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Creating An Exact Science

  1. Jan 1, 2007 #1
    May you have a fun 2007 DD. I find your request to be of interest, so I would like to move forward, one small step at a time, with a new thread on this topic. This then will require that you do not "over answer" each step DD :approve:

    Step #1. We take this statement and first define operational terms:

    ...examine philosophy from the perspective of creating an exact science...
    Define "examine philosophy", "create", "exact science":

    I put the above statement in bold and red because we will often in the future need to return to it to ground our discussion--keep us on track.

    So, to move forward with Step #1: please define these terms DD (so that we see how these definitions relate to your discovery--but please, no talk about your discovery yet, just three definitions). Once we are completed with Step #1 via forum feedback and discussion, we will move to Step #2--finding logical solution(s) of how to "create an exact science".
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 1, 2007 #2
    I am willing to go with any definition for “examine philosophy” acceptable to the general public (exactly what is meant by this term is not at all an important issue). Likewise for “create”. These terms are in common usage throughout the world and no specific constraint was intended. “Exact science” is, on the other hand, a rather specific concept and one close to my heart. Wikipedia begins its definition of exact science with the statement that the term “refers to fields of study that admit especially precise predictions and rigorous methods of testing hypotheses…”. I am of the opinion that they have the horse on the wrong side of the cart here. It seems to me that they bring up the consequences of the science being exact, not what actually makes the science exact.

    What makes a science exact is that acceptable assertions within the field are exact: that these assertions are specific and well defined, that is, only precise statements are acceptable. This is an issue very difficult to get across to people not involved in exact work (when they hear the word “exact” they tend to think of Spock from Star Trek). When I was teaching (many many years ago) one of the examples I often gave was the fact that no one familiar with mathematics would accept 3141592… as an expression for pie (the missing decimal point is a deadly omission). Likewise, in physics, to state that the distance between two points was 3.28 feet is just as bad (no one has ever made such a measurement): in any “exact” measurement, one must include an estimate of the error. That estimate is as important to a measurement as the decimal point is to mathematics.

    Now little is made of that fact (most people tend to be sloppy, even scientists); however, in an exact science, a little pressure will result in those scientists expressing their ideas in a more exact manner. Vague or easily misunderstood expressions are specifically unacceptable. The nice thing about exact statements is that they can be examined and judged. Now exactness is not an absolute (like a decimal point or error margins), exactness is a variable quality and the exactness of a specific statement may be quite different from another supposed “exact” statement. I would say that exactness is a measure of the opportunity for misinterpretation of the information being expressed by the statement. An exact science is one which does not allow statements which can be misinterpreted. Poetry is not an exact science and physics is not an exact science when you get down to the nitty gritty; however, it is far more exact than many other “sciences”. Regarding Spock and “exact statements”, “I don’t know” could be a very exact statement!
    I hate to jump ahead but all one has to do is only allow exact statements and “existence exists” is not an exact statement as it presumes the meanings of “existence” and “exists” are understood which is clearly false as their meanings were the subject under discussion.

    There is one other issue which must be understood: discussing exact statements (to determine the extent of that exactness) is not an exact science so don’t confuse that discussion with the intended collection of “exact statements”.

    I tried to be exact in that presentation. :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

    Have fun -- Dick
  4. Jan 1, 2007 #3
    first all disciplines should be better understood then they are now to understand "exactness" and for that matter an "exact science".
  5. Jan 1, 2007 #4
    Thank you Doctordick, I am very happy to see that you want to proceed. Truly my goal here is to understand your philosophy about how to create an exact science--I'll let others decide if the question has any importance to them.

    So, again, let us restate the thread objective, to:
    ...examine philosophy from the perspective of creating an exact science...

    You are clear in your initial post that the only term we need to define in our thread objective is the term "exact science". So, I searched your post for your definition, and find two comments that help:

    Now, you also make comments about other terms "exactness", "exact measurement", "exact statements"--but these are for the future--here at Step#1 we must limit discussion to "exact science".

