Criticism of science addresses problems within science in order to improve science as a whole and its role in society.
Philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend advanced the idea of epistemological anarchism, which holds that there are no useful and exception-free methodological rules governing the progress of science or the growth of knowledge, and that the idea that science can or should operate according to universal and fixed rules is unrealistic, pernicious and detrimental to science itself. Feyerabend advocates a democratic society where science is treated as an equal to other ideologies or social institutions such as religion, and education, or magic and mythology, and considers the dominance of science in society authoritarian and unjustified. He also contended (along with Imre Lakatos) that the demarcation problem of distinguishing science from pseudoscience on objective grounds is not possible and thus fatal to the notion of science running according to fixed, universal rules.
Feyerabend also criticized science for not having evidence for its own philosophical precepts. Particularly the notion of Uniformity of Law and the Uniformity of Process across time and space, as noted by Steven Jay Gould. "We have to realize that a unified theory of the physical world simply does not exist" says Feyerabend, "We have theories that work in restricted regions, we have purely formal attempts to condense them into a single formula, we have lots of unfounded claims (such as the claim that all of chemistry can be reduced to physics), phenomena that do not fit into the accepted framework are suppressed; in physics, which many scientists regard as the one really basic science, we have now at least three different points of view...without a promise of conceptual (and not only formal) unification". In other words, science is begging the question when it presupposes that there is a universal truth with no proof thereof.
Historian Jacques Barzun termed science "a faith as fanatical as any in history" and warned against the use of scientific thought to suppress considerations of meaning as integral to human existence.
Sociologist Stanley Aronowitz scrutinizes science for operating with the presumption that the only acceptable criticisms of science are those conducted within the methodological framework that science has set up for itself. That science insists that only those who have been inducted into its community, through means of training and credentials, are qualified to make these criticisms. Aronowitz also alleges that while scientists consider it absurd that Fundamentalist Christianity uses biblical references to bolster their claim that the Bible is true, scientists pull the same tactic by using the tools of science to settle disputes concerning its own validity.
Philosopher of religion Alan Watts criticized science for operating under a materialist model of the world that he posited is simply a modified version of the Abrahamic worldview, that "the universe is constructed and maintained by a Lawmaker" (commonly identified as God or the Logos). Watts asserts that during the rise of secularism through the 18th to 20th century when scientific philosophers got rid of the notion of a lawmaker they kept the notion of law, and that the idea that the world is a material machine run by law is a presumption just as unscientific as religious doctrines that affirm it is a material machine made and run by a lawmaker.
David Parkin compared the epistemological stance of science to that of divination. He suggested that, to the degree that divination is an epistemologically specific means of gaining insight into a given question, science itself can be considered a form of divination that is framed from a Western view of the nature (and thus possible applications) of knowledge.
Author and Episkopos of Discordianism Robert Anton Wilson stresses that the instruments used in scientific investigation produce meaningful answers relevant only to the instrument, and that there is no objective vantage point from which science could verify its findings since all findings are relative to begin with.
Several academics have offered critiques concerning ethics in science. In Science and Ethics, for example, the professor of philosophy Bernard Rollin examines the relevance of ethics to science, and argues in favor of making education in ethics part and parcel of scientific training.
Social science scholars, like anthropologists like Tim Ingold, and scholars from philosophy and the humanities, like Adorno in critical theory, have criticized modern science for subservience to economic and technological interests. A related criticism is the debate on positivism. While before the 19th century science was perceived to be in opposition to religion, in contemporary society science is often defined as the antithesis of the humanities and the arts.
Many recent thinkers, such as Carolyn Merchant, Theodor Adorno and E. F. Schumacher considered that the 17th century scientific revolution shifted science from a focus on understanding nature, or wisdom, to a focus on manipulating nature, i.e. power, and that science's emphasis on manipulating nature leads it inevitably to manipulate people, as well. Science's focus on quantitative measures has led to critiques that it is unable to recognize important qualitative aspects of the world.
