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Why is Science Conservative (II) - 科学为何是保守的(二) 精选

已有 8348 次阅读 2008-7-12 22:26 |系统分类:科研笔记|关键词:科学原则 同行评议 什么是科学 科学管理

 


 For new readers and those who request to be “好友 good friends” ,  please  read my 公告first.

My earlier article on “why is science conservative?” http://www.sciencenet.cn/blog/user_content.aspx?id=29014

produced a large number of well meaning and legitimate comments and responses. So I decided to write a follow-on piece to further clarify what I had in mind.

In the abstract, I believe there is general agreement on the following scientific principles

1.         For an established scientific fact to be overturned or revised, there must first be a large body of contradicting evidence (see for example, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) T. Kuhn, University of Chicago Press, 1962)

2.         For a new theory and procedure to be accepted as better or to replace the old, it must scale a higher standard (for example not only it must fit previously known results but also explain away all the contradicting evidence or difficulties in #1 above. If it is a new methodology, the new method must overcome some difficulties of the old.).

These are principles of scientific exploration and discovery accepted universally. My use of the word “conservative” is primarily in this sense. We do not usually overturn an established theory on a single piece of evidence nor do we accept any new idea just on the say so of one authoritative figure.

Problem comes in because science is practice by human beings who often let other matters, politics, commerce, human weakness, and even philosophy intrude in the “ADMINISTRATION & PRACTICE” of science. This is distinct from the principles of scientific discovery as listed in #1 and #2 above. When politic and science administration mix, the former often dominates the latter. The unfortunate examples of Lysenko in USSR (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trofim_Lysenko ) or Elena Ceausescu of Romania (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elena_Ceau%C5%9Fescu ) are well known. But the influence of commerce on science can be equally corrosive. Consider the cases of tobacco industry on the health effect of smoking and the oil companies’ opposition to global warming. Both industries stubbornly resisted the obvious long past the scientific conclusions were established. Finally, even without such interference, human errors of judgment, bias, prejudice , and philosophy (门户之見) can distort the development of scientific truth. Thus, abuses in the administration due to these considerations should also be considered separately from the “principles”. I mentioned earlier. The saying “peer review is the worst form of scientific judgment except for all others”. Yes, many unfair and bad things happen with peer review. But we do not abandon it because it is still sound in principle and even workable in practice if administered correctly. The point is that we do not condemn the “principles” just because of bad “practice”. Similarly, if something “bad” happens to have some unintended “good” results, it is not a license for “bad” practice. (one reader disagree with me by using precisely such a false analogy). I am sorry I did not make this distinction and separation carefully in a blog article. With this clarification, I trust the meaning of my article is clear.

 

 

我之前的一篇博文《科学为何是保守的?》(http://www.sciencenet.cn/blog/user_content.aspx?id=29014)得到了许多有意义的、值得思考的评论和回应。因此我决定再写一篇博文,进一步澄清我的观点。
 
抽象地说,我相信大家普遍认同下面几条科学原则:
 
1.  要推翻或修改已经确立的科学事实,首先必须要有大量相反的证据。(大家可以参考这本书,The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) T. Kuhn, University of Chicago Press, 1962)
2.  一项新的理论或程序要想被公认为比旧的更好或者要取代旧的,就必须带来更高的标准。(比如,它不仅必须要符合此前已知的结论,而且要能解释上述#1中那些相反的证据或难点。如果是一种新的方法论,那么这种新方法一定要能解决老方法难以克服的问题。)
 
这些都是公认的科学探索与发现的原则。我所谓的“保守”也主要是在这种意义上来说的。我们通常不会根据一个单独的证据就颠覆一项确立已久的理论,我们也不会仅仅因为一位权威如此如此说就接受任何新的观点。
 
之所以会出现问题,主要是因为科学研究到底是由人来践行的,而人往往会让其他因素如政治、商业利益、人性弱点乃至门户之见“闯入”科学的管理和实践中来。这与上述的科学发现原则#1和#2是不同的。一旦政治和科学管理搅在一起,前者往往会主宰后者。例如前苏联的Lysenko(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trofim_Lysenko)和罗马尼亚的Elena Ceausescu(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elena_Ceau%C5%9Fescu)等,都是众所周知的例子是非常令人遗憾的。但是,商业利益对科学具有同样的腐蚀性。想想烟草业是怎么干扰有关吸烟与健康关系的研究的吧,还有石油公司一直反对全球变暖的说法。科学界已经就这两个问题达成一致意见以后很久了,这两大产业还在顽固地抵抗。最后,即使排除这两种因素的干扰,人类的判断、偏见和门户之见等错误也会扭曲科学真相的发展。因此,由这些原因导致的管理中的问题也应该和我说的那些科学原则分开考虑。我以前曾经说过。有种说法说“除了所有其他(形式)外,同行评议是最糟糕的科学评价形式。”的确,同行评议总是伴随着许多不公正和糟糕的事情。但是我们并没有抛弃它,因为它在原则上仍然很合理,而且如果运用得当,在实践中也是行得通的。关键是我们不会仅仅因为“实践”中出现了问题就批判“原则”。同样,我们也不能因为一些原则上的“坏事”无意中地起到一些“好”的作用,就说这种“坏事”是可以做的。(有位读者就运用了这种错误的类比来和我争论。)很抱歉我以前没有在博文中仔细地区分和划分这二者。通过此次的澄清,我相信我文章的意思应该很清楚了。
 
(科学网 任霄鹏译 何姣校)

 



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