chapter  5
22 Pages

Scientism is a bad model for truth (and natural science)

We have suggested that a scientism prevalent in some writings on sport, and especially on sports science, offers a misguided epistemology for research into sport. Making good that claim requires clarifying the features of (natural) science1 on this conception; and offering a contrastive account. Here, after an initial overview, in three stages: first, the most traditional or commonsensical account of science (inductivism) is briefly presented and rejected. As well as the putting aside of some misconceptions, this also clarifies a path taken by some writers here: having rejected inductivism as an account of science, they sought something more sophisticated. Many writers, for example, Neil Spurway (2004) and Tim Noakes (2004), used ideas found in Karl Popper’s writings to castigate those who, when discussing the nature of science in an uninformed way, overstated the claims of scientific enquiry. Thus, without explicitly mentioning Popper, Noakes imports Popper’s ideas when he writes, that “[s]cientists failed to observe the accepted scientific process which is to attempt the falsification of accepted wisdom” (2004: 146). For this reason, the second part involves a brief comparison of Popper’s views with those of our preferred theorist, Thomas Kuhn. A major difficulty with Popper’s view, given our concerns, is that his requirements for social science are the same as for natural science. That seems contrary to the outcomes of our reflections on both the erotetic character of research and the impact of using persons in human situations as research subjects. Since one feature of Kuhn’s position is his different treatment of social science (as compared to natural science), that is our third topic, although its account somewhat overlaps the second.