Transparency in scientific communication: From leibnizג€™s dream to todayג€™s reality

Communication is a crucial component of scientific activity (as of virtually any other domain of human activity, especially in this "communication age" in which we live). As researchers and as citizens, we should all be concerned with the communication of science as well as with communication within science. In this paper, I will deal with one of the key aspects of this topic ג€“ the question whether scientific communication is or should be ג€�transparentג€�. The view that this is or should be the case is often taken for granted both by scientists and the general public. I will challenge this view and suggest that we should learn to live without the illusion that scientific communication is or should be transparent. This idea is closely related, if not derived from, the traditional epistemological conception according to which scientific method is the privileged tool we have for penetrating beyond appearances and discovering the true ג€�nature of thingsג€�, in terms of which all observable phenomena should be ultimately explained. Applying the scientific method should, thus, yield a fully intelligible representation of the world, which in its turn should be transparently communicable. The trouble with this enticing ideal is that it does not correspond to actual practice. Again and again we experience the fact that the ג€�true picture of the worldג€� remains veiled for everyone but a small group of initiated experts in a narrow domain. Is this only a technical problem having to do with the phenomenon of specialization and with the inevitable complexity of the language(s) of science, as it is often suggested?
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