Conservatism and the Scientific State of Nature

Published on Dec 1, 2016in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science1.768
· DOI :10.1093/bjps/axv013
Erich Kummerfeld5
Estimated H-index: 5
(CMU: Carnegie Mellon University),
Kevin J. S. Zollman16
Estimated H-index: 16
(CMU: Carnegie Mellon University)
Those who comment on modern scientific institutions are often quick to praise institutional structures that leave scientists to their own devices. These comments reveal an underlying presumption that scientists do best when left alone – when they operate in what we call the scientific state of nature. Through computer simulation, we challenge this presumption by illustrating an inefficiency that arises in the scientific state of nature. This inefficiency suggests that one cannot simply presume that science is most efficient when institutional control is absent. In some situations actively encouraging unpopular, risky science would improve scientific outcomes. ∗The authors would like to thank Liam Bright, P. Kyle Stanford, several anonymous referees, and audiences at conferences in Montreal, Nancy, and Pittsburgh for their helpful comments and suggestions. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. SES 1026586. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
  • References (13)
  • Citations (13)
📖 Papers frequently viewed together
87 Citations
102 Citations
255 Citations
78% of Scinapse members use related papers. After signing in, all features are FREE.
#1Conor Mayo-WilsonH-Index: 4
#2Kevin J. S. ZollmanH-Index: 16
Last. David DanksH-Index: 15
view all 3 authors...
Several philosophers of science have argued that epistemically rational individuals might form epistemically irrational groups and that, conversely, rational groups might be composed of irrational individuals. We call the conjunction of these two claims the Independence Thesis, as they entail that methodological prescriptions for scientific communities and those for individual scientists are logically independent. We defend the inconsistency thesis by characterizing four criteria for epistemic r...
24 CitationsSource
#1Kevin J. S. Zollman (CMU: Carnegie Mellon University)H-Index: 16
102 CitationsSource
6 CitationsSource
#1Kevin J. S. Zollman (UCI: University of California, Irvine)H-Index: 16
87 CitationsSource
#1Vannevar BushH-Index: 17
634 Citations
#1Andrew G. BartoH-Index: 1
2,704 Citations
#1Venkatesh Bala (McGill University)H-Index: 13
#2Sanjeev Goyal (EUR: Erasmus University Rotterdam)H-Index: 33
When payoffs from different actions are unknown, agents use their own past experience as well as the experience of their neighbours to guide their decision making. In this paper, we develop a general framework to study the relationship between the structure of these neighbourhoods and the process of social learning. We show that, in a connected society, local learning ensures that all agents obtain the same payoffs in the long run. Thus, if actions have different payoffs, then all agents choose ...
496 CitationsSource
#1Leslie Pack Kaelbling (Brown University)H-Index: 51
#2Michael L. Littman (Brown University)H-Index: 65
Last. Andrew W. Moore (CMU: Carnegie Mellon University)H-Index: 53
view all 3 authors...
This paper surveys the field of reinforcement learning from a computer-science perspective. It is written to be accessible to researchers familiar with machine learning. Both the historical basis of the field and a broad selection of current work are summarized. Reinforcement learning is the problem faced by an agent that learns behavior through trial-and-error interactions with a dynamic environment. The work described here has a resemblance to work in psychology, but differs considerably in th...
4,774 CitationsSource
#1Philip KitcherH-Index: 41
Improved dental restorative cements are prepared from a new class of methacrylate monomer 1,3-bis [2,3-di(methacryloxy)-propoxy]-benzene (RGTMA). When the monomer is utilized as a binder for inorganic filler materials such as silane-treated crystal quartz filler, composite dental restoratives having substantially improved compressive strength and related physical strength properties are produced.
667 Citations
#2Donald A. BerryH-Index: 69
Last. Bert FristedtH-Index: 15
view all 3 authors...
561 Citations
Cited By13
#1Cailin O'ConnorH-Index: 6
Scientists are generally subject to social pressures, including pressures to conform with others in their communities, that affect achievement of their epistemic goals. Here we analyze a network epistemology model in which agents, all else being equal, prefer to take actions that conform with those of their neighbors. This preference for conformity interacts with the agents' beliefs about which of two (or more) possible actions yields the better result. We �find a range of possible outcomes, inc...
1 CitationsSource
#1Baptiste Bedessem (Ca' Foscari University of Venice)
The issue of the conservatism of scientific research questions the nature and the role of the internal and external forces controlling the emergence of new research questions or problems, the exploration of risky directions of research, or the use of risky research methods. This issue has recently gained a new framing in connection with the growing importance of the peer-review process and of the social and economic pressures weighing on the funding of scientific research. Current literature the...
#1Igor Douven (University of Paris)H-Index: 3
Abstract We study groups of interacting agents who are trying to discover probabilistic truths on the basis of sequentially provided evidence and information about the belief states of other group members. The main research question is which combination of epistemic principles—combinations of an evidential update rule, a rule for determining peerhood, and a rule for aggregating probability functions—such groups should adopt to strike the best balance between being fast and being accurate, where ...
1 CitationsSource
#1Cailin O'Connor (UCI: University of California, Irvine)H-Index: 6
Social epistemologists have argued that high risk, high reward science has an important role to play in scientific communities. Recently, though, it has also been argued that various scientific fields seem to be trending towards conservatism---the increasing production of what Kuhn (1970) might have called `normal science'. This paper will explore a possible explanation for this sort of trend: that the process by which scientific research groups form, grow, and dissolve might be inherently hosti...
#1Daniel Frey (Heidelberg University)H-Index: 4
#2Dunja Šešelja (LMU: Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich)H-Index: 6
The paper presents an agent-based model (ABM) of scientific interaction aimed at examining how different degrees of connectedness of scientists impact their efficiency in knowledge acquisition. The model is built on the basis of Zollman's (2010) ABM by changing some of its idealizing assumptions that concern the representation of the central notions underlying the model: epistemic success of the rivaling scientific theories, scientific interaction and the assessment in view of which scientists c...
5 CitationsSource
#1AnneMarie Borg (RUB: Ruhr University Bochum)H-Index: 4
#2Daniel Frey (Heidelberg University)H-Index: 4
Last. Christian Straßer (RUB: Ruhr University Bochum)H-Index: 9
view all 4 authors...
Recent studies of scientific interaction based on agent-based models (ABMs) suggest that a crucial factor conducive to efficient inquiry is what Zollman (2010) has dubbed ‘transient diversity’. It signifies a process in which a community engages in parallel exploration of rivaling theories lasting sufficiently long for the community to identify the best theory and to converge on it. But what exactly generates transient diversity? And is transient diversity a decisive factor when it comes to the ...
1 CitationsSource
1 CitationsSource
The question of the division of cognitive labor (DCL) has given rise to various models characterizing the way scientists should distribute their efforts. These models often consider the scientific community as a self-governed sphere constituted by rational agents making choices on the basis of fixed rules. Such models have recently been criticized for not taking into account the real mechanisms of science funding. Hence, the question of the utility of the DCL models in guiding science policy rem...