    So, from the above here is a proposed definition (I will put any definitions in blue):

    Definition #1: Exact Science is a field of study where acceptable assertions are specific, well defined, and precise such that any statements cannot be misinterpreted.

    OK, I will wait for any further discussion from you, Doctordick, and any other forum readers, then we move on to Step#2.
  6. Jan 2, 2007 #5
    Well, I have no complaint with that at all.

    I await further posts -- Dick
  7. Jan 2, 2007 #6

    Exactness is in the eyes of the designer. How many witnesses/results does it take to decide if a science is exact or not? One could have the same 100,000 results from an experiment that is part of the "exact science" and that is the product of the exact science. But the 100,001st result is the opposite result to the first 100,000. One may have only done 96,001 experiments and never realize that the science behind the experiment is not exact because you didn't do experiment #100,001. How exact is exact?
  8. Jan 2, 2007 #7
    There is no exact science because we as a human species do not know everything there is to know for any given discipline. In fact, the more we know, the more we don't know and more questions get asked. So how can any discipline be exact?
  9. Jan 2, 2007 #8
    To nannoh and ptalar: I will let DoctorDick respond to your comments, but from his post #2, it is clear that in his philosophy the term "exact", when it is combined with "science" is NOT a knowledge condition without error--two statements from post #2 make this point:
    Thus it is my reading of DoctorDick that an "exact science" is knowledge with error, and that the error can be mathematically quantified, and this information can then be used to advantage to make predictions. But I will stop here and let DoctorDick respond, and see if we get any additional comments on his accepted "definition of exact science" :
    Definition #1: Exact Science is a field of study where acceptable assertions are specific, well defined, and precise such that any statements cannot be misinterpreted.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 2, 2007
  10. Jan 3, 2007 #9
    My opinion is that neither nannoh nor ptalar have any experience with the nature of an "exact science" as understood by a modern scientist nor do they have any comprehension of what is being discussed on this thread. I see no reason to pay any attention at all to their comments. :yuck:

    If others want to join in the mock battle they seem intent on opening, have a ball; it's no skin off my nose.

    Have fun -- Dick
  11. Jan 3, 2007 #10
    To DoctorDick. It looks like it is time to proceed. To review, in Step#1 we presented the thread objective that you put forth to...
    ...examine philosophy from the perspective of creating an exact science...
    and we concluded that we only need a single definition to begin the process...
    Definition #1: Exact Science is a field of study where acceptable assertions are specific, well defined, and precise such that any statements cannot be misinterpreted.

    However, before we move on, I have a few points that I need to be very clear about.

    1. Clearly in your philosophy any "exact science" (say science X) has measurement with error--is this not correct ? Thus an exact science must always yield uncertain (error present) knowledge--correct ?

    2. Not so clear to me, would any "exact science" (science X) have only one "interpretation" of the "acceptable assertions" that cannot be misinterpreted to yield uncertain knowledge, or would multiple such interpretations be possible ?

    After you kindly provide answers to these questions we can move on to Step#2, your design process of how to create an "exact science".
  12. Jan 4, 2007 #11
    Ignore this rather waffling definition of what you are trying to exact in this thread and have fun with it:wink: :


    http://www.answers.com/exact science
  13. Jan 4, 2007 #12
    Thank you Nannoh for this contribution. I was not aware of the term "exact science" until I read the OP contribution from DoctorDick where he asked if anyone wanted to discuss how to create an exact science. From what I can gather from the Wiki post you provide above, there is no recognized standard definition in philosophy or science or mathematics of the term "exact science". Also, using mathematics alone does not insure the creation of an "exact science", if the mathematical computation is based on "false premise". This is logical thus true.

    But then, this seems to increase relevancy of this thread topic since DoctorDick will shortly inform how to creat an "exact science" based on the definition he has approved:
    Definition #1: Exact Science is a field of study where acceptable assertions are specific, well defined, and precise such that any statements cannot be misinterpreted.--but we will have to hold him to the logical constraint that his design process must not start from "false premise(s)"--but I am sure he will agree to this.

