Some key areas of “group think” among scientists

Another insightful post by Jörn Fischer. In my work I encounter most of the “group think” phenomena mentioned here, and I can only confirm that they do exist and that they constitute serious problems in the area of sustainability research.

Ideas for Sustainability

By Joern Fischer

Researchers operate within networks, and people within those networks tend to share certain worldviews. None of us are free of this — different researchers see the world through different analytical lenses, which one might also call “paradigms”. My sense is that we’d get a lot further in terms of insight if relatively less research energy was put into developing sophistication within paradigms, instead focusing on the differences between paradigms and ways to learn from multiple paradigms. One might also call this “epistemological pluralism“, or less technically, it would be nice if scientists were a little more open-minded.

This phenomenon of “group think” amongst different sets of research groups is something I have found fascinating for a long time, and I think it exists in various topic areas. I list some of those areas here where “group think” appears quite strong, and potentially this causes some problems. These topic…

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New Paradigms Needed

Through all its history humanity has been facing challanges which often seemed unsolvable. Nevertheless, we have been able to achieve a solution every time so far – sometimes better, sometimes worse, but we’ve done it. Today again we face a whole spectrum of huge challanges: the climate change with all its facettes. Biodiversity reduction due to general damages to ecosystems all over the world. Poverty and undernourishment. There are many proposals how to solve these problems, many of them of a rather technological nature. But these won’t do. More is needed: new value systems. New paradigms. Continue reading

Paradigms Lost?

I would like to recommend you “Paradigms Lost? Cowboys and Indians in the Battle over Economic Ideas” posted by Mark Blyth at TripleCrisis. It provides a powerful analysis of why neoliberalism is still the state of the art in economics on the one, and hope that we can change it, on the other hand. Here an excerpt:

You might then think that given such large losses and red faces we really should now be living in a post-neoclassical world. Yet we are not. Here are two reasons why this is the case: one that I don’t buy and one that I do buy.

“There is (still) no Alternative” – There is No New Paradigm.

This is a very odd but powerful form of argument. Odd, when you consider that this blog, INET, and hundreds of other sources are actively building one. Powerful, in that by saying that ‘unless you replace one complete integrated mathematically perfect theory with another one you should stick with the one you have got.’

I have always been suspicious of this form of argument […]