Our Professor closes the last meeting of his by treat us to lunch. It’s been a wonderful class for the entire semester. In Prof. Frank C.S Liu class he introduces us the school of thoughts. Among so many schools of thoughts, he acquainted the student for four epistemology which are positivism, scientific realism, pragmatism, and interpretivism. He illustrated the school of thoughts as a kingdom. I would like to summarize my impression to the kingdoms. The battle in the scientific world has been running for centuries, it’s not like smart people like to have a battle but it’s a way to acknowledge and acknowledging their existence. The battle not only in data analysis level but also in methods, methodology and epistemology level. How the scientific world become fragmented into hard science and soft science. Between quantitative versus qualitative. Between method driven versus data-driven versus problem driven versus theory driven.
The scientific world mostly drives by the curiosity the pursue knowledge to pursue the truth. And the knowledge depends on the eye of the beholder. One truth is not always a general truth, so many angle and perspective to see the truth. How you pursue the truth is also problematic. The observable and unobservable object has been a debate in the scientific world. How positivism, scientific realism, pragmatism, and interpretivism seek the truth is very different. Every kingdom has its own strength and weaknesses. How you can present the evidence become important, but not every school of thought seek another way of thinking approval to prove their beliefs. From positivism perspective, they pursue causality how far you can find the relationship among two (or more) different variables and present your evidence. For the scientific realism, they pursuing mechanism. Some scholars think scientific realism is an extension of positivism but with more complex or multiple causalities. Pragmatism is totally different from the two prior, it seeks for a solution. Pragmatism is not so eager to prove the new theory but how far theory can actually solve a problem. The theory is important for pragmatism if only the theory is useful. Interpretism is looking for meaning, they try to understand beneath the surface, a deeper understanding.
As I mentioned before every epistemology has their own strengths and weaknesses. They have their own beauty. The positivism predominant the scientific world because they generate the theory and among four they are the driving force to create a new theory. But sometime they easily to feel enough. Scientific realism is the opposite, they never feel enough, the level of curiosity was beyond average it makes them asking about the UFO when some people think it is not important to think about the outside world because we have a real problem in the Earth. Among four kingdoms, pragmatism is seldom to find because of the limited proper evidence from their scholar in producing an article. Pragmatism is quite overlooked, but it’s not important for them. They feel their real battle is to fix the real problem, not to generate a theory. Interpretism is also rare to find, but it is more accessible than the pragmatism, you can find their work mostly in the international relation field.
Does the battle is real? My answer is yes. You can find the battle in the way scholar attack each other through their work. It is so difficult for scientific realism to enter the positivism world if they can not convince they have proper solid evidence. Positivism assumes scientific realism is not responsible enough too present their curiosity. If you think the UFO is important enough to put that idea into people’s head then you should responsible enough to prove it, but sometimes it takes a decade to prove it and positivism does not have that patience to wait for the evidence. Imagine Galilei Galileo put to sentence because at that time he can not present that the world is round not flat.
On the other side, the scientific world needs this kind of competition because the competition is a healthy environment (before someone died for trying to prove something). The scholars will think a thousand time before they send the message or if they have the wrong message. And sometime researcher chooses not to present their findings because they realize the consequences of their theory. Imagine Einstein postpone to release his theory because he knew people can create a nuclear from his theory. This is scary for some scholars. And I as a new scholar trying to enter the scientific world is also a terrifying world. As a scientist, we can not avoid a pro and con of our work, and also there is no such thing as an ultimate theory or ultimate truth. As a scientist, we always need to aware and prepare to be replaced by new findings or new theory. The world is changing and present whole new evidence to the scientific world needs to be developed as the world is also dynamic. At some point scientist not prepare them self to criticize (including me) or being rejected by the community.
Some scholars try to suggest that scientist need to collaborate in seeks the truth. Quantitative collaborate with qualitative, empiricist cooperates with the theorist, natural science cooperates with social science and label them self just as science. Easy to say but not easy to apply. Even is science world scientist have a big ego. Trying to prove my theory is better than your theory, my evidence is proper than your evidence, something like that. And sometime scientist just closes their mind for a new idea. I guess this is the important critic for the scientist, they need to be open-minded all the time. Theories are the ideal representation of the world, but theories cannot address real-world situations. In Kaplan term there is no one single theory can explain everything. Perhaps that is why Einstein titled his theory as relativism because he understands a new theory will emerge to replace his theory. As long as scientist realize I this the scientific world will be just fine. But if they can not put aside their ego, the scientific world will be endangered.
And for me which school of thoughts I stand for? Do we need to be in one stand? That is an interesting question and to be honest I’m not ready to answer the question. Choosing a stand will be determined how you generate knowledge is it for generalization, a deeper understanding of the complex system, solving a problem, or to find a meaning. At this point. I’m allured by the idea of pragmatism, but I admire the scientific realism world (most of them win the noble prize). But so far work is on the positivism side and it is very hard to change your mindset from positivism side to different side. I still have time before I decide my stand. Along the process, I will find my place in the scientific world. At the moment I’m thinking about what kind of contribution I can share for the scientific world. Try to keep all my sense before I decide my stand, hopefully when I made up my mind I will remember my own word try to be open-minded all the time. Welcome to the school of thoughts, welcome to the battle, respect and be nice to each other this is the message for me in the future.