Conservatism and the scientific state of nature

Erich Kummerfeld, Kevin J.S. Zollman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Those who comment on modern scientific institutions are often quick to praise institutional structures that leave scientists to their own devices. These comments reveal an underlying presumption that scientists do best when left alone - when they operate in what we call the 'scientific state of nature'. Through computer simulation, we challenge this presumption by illustrating an inefficiency that arises in the scientific state of nature. This inefficiency suggests that one cannot simply presume that science is most efficient when institutional control is absent. In some situations, actively encouraging unpopular, risky science would improve scientific outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1057-1076
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Liam Bright, P. Kyle Stanford, several anonymous referees, and audiences at conferences in Montreal, Nancy, and Pittsburgh for their helpful comments and suggestions. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation under Grants SES 1026586 and SES 1254291. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science. All rights reserved.


Dive into the research topics of 'Conservatism and the scientific state of nature'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this