Let’s not agree to disagree: the role of strategic disagreement in science
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Supposedly, stubbornness on the part of scientists—an unwillingness to change one’s position on a scientific issue even in the face of countervailing evidence—helps efficiently divide scientific labor. Maintaining disagreement is important because it keeps scientists pursuing a diversity of leads rather than all working on the most promising, and stubbornness helps preserve this disagreement. Planck’s observation that “Science progresses one funeral at a time” might therefore be an insight into epistemically beneficial stubbornness on the part of researchers. In conversation with extant formal models, recent empirical research, and a novel agent-based model of my own I explore whether the epistemic goods which stubbornness can secure—disagreement and diversity—are attainable through less-costly methods. I make the case that they are, at least in part, and also use my modeling results to show that if stubbornness is scientifically valuable, it still involves a willingness to change one’s mind.
KeywordsSocial structure of science Epistemic diversity Social epistemology Agent-based model
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