Modification talk:Sciento-2016-0003

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Commenting on this modification is closed; the modification is accepted.


Gregory Rupik

22 months ago
Score 1

Overgaard and Loiselle's contribution to Scientonomy, here, is a significant one. Not only does the paper identify and illustrate a phenomenon that is ubiquitous in science (the deference of one scientific community to the expert opinion of another), but it also clearly translates this phenomenon into the taxonomy of scientonomy itself. Authority Delegation sheds light on the mechanism by which the more 'local,' specialized mosaics of epistemic/scientific sub-communities gives rise to the more 'global' scientific mosaic (of *the* Scientific Community), and all in terms of theories and methods. Accepting this modification, I believe, will provide an invaluable theoretical taxonomy to scientonomists (observational or theoretical) exploring the interaction between any number of scientific communities.

Verdict: accept.

Hakob Barseghyan

22 months ago
Score 0

I agree with Greg: this is a great contribution to the field of scientonomy. In fact, it is safe to say that this modification has already been tacitly accepted by our community, since many of us rely on the idea of authority delegation in our own research. There are currently several articles submitted to the Journal of Scientonomy which heavily rely on the idea of authority delegation. The whole idea has proven so effective in analyzing relations between different communities, that I wholeheartedly recommend its acceptance.

Verdict: accept.

Paul Patton

21 months ago
Score 0

My verdict is to accept the definition of authority delegation given, but I don’t accept all of the claims made for it in the paper. The concept of passive authority delegation as stated in the paper is clear, and may well be a valid one for describing some relationships between communities, but I believe that its value will be much more limited than the paper implies. The relationship that exists between the art expert community and the art market community is not likely to be a common one in relationships between scientific communities devoted to producing new knowledge. The art expert community and the art market community are very different in their goals. The primary goal of the art expert community is to produce new knowledge about the origins of works of art, discriminating the works of great artists from forgeries. The primary goal of the art market community is the non-epistemic goal of garnering profit through the selling of works of art. Since the art market community is not primarily an epistemic community, it makes sense for them to passively delegate to the art expert community for their epistemic needs, never questioning their conclusions. Similar relationships are likely to exist between scientific communities and engineering communities. The goal of engineers is to design devices that work, not to generate new knowledge about the natural world. Again, it makes sense that they would passively delegate to scientific communities for the scientific knowledge they need to do this, and never, as a community, to question it.

Now consider two scientific communities, both devoted to producing new knowledge about their respective domains of interest. In such situations, I think that relationships of delegation, as specified by the current definition, are likely to be very rare. To make my concerns evident, let’s first consider two scientific communities with clearly overlapping domains of epistemic interest, the community of theoretical physicists and the community of experimental physicists. These two communities clearly have a strong mutual interest in each other’s results, but it would be a mistake to think of them as mutually delegating, given the current definition of as passive mutual acceptance. Suppose that a team of experimental physicists gets a result that flatly contradicts a well-established physical theory (for example, General Relativity). Suppose further that the result is verified by a second team of experimentalists using a different technique. Under the current definition of authority delegation, if the theoretical physics community accepts GR, and the experimental community delegates to the theoretical community, then it must accept GR because the theoretical community does. The experimentalists must conclude that their results are flawed, and must re-examine or reject them rather than publishing them. This probably isn't what would actually happen. The experimentalists are likely to give precedence to the methods of their own community and given credence to the finding since it was verified by two different teams using different techniques. They are likely to be very excited about publishing their findings, precisely because they represent a challenge to a well established theory of the theoretical physics community.

Theoretical physicists are also highly unlikely to accept any claim simply because it is accepted by the community of experimentalists. They are likely instead to access such claims according to the accepted theories and employed methods of their own community, accepting some and rejecting others. They are highly unlikely to accept an experimental claim simply because the experimentalist community says so, just as it is highly unlikely that the experimentalist community will reject a new finding simply because it conflicts with an accepted theory of the theoretical community. Whenever two scientific communities have overlapping epistemic interests, it is highly unlikely that community A will ever accept the claims of community B simply because community B says so. Their relationship will be one of active critical engagement rather than passive delegation. Each community will access the other’s claims in relation to its own theories and methods, accepting some, rejecting others. Perhaps interaction between the two communities will eventually produce a mutually acceptable solution, but this interaction is something quite different than one of passive mutual delegation. Community A will only passively accept community B’s claims when those claims are of purely instrumental value to them and have no relevance to their domain of epistemic interest. Many relationships between scientific communities will be ones of active mutual engagement, as described above for the case of experimental and theoretical physicists, rather than one of passive delegation.

The paper makes the claim that the community of physicists and that of biologists are mutually delegating. I do not think that this is the case, at least not in a general sense. Many theories accepted by physicists are of no relevance to biologists, and vice versa. The claim that the Higgs boson exists is of no relevance to cell biologists. Individual cell biologists, who happen to take an interest in particle physics, might have an opinion of the matter, but the community of cell biologists would never have any reason to do so. There would thus be no markers of community acceptance, and the claim that cell biologists as a community (or biologists more generally) accept the Higgs boson would be meaningless.

The issue of acceptance is only relevant for those claims that are of mutual epistemic relevance to physicists and to biologists. In such cases, the relationship between the two disciplines is likely to be one of mutual engagement rather than one of passive delegation. Both physicists and biologists have a mutual interest in the question of the age of the Earth. In the late nineteenth century, geologists maintained that the Earth was extremely old, and physicists such as Lord Kelvin used thermodynamic arguments to argue that both Earth and the sun must be relatively young; only a few tens of millions of years. Evolutionary biologists generally delegated to geologists rather than physicists on this issue. A more modern example is physicist Iya Prigogine’s claim that living systems are dissipative structures actively maintaining themselves far from thermodynamic equilibrium. The claim is of mutual interest to biologists and physicists since it deals with the physical nature of living systems. Biologists assess such claims according to the theories and methods of their own discipline, and don’t passively accept them just because a physicist says so. Physicist Roger Penrose claims that special quantum processes are relevant to brain function. His claim is widely rejected by neuroscientists. As the last example, especially, illustrates, perhaps this issue could be greatly clarified by a careful analysis of pursued and accepted theories. As it stands though, the claim that the physics community and the biological community are mutually delegating is barely defended or analyzed in the paper, but simply taken for granted. It has not been satisfactorily defended.

Hakob Barseghyan

21 months ago
Score 0
I agree with Paul that we need to accept the current definition to have something to work with, but we should also keep in mind that sometimes authority delegation seems to require an additional layer of filtering by the delegating community. Paul's examples suggest that there is a possibility of what can be called "conditional authority delegation", where the delegating community applies its own additional criteria before accepting what the experts tell them. In cases like this, the delegating community will listen to the expert community only if certain additional requirements are met (e.g. if what the expert community says is compatible with the rest of the mosaic of the delegating community). I agree with Paul that these cases of conditional authority delegation should be carefully studied and respective concepts should be defined.

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