A schematic showing the Kuhnian model of scientific revolutions.
The Khunian model of scientific revolutions. Based on Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, this image courtesy of this excellent Sprightly Pedagogue discussion of Kuhn.

Science isn’t making strides like before — Guess it’s all figured out then!

Julia Mossbridge, PhD

--

Turns out science is getting boring. Less innovative. Fewer disruptions in our understanding of the universe. Russell Funk and Michael Park at University of Minnesota and Erin Leahey at University of Arizona studied this problem and were able to get their results published in Nature — the upshot is that it’s a real problem, and they don’t know why. It’s certainly not because everything is all figured out.

The article alludes to several explanations, but I think I know one that is not being considered — or at least never made it to the final Nature paper. Specifically, I’m talking about a two-part problem: Taboo against the edge sciences AND a lack of inclusion of humanities scholars in scientific collaborations. I think these two problems stem from a single origin — scientists forgetting that the goal of science is to make better models and be wrong a lot — so we can be in a place of discovery.

I think these two problems stem from a single origin — scientists forgetting that the goal of science is to make better models and be wrong a lot — so we can be in a place of discovery.

What are Edge Sciences? These are the cutting-edge fields that we’re not taught about in high school and college science courses, because they’re not settled science (and because, for various reasons, science education still mostly focuses on what’s known rather than what’s yet to be discovered).

Examples: Mind-matter interactions, alternative dimensions, time travel, psychic abilities, UAP, cold fusion, ball lightning, alternative propulsion, etc.

Like most scientific fields, many of these fields may not bear fruit in the areas expected by the scientists investigating them. But they will create disruptive discoveries just by virtue of being under-accepted fields of inquiry. If funding were increased to these fields, the number of disruptive discoveries would also increase.

What do the humanities have to do with science? The second problem I see is that we’ve decided that science is some kind of monolithic God-like entity that “knows” things and can dictate policy based on what it knows. The “I believe in science” statement put on lawn signs reflects this idea that has emerged over the last two decades.

Bertrand Russell photo and his quote, “The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd.”

It puts scientists in the position of having to “stick” to their conclusions, even though the goal of every scientist should be to prove ourselves wrong and move toward an even better theory of the natural world and our place in it.

By accepting this position of power, scientists lose our desire to discover and instead inherit the recent cultural desire to be right and maintain power. This also means dismissing contributions from the humanities — contributions that can lead us toward better experiments and improved interpretations of our results.

Just saying — a huge overhaul of the culture of science, the integration and proliferation of responsible edge science projects, and the re-integration of the humanities in science could help us scientists move into a humbler place, where once again we are excited to be wrong.

Still photo of the author speaking with interviewer Tim Ventura
Tim Ventura interviewed me about some of these ideas, among others, and posted the interview on Jan 14, 2023. Here’s a link to the full interview: https://tinyurl.com/ROSHmovement

What can help? There’s a fledgling international movement that I like to call ROSH for Reintegration of the Sciences & Humanities. It has its roots in the impressionist movement, and it’s already begun (even if the name is new).

The impressionist movement can be thought to have begun in 1874, in an alternative meeting/showing in opposition to the Académie des Beaux-Arts’ Salon de Paris, the organization which had established since 1667 which artists were accepted into the fine arts circles of the day. The showing included works that were rejected by the Salon de Paris. The group of artists called themselves “The Cooperative and Anonymous Association of Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers” — in a clear attempt to support a field through unity rather than separation.

The group of artists called themselves “The Cooperative and Anonymous Association of Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers” — in a clear attempt to support a field through unity rather than separation.

Similarly, this movement to reintegrate the sciences and humanities (ROSH) in a bid to reinvigorate humble discovery began “out loud” in the fall of 2022 when scientists and humanities scholars gathered together at the inaugural Elkana Forum meeting to work towards a broader understanding of the current priorities in their fields and their future potential unfoldment. The meeting was held at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, arguably the perfect parallel to the Académie des Beaux-Arts in terms of its international influence on which fields, scientists and scholars are accepted into the academic elite.

A core enthusiastic group of participants and supporters emerged from the Elkana Forum meeting who began to strategize about the need to reintegrate the sciences and the humanities in an effort to shift the current tendencies of separation and isolation of the fields. The ROSH project arose from the enthusiasm and intention of this group.

Some of us got together to make this set of statements:

We are scientists and humanities scholars who reject established norms of as well as trends towards…

  • Exchanging the soul of science for cultural power.
  • Using science as a bully pulpit to shame, coerce, or dominate.
  • Pretending science allows certainty about facts.
  • Assigning career, funding, and status credit to individual scientists rather than the large teams required for their work.
  • Ignoring the fact that all people use intuition to make decisions.
  • Ignoring the consequences of scientific and technological developments for the future thriving of sentient beings.
  • Educating students that science is the only correct way of knowing.

We support and seek to establish norms or and emerging trends towards…

  • Nurturing and nourishing the souls of scientists and humanities scholars so we can together serve humanity and the planet with our work.
  • Gaining integrated knowledge in a fully engaged partnership between the sciences and the humanities.
  • Recognizing that the usefulness of the scientific method rests in uncertainty, constant evolution and progression of models.
  • Assigning career, funding and status credit to fields that function toward the benefit of human and planetary thriving.
  • Actively seeding training in balancing intuition and reason to support integrated creativity and inspired scientific and scholarly programs.
  • Focusing on and studying the possible humanitarian and planetary consequences of scientific and technological developments.
  • Educating our students that science is one way of knowing that can lead to emotional, cultural, and spiritual emptiness without integration of the humanities.

We plan to work toward these goals by…

  • First and foremost, supporting integrated knowledge between the sciences and the humanities, so that in the future such integration becomes mainstream and obvious.
  • Establishing, growing, and maintaining this movement to bring attention to the growing number of scientists recognizing these issues.
  • Making models and visioning new versions of academic organization that will arise from ROSH principles.
  • Testing, refining, and harvesting the creative, spiritual and scholarly fruits of the ROSH movement.

This kind of movement can revitalize science and the scientific method, as well as science education. It can also help address the cultural taboo around edge sciences and allow us to return to our our roots as scientists who love discovery — while we are informed by our fellow scholars in the humanities.

How to join? We are just starting it now. You can complete this survey to be notified of our first public meeting.

Contacts: You can reach Dr. Mossbridge on LinkedIn, and one of the key co-founders of the ROSH movement is Dr. Katja Krause (Elkana Forum, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Technical University Berlin).

--

--

Julia Mossbridge, PhD

Affiliate Prof., Dept. of Physics and Biophysics at U. San Diego; Treasurer, The Institute for Love and Time (TILT); Sr. Consultant, TangibleIQ