Science's rules

less than 1 minute read

John Wilkins has started a “Scientist’s Operating Manual” – a collaborative project with the aim of writing a short text for non-scientists. I’m pointing to the introductory post, mainly because I really like the Feyerabend quote he uses, from Against Method:

The idea that science can, and should, be run according to fixed and universal rules, is both unrealistic and pernicious. It is unrealistic, for it takes too simple a view of the talents of man and of the circumstances which encourage, or cause, their development. And it is pernicious, for the attempt to enforce the rules is bound to increase our professional qualifications at the expense of our humanity. In addition, the idea is detrimental to science, for it neglects the complex physical and historical conditions which influence scientific change. It makes our science less adaptable and more dogmatic: every methodological rule is associated with cosmological assumptions, so that using the rule we take it for granted that the assumptions are correct.

The “pernicious” part especially resonates. Rule-enforcing behavior makes the world safer for the entrenched. It is more notable at the granting level than the publication level.