Science vs. Non-Science: From Fiction to Reality

As stated in my previous article (Sunday Monitor, 20 December 2020), the history and progress of science has shown, among other things, ‘that there is no useless knowledge’, ‘that more knowledge is better than less’ and ‘ that a theory or model formulated using complete information is better at explaining the real world and predicting future events in the relevant domain, compared to a theory or model based on partial information.

Moreover, there is no reliable evidence that some knowledge (eg, physical or ‘natural’ sciences) is significantly better than or superior to other types of knowledge (eg, ‘no -sciences’, that is, arts and social sciences).

As the saying goes, “one man’s meat is another man’s poison”.

For quite some time, the Ugandan government has placed too much emphasis on the natural sciences. Consequently, politics is now biased in favor of these sciences at the expense of the ‘non-sciences’.

I think that this attitude of the government is not correct. Sciences and ‘non-sciences’ actually complement each other; they are not diametrically opposed.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the United States and Canada made the same mistake that Uganda is making now; countries overemphasized the sciences at the expense of the ‘non-sciences’. By the late 1960s, countries had overproduced scientists—such as mathematicians, mechanical and electrical engineers, and other specialists in the sciences.

As a result, many of the scientists could not find work in their respective fields of specialization. Many of these qualified scientists had no alternative but to turn their attention to specializations in the ‘non-sciences’—such as economics and psychology—which offered better employment prospects. For example, in my Masters-level econometrics class in Canada in 1975, out of six students, three were science degree holders – two with degrees in mathematics (PhD and M.Sc., respectively) and the third with a Bachelor’s degree. degree in engineering.

Further, my Microeconomics professor had a PhD in engineering, while my Econometrics professor had a PhD in mathematics (in addition to his PhD in economics); they had also moved from the sciences to the “non-sciences” out of necessity.

This article focuses on the issue of the government’s continued overemphasis of the sciences at the expense of the ‘non-sciences’.

To drive the point home, I use recent measures to create a giant gap between the wages of ‘scientists’ and those of ‘non-scientists’—especially in relation to teachers. Specifically, I argue that the dividing line between the sciences and the non-sciences is not only extremely thin, but also blurred.

There is hardly any substantial difference between science and non-science teachers.

Science teachers are not necessarily scientists, and science teachers are merely potential scientists.

As I said in my book Research Methodology: Philosophy, Processes and Procedures, 2020, the whole body of existing knowledge – the body of theoretical and empirical facts and their derivatives in all academic and other fields – can be divided into two subsets: presumably larger) subset consisting of what is not known at a point in time and the (perhaps smaller) subset of what is already known at a point in time. The larger the subset of known knowledge, the better for humanity. This is because the larger the subset of known knowledge, the higher the likelihood that humanity will find better or superior ways and means to maximize the production and consumption of goods and services, as well as leisure.

In other words, humanity is interested in using the subset of known knowledge to improve its well-being. That is, this known knowledge must be expanded over time and used to find ways and means, or technologies for improving the well-being of the entire human race.

The subset of known knowledge can change either qualitatively or quantitatively. A qualitative change involves improvements in the way knowledge is stored in libraries and other avenues, or distributed or transmitted, or shared among users, researchers, and various other stakeholders.

For example, libraries can upgrade preservation methods, for example from microfiche to digital methods.

Teachers, lecturers and other transmitters of knowledge from one individual or generation to another can improve their methods of distribution or transmission in terms of efficiency or pedagogy.

Distribution or transmission methods can also be upgraded from physical or face-to-face methods to digital/electronic or virtual techniques.

A quantitative change involves the expansion of the entire subset, resulting in an increase in the stock of known knowledge. In the absence of divine intervention, it is clear that the only way to expand the subset of known knowledge is to reduce the subset of unknown knowledge through scientific research, assuming that the entire body of knowledge is static. Research aims to discover or generate new knowledge by expanding the boundaries of knowledge.

In my opinion, on the one hand, a scientist is that individual who expands the boundaries of knowledge through research; he/she conducts research from time to time – research that leads to the emergence of new knowledge, knowledge available to improve human well-being and stimulate further debate and research. On the other hand, a science teacher or a science teacher is a person who only participates in the teaching (dissemination or transmission of knowledge on) a scientific subject (physics, chemistry, biology, zoology, botany, geology, mathematics, etc. ). Dissemination in all forms (teaching in primary and secondary or secondary schools or institutions, lectures at universities and other institutions of higher education, preaching and other forms of dissemination) is only a means of conveying known knowledge ( existing) by a person. (or persons) or generation to another person, or persons, or generations. In general, this distribution neither expands nor contracts the subset of known knowledge. If dissemination results in a change in existing knowledge, that change is qualitative rather than quantitative.