    I must wait for DoctorDick to catch up with the thread discussion.
  14. Jan 5, 2007 #13
    I sort of felt I was pretty well caught up. I think the discussion with AnssiH is more directed towards understanding “exact science” than is this thread to date.
    Hi Spock! Exactness, when it refers to science, has nothing to do with numerical precision and everything to do with “correctness”.
    This has to do with the difference between facts and opinions. The practitioners of an exact science most definitely would agree as to what were facts and what were opinions (at least with regard to the foundations of their science). Now, the correctness of facts is of course an opinion but there are certainly significant differences. If you would bet your life on a conclusion rationally deduced from a given statement, I would hold that you believed that statement to be a fact.

    Now, as far as misinterpretation goes, it is of no significance if all the conclusions are the same: i.e. two totally different interpretation of what is going on can be analog models of one another. That is, your world view may be a totally different analog of what I think it is, but that is an issue far down the line from a foundation of ontology and really has no place here.

    Have fun -- Dick
  15. Jan 5, 2007 #14
    Now I know why you call yourself DoctorDick
  16. Jan 5, 2007 #15
    Its how we interpret and translate facts in nature that requires "correctness" among more than one person or more than one opinion.

    Here's a guide to creating your first ontology.


    Or just ignore this.:wink:
  17. Jan 5, 2007 #16
    From Post #2:
    From Post#13
    From Post#2
    I think it important to keep these points in mind about "exact" and "exactness" as we proceed.

    Thank you for your reference to another thread where you also discuss the concept of "exact science". I hope you will continue with this thread because I do not see on this other thread where you give the design blueprint of how a scientist should proceed to create and "exact science".

    DoctorDick, it is now time for you to present your design blueprint of "how to create an exact science", the prime objective of this thread discussion, using this definition:Definition #1: Exact Science is a field of study where acceptable assertions are specific, well defined, and precise such that any statements cannot be misinterpreted.. After your post the thread will be open for questions and discussion.
  18. Jan 17, 2007 #17
    in my opinion quine comes pretty close to the desired attributes. so does wittgenstein. if you want more clarity and exactness of thought you propably won't find it in humans :)
  19. Jan 20, 2007 #18
    Thread update: We wait patiently for Doctordick to provide his design blueprint of "how to create an exact science", otherwise I will consider the thread closed at this point in the discussion. I am not being flip, I have no idea how to create an exact science using this definition claimed by Doctordick as valid: Exact Science is a field of study where acceptable assertions are specific, well defined, and precise such that any statements cannot be misinterpreted.
  20. Jan 20, 2007 #19
    Would you please summarize Quine's and/or Wittgenstein's position(s) on exactly what can clearly be said in language? I suspect that you are correct in that these two thinkers have probably gotten as close to an understanding of how thought can be expressed in language as anyone has who has ever tried to describe it.

    While we are waiting for Dick's answer to Rade's question, I'll toss in my two cents worth. I have only a fleeting understanding of Wittgenstein's attitude toward the question, and even less of Quine's, and I am no expert in anything in my own right, but I have tried to understand Dick's work, and I have a modest education in mathematics so two cents is probably about right as an estimate of what these opinions are worth. Here goes anyway.

    I think Wittgenstein might have agreed that no word, or language construction, has any intrinsic meaning; that all meaning is a complex result of myriad instances of language usage among a communicating and interacting population of people; that definitions are an attempt to reduce ambiguity by specific denotation in other terms presumed to be less ambiguous than the defined term; and that the most rigorous examples of definition occur in the communities of mathematicians and logicians in their formal work.

    I think Dick would agree that mathematical formalism offers the least ambiguous language we have available to us in which to express our ideas. This is primarily a result of the cardinal rule in mathematics that no statement is accepted into the body of a formal mathematical system which is not consistent with all other statements in that system. In particular, mathematics is much better than English in this respect.

    So, I suspect that when Dick outlines his "Design Blueprint for Creating an Exact Science", he will advocate using mathematics almost exclusively, and that the blueprint will pretty much follow the lines of his theorem development which can be found in his work today. What that theorem says is that regardless of what explanation you come up with to explain X, if that explanation is internally consistent, then the explanation will be consistent with, and can be interpreted as following or obeying, the known laws of physics. So an exact science would amount to using Dick's Theorem to deduce extensions or refinements to the known laws of physics, and then use these extensions and refinements to suggest experiments which could be used to support belief in the results.

