Why Optionality makes more sense than Science
Abstract: This article argues that optionality makes more sense than science as an approach to deal not only with socio-economic problems, but also with what are generally described by scientists and many others as natural or supernatural phenomena. This article is part of a series of articles on the Debate about Science that also includes the article The Case against Science.
A. Optionality and Science
There are many examples of socio-economic issues that cannot be adequately dealt with by conventional solutions, such as raising more tax to subsidize specific groups or sectors. The failure of such government-centred intervention has been shown by many economic theories, social realities and ethical principles.
This magazine has, since January 1991, advocated optionality as the better approach to deal with such issues. Many readers have asked about the scientific background behind the articles; they expect footnotes with references to scientific research to back up any claim of substance.
The point is, however, that optionality is not a scientific theory; it cannot be, since optionality and science are to a large extent incompatible. The reason for this is that science is essentially a search for knowledge, a search for laws that are universally valid. This point has been discussed many times, e.g. in the article Science: The failed Search for the Universal Truth, first published in the August 1991 issue of this magazine. Optionality rejects the concept of a universal law.
Scientific researchers are specialists, who start with an idea that they possess a lot of knowledge in their area, but admit uncertainty in a subset of their area, perceived by them as a lack of knowledge. This uncertainty is regarded as something temporarily, that they will overcome. They start with little purpose or reason to do research in the first place, except for a drive to fill this supposed gap in their knowledge. Scientific researchers argue to produce knowledge, certainty and even purpose and reason, but time and again their models turn out to raise further questions, show even more "uncertainty", to the extent that one can question whether the total amount of "scientific knowledge" is increasing. In this magazine, optionality presents itself as a superior model, a better approach and attitude than the scientific quest to find one law that is always and universally valid.
B. Let's have a Debate!
This magazine has always encouraged debate, especially debate on such a fundamental issue as the validity of science.
Therefore, everybody who feels capable of defending science is welcome to submit contributions for publication in this magazine. "Scientists" are invited to comment and to state their case. People who agree that optionality makes more sense than science are similarly invited to respond. Instead of merely issuing such contributions as Letters to the Editor, as usual, a special series of articles could evolve out of this. Of course, all authors can keep all rights they have to their writings, meaning that for any follow-up publication of, say, a book with the joint articles, a new agreement will have to be negotiated with the authors.
This is not a debate between scientists and creationists or charlatans (see the Appendix to this article). This is also not a debate that can be settled in court, as the Justice System is full of prejudice towards singularity and certainty. Furthermore, such a debate should not be seen as a "scientific debate" in which scientists analyze each other's theories and research findings. It is Science itself that is under debate and one can question the ability of a scientist to participate in such a debate under a cloak of objectivity. Generally, only a small group of scientists, in areas such as ethics and philosophy, have dared to question science itself.
Note that no prize money is promised for a "winning" view. The only thing that those who send in contributions may gain at this stage is respect of other contributors and of readers in general. For the "true scientist", the debate in itself should be as rewarding as it is for others to hear about optionality.
Appendix. Does Science only allow debate on its own terms?
There have been various organizations in the past that analyzed paranormal phenomena such as telepathy, telekinese and predicting the future. The committee of the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal has been doing this for some twenty years. Its Australian branch, called the Australian Sceptics has promised prize money of $100,000 to anyone who could demonstrate, under scientific scrutiny, any paranormal ability. The fact that, to date, nobody seems to have survived the test of scientific scrutiny is often argued to prove science's superiority. An interesting case is the courtcase between scientist Ian Plimer and creationist Allan Roberts, in which Ian fights Allan's claims to have found the Ark of Noah. Would a court finding in favor of Ian establish science as a greater truth than the bible? Does science really have all the answers?
Is science not merely a chameleon, embracing anything that does pass its scrutiny tests, claiming that it turned out to be not a paranormal, but a scientific phenomenon after all? "If you cannot win, make them join you", seems the motto of scientists. The question is: are there any terms under which science allows itself to be scrutinised? Or is science to be accepted as the gospel? Can we debate this?