Critics argue that the biggest bias within science is motivated reasoning, whereby scientists are more likely to accept evidence that supports their hypothesis and more likely to scrutinize findings that do not. Scientists do not practice pure induction but instead often come into science with preconceived ideas and often will, unconsciously or consciously, interpret observations to support their own hypotheses through confirmation bias. For example, scientists may re-run trials when they do not support a hypothesis but use results from the first trial when they do support their hypothesis. It is often argued that while each individual has cognitive biases, these biases are corrected for when scientific evidence converges. However, systematic issues in the publication system of academic journals can often compound these biases. Issues like publication bias, where studies with non-significant results are less likely to be published, and selective outcome reporting bias, where only the significant outcomes out of a variety of outcomes are likely to be published, are common within academic literature. These biases have widespread implications, such as the distortion of meta-analyses where only studies that include positive results are likely to be included. Statistical outcomes can be manipulated as well, for example large numbers of participants can be used and trials overpowered so that small difference cause significant effects or inclusion criteria can be changed to include those are most likely to respond to a treatment. Whether produced on purpose or not, all of these issues need to be taken into consideration within scientific research, and peer-reviewed published evidence should not be assumed to be outside of the realm of bias and error; some critics are now claiming that many results in scientific journals are false or exaggerated.
The behavioral and social sciences have long suffered from the problem of their studies being largely not being reproducible. Now, biomedicine has come under similar pressures. In a phenomenon known as the replication crisis, journals are less likely to publish straight replication studies so it may be difficult to disprove results. Another result of publication bias is the Proteus phenomenon: early attempts to replicate results tend to contradict them. However, there are claims that this bias may be beneficial, allowing accurate meta-analysis with fewer publications.
There are some critiques of science from metascience, that broadly accepted form of scientific publishing produces mostly insignificant, unreliable and false results, because of studies design and prevalence of scientific misconduct. Because of small statistical power as much as 95% of neuroimaging-base studies could be false. 85% of biomedical research efforts is probably wasted, according to one analysis. In psychology about ⅛ of papers include one or more statistical error(s), which could change conclusions of those papers. Most of economic hypothesis could be false. Also due to replication crisis and omitting from publication negative finding results, most discoveries in science are inflated.
Feminist scholars and women scientists such as Emily Martin, Evelyn Fox Keller, Ruth Hubbard, Londa Schiebinger and Bonnie Spanier have critiqued science because they believe it presents itself as objective and neutral while ignoring its inherent gender bias. They assert that gender bias exists in the language and practice of science, as well as in the expected appearance and social acceptance of who can be scientists within society.
Sandra Harding says that the "moral and political insights of the women's movement have inspired social scientists and biologists to raise critical questions about the ways traditional researchers have explained gender, sex, and relations within and between the social and natural worlds." Anne Fausto-Sterling is a prominent example of this kind of feminist work within biological science. Some feminists, such as Ruth Hubbard and Evelyn Fox Keller, criticize traditional scientific discourse as being historically biased towards a male perspective. A part of the feminist research agenda is the examination of the ways in which power inequities are created and/or reinforced in scientific and academic institutions.
Other feminist scholars, such as Ann Hibner Koblitz, Lenore Blum, Mary Gray, Mary Beth Ruskai, and Pnina Abir-Am and Dorinda Outram, have criticized some gender and science theories for ignoring the diverse nature of scientific research and the tremendous variation in women's experiences in different cultures and historical periods. For example, the first generation of women to receive advanced university degrees in Europe were almost entirely in the natural sciences and medicine -- in part because those fields at the time were much more welcoming of women than were the humanities. Koblitz and others who are interested in increasing the number of women in science have expressed concern that some of the statements by feminist critics of science could undermine those efforts, notably the following assertion by Keller:
Just as surely as inauthenticity is the cost a woman suffers by joining men in misogynist jokes, so it is, equally, the cost suffered by a woman who identifies with an image of the scientist modeled on the patriarchal husband. Only if she undergoes a radical disidentification from self can she share masculine pleasure in mastering a nature cast in the image of woman as passive, inert, and blind.
