How does postmodernism affect science?

In response to Quora question: "How does postmodernism affect science?"

Thanks for the A2A.

If postmodern thought has had any impact on attitudes about science in current culture (and there is a debate over whether this has actually occurred), it would be that even "scientific" studies and conclusions are relativistic, context-dependent and fundamentally flawed in terms of any absolute grasp on the truth. In other words, public confidence in the conclusions of a given study (i.e. the interpretations of collected data) has been eroded by the postmodern challenge. Among scientists, researchers and academics who focus on hard science, I suspect postmodernism hasn't really changed the fundamental critical thinking skills that are required in those disciplines to apply a scientific method. It has, however, likely diluted many theoretical trajectories in these fields that might have otherwise been entertained by the folks who fund such research. In the "soft" sciences (cultural anthropology, psychology, philosophy, history, sociology, etc.) the postmodern meme has, I think, undermined the conclusivity and acceptance of any thesis in these fields, no matter how carefully a thesis is argued. In a sense we could say that, as just one example, neuroscience is usurping the domain that clinical psychology once occupied, and that this is a consequence of postmodern skepticism. But again, even how data from neuroscience experiments is interpreted - and the ultimate veracity of any interpretation's conclusions - is also increasingly tenuous because of data from other fields, constantly revised understanding of brain function, increased technological facility for measurement, new methods to evaluate data, appreciation of research bias, and so on. In other words...well, I suppose we could sum it up by reiterating that there is a lot less confidence in the power of the human mind and its inventions to answer the fundamental questions about physical reality in any absolute way. If there is any enduring postmodern affect, it would be this.

My 2 cents.


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