Strategic Interdisciplinary Relations between a Natural Science Community and a Psychology Community: Part 1: The Development of the Contrasting Paradigms

By Fraley, Lawrence E. | The Behavior Analyst Today, Fall 2001 | Go to article overview

Strategic Interdisciplinary Relations between a Natural Science Community and a Psychology Community: Part 1: The Development of the Contrasting Paradigms


Fraley, Lawrence E., The Behavior Analyst Today


Abstract

The scientists and scholars of behavior--environment relations, since the inception of their discipline, have debated the matter of how best to organize their discipline and nudge it along an appropriate course of maturation. Two main alternatives have emerged: (a) Infiltrate the already organized discipline of psychology and convert it into a natural science discipline with a properly useful kind of focus on behaviors, (b) Establish an independently organized natural science discipline existing apart from organized psychology. The 300-year development and emergence of the non-behavioral natural sciences have provided relevant history lessons pertinent to the current dilemma. That history suggests that the behavior analysis community has been experimenting for half a century with the less promising alternative.

THE ROYAL SOCIETY

In 1645 civil war raged through England, although as war was conducted in those times, certain classes of people could ignore it sufficiently to go about their business. In keeping with the traditional and prevailing belief that all worthwhile wisdom was derived from the ancients, England's two universities, Oxford and Cambridge, were exclusively devoted to the study of ancient languages and the works of ancient philosophers, religious and secular. Science, founded on observation and experiment, was relatively new and had no place in the curriculum of those universities. At neither Oxford nor Cambridge could one study the works of Galileo, who had founded mechanics, Gilbert, who had founded experimental physics, or Kepler, who had derived the laws of planetary motion (Andrade, 1960).

However, the works of such men of science were admired and studied within an informal community of well read and influential English noblemen, some of whom were churchmen and some of whom were actual practitioners of the new experimental philosophy. Following a decade or more of somewhat regular if informal meetings devoted to a sharing of their common interests in natural philosophy, what two years later would become The Royal Society was formed by 40 men at Gresham College in 1660. It received its Royal Charter, and its name, in 1662. The Royal Society, as it was known thereafter, was for a long period perennially short of funds both to support the scientific activity of its Fellows and to publish results. Nevertheless, it did so to the extent that its limited resources permitted (Andrade, 1960).

The rise of modern Western science proceeded on various fronts throughout Europe mainly through the work of an often loosely knit community of individuals, but it was The Royal Society that most represented the organizational embodiment of science and functioned as the hub of European scientific activity, in part because it welcomed foreign members. The Royal Society gradually became a kind of clearing house for the advance of scientific activity throughout the European continent.

From the outset, The Royal Society maintained a strict organizational autonomy as its most important organizational resource (Andrade, 1960; Purver, 1967). From the time of the founders, a policy of religious tolerance was strictly observed, yet The Royal Society was noted for the maintenance of its scientific integrity through a deliberate disengagement, or emancipation, of science and philosophy from the coercion of particular religious systems. Even so, the early Royal Society was entirely a product of the religion--dominated culture in which it emerged. The Society reflected a prevailing view among its members that had been elaborated by Francis Bacon (1561-1626).

As Purver (1967) concluded after her scholarly review of Bacon's works: "Bacon ... saw science as the notification of a universal language to be learnt by the scientist in the service of God for the benefit of man" (p. 147). From that perspective, the world was God's creation, and science was an extension of religion.

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