PhD vs. DSc, Science, Philosophy

Science as a subject that extensively explores the nature and systematically attempts to discover the principles and rules governing the functioning of natural world. The force of gravity holding the planets together to the chemical reactions holding the life in biological cells. It dwells into the matter of matters and sustains that wonderful element of awe and wonder in our minds. Our mind is constantly in search of truth. The logic behind the magic of nature. It is the deduction of systematic knowledge through deep observation and defined experimentation. There is Physical Science dealing with the study of inorganic world and there is Life Science dealing with the study of life and organisms. There is a whole body of knowledge beyond the realms of science. This part of the knowledge has given science sleepless nights. A plethora of questions that keeps opening the Pandora Box.

 

Philosophy is the subject that explores this wider spectrum of our life driven by fundamental questions and basic set of queries. It was the great philosopher Socrates that taught us the Socratic Method of Questioning. It is the question of questioning that takes us to the logical answer of reasoning that meets our mind’s demand. Why nature is the way it is? What is morally right and wrong? What is beauty? Why we believe in one particular religion? What is life all about? What is the purpose of our living? We have an inquisitive mind in operation and we need satisfying answers, we may not always get the right answer but answers that can satiate our innate curiosity. In a way it intriguingly analyzes and intuitively interprets our nuanced experience with the world. There is Epistemology dealing with study of knowledge itself and there is Metaphysics dealing with the study of reality, our very existence.

 

PhD, is the titled bestowed on person after undergoing a rigorous process of knowledge acquisition and becoming an expert in a particular subject. There is this need for research dissertation. There is this need for paper publication. It is about deeply developing a new thought pattern or building on an existing body of knowledge. PhD is the highest academic degree. There are titles as Doctorates conferred as highest distinction on individual’s achievement in their respective field. In academia, both PhD and Doctorate are common terms. Though there is a difference and it is a subtle one. Primarily is in the nature of scope where the PhD is more defined and Doctorate is much wider and is applied to any academic degree.

It’s been in practice for years but there is an inherent dichotomy. It states that we become a doctor in the given subject. When we have taken up philosophy as our subject, there is no paradox. Till that the explanation does seems fine. But when we take science as subject and we are given the title of Doctor of Philosophy in Science. It is self-contradictory.

 

Science is a concrete subject.

Philosophy is an abstract subject.

How can abstract give a certification to concrete?

Maybe we are over simplifying our analogy and the analysis in a way getting rarefied.

 

Different countries have a different view to the historical development. In some cases Doctor of Science is equivalent to PhD. In other cases Doctor of Science is higher than PhD. In USA, Doctor of Science is equivalent to Doctor of Philosophy in natural sciences. In UK, Doctor of Science is a much higher level of accomplishment than Doctor of Philosophy. Hence, Doctor of Science is a ‘higher doctorate’. It is largely a research degree where extensive publication of research work is of primary significance. There is a historical roots to the nomenclature of these titles and the naming conventions that are being followed across countries and different universities.

Thousands of years ago when science had not yet seen the light of the day. Science is relatively a recent subject compared to the other’s in the history of the evolution of human civilization. Everything was then seen through the prism of philosophy. There were no such title as scientists, everybody attempting to unearth and understand nature were philosophers. Even Mathematicians were philosophers. Humanity was subject to the barrage of questions then as there was no means to satiate the restless state of our curious mind. This constant hammering of questions that is quite natural to the human beings led to the focus on the subject we term as Humanities.

 

It is not that Doctor of Science was never used, it was introduced in United Kingdom in the late 19th century. In 1860 it was the University of London that introduced the new title of DSc.

 

A scientist makes quantitative analysis on a hypothesis and followed by adequate empirical data and experimentation.

A philosopher makes qualitative analysis and followed by the correlation of insights and corroborated by intuition.

 

In those early days of human evolution when there was no such things as tools, methods, measures, mechanics; scientists had enough time to philosophize things around them. They were able to muse. They were able to reflect. Much like the way philosophers do it. They were more or less doing the thinking and working of thoughts the way philosophers have done. Hence those days scientist were called as philosophers and there was an explanation that made sense. And the practice continued as it entered the formal education setup. It was like a tradition and nobody wanted to question and break the age-old practice…and the highest degree on a subject were given the title of Doctor of Philosophy.

 

According to Keith Allan Noble, the first doctoral degree was awarded in medieval Paris around the years of 1150. As per Wikipedia, the doctorate of philosophy developed in Germany as the terminal teacher’s credential i.e. highest degree in the 17th century. The practice of using the PhD spread across the Europe in the 19th and 20th century replacing other highest academic degrees such as diplomas and MA. It was finally in the year 1917 when the current PhD was introduced and widely accepted across universities spread in different continents. MD and PhD are both the higher degrees.

 

Doctor of Medicines is meant for the science of treatment of patients.

