Jim Manzi, a CEO of a software company and former CEO of Lotus Development Corp, writes a thought provoking piece in NRO called "Science Without Experiments." Manzi unpacks the term â€œintegrated complexity,â€ which is used to describe certain fields of science that are resistant to falsification.
While some fields of science lend themselves well to proving claims through falsification and experimentation, the science we care most about does not. It is dominated by highly complex, highly interconnected systems. These fields of science rely on dueling models rather than experiments. Examples include environmental science, systems science and epidemiology. These are also the areas of science that more and more influence public policy.
Because of the probablistic nature of these sciences, scientists are highly vulnerable to reaching conclusions driven by their worldview, or as Manzi phrases it, their â€œunconscious bias.â€
Serious scientists in fields dominated by integrated complexity are constantly trying to develop methods for testing hypotheses, but the absence of decisive experiments makes it much easier for groupthink to take hold. A much larger proportion of scientists self-identify as liberal than conservative, so when scientific questions of integrated complexity impinge on important political questions, the opportunities for unconscious bias are pretty obvious. Hasty conservative political pushback (e.g., â€œglobal warming is a hoaxâ€) naturally creates further alienation between these politicians and scientists. The scientists then find political allies who have political reasons for accepting their conclusions; consequently, many conservatives come to see these scientists as pseudo-objective partisans. This sets up a vicious cycle. Unfortunately, thatâ€™s where we find ourselves now in far too many areas.