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Overgaard and Loiselle's contribution to Scientonomy, here, is a significant one. Not only does the paper identify and illustrate a phenomenon that is ubiquitous in science (the deference of one scientific community to the expert opinion of another), but it also clearly translates this phenomenon into the taxonomy of scientonomy itself. Authority Delegation sheds light on the mechanism by which the more 'local,' specialized mosaics of epistemic/scientific sub-communities gives rise to the more 'global' scientific mosaic (of *the* Scientific Community), and all in terms of theories and methods. Accepting this modification, I believe, will provide an invaluable theoretical taxonomy to scientonomists (observational or theoretical) exploring the interaction between any number of scientific communities.
I agree with Greg: this is a great contribution to the field of scientonomy. In fact, it is safe to say that this modification has already been tacitly accepted by our community, since many of us rely on the idea of authority delegation in our own research. There are currently several articles submitted to the Journal of Scientonomy which heavily rely on the idea of authority delegation. The whole idea has proven so effective in analyzing relations between different communities, that I wholeheartedly recommend its acceptance.
My verdict is to accept the definition of authority delegation given, but I don’t accept all of the claims made for it in the paper. The concept of passive authority delegation as stated in the paper is clear, and may well be a valid one for describing some relationships between communities, but I believe that its value will be much more limited than the paper implies. The relationship that exists between the art expert community and the art market community is not likely to be a common one in relationships between scientific communities devoted to producing new knowledge. The art expert community and the art market community are very different in their goals. The primary goal of the art expert community is to produce new knowledge about the origins of works of art, discriminating the works of great artists from forgeries. The primary goal of the art market community is the non-epistemic goal of garnering profit through the selling of works of art. Since the art market community is not primarily an epistemic community, it makes sense for them to passively delegate to the art expert community for their epistemic needs, never questioning their conclusions. Similar relationships are likely to exist between scientific communities and engineering communities. The goal of engineers is to design devices that work, not to generate new knowledge about the natural world. Again, it makes sense that they would passively delegate to scientific communities for the scientific knowledge they need to do this, and never, as a community, to question it.
Now consider two scientific communities, both devoted to producing new knowledge about their respective domains of interest. In such situations, I think that relationships of delegation, as specified by the current definition, are likely to be very rare. To make my concerns evident, let’s first consider two scientific communities with clearly overlapping domains of epistemic interest, the community of theoretical physicists and the community of experimental physicists. These two communities clearly have a strong mutual interest in each other’s results, but it would be a mistake to think of them as mutually delegating, given the current definition of as passive mutual acceptance.
Suppose that a team of experimental physicists gets a result that flatly contradicts a well-established physical theory (for example, General Relativity). Suppose further that the result is verified by a second team of experimentalists using a different technique. Under the current definition of authority delegation, if the theoretical physics community accepts GR, and the experimental community delegates to the theoretical community, then it must accept GR because the theoretical community does. The experimentalists must conclude that their results are flawed, and must re-examine or reject them rather than publishing them. This probably isn't what would actually happen. The experimentalists are likely to give precedence to the methods of their own community and given credence to the finding since it was verified by two different teams using different techniques. They are likely to be very excited about publishing their findings, precisely because they represent a challenge to a well established theory of the theoretical physics community.
Theoretical physicists are also highly unlikely to accept any claim simply because it is accepted by the community of experimentalists. They are likely instead to access such claims according to the accepted theories and employed methods of their own community, accepting some and rejecting others. They are highly unlikely to accept an experimental claim simply because the experimentalist community says so, just as it is highly unlikely that the experimentalist community will reject a new finding simply because it conflicts with an accepted theory of the theoretical community. Whenever two scientific communities have overlapping epistemic interests, it is highly unlikely that community A will ever accept the claims of community B simply because community B says so. Their relationship will be one of active critical engagement rather than passive delegation. Each community will access the other’s claims in relation to its own theories and methods, accepting some, rejecting others. Perhaps interaction between the two communities will eventually produce a mutually acceptable solution, but this interaction is something quite different than one of passive mutual delegation.
Community A will only passively accept community B’s claims when those claims are of purely instrumental value to them and have no relevance to their domain of epistemic interest. Many relationships between scientific communities will be ones of active mutual engagement, as described above for the case of experimental and theoretical physicists, rather than one of passive delegation.
The paper makes the claim that the community of physicists and that of biologists are mutually delegating. I do not think that this is the case, at least not in a general sense. Many theories accepted by physicists are of no relevance to biologists, and vice versa. The claim that the Higgs boson exists is of no relevance to cell biologists. Individual cell biologists, who happen to take an interest in particle physics, might have an opinion of the matter, but the community of cell biologists would never have any reason to do so. There would thus be no markers of community acceptance, and the claim that cell biologists as a community (or biologists more generally) accept the Higgs boson would be meaningless.
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