Science as a Public Good


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Ba'al Chatzaf wrote [Richard Feynman. Part of the problem... - 8/13/2013 07:47 PM] :

"You go work on a unified theory. I will not hold my breath until (1) you come up with one that passes peer review muster and (2) is corroborated by experiment. Until then all you have are unsubstantiated claims. If you do not publish and it is not peer review it does not count."

Implicit in this philosophy of science is the economic philosophical view that science is a public good. More concisely science does not exist apart from approval of those who control the orthodox view - in the present case the state.

The Internet and private publishing allows information to disperse more freely and quickly than journal publication ever has in the history of science. A wider group of peers are available to review the work - including the subset the orthodoxy approved as "peers" suitable for "peer review". Journals exclude work already in the public domain - thus limiting their approved orthodox medium for peer review to new work - even as old work in the public domain escapes approved peer review [in theory]. In practice work of interest that has escaped "proper" peer review will be restated [in some cases without credit] in a proper journal then peer reviewed.

What is the view of the state concerning science as a public good? Get funding from the state and the state decides what is and what is not a public good. Science is a public good if the state sees no immediate benefit to itself. Science is a commodity to be traded for prestige, position, influence, wealth, money for campaign funding, and power if there is immediate application. Science is a trade secret of the state in many cases - a more valuable commodity jealously guarded from the public.

It seems the state gets to decide what is science for its own benefit but individualists who disagree about science necessarily being a public good are not engaged in science by definition.

This all sounds a great deal more like a difference of economic and political philosophy than matters of science.

Even more interesting is when the state engages in fraudulent science for political purposes. But since they fund the judges and juries of what constitutes "peer reviewed" science it becomes science by state definition.

I prefer science rely on the scientific method - not state approval.

Dennis

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Semantically "public good" does not imply state funding. Note that knowlege is listed as an example of a public good here.

Incidentally, this book considers science as a collective endeavor. The only customer review at the link is mine.

You are correct public good does not imply state funding, in our present context state funding dominates science and science education. Wikipedia lists knowledge as an example of what some people regard as a public good among others listed - then in the text explains how some take exception to items on that list. They also state that "a public good's status may change over time."

From your review:

"The rationality of natural science and other collective disciplines are not intrinsically only about logic, narrowly speaking."

Science does not become a public good until the individual [or small group] decides to allow the collective access to science created by the individual [or small group]. What might begin as a trade secret [private or government] might later become public knowledge but proprietary or compartmentalized in detail, which might later become fully known public knowledge.

Knowledge and knowledge products that are a public good in one nation might still be barred from export to other nations or barred in certain contexts within a nation.

Assuming science is a collective endeavor presumes a uniform collectivist intent - that is far from how real economics works. Progress in science often depends upon reward systems that fail - leading to lost knowledge as the individual has no incentive to pass information to the public. Newton's work - among others - nearly ended up as lost knowledge. Some knowledge is lost for a generation or generations when funding is not available [invention of radio communication].

Science, science education, and economics are all intertwined. When the economics fail - science can remain an individual endeavor never reaching the collective - never becoming a public good.

Dennis

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Assuming science is a collective endeavor presumes a uniform collectivist intent - that is far from how real economics works.

That is not the kind of collective endeavor Toulmin and I meant. Different scientists have different intentions, and most or all utilize the work of others, living and deceased.

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Assuming science is a collective endeavor presumes a uniform collectivist intent - that is far from how real economics works.

That is not the kind of collective endeavor Toulmin and I meant. Different scientists have different intentions, and most or all utilize the work of others, living and deceased.

The use of the term collective - in any sense of the term - is unfortunate in this discussion since the intention of collectivists and their economic models is part of the problem. Collectivists always want to throw out the needs of the individual and speak of the collective. Certainly knowledge happens in a social context. Certainly knowledge builds upon knowledge generated by others within this social context.

I reject the notion that science or knowledge is automatically a public good - slippery slope speak of a "collective" product is loaded language and should be avoided at all costs. I'm sure you didn't mean it but someone spending the time to write an entire book should know better unless they live in an echo chamber and don't know any better or they are part of the problem.

Dennis

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I reject the notion that science or knowledge is automatically a public good - slippery slope speak of a "collective" product is loaded language and should be avoided at all costs. I'm sure you didn't mean it but someone spending the time to write an entire book should know better unless they live in an echo chamber and don't know any better or they are part of the problem.

As I recall Toulmin's book says nothing about "public goods." The fourth paragraph of my review (Collective understanding is achieved via individuals ...) indicates his use of "collective."

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