Emily Martin examines the metaphors used in science to support her claim that science reinforces socially constructed ideas about gender rather than objective views of nature. In her study about the fertilization process, Martin describes several cases when gender-biased perception skewed the descriptions of biological processes during fertilization and even possibly hampered the research. She asserts that classic metaphors of the strong dominant sperm racing to an idle egg are products of gendered stereotyping rather than a faithful portrayal of human fertilization. The notion that women are passive and men are active are socially constructed attributes of gender which, according to Martin, scientists have projected onto the events of fertilization and so obscuring the fact that eggs do play an active role. For example, she wrote that "even after having revealed...the egg to be a chemically active sperm catcher, even after discussing the egg's role in tethering the sperm, the research team continued for another three years to describe the sperm's role as actively penetrating the egg." Scott Gilbert, a developmental biologist at Swarthmore College supports her position: "if you don’t have an interpretation of fertilization that allows you to look at the egg as active, you won’t look for the molecules that can prove it. You simply won’t find activities that you don’t visualize."
The mass media face a number of pressures that can prevent them from accurately depicting competing scientific claims in terms of their credibility within the scientific community as a whole. Determining how much weight to give different sides in a scientific debate requires considerable expertise regarding the matter. Few journalists have real scientific knowledge, and even beat reporters who know a great deal about certain scientific issues may know little about other ones they are suddenly asked to cover.
Many issues damage the relationship of science to the media and the use of science and scientific arguments by politicians. As a very broad generalisation, many politicians seek certainties and facts whilst scientists typically offer probabilities and caveats. However, politicians' ability to be heard in the mass media frequently distorts the scientific understanding by the public. Examples in Britain include the controversy over the MMR inoculation, and the 1988 forced resignation of a government minister, Edwina Currie, for revealing the high probability that battery eggs were contaminated with Salmonella.
Some scientists and philosophers suggest that scientific theories are more or less shaped by the dominant political, economic, or cultural models of the time, even though the scientific community may claim to be exempt from social influences and historical conditions. For example, Zoologist Peter Kropotkin thought that the Darwinian theory of evolution overstressed a painful "we must struggle to survive" way of life, which he said was influenced by capitalism and the struggling lifestyles people lived within it. Karl Marx also thought that science was largely driven by and used as capital.
Robert Anton Wilson, Stanley Aronowitz, and Paul Feyerabend all thought that the military-industrial complex, large corporations, and the grants that came from them had an immense influence over the research and even results of scientific experiments. Aronowitz even went as far as to say "It does not matter that the scientific community ritualistically denies its alliance with economic/industrial and military power. The evidence is overwhelming that such is the case. Thus, every major power has a national science policy; the United States Military appropriates billions each year for 'basic' as well as 'applied' research".
Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge is a 1975 book about the philosophy of science by Paul Feyerabend, in which the author argues that science is an anarchic enterprise, not a nomic (customary) one. In the context of this work, the term anarchy refers to epistemological anarchy.Anarcho-primitivism
Anarcho-primitivism is an anarchist critique of the origins and progress of civilization. According to anarcho-primitivism, the shift from hunter-gatherer to agricultural subsistence gave rise to social stratification, coercion, alienation, and overpopulation. Anarcho-primitivists advocate a return of non-"civilized" ways of life through deindustrialization, abolition of the division of labor or specialization, and abandonment of large-scale organization technologies. Many traditional anarchists reject the critique of civilization while some, such as Wolfi Landstreicher, endorse the critique but do not consider themselves anarcho-primitivists. Anarcho-primitivists are often distinguished by their focus on the praxis of achieving a feral state of being through "rewilding".Antiscience
Antiscience is a position that rejects science and the scientific method. People holding antiscientific views do not accept science as an objective method that can generate universal knowledge. They also contend that scientific reductionism in particular is an inherently limited means to reach understanding of a complex world.Big Science
Big science is a term used by scientists and historians of science to describe a series of changes in science which occurred in industrial nations during and after World War II, as scientific progress increasingly came to rely on large-scale projects usually funded by national governments or groups of governments. Individual or small group efforts, or Small Science, are still relevant today as theoretical results by individual authors may have a significant impact, but very often the empirical verification requires experiments using constructions, such as the Large Hadron Collider, costing between $5 and $10 billion.Brian Martin (social scientist)
Brian Martin (born 1947) is a social scientist in the School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts, at the University of Wollongong in NSW, Australia. He was appointed a Professor at the University in 2007, and in 2017 was appointed Emeritus Professor. His work is in the fields of peace research, science and technology studies, sociology, political science, media studies, law, journalism and education, as well as research on whistleblowing and dissent in the context of science. Martin was president of Whistleblowers Australia from 1996 to 1999 and remains their International Director.Martin has spoken at a British Science Association Festival of Science, and testified at the Australian Federal Senate's Inquiry into Academic Freedom. The crustacean Polycheles martini was named after him.Criticism of technology
Criticism of technology is an analysis of adverse impacts of industrial and digital technologies. It is argued that, in all advanced industrial societies (not necessarily only capitalist ones), technology becomes a means of domination, control, and exploitation, or more generally something which threatens the survival of humanity. Some of the technology opposed by critics includes everyday household products, such as refrigerators, computers, and medication.Epistemological anarchism
Epistemological anarchism is an epistemological theory advanced by Austrian philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend which holds that there are no useful and exception-free methodological rules governing the progress of science or the growth of knowledge. It holds that the idea of the operation of science by fixed, universal rules is unrealistic, pernicious, and detrimental to science itself.The use of the term anarchism in the name reflected the methodological pluralism prescription of the theory, as the purported scientific method does not have a monopoly on truth or useful results. Feyerabend once famously said that because there is no fixed scientific method, it is best to have an "anything goes" attitude toward methodologies. Feyerabend felt that science started as a liberating movement, but over time it had become increasingly dogmatic and rigid, and therefore had become increasingly an ideology and despite its successes science had started to attain some oppressive features and it was not possible to come up with an unambiguous way to distinguish science from religion, magic, or mythology. He felt the exclusive dominance of science as a means of directing society was authoritarian and ungrounded. Promulgation of the theory earned Feyerabend the title of "the worst enemy of science" from his detractors.Flatline (B.o.B song)
"Flatline" is a song by American rapper B.o.B, initially released on SoundCloud in January 2016. "Flatline" is a diss song aimed at physicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, whom he had gotten into an argument with on Twitter, over B.o.B's stated belief that the earth is flat. In addition to dissing Tyson and expressing belief in a flat earth, the song's lyrics also include other conspiracy theories, including Holocaust denial, "mirror lizards", and the belief that Freemasons are indoctrinating young people. The lyrics to the song refer to science as a cult. Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, issued a statement saying that B.o.B's "lyrics are irresponsible and could potentially promote anti-Semitic beliefs, especially in those people who might already be infected by such notions." "Following criticism, B.o.B removed the song from his SoundCloud account, but it survives on YouTube and other sites where it was reposted. In April 2016, B.o.B included the song on a mixtape titled E.A.R.T.H. (Educational Avatar Reality Training Habitat), but the song lyrics had been rewritten as titled as pt. 2.Funding bias
Funding bias, also known as sponsorship bias, funding outcome bias, funding publication bias, and funding effect, refers to the tendency of a scientific study to support the interests of the study's financial sponsor. This phenomenon is recognized sufficiently that researchers undertake studies to examine bias in past published studies. Funding bias has been associated, in particular, with research into chemical toxicity, tobacco, and pharmaceutical drugs. It is an instance of experimenter's bias.Infinite Energy (magazine)
Infinite Energy is a bi-monthly magazine published in New Hampshire that details theories and experiments concerning alternative energy, new science and new physics. The magazine was founded by the late Eugene Mallove, and is owned by the non-profit New Energy Foundation. It was established in 1994 as Cold Fusion magazine and changed its name in March 1995.Topics of interest include "new hydrogen physics," also called cold fusion; vacuum energy, or zero point energy; and so-called "environmental energy" which they define as the attempt to violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics, for example with a perpetual motion machine. This is done in pursuit of the founder's commitment to "unearthing new sources of energy and new paradigms in science." The magazine has also published articles and book reviews that are critical of the big bang theory that describes the origin of the universe.
