Natural and human behaviour, two entities that are seeking co-operation, but might as well get in conflict. And so do the sciences that study them.
At the interface of the beta and gamma sciences lie problems that require each others expertise. Large problems like environmental sustainability are problems defined by both the beta and gamma sciences. Both claim to see the true problem. Beta has the “facts” and know how a problem has evolved and are able to come up with multiple arguments and principles that explain has the environmental problems have developed. Gamma is able to oversee the whole problem and was able to detect it in the first place. Judging from general principles and global research, gamma sciences are able to draw widespread conclusions. But are the beta sciences, in fact, trying to provide knowledge for the gamma sciences in order to solve large environmental problems? Are they doing that in the right fashion, or are they just extrapolating what they already know?
The gamma sciences make use of the data and seek application for solutions. The solution are mostly put forward by the beta sciences. Apart from the question of whether this discipline-switching is difficult, should we not organise the solving of big problems like this more structurally?
Trying to find a new way to solve environmental problems one might ask whether researching and solving can be done more fluently. Determining facts, extrapolating them, finding and selecting solutions, and applying them are the steps required. All of them should be done carefully, but this care may be confused with focused. If a beta researcher has created and proven a theory of ‘how gasto-intestinal bacteria produce methane’, can this immediately be used to determine what the emission of a cow is? Probably not. The aforementioned theory was completely focused on one thing: a bacterium that produces. The conditions are not important for proving a theory, while they are important for calculating the cow’s emmision. Though you cannot blame the beta researcher for trying to prove his model, his model could be worth more if it was designed just for the cow’s emission. Will the beta researching acquire the same amount of fame in that case? Maybe not, staying in your own discipline will always be celebrated. Nevertheless, striving for personal fame makes solving large environmental problems inefficient. I would not want to blame the researcher’s ego, though. I would like to blame the fact that staying in your own discipline is mostly preferred.
Can we let go of the distinctions between the disciplines when it comes to how we value our work? Will science even be workable that way? And will problems that gamma and beta sciences work on together be solved more quickly?