The Decline Effect and the Scientific Method: newyorker.com

I have come across this interesting article in “The New Yorker” on what science – and thus we – can really know, how we perceive and deal with reality:

The Decline Effect and the Scientific Method: newyorker.com.

Some of it may not really be surprising if you look at it from a complexity perspective – I really like the study on the behaviour of the mice: you can try to control all variables of an experimental set-up and keep them totally constant over several replications. Your experiment should then reproduce the same outcomes – but it doesn’t! Dramatically! You can’t predict the behaviour or reaction of a living system, no matter how well you plan!

If we try to consider the consequences of what we find in this article and consider that these findings are mainly from “hard science” (like medicine), than how difficult is it to come to a valid finding in a “soft” field like evaluating a development project? Is there anything at all that we can measure and prove? Or is Monitoring and Evaluation largely shadow-boxing, eyewashing, pretending we are able to control something we can’t? How far from “reality” are we with all our studies, evaluations, …? And what value remains then?

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