Second-order Science

If some questions are not decidable within the scientific framework as currently defined, this may be due in part to the exclusion of second-order considerations in “first-order” science. The scientific observer is part of a comprehensive system that includes the apparatus of measurement and the information-carrying medium, as well as the target system. But nowhere is there provision in first-order theory to understand the scientific process itself, let alone the relation between ‘mental’ and ‘physical’, for example. Everything remains implicitly external to the observer, whose role as qua subject is not considered. There is generally no place for reflection on theory making, on methodology, or on implicit assumptions and biases involved both in theory and in experiment. This exclusion may be responsible for a number of the conundrums of modern physics and cosmology—for example, the problem of the cosmological constant and the appearance of fine-tuning. It may be responsible for the general appearance of the quantum world as “weird.” Our expectations of reality are based on experience of the macroscopic realm, which means our interaction with the world as biological organisms. While traditional science studies the object by excluding the subject, second-order science would include the role of the subject as well. This role is necessarily that of an embodied organism. A second-order science would include the observer’s embodied circumstance as a product of evolution. It would be more complete, realistic, and objective than first-order science. It would include knowledge of how first-order theories are to be used. Second-order science would include in its view of natural reality how the activities of science themselves shape that view. Hence, it would view itself as an active player in a larger game, an integral part of the direction of society. For, theory making co-evolves with society itself, both influencing society and influenced by it.