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Will This Proposal “Fix Science”?

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Cory Clark and Philip Tetlock, both at the University of Pennsylvania, explain, “In Bed with the Enemy: How to Fix Science.” They advocate “adversarial collaborations.”

Adversarial collaborations (henceforth, adcollab), is a methodological procedure in which disagreeing scholars work with each other rather than against each other to resolve their empirical dispute.

First, adversaries must articulate their disagreement in terms that both sides find accurate. This eliminates the use of wishy-washy disagreement language that scholars use to make big claims with little accountability. This also prevents scholars from only confronting the strawman version of their opponent’s perspective. In our experience, these initial conversations often cause adversaries to retreat from the bailey to their motte, to realize that their opponent’s views are much more nuanced than they previously thought, and consequently, to discover that the disagreement is much smaller than previously thought.

Second, adversaries must mutually design methods that both sides consider a fair and unbiased test of their competing hypotheses. This eliminates cherry-picking of methodological procedures designed to confirm preferred hypotheses. And this eliminates the ability for scholars to design methods that can only confirm preferred hypotheses while writing off failed tests as studies that simply did not “work”. Scholars must commit a priori to the diagnosticity of the study and agree that contradictory findings would at least cast some doubt on their preferred hypothesis. In our experience, this step leads scholars to develop far more rigorous methods as each side vetoes the blatantly rigged procedures that their opponents prefer. And this leads to more efficient tests because the results are informative no matter how they turn out.

Third, adversaries must mutually write and publish the results. This eliminates the possibility of excessively broad claims. Each adversary serves as a check on their opponent to make sure the claims are duly circumspect. Such reports will be less likely to forward unwarranted promises that lead other scholars, policymakers, and interventionists down expensive dead ends.

There are many, many ways that science has stopped functioning. Certainly, one of them is that it incentivizes the wrong things. But after reading this article, and considering their proposal, ask yourself if any Darwinist would co-write an article with an ID person. In fact, in our woke culture, ask yourself whether merely talking politely to an adversary would not taint one’s career. I have seen events cancelled because the speaker knew somebody who knew somebody on the black list. 

The reasons they give for “adcollabs” apply to people with a few scientific disagreements, but an overall philosophical agreement. Once the gulf gets too wide, I’m afraid that diplomacy doesn’t work too well. Right now, ID is the disenfranchised minority, and for a mainstream Darwinist to submit to an “adcollab” would damage their career while enhancing the ID proponent’s career. Until that perception is removed, until ID has enough clout, until ID isn’t culturally despised, diplomacy will never occur.