It took us 6 years to write the book itself; perhaps, a little bit more than that if you consider the preparatory work that was required.
Science’s First Mistake sets out to deconstruct the process of how theories come to be, specifically scientific theories, on the basis of the four concepts: observation, paradox, delusion, and most importantly self-reference. The implications for theory and method are discussed against these four primary and intrinsically interrelated concepts.
The book has wide-ranging implications for not only the discovery of knowledge in itself, but also various expressions of knowledge, be they framed by reductionism or causality, and even those grandiosely claiming to approach a form of Grand Unification (as in Physics).
We build on the tradition of second-order cybernetics and Niklas Luhmann’s seemingly bizarre words: “The world is observable because it is unobservable.” Actually, if you pause and think about it for a second (or two), that makes perfect sense. What Luhmann is saying is that categorization, the basis of observation, and hence of the scientific method, is a necessary delusion. Human observation does not allow access to the ‘real world:’ observation is deceived by the linearity inferred in causality. We don’t observe causality in the world; a belief in causality is a necessary prerequisite of observation and cognition. Indeed, without the delusion of causality there would be no observation; observation and cognition are only possible because linearity is erroneously imposed on what is an always complex, non-linear world.
We expand on these ideas to step outside the self-referential certainties of science and mathematics to illustrate the absurdities at their core. Science’s First Mistake concludes that so-called academic ‘rigour’ is merely reinforced self-reference, imposed by the power that comes with the utility delivered by the self-reference itself.
“This fresh and audacious examination of knowledge discovery and theory construction makes an important contribution to the understanding of how we employ scientific method.”