Edited by Frank Whelon Wayman, Paul R. Williamson, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Solomon Polachek
Chapter 16: Scientific revolutions and the advancement of explanation and prediction
Our book, Predicting the Future in Science, Economics, and Politics (hereafter: Prediction), is intended as an example of a needed revolution in scientific thinking. This requires not only a fundamental alteration in the social sciences, since human behavior and relationships affect so much of our path into the future, but also, as we have tried to illustrate, a revolution in the way the various sciences connect themselves to each other. In this chapter I want to discuss the role of revolutionary change in science, so that we can be instructed on how best to move on from current shortcomings. I think a sound way to find guidance is to start with a view of how science in the sense of the physical sciences (and to an extent the biological sciences) has successfully developed in the past. This can give us a better perspective on how to construct an effective social science, and ideally then step toward even broader integration of the sciences predicting global conditions. The scientific revolution, which culminated in Newton’s ideas of how the planets move around the Sun, was the major intellectual accomplishment of Europeans in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and was something that has long been looked upon as a great turning point in human history.
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