A non-science teacher is a person whose job it is to teach (distribute or transmit knowledge about) a non-science subject (history, literature, linguistics, fine arts, music, drama, sociology, political science, philosophy , theology, religious. education, etc.). Similar to a science teacher, this (arts or humanities) teacher also disseminates existing knowledge without adding to its quantity. However, a researcher in the non-sciences adds to the stock of existing knowledge in the same way that a researcher in the sciences does; they both expand the frontiers of knowledge in their respective fields of research.

It should be noted that, first, a scholar or teacher worldwide in any academic field is the product of scientific and non-scientific instructors from the primary level to universities and other levels of tertiary education. He/she is formed or formed by scientific and non-scientific instructors – not by one or the other – as all knowledge is useful.

Second, a science teacher and a non-science teacher are taught both the basic content or materials to be delivered to their audience, as well as the methods of delivering the materials (pedagogy)—just as a researcher must master the materials in her area of ​​specialization plus research methods.

The subject content is taught in primary and secondary schools and in various faculties, departments and units in universities.

This is essentially a transfer of known knowledge from teachers and lecturers to pupils and students. Emphasis is placed on students’ mastery or understanding of relevant subject content.

Pedagogy is offered in teacher training colleges and faculties of education in universities.

Thus, all students who intend to become teachers at all levels of education receive (perhaps sufficient) doses of existing knowledge in their areas of specialization, as well as pedagogy and some elementary administrative skills. The depth of doses depends on the planned level of distribution (nursery, primary school, secondary school and university and other tertiary levels).

Therefore, there is hardly any difference between a science teacher and a non-science teacher except in their respective areas of specialization and pedagogical approaches. A math teacher differs from a biology teacher or any other science subject, just as a literature teacher differs in this respect from a fine arts teacher, linguistics teacher, or any other social arts/science subject. These differences are minor, not critical or fundamental.

As explained earlier, a researcher expands the boundaries of knowledge in his/her field of specialization (scientific or otherwise). Three basic scientific ‘truths’ need to be reiterated here:

(i) There is no useless knowledge.

(ii) More knowledge is better than little or no knowledge.

(iii) Sciences and non-sciences are complementary, not competitive or diametrically opposed.

It should also be noted that given the unity of science, the methods of expanding the boundaries of knowledge (research methods) in the sciences are essentially similar to those in non-science. For example, the scientific method applies to both the sciences and non-sciences. Further, a review of the history of (the progress of) science proves this ‘stylized fact’. I believe I have explained these issues in fair detail in my cited book on research methodology.

As noted above, a teacher disseminates existing knowledge to different audiences. This distribution can improve the quality of knowledge, but not the quantity or the path of its growth. Both science and non-science teachers perform essentially the same function, albeit with minor differences. Both types of teachers are potential researchers; eventually, they can develop into researchers—enabling science teachers to metamorphose into scientists.

However, as noted earlier, a scientist is a person who expands the boundaries of knowledge. His/her natural habitat is a university, a research institution, or any other tertiary educational or academic institution whose preoccupation is to conduct scientific research.

A scientist’s primary task is to increase the stock of knowledge, although his or her activities may also result in qualitative improvements to the stock. Note that a scientist requires a higher level of foundation in his/her (academic) field of specialization than a teacher in the same field.

In my previous article on this issue, I highlighted the fact that ‘non-sciences’ are fundamentally important in all aspects of society.

They are as important as the sciences. For example, a policy that ignores ‘non-science’ at all stages from inception to implementation is likely to be suboptimal. This means that governments – in their activities such as policy formulation, planning, sponsoring students, dealing with health, remuneration and other public (political) and related issues – should put due emphasis on it. the two subsets of knowledge. These subsets are, after all, two sides of the universal body of knowledge.

Finally, I am still very disappointed by the lack of voices from ‘non-scientists’ of all walks of life in defense of their spheres of influence. Have they forgotten the contribution to knowledge and prosperity of individuals such as Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Max Weber, Auguste Comte, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Thomas Kuhn, Karl Popper, Charles Peirce, Paul Feyerabend, Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes, Milton Friedman, WW Rostow and the like? Please, ‘non-scientists’ stand up and (peacefully) defend your professions, values ​​and activities. You have nothing to lose but the yoke or the knees that have been put on your neck.

Prof Mukwananson A. Hyuha is a Professor of Economics, currently based at the Center for Critical Thinking and Alternative Analysis.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.