Monday, January 16, 2012


There are no such things as scientists. There are only astronomers, physicists, chemists, biologists, and, arguably, historians. As well as their hyphenated progeny, such as biochemistry and astrophysics. Maybe even, and more arguably, economists and climatologists.

A compelling case for this statement has been made by Steven Shapin, a professor of the history of science at Harvard. “There is no such thing as the Scientific Revolution, and this is a book about it,” he writes at the outset of his aptly-named The Scientific Revolution (1996). If you were taken aback by this statement, you might say something like this: But all these sciences operate according to the scientific method! To which Shapin has replied, “We are now much more dubious of claims that there is anything like ‘a scientific method’—a coherent, universal, and efficacious set of procedures for making scientific knowledge. . . .”

A compelling case for this reply was already set forth by the late Paul Feyerabend—a philosopher of science—in his collection of thoughts in Against Method (1975). But that is another matter.

My reason for riding this pair of horses, a grudge against using the “generic” word scientists and a fillipic against the appeal to something called the scientific method, is that they are not only wrong but also treacherous. Specifically: they dupe the unwary who wander among the arguments over global warming.

About which, see my next post.