On Science and Power of Prediction
I get what you mean, but is something really a science if it cannot predict, or isn’t it something else? It could still be science by the social definition, meaning something that people who consider themselves to be scientists are doing, but scientific method is fundamentally experimental, all about testing whether some things lead to other things. What kind of understanding do you have when it isn’t predictive? Just think about it in regard to politics.
Can you claim to understand politics in a scientific way if you cannot predict their development? Even meteorology can make some kind of prediction, and that deals with a supremely chaotic phenomenon. At its worst, meteorology knows objectively the limits of what can or cannot be predicted. Political science knows nothing in a truly predictive way with any level of certainty, it doesn’t even know whether politics could be predictable, whether any theory will hold, or why it doesn’t anymore. It can at best describe, and that’s questionable too.
It was the attempt to make the discipline more “scientific” that lead to its maximum objectification in a positivist manner (the empirical/analytical paradigm I mentioned). The result is something formally resembling scientific process, but without results. The conclusion of one of the biggest overviews of all of the systemic variables in political regimes in post-communist states done by Mgr. Jakub Šedo, Ph.D. in his dissertation, was that they don’t really have any consistent impact on anything. And I seriously doubt it even proves that it can’t have any impact at all, meaning that something was usefully ruled out.
You can be interpreting inconclusive results all you want, but that is really an art, not a science. As for understanding politics in a non-predictive way is concerned, it has traditionally been the domain of political philosophers, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but there it is clear and admitted that it is not a scientific understanding. I’m not sure now which of the promoters of science have I heard saying that, but I have heard some physicists boasting that science, unlike religion and all the rest of the disciplines of thought, has precisely the edge in its predictive power. That it is the science’s one thing.
As for the technology, you can produce it unscientifically by haphazard trial and error and with a lack of underlying theory, but even then, you at least know that it works, which is a predictive form of knowledge. Science in regard to technology brings to the table the theoretical predictive understanding of the physics or chemistry or biology involved, or even psychology, because human behavior too has aspects that are predictable, and therefore scientifically approachable. If you can’t predict, you can only have opinions.
Or at least, that is my opinion on science and prediction. Thank you for engaging in a discussion. I’m open to reconsidering anything, but on this issue, I remain convinced that “science” without predictive power is just an art or a philosophy that tries to look more authoritative.