Foundations of Science

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 575–593 | Cite as

What Second Order Science Reveals About Scientific Claims: Incommensurability, Doubt, and a Lack of Explication

  • Michael Lissack


The traditional sciences often bracket away ambiguity through the imposition of “enabling constraints”—making a set of assumptions and then declaring ceteris paribus. These enabling constraints take the form of uncritically examined presuppositions or “uceps.” Second order science reveals hidden issues, problems and assumptions which all too often escape the attention of the practicing scientist. These hidden values—precisely because they are hidden and not made explicit—can get in the way of the public’s acceptance of a scientific claim. A conflict in understood meaning—between the scientist’s restricted claims and the public’s broader understanding of those same claims can result in cognitive dissonance or the equivalent of the Mori Uncanny Valley. Scientists often react to these differences by claiming “incommensurability” between their restricted claim and the public’s understanding. Second order science, by explicating the effects of variations in values assumed for these uceps and associated impacts on related scientific claims, can often moot these assertions of incommensurability and thereby promote greater scientific understanding. This article explores how second order science can address issues of public doubt regarding the scientific enterprise using examples from medicine, diet and climate science.


Incommensurability Causality Realism Constructivism Metaphor Dissonance 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for the Study of Coherence and EmergenceBostonUSA

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