What qualifies as science?

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by Jozen-Bo, Apr 25, 2017.

  1. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,619
    I think that if natural science has a distinguishing quality, it's probably its methological naturalism. That's the attempt to explain natural events through natural means. Natural science needn't be our only source of knowledge nor is it synonymous with sound productive thinking in any and all aspects of life (as some here on Stupidforums would have it).

    Mathematics seems to address something far more abstract and does so by use of pure cognition. But mathematics isn't just pure speculation where any speculation is as good as any other. It has a distinct methodology to it. It possesses an objectivity, since mathematicians all around the world often agree on the validity and soundness (or not) of particular proofs. Yet it's all conceptual, abstracted from the senses, something very different from whatever it is that natural science is doing.

    It's possible that something analogous to natural science might be created to address your spiritual stuff. If you want that to happen, then you and those like you (that's you, MR) should try to invent a new "science" and think up a research program and methodology for it. What phenomena should it address? What sources of information about those phenomena do we have? How might those phenomena be explained? How can successful explanations be distinguished from unsuccessful ones? Do the new theories lead to any unexpected discoveries and new areas of exploration?

    Parapsychology, ufology and creation science never seem to generate any theories of their own that have any hope of explaining any of their material, apart from 'God did it!' or 'It doesn't have to conform to known physical principles!' And that doesn't really tell us anything, because it's consistent with any possible observation.

    I think that people like MR and River are doing what they do less because they want to understand and explain their material, than because they want their material to announce that the universe is wondrous and transcendent. They want to inject a bit of anything-goes into a physical worldview that they think is confining and dead.
     
    C C likes this.
  2. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  3. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,798
    The new era[1] of Big Data, machine learning, and so-forth might be slightly more amenable (if not half-generously so) to paranormal enthusiasts. Due to its heavy reliance on correlation, statistics, and specific / individual facts rather than causes, background theories, and universal concepts (i.e., "knowing about _x_" being the common result rather than "an understanding of _x_"). Collected under this or that category like "natural", it was that latter combination of background prescriptions and global constraints in the older and familiar tradition that helped facilitate automatic dismissals of "whackadoo" claims, without twinge of conscience.[5]

    There have been "bridges of peace" for science and and spiritual beliefs getting along with each other. Historically descended from items like the distinction of primary / secondary causes or Leibniz's levels of reality[2][3] (in turn traceable to the classic Greek dichotomy of sensible / intelligible domains). But the apparent demand of much of the paranormal community (as well as some religious folk) that "otherworldliness" is directly intrusive and objective in the natural or public realm, rather than only cryptically contributing and subjectively / personally manifesting itself... Makes them incompatible with such. Including some ID'ers, who once accused methodological naturalism of being a Dawinist conspiracy to shut them out.[4]

    On the flip side: Philosophical naturalism, scientism / positivism, militant atheism (generic or Marxist), etc -- can likewise exhibit disdain for such arbitrative settlements / bridges. Anything not commensurable or consistent with the pre-established tenets or guidelines of the system, worldview, or ideological dogma is thereby extraneous trash.[5]

    - - - - - -

    [1] Alex (Sandy) Pentland: "Big data and the notion of Connection Science is outside of our normal way of managing things. We live in an era that builds on centuries of science, and our methods of building of systems, governments, organizations, and so on are pretty well defined. There are not a lot of things that are really novel. But with the coming of Big Data, we are going to be operating very much out of our old, familiar ballpark." --Reinventing Society in the Wake of Big Data

    [2] (Leibniz) Levels of Reality
    http://www.iep.utm.edu/leib-met/#SH9a

    [3] (Leibniz) The Relational Theory
    http://www.iep.utm.edu/leib-met/#SH7b

    [4] On The Origins of Methodological Naturalism
    https://pandasthumb.org/archives/2006/03/on-the-origins.html

    [5] George Orwell — 'Orthodoxy means not thinking--not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.'

    - - -
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2017
  4. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  5. Michael 345 Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,219
    Of course a lot of science relies on observations and testing

    So we need a AI which can go out into the world and observe

    and also put on a lab coat and handle a test tube

    Problems could occur if our AI comes back and says it observed a UFO and part of its memory is missing along with a screw from its access panel

    It then proceeds to print out a photo of the green alien who probed it

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

     
  6. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  7. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,798
    Yeah, hopefully AI would still do a better job of taking pictures than the humans of the past. Imagine a Frenchman going all the way to the planet of the Elohim, having sex with female robots, and then returning to Earth without even so much as fuzzy photographs for Lui magazine.
    Not to mention Claude Vorhilon's equally appalling neglect of not posing in a grinning group photo with Buddha, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed during their meal-time chat on the same world.

    - - -
     
  8. Michael 345 Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,219
    Will have to make sure camera fitted with Steady View

    And as many lines of programming which repeats over and over

    MUST TAKE PHOTOS
    MUST TAKE PHOTOS

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

     
  9. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,293
    I have at last (now that the excitement of Theresa May's catastrophically bungled general election is out of the way) got round to reading the McComas paper. It strikes me as a model of clarity and describes what I have always thought - what I have always been taught, actually - about the nature of science. Evidently I have been one of the lucky ones.