The magazine has a print run of 3,000, and is available on U.S. newsstands. The issues range in size from 48 to 100 pages.Luddite
The Luddites were a secret oath-based organization of English textile workers in the 19th century, a radical faction which destroyed textile machinery as a form of protest. The group was protesting against the use of machinery in a "fraudulent and deceitful manner" to get around standard labour practices. Luddites feared that the time spent learning the skills of their craft would go to waste, as machines would replace their role in the industry. Over time, however, the term has come to mean one opposed to industrialisation, automation, computerisation, or new technologies in general. The Luddite movement began in Nottingham at a time in England and culminated in a region-wide rebellion that lasted from 1811 to 1816. Mill and factory owners took to shooting protesters and eventually the movement was suppressed with legal and military force.Miracles (Insane Clown Posse song)
"Miracles" is a song written by Insane Clown Posse and Mike E. Clark for Bang! Pow! Boom!, the duo's 2009 album. A music video was produced for the 2010 reissue of the album, dubbed the "Nuclear Edition". The song's lyrics focus on things experienced in everyday life and displaying an appreciation for them. It has become perhaps the duo's best-known song. The song's music video has gone viral and sparked a handful of memes, and was parodied on Saturday Night Live and by Lonely Island in the song "Incredible Thoughts".Mohammed Yusuf (Boko Haram)
Mohammed Yusuf (29 January 1970 – 30 July 2009), also known as Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf, was a Nigerian Muslim sect leader and founder of the militant Islamist group Boko Haram in 2002. He was its spiritual leader until he was killed in the 2009 Boko Haram uprising. The group's official name is Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad, which in Arabic means "People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad".Born in Girgir village, in Jakusko, present-day Yobe State, Nigeria, Yusuf received a local education. Later he studied more of Islam and became a Salafi.Paul Feyerabend
Paul Karl Feyerabend (; German: [ˈfaɪɐˌʔaːbn̩t]; January 13, 1924 – February 11, 1994) was an Austrian-born philosopher of science best known for his work as a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, where he worked for three decades (1958–1989). At various different points in his life, he lived in England, the United States, New Zealand, Italy, Germany, and finally Switzerland. His major works include Against Method (published in 1975), Science in a Free Society (published in 1978) and Farewell to Reason (a collection of papers published in 1987). Feyerabend became famous for his purportedly anarchistic view of science and his rejection of the existence of universal methodological rules. He was an influential figure in the sociology of scientific knowledge. Asteroid (22356) Feyerabend is named in his honour.Scientism
Scientism is an ideology that promotes science as the purportedly objective means by which society should determine normative and epistemological values. The term scientism is generally used critically, pointing to the cosmetic application of science in unwarranted situations not amenable to application of the scientific method or similar scientific standards.