    If the previous paragraph is wrong, I'll let Dick point out the errors and we can continue from there. But right or wrong, I would like to spend what remains of my two cents on some observations.

    Dick's theorem is derived in the system of Mathematical Analysis, AKA the Calculus of Real and Complex numbers. As we know from the history of Geometry, systems that were thought, literally for millennia, to be inescapably and indubitably true, may in fact be arbitrary. For example, Euclidean Geometry was thought to be absolutely true from the time of Euclid up almost until the 20th century. Now we know that there are non-Euclidean alternatives which have an equal standing in "truth" and yet are inconsistent with Euclidean Geometry. The question of which, if any, of these alternative geometries, is consistent with "reality", or "physical reality", or "space", or any other such notion, remains open. So, the basis of Dick's Theorem is similarly open to question.

    I maintain that it is possible to define and adopt a set of mathematical axioms, which I have called the Practical Number System (PNS), and which does not contain the Real numbers, but which nonetheless contains a sufficient, finite, set of rational numbers such that all important theorems of Mathematical Analysis needed to make any possible measurement of anything accessible to experiment can be proved in the PNS.

    Thus, I believe that Dick's Theorem can also be proved in the PNS.

    The important difference between PNS and classical Mathematical Analysis, is that in PNS there are no infinities, and no continuity. PNS is grainy rather than smooth; finite rather than infinite.

    Since we don't really know whether "reality" is finite or infinite, or whether it is smooth or grainy, we don't really know which mathematical system would be better suited to express statements about it. There are many indications that reality is discrete and grainy (i.e. it seems to be quantized) and there is no evidence for anything real to be infinite. In fact the appearance of infinities in the mathematics confounds interpretations of the theories expressed in that mathematics. (Physicists win Nobel prizes for figuring out how to eliminate some of these infinities.)

    So, to Dick I would say, "Don't worry about this problem, because as I have said, your theorem holds in PNS so your result would apply equally well in a finite grainy world as it would in an infinite continuous world. You have said as much yourself many times."

    But, wait....there's more. The very foundations of mathematics are also questionable. As we have learned from Euclid's legacy, we can't be sure of the absolute truth of any proposed axiom on which we might base our mathematical system. Here we enter the murky world of Aristotle, Quine, Wittgenstein, Whitehead, and Russell. Can we perhaps build our mathematical system on the basis of logic alone? Was Aristotle correct in thinking that there are rules of logic that are indubitable and trustworthy? With the benefit of hindsight, we know that the rules of logic are about as arbitrary as the axioms of mathematics. And, as Whitehead and Russell discovered to their dismay, foundations laid on logic might as well have been laid on quicksand.

    So it seems to me that the problem comes down to the question of whether we can say anything trustworthy in language at all. And, so, I will repeat my request to Paradigma11, to sketch out for us what Quine and Wittgenstein had to say on this question. If those two can't help us find some solid footing, then even this attempt at developing an Exact Science may be just another "mock battle".

    Warm regards,

    Last edited: Jan 20, 2007
  21. Jan 21, 2007 #20
    Thank you Paul. I agree words can confuse (your post was very wordy), so let us attempt in the future to use as few words as possible as we move forward in this thread topic. I have always been greatly impressed how few words god used (in Genesis) to explain the design blueprint for creation of a very complex system--man: (A) dust of earth + (B) breath of god = (C) man. How refreshing, perhaps we can say beautiful mathematics if such is possible ! But of course god was silent on dynamics of the creation process--let us hope Doctordick corrects what we can call gods lapse on explanation of creation of man. So, let us keep in mind what is being created on this thread and use as few words as possible to explain the design blueprint for an exact science defined as: Exact Science is a field of study where acceptable assertions are specific, well defined, and precise such that any statements cannot be misinterpreted

    Excellent !--let us hope so
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