    I continue to be rather shocked by the references to a (capitalised) "Scientific Method" in textbooks, as I have never comes across this. I note his point about the creeping "fox terrier" effect, of lazy textbook writers copying what they think of as boilerplate material from each other, without questioning its validity or value.

    I was pleased that he notes most day to day science is not actually concerned with refining or overturning theories, but simply working within a Kuhnian "paradigm". For example, many drug researchers spend their lives in invaluable work to find out new facts about chemical species and their biological effects and to thereby add new weapons to the armoury. A proportion of what they do leads to new insights into the mode of action of drugs, or new synthesis techniques, or something, but I would guess that 95% of the work doesn't really do either, though it is still very worthwhile science. Philosophers of science are rightly preoccupied with the means by which scientific theories arise and what they signify, but a lot of scientific practice doesn't really need to concern itself with this. Hence, I suppose, the rather alarmingly ignorant statements one occasionally sees, even from eminent scientists; for example de Grasse Tyson's dismissal of philosophy.
     
  10. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,619
    To address the question in the subject line (What qualifies as science? ... which I should probably point out, contra Tyson, is a philosophical question) without basing my answer on "The Scientific Method", I guess that I'd say...

    Science is the attempt to describe, catalog and classify the natural world (the 'Natural History' stage of inquiry) and to explain what is observed ('explanation' needs a lot more explanation). This explanation must only make use of existing (maybe along with hypothetical, this needs more discussion) natural principles ("methodological naturalism", some account of 'natural' obviously needs to be provided) taken from science's large and ever growing catalog of data, methods and concepts, along with the formal principles of mathematics and logic (their nature and applicability remains mysterious as well).

    So the way that I see it, science is a boot-strap process based upon common sense. Early farmers and blacksmiths noticed things, then used what they noticed to notice even more subtle things. At some point they started using what they noticed to explain things. (Like using observations of what works and what doesn't to explain why a particular metal tool was badly forged.) That results in an ever growing stock of concepts, procedures and exemplars of successful explanations that facilitate future work and further discoveries (and might occasionally send everyone off in unfruitful directions chasing red-herrings.)

    Students are expected to absorb today's abundant stock of scientific information along with examples of how earlier scientists made use of it, during the course of scientific educations. Then they are supposed to emulate the creative process during the 'research' phase of their doctoral programs and as post-docs.

    I guess that I don't believe that there's any clear distinction between science and common sense (and hence the rest of life). Science is just an historical intellectual tradition that takes common sense and its products, then elaborates on them tremendously, making them vastly more technical and pushing them in directions that might initially be very counter-intuitive until plausible justifications are provided.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2017
  11. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,798
    In these days of misadventure, never a dull moment on both sides of the Atlantic.

    Apart from when all they've been exposed to is the wilder, academic / continental philosophy derived stuff... It seems baffling at times how they come to construe philosophy as some faux / obnoxious rival that is either competing with science in making claims about the empirical world or is trying to dictate procedure to science. Philosophy ceased investigating the "non-artificial" part of reality (in contrast to the abstract human inventions) when its natural philosophy branch broke off from it as a rapidly expanding, sub-dividing enterprise all its own (i.e., science).

    PoS merely examines science and the extended consequences of its output rather than issuing decrees. Like bygone Ernst Mach, most philosophers of science today have a background in science or double as working scientists themselves. So technically even if a philosopher of science does offer suggestions and they happen to have an effect upon a discipline or the overall enterprise, it's arguably a scientist or someone with at least one trained foot in its lake making that contribution slash disturbance.

    If when lecturing to and writing for the public, scientists should select a few philosophers' descriptions, conceptions of and significances about their practice and some of their problems / issues, then that is their free choice (not something PoS coerced upon them at gunpoint).

    Contemporary philosophy, at large, might be broadly defined as:
    • Philosophy is the descriptive, contributory, and critical study of human practices, fields of knowledge, abstract systems of thought (including ethics), and standalone concepts. Especially study of the prescriptive guidelines for organization and the operation of many such items.

      With "philosophical activity" in general being the base level of rational, creative processing that provides arguments, justifications, rhetoric and propaganda both for and against matters that are formerly proposed.
    Continental philosophy, treated as something distinct from the the "Anglophone world" flavor, might be loosely interpreted as:
    • The continuing permutations of schools of thought either fully or partially descended from Marxism and other academic influences of German, French, and various continent sources. With many original features and directions having been altered, abandoned, and replaced along the way (ranging from mild to radical).
    - - -
     
    Counter likes this.
  12. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,293
    Sure, philosophy as a whole is a complex field of study and only a small part of it has things to say about natural science, just as only a small part of physics has things to say about music. But it does seem sad that the interface between science and philosophy that does exist should not be recognised as useful. When one spends time on a science forum for lay people, such as this one, one frequently has to distinguish between scientific ideas and non-scientific ones. Recourse to simple ideas from the philosophy of science is essential in such cases.
     