In the philosophy of science, the term scientism frequently implies a critique of the more extreme expressions of logical positivism and has been used by social scientists such as Friedrich Hayek, philosophers of science such as Karl Popper, and philosophers such as Hilary Putnam and Tzvetan Todorov to describe (for example) the dogmatic endorsement of scientific methodology and the reduction of all knowledge to only that which is measured or confirmatory.More generally, scientism is often interpreted as science applied "in excess". The term scientism has two senses:
The improper usage of science or scientific claims. This usage applies equally in contexts where science might not apply, such as when the topic is perceived as beyond the scope of scientific inquiry, and in contexts where there is insufficient empirical evidence to justify a scientific conclusion. It includes an excessive deference to the claims of scientists or an uncritical eagerness to accept any result described as scientific. This can be a counterargument to appeals to scientific authority. It can also address the attempt to apply "hard science" methodology and claims of certainty to the social sciences, which Friedrich Hayek described in The Counter-Revolution of Science (1952) as being impossible, because that methodology involves attempting to eliminate the "human factor", while social sciences (including his own field of economics) center almost purely on human action.
"The belief that the methods of natural science, or the categories and things recognized in natural science, form the only proper elements in any philosophical or other inquiry", or that "science, and only science, describes the world as it is in itself, independent of perspective" with a concomitant "elimination of the psychological [and spiritual] dimensions of experience". Tom Sorell provides this definition: "Scientism is a matter of putting too high a value on natural science in comparison with other branches of learning or culture." Philosophers such as Alexander Rosenberg have also adopted "scientism" as a name for the view that science is the only reliable source of knowledge.It is also sometimes used to describe universal applicability of the scientific method and approach, and the view that empirical science constitutes the most authoritative worldview or the most valuable part of human learning—to the complete exclusion of other viewpoints, such as historical, philosophical, economic or cultural worldviews. It has been defined as "the view that the characteristic inductive methods of the natural sciences are the only source of genuine factual knowledge and, in particular, that they alone can yield true knowledge about man and society". The term scientism is also used by historians, philosophers, and cultural critics to highlight the possible dangers of lapses towards excessive reductionism in all fields of human knowledge.For social theorists in the tradition of Max Weber, such as Jürgen Habermas and Max Horkheimer, the concept of scientism relates significantly to the philosophy of positivism, but also to the cultural rationalization for modern Western civilization. British writer Sara Maitland has called scientism a "myth as pernicious as any sort of fundamentalism."The Monsanto Years
The Monsanto Years is a studio album by Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young and American rock group Promise of the Real, released on June 29, 2015 on Reprise Records. A concept album criticizing the agribusiness Monsanto, it is Young's thirty-fifth studio album and the third by Promise of the Real. The group is fronted by Willie Nelson's son Lukas, and the album also features Lukas' brother Micah.The album was produced by both Young and John Hanlon, and is accompanied by a film documenting the recording process.The Non-GMO Project
The Non-GMO Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focusing on genetically modified organisms. The organization began as an initiative of independent natural foods retailers in the U.S. and Canada, with the stated aim to label products produced in compliance with their Non-GMO Project Standard, which aims to prevent genetically modified foodstuffs from being present in retail food products. The organization is headquartered in Bellingham, Washington. The Non-GMO label began use in 2012 with Numi Organic Tea products.The Secret Life of Plants
The Secret Life of Plants (1973) is a book by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird. The book documents controversial experiments that claim to reveal unusual phenomena regarding plants such as plant sentience, discovered through experimentation. It goes on to discuss philosophies and progressive farming methods based on these findings. The book was heavily criticized by scientists for promoting pseudoscientific claims.Time Cube
Time Cube was a personal web page, founded in 1997 by the self-proclaimed "wisest man on earth", Otis Eugene "Gene" Ray. It was a self-published outlet for Ray's theory of everything, called "Time Cube", which claims that all modern sciences are participating in a worldwide conspiracy to teach lies, by omitting his theory's alleged truth that each day actually consists of four days. Alongside these statements, Ray described himself as a "godlike being with superior intelligence who has absolute evidence and proof" for his views. Ray asserted repeatedly and variously that "academia" had not taken Time Cube seriously.Otis Eugene Ray died on March 18, 2015 at the age of 87. Ray's website domain names expired in August 2015, and Time Cube was last archived by the Wayback Machine on January 12, 2016. (January 10–14) An accurate mirror of the site is currently being hosted and maintained as of 2019.