Is This the End of Science?
Tibi Puiu is a science writer whose job it is to report on new findings. By doing this he lays out what many have begun to suspect, and why.
The question is this; is it the end of science as we know it.
While it is true that more research papers are published now than ever before; here is the thing though.
First a look at the figures; there has been an increase of almost 10% year on year in the number of research papers that are published.
In the biomedical field alone this amounts to more than a million papers each year. Or two studies per minute.
The degree to which a study departs from prior literature to render it obsolete is the basis of science; and is what is known as disruptiveness.
And the verdict is out; the ‘disruptiveness’ of contemporary science has decreased so much so that research is no longer considered worth the paper it is typed on.
Does this mean that science has reached the end of the road?
As Puiu puts it; is science going through an existential crisis?
Despite a tenfold increase in US government spending on science; it appears we are getting less and less value for our money all the time.
Good Reason for Pessimism.
The pessimism is clear in an open-access paper in the science Journal Nature.
Recent decades have seen rapid growth in the volume of new scientific knowledge, creating conditions that should be ripe for major advances. Though this has not been the case.
Instead the studies suggest progress is slowing down in several major fields.
We find that papers and patents are increasingly less likely to break with the past in ways that push science in new directions.
Research papers and patents are not breaking new ground and this is the bottom line.
There is even a metric, the CD Index 12, to measure the least disruptive work to the most disruptive.
Researchers have been taken back to learn that the average CD index declined by more than 90% between 1945 and 2010; this as far as research papers go.
Back in 1996 prominent research writer John Horgan warned that such a time was near.
He said; seeing how far science has already come, and given the limits constraining further research, science will be hard-pressed to make any profound additions to the knowledge it has already gained.
But his reasoning was funny in a funny kind of way.
“… Evolutionary biology keeps reminding us we are animals, designed by natural selection. We are not here to discover the deep truths of nature. We are designed for breeding.”
It is all beyond our ken is what he says. So why worry. Science is winding down because there is little more for mere breeding animals to discover.
It is all in his book titled The end of Science; Facing the Limits of Knowledge in the Twilight of the Scientific Age.
He makes it clear later on that the current materialistic paradigm holds the answer to all our questions.
Of course his thesis was not popular at the time due to him implying that materialism is a barrier to the acquiring of knowledge.
But materialism (nature is all there is) presents a twofold problem. First it can be an absolute limit because it is true or it can be a self-imposed one because it is assumed to be true; but is not.
Another Scientist weighs Forth.
He says; Science is definitely going through an existential crisis. I have written papers or proposals in a half-dozen fields, and nearly all of them are in some sort of stasis or doldrums.
What he says next is interesting. NASA had been captured by politics and it is politics that determine the grants and papers and satellites; and it applies in all fields of the sciences. Indeed this would be true whenever special interest groups put up the funding.
The fruitless search for the Universe having dark matter could be tied to federal funding; he cites in one example.
Said one; government funding is where science goes to die.
Others say science ended with peer review with its goal to set the narrative.
It is both would be my guess.