world. So I still think the line that separates science from ideology is awfully thin.
 
  • #31
fresh_42
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it must be logically coherent.
I haven't heard of a single ideology that is logically coherent. Not one.
We also know that science isn't either, as we can see here day by day, but at least it tries to close these gaps, where possible. Despite Gödel or the failure of Newton, both negatives don't play a role in the contexts they are relevant to. Thus my confidence in science is far more firm than in any ideology, the land of hypocrisies and illogical conclusions.
So I still think the line that separates science from ideology is awfully thin.
I think the main difference is: in ideologies one has a standpoint and results are formed to fit in, whereas in science, one has a result and the laws are made to fit. That's a fundamental difference. Maybe a bit optimistic, but as Popper said about democracy: not perfect but the best we have.
 
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  • #32
russ_watters
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I haven't heard of a single ideology that is logically coherent. Not one.
Yeah, good point. I too find the definition/criteria problematic.
 
  • #33
jack action
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I haven't heard of a single ideology that is logically coherent. Not one.
The idea that a superior force created the universe is still a coherent one. Science still cannot explain how it all begun; No matter how far it can go, science cannot assure that there was nothing else before or even why this universe got created.

So when some dude - with the limited knowledge he had at the time - wrote the Book of Genesis some 2000-3000 years ago, he may have been wrong on the how, but the concept of a god creating the world have not been proven wrong yet.

I also like to think that if some religions forbid eating pig meat was due to some health issue at the time where the pig meat was thought to be the cause (whether right or wrong). In present time, the government would forbid it as well and explain the need to do so with scientific evidence. Back then, nobody could understand why some people got sick and others didn't, but if a relationship could be made with an action (eating pig meat), the governing body of the time had to act just like the governments do today. And "God don't want you to do that" was the only reasonable - and coherent considering the knowledge of the time - explanation that could be provided to urge people to act.

Of course, ignoring the advancement in knowledge in the last millenniums - and the fact that billions of people have been eating pig meat without consequences - that is incoherent.
 
  • #34
dkotschessaa
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The idea that a superior force created the universe is still a coherent one.

Categorically, no. "Superior force" is not even a coherent definition to begin with.
 
  • #35
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Ideologies cannot play any role in science. Any part of the scientific method that is affected by ideology will corrupt the entire process. The conclusion cannot be adjusted to fit the theory. That is contrived. Nothing that is influenced by ideology can be considered science.

Unless your ideology is and only is the scientific method, of course.
 

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