måndag 6 oktober 2014
Have science stagnated?
What does "getting science going again" mean? In what sense have science stagnated? After all, lots of discoveries are announced, and lots of technological progress is done. However, all dramatic technological progress is made in areas where improved technology for purely practical reasons allows the construction of even better technology, without any new theoretical physics. Computers getting faster at an accelerating rate is the best example of this. The scientific discoveries made today are very limited in practical use, hardly ever producing any new practically useful predictions distinct from those of older theories. The theoretical physics used in modern technology (such as relativity and quantum mechanics) was originally discovered back in the days when pre-publication peer review was seen as optional (not as the official definition of scientific evidence) and the peer review journals that did exist lacked policies against redundant publication. While computers make massive progress due to purely practical improvement, medicine (as shown by average lifespan) makes progress at a much more modest rate. Medicine is approved by a trial and error type experiments under the control of authorities distinct from peer review, slowed down by patents but having no equivalent of the permanent snubbing caused by peer review redundant publication policies. But even that is much more progressive than the directly theoretical science-dependent field of spaceflight. Spaceflight technology have hardly progressed at all since shortly after world war 2, that is, since the tradition of viewing pre-publication peer review as the definition of science began and peer review journals instated the first policies against redundant publication. So far from supporting the assertion that peer review should be the cause of modern progress, the profile of what fields progress the most and what fields progress the least directly contradicts it. So the truth is: peer review as we know it is bad for science.