Is High Science Scientific?

This article will define something called high science and ask whether it really has the qualities we expect of science in general.

High science exists in two forms and they are related. High science can be science which involves large and costly experimental projects. For example, experiments which depend on access to the Large Hadron Collider would fall into this category of high science.

This form of science is arguably unscientific because science classically depends on falsifiability and verifiability through the replication of experiments. However, massive replication is not feasible when there is an extreme barrier to entry to perform the experiment. Ordinary people do not have access to the LHC.

This is related to crowd economics or markets of information. When an idea is accessible to decentralized crowds or people or markets we can depend on accurate selection of information. This depends on low barriers to entry. When information is only accessible to an elite we run into problems. Such problems include calculation problems, problems of oligopoly, collusion, or market power, undiluted bias effects and large error terms due to small sample size, and more.

The second form of high science is science which is extremely theoretical. This is related to the costly projects because they often involve the field of physics. Physics is at times so abstract that it is no longer a matter of experiment, or it is no longer falsifiable or verifiable. Two examples of such theoretical physics include string theory and quantum mechanics:

  • The current Wikipedia article on string theory states, “It is widely believed that any theory of quantum gravity would require extremely high energies to probe directly, higher by orders of magnitude than those that current experiments such as the Large Hadron Collider can attain.”
  • Interpretations of quantum mechanics range include fully deterministic interpretations, ie De Broglie-Bohm theory or Bohmian mechanics, partially deterministic interpretations, and fully indeterministic interpretations. Which one is right? It’s currently and may continue to be impossible to know because there is no accepted scientific method of attributing determinism.
    • There are also other non-testable claims related to aspects of quantum theory other than determinism. Regarding quantum interference, for example, P.A.M. Dirac claimed “Each photon then interferes only with itself. Interference between two different photons never occurs.” That claim is fundamentally untestable because a particular or unique photon can only be observed once.

In conclusion, in order for scientific research to produce more accurate, more trustworthy, and more scientific results we should focus on making High Science crowd-oriented. This can be accomplished through technological innovation which improves access to items like the LHC and by reducing intellectual barriers to entry such as the peer review system and making the education system more market-oriented and less the subject of government control.


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