Doctor of Philosophy as described is given in any field.

 

In this tussle between the titans i.e. scientist and philosophers perhaps we are sadly losing one part of the title that is awarded with a purpose. There is so much philosophy behind the science what see and experience. The perception is highly skewed towards the domain of science and philosophy is fast losing its grip. There are these big inventions in the field of science and technology. The camera lens are greatly focused on the glitter and glamour of the scientific inventions and technological innovations. And these are overwhelming in their manifestation and the impact on human psychic is pretty powerful.

 

The world around us is now driven by terms and terminologies like Artificial Intelligence to Machine Leaning to Nanotechnology to Robotics to Space Technology.

 

Philosophy as a subject is unable to firmly compete for its rightful space in this modern scientific revolution. It is gutsy. It is getting itself going in its own turf. New technologies are powerfully enhancing our inherent capacities to do things in a much better way and making life ostensibly more beautiful to live. In the zest for doing things technologies are going overboard. There is a line drawn where man don’t cross the limit that has a setting based on the tacit understanding with God. The Almighty is the architect of the Universe.

Philosophy is then become the subject of ethics, also known as moral philosophy. In other words these are simply about the right and wrong conduct. Ethics is a concern in the scientific research. An ethical issue of humanity weighs the work in the light of positive benefits to researcher and the negative impact it can have on society. Such has been prowess and projection of science on our mind we under siege in the hands of scientific development. The question of whether a scientific development is intruding into the question of ethics is summarily hijacked and the drive is on the development.

 

The question that crops up, is it ethical to edit our children genomes?

Is it ethical to doing the geo-engineering of our Planet?

 

These questions involve conflicting moral choices. Scientists are enthused by the modern ecosystem. They are highly excited by visualizing the potential that their research work can led to and how society would be a much better place. The scope of tangible benefits are enormous and these scientific scale defines infinite possibilities.

The problem is that both ethics and science are constantly at loggerhead. Ethics traditionally belongs to the domain of philosophers. The question of right and wrong. The question of good and bad. The question of justice and injustice. Somebody has to answer these questions and humanity cannot simply sidetrack and progress without responsibility.

 

To answer the question why there is such huge gulf between science and philosophy and rapidly widening, when new technologies are transforming society and making life brighter and our living better.

 

Things that dominant the world other than science is politics, and hence we have political science as subject of predominance. Political science is the study of the systems of the government and scientific analysis of political activities and behaviors of people running the state. And there is political philosophy as well. Political philosophy is the study of state, liberty, law to justice.

Aristotle is known as the father of political science primarily for his major work on Politics. Political Philosophy as a branch got its solid grounding during the period of Plato, and he was the mentor for Aristotle. It was a wonderful symphony of student-teacher relationship. The modern manifestation of political philosophies are in the forms of democracy to communism to socialism.

 

It is philosophy that gave birth to science and it is then the responsibility of science as a grown up child to take care of their aging parent of philosophy.

 

Much like the modern aged children as they are growing up and growing in their career, they have leaving behind their parents and precisely what is happening in the relationship between science and philosophy. In a way both scientists and philosophers are in their characteristic ways are working towards finding the truth about physical reality, the nature surrounding human and the human nature per se. There is an intriguing phenomena that transpires between both these fascinating characters.

The scientists are unaware that they are doing philosophy before the scientific invention.

The philosophers unaware that they are doing science before the philosophical discovery.

 

We are living with contradictions. We are living with inconsistencies. We are living with incoherence. We are living with conflicts. The conflict of different ideas to thoughts that are distinctly different. We search for answers. We look for clarifications. We look for reconciliation. We yearn for ratification and the much-needed gratification.

Science has expanded exponentially but is still battling with multiple problems and is riddled with inherent limitations. Interestingly, human mind is not designed to accept this arbitrarily imposed restriction by scientific community. It needs satisfying answer and the series of questions keep coming, the self-powered machine of mind needs constant tuning…this is how it is purposefully designed.

Scientific methods have its own steps to follow.

We make observations.

We ask questions.

We gather information.

We analyze those information.

We form hypothesis.

We make prediction.

Philosophy transcend the inherent barriers that come with scientific methods and practice…it is the fight to flight. Many things in life are beyond matters of scientific interpretations and science is yet to fathom many things that matter to us.

Philosophical discourse has its own set of questions.

What is life?

How to discover the purpose of living a meaningful life?

How did we come into existence?

Who is behind our creation and ensuring our sustainability life on this Planet?

Is everything directed by  God?

Is Almighty the greatest supreme power?

 

Science can go so far and there is such a long distance to cover and we cannot sit idle relying on the work of science. We need to work out and work our way to answer the question science has yet to fathom…it is the subject of philosophy that can feed our famished soul.

 


 Nihar R Pradhan

 

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