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Unconceived alternatives and conservatism in science: the impact of professionalization, peer-review, and Big Science

Abstract

Scientific realists have suggested that changes in our scientific communities over the course of their history have rendered those communities progressively less vulnerable to the problem of unconcieved alternatives over time. I argue in response not only that the most fundamental historical transformations of the scientific enterprise have generated steadily mounting obstacles to revolutionary, transformative, or unorthodox scientific theorizing, but also that we have substantial independent evidence that the institutional apparatus of contemporary scientific inquiry fosters an exceedingly and increasingly theoretically conservative form of that inquiry. I conclude that contemporary scientific communities are actually more vulnerable to the problem of unconceived alternatives than their historical predecessors, and I briefly suggest how we might seek to pursue scientific inquiry in a less theoretically conservative way.

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