  13. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,798
    Yah, if taking questions from an audience, it's likewise difficult to imagine how a popular representative of science like Tyson could go a half-hour without having to deal with issues such as the very subject of this thread. And thereby finding himself either knowingly or unknowingly recruiting something from the very philosophical turf that he may have glancingly or wholly disparaged at times in the past.

    Simply because philosophy of science activity is what has been available for decades to deal with the description of science and its objectives; what distinguishes it from other practices; its relationships to the social interests, organizations, and belief / thought orientations beyond itself; and with just how "real" does the average person have to regard the extraordinary models / constructs of theoretical physics as opposed to viewing the more successful or useful ones as tools of prediction and management.

    All well and good that critics of the past like Percy Bridgman wanted to place emphasis on the "doing" of science rather than the "saying about" science. But textbooks demand making science sayable, speakable, and a "doing" that is regulated by instructions or following guidelines, going through procedural stages, etc. The preparation for trying to make science effable still has to take place by some group of rational thinkers / examiners / evaluators.

    James Blachowicz, who recently got himself embroiled in disceptation with "There Is No Scientific Method", once brought up that science textbooks avoid or tend to avoid controversies. That they prefer a settled view of what scientific inquiry is, what demarcates science from non-science (should they include that at all), and scientific realism (should they concern that at all).

    Perhaps that's a key distinction between what, say, the function of a textbook author is and what the function of a philosopher of science is. They may initially seem to be doing a similar thing when such narrowly concerns providing an account of science or a particular field / discipline of science. But by shying away from obscuring conflict and desiring hand-me-down conventions, the textbooks will accumulate the myths that McComas addressed (a no risk-taking path, lucid "safe" education). Whereas even if promoting something that turns out to be wrong-headed, a philosopher of science author may usually cover several rival views in the course of either contrasting them to her/his own; or their being part of a background essential as to how and why s/he arrived at whatever conception s/he is advocating.

    - - -
     
  14. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,293
    Well, let us hope that enlightened science teachers will avoid Gradgrindian textbooks that claim everything has nice tidy answers, when it doesn't. It is of course the untidiness that makes it interesting.

    If I think about it, it was the teaching of chemistry, at my school, in terms of models - often involving rival models for the same phenomenon, for which strengths and weaknesses could be compared - that sparked my interest in the subject. You get this a lot in chemistry, due to the untidy complexity of the behaviour of real chemical elements, and the need to make simplifying assumptions in order to get anywhere.
     
  15. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    24,072
    A scientist, or anyone employing science and scientific discovery to inform their real world behavior , runs a serious risk if they truly believe they have no philosophy of science or any need to acquire one.

    Compare a king who, impatient with the flaws and errors of economists and economics, decides they don't need economic theory or analysis at all. They will be slaves to whatever defunct, poorly reasoned, and inadequate economic theory they happen to have taken in uncritically, and now mistake for the way things are.

    Example: Social Darwinism.
     
  16. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    Sounds like you're talking about Donald Trump.
     
  17. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,293
    I think you give Trump too much credit. He seems motivated solely by adulation of his audience. All his "policies" seem to be mere statements, intended to raise a cheer from whatever audience he has in mind at a given moment. I don't think he is interested in any theory at all, however bad. Trump is the archetypal bullshitter: https://newrepublic.com/article/124803/donald-trump-not-liar
     
  18. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    24,072
    The enslavement to defunct philosophy would not be conscious - as with the economics, it would be mistaken (by the victim) for simply what is, reality itself.
    More examples: gold is real money; cause and effect physically exist.
     
  19. river Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    9,182
    The thing is , is that , no new " science " needs to be invented . The science , by those who the investigations into these phenomenon already exist .
     
  20. river Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    9,182
    What is needed is for the scientific community to have the balls , courage , to investigate all aspects of the spiritual world .
     
  21. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,798
    Spirituality arguably is studied:

    Spirituality News
    https://www.sciencedaily.com/news/mind_brain/spirituality/

    There's just no "world" associated with it unless that refers to a genre of human practices and industry.

    Targeting a literal otherworldly domain for examination or utilizing it for explanations is prescriptively excluded via the way science is methodologically or philosophically set beforehand to operate.

    It's vaguely analogous to a country passing a law that illegal aliens cannot be hired within its borders, but then actually enforcing those rules for decades or centuries. Especially easy to follow if no illegal aliens had ever been substantially confirmed as entering the country. But even if they had been, still obeying the law to not employ them.

    Another analogy: "You are only permitted to play tangible acoustic guitars here in the Tommy Emmanuel String Warrior Challenge. That's the game, probie," the referee admonished as he slapped him on the back of the head in Jethro Gibbs style. "If you want to play air guitars at home, that's your business."

    - - -
     
  22. Michael 345 Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,219
    Science has investigated all sorts of bunkum Woo Woo and Cowpat

    All they found was more bunkum Woo Woo and Cowpat

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

     
  23. Michael 345 Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,219
    If you are of the impression cause and effect physically exist

    I'll take 10 now and can you put 10 on layby for Christmas please?

    Thanks

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

     

Share This Page