Less Modern Science, More Practical Science

By Gerrit Van Wyk.

“Science” is a thought stopping cliché.

Robert Lifton has extensive knowledge about mind control, or brainwashing, and use the term thought stopping cliché when a phrase is used to stop further thinking or conversation. What I shall call modern science often fulfills this role. When someone says, “something is a scientific fact, scientists say, it’s been proven scientifically, etc.”, people stop thinking, and questioning it risks being tarred as unscientific.

The emphasis of modern science is method. Showing you use the right method is more important than being innovative, or creative. This is of some importance, because the method you use determines what knowledge you generate, and the knowledge you generate how you see reality and the world we live in. It also flows in the opposite direction; the position you take about reality and how the world works determines what you can know about it, and what you know which method you use for learning more about it.

Method becomes your starting point when you want to know more about things, and things are made up of parts connected like axles, cogs, and wheels turning predictably. It implies an approach to knowledge where you add grains to a storehouse until it is full, and once you filled it you’ll know everything there is to know about the universe. Which in turn means knowledge looks like a clockwork consisting of packets that can be joined together until one day you know everything there is to know.

If something is not a thing that can be analyzed like a machine or clock, it becomes irrelevant or unimportant for modern science.

Contrast that with what I shall call pragmatic, or practical science which starts with doubt. It means you are confronted with a situation that is unknown, uncertain, or no longer works. You then formulate a possible explanation, or theory, about what may be going on and what can be done to change things, and the next step is designing an experiment that will test your explanation to prove or disprove it. In other words, you don’t know what the right method is until you engage with the problem.

The experiment either solves the question or problem, or doesn’t. If the explanation for the problem proves to be correct, we remember how we discovered this and why to use that approach again in future, in other words, we learned from the experience. If it didn’t, we must review our explanation, change it, based on that adjust, or change our method, and try again until we solve the problem.

Practical science deals with all problems, not exclusively with things of a mechanical nature, and many such problems are difficult to describe, hence can only be solved by acting, adapting, and learning your way through it.

For modern science, there is only one kind of knowledge, “scientific” or “expert” knowledge, practical knowledge on the other hand is multilayered.

The explanations, or theories we use are not isolated, they are supported by other theories, in other words, they are interconnected, and, like a house of cards, if one supporting theory at any level is wrong, the card house collapses. We can’t just assume our theories are correct, we must also be confident in their supporting arguments.

We agree some things we observe are facts, which is the basis of modern science, and give it a higher grade if “experts” agree about it. But “expert” is a social role and the fact the role was conferred on someone, doesn’t mean they play the role well; which means “experts” are fallible, and we can’t accept facts based on consensus without being aware of that fallibility. Also, the way we agree something is a fact is social, which means it is influenced by the complexity of social interrelationships and interactions. Modern science is based on a belief it is pure, and scientists are aloof from society, which is plain wrong.

Both our theories and what we accept as facts are based on assumptions, such as how experiments must be conducted, how we measure outcomes, and, importantly, what knowledge is used for and what the world we try to understand looks like. We must be conscious of what we assume, because those assumptions easily and often are wrong.

Modern science searches for clockwork knowledge, pragmatic science for practical knowledge, modern science starts with a method, practical science with a problem, modern science is about filling a storehouse of knowledge, practical science about removing doubt or solving problems, modern science limits itself to things that can be measured, practical science has no limits, modern science seeks certainty and control, practical science accepts uncertainty and lack of control. Modern science is mechanistic which means things change only after we kick-start them, practical science is done in a world where change is constant and to which we are forced to act, adapt, and learn. You learn modern science from experts in learning institutions, you learn practical science from doing in practice. In modern science, you fail if you didn’t apply the method correctly or used the wrong method, in practical science if you didn’t solve the problem or cannot learn from experience.

There are many ways for looking at things, not just one right way. Sweeping in different perspectives adds to what we know, not by adding more parts to a puzzle, like the modern logic storehouse, but because by hearing how others think and see the world, it changes what we know, which changes our perspective of the problem and what can be done about it. It means dialogue and conversation leading to agreement matters a lot, whereas communication and debate for identifying winners and losers rules modern science.

Finally, the outcome of an experiment depends on how we measure it. Modern science’s only measure is numbers, and adding to the storehouse of knowledge. Practical science also considers measures of other outcomes. Modern science is agnostic about designing an atomic bomb, practical science also asks is it ethical, moral, what consequences will it have for people, societies, future generations, the environment, etc.

Most political and social decisions are not made scientifically, or logically, and often, to give them a veneer of respectability, is covered with a fig leaf of “science”, and specifically modern science, as a strategy for stopping further thought and dialogue.

Additionally, health care and indeed all industries are crippled by their reliance on modern science. Modern science kills conversation and creativity, practical science stimulates and encourages it. What we need everywhere is more practical science and less modern science.