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Can disagreements hinder our pursuit of knowledge in the human and natural sciences?

As I read in another similar debate on TED, disagreements can encourage further research into a particular topic, and can bring in different perspectives into a conversation. But is there anyway that disagreements can play a negative role?

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    Jan 2 2013: Hi, Hakim. I can think of a couple of related situations in which disagreements can play a negative role.

    One is when people's desire to disagree for its own sake interferes with objective consideration of ideas and leads either to people's giving up on pursuing what is actually a reasonable direction for inquiry or intimidates those with less common views from putting them out into the world to be considered or tested.

    A related case is when those who enjoy playing devil's advocate or finding error never let a fledgling idea get off the ground. For example, we are often in situations in which the assumptions we need to make for theory building are abstractions of reality and involve some degree of uncertainty. For example, set of assumptions A might be approximately true (with a probability that itself cannot be established with certainty) but set of assumptions B might also be true (similarly with uncertain probability).

    What is productive in these cases is to create models based on different sets of reasonable assumptions rather than never to get that far because everyone is entirely stuck with disagreeing about the relative value of the assumptions in a case in which pinning them down with certainty is all but impossible..
  • Jan 2 2013: "Can disagreements hinder our pursuit of knowledge in the human and natural sciences?"

    Yes, of course: this happens when disagreements become unreasonable, especially when it involves influential laymen.