Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

The Myth Of Empirical Knowledge, Data, Evidence

  1. Jul 8, 2004 #1
    The Scientific Method is based on empirical evidence that can be duplicated and verified by more than one person or group. The operative word here is EMPIRICAL.

    Empirical: that which is observed or experienced; capable of being
    verified or disproved by observation or experiment.

    Here “observation or experiment” are the operative words. All human observation and experience are ultimately and inevitably personal subjective perceptions of sensory input.

    Our sensory organs are limited and fallible. Our instruments are limited and fallible. There is no absolutely accurate device with which we can measure the results or outcome of any experiment. There is no know absolute constant in the universe with which to measure anything with the possible exception of the speed of light, c; and, even that is an unobservable and disprovable assumption of relativity. Even if there were such a device or constant there is nothing else in the universe to measure that is absolute or constant. Everything is subject to uncertainty, relativity and subject to error and human perceptions. At best we can come up with is an acceptable statistical correlation on which to base or perceptions of objective, material, physical reality.

    We say knowledge, data, evidence is empirical if it is observable, experienced, verifiable and provable or disprovable yet many closely and favorably held theories are not observable, not experiential, not provable nor disprovable. The Big Bang theory and string or superstring theory are two such theories that come immediately to mind. QM is at best an extremely accurate estimation and not supported by valid acceptable mathematical procedures as its formula and equations are “normalized” to get rid of all those pesky infinities.

    The point is that every and all bits of knowledge, data, information or evidence whether garnered by experiment, observation or experience is all subject to the limits of our instruments, our senses, uncertainty, relativity and to individual human subjective perceptions. There is no such thing as scientific, objective, empirical evidence, date or knowledge. There is only human perceptions of limited data of unknown accuracy that is statistical in nature that we use to build our models of an ever changing non-absolute universe which is in indefinable part of our reality.

    We guess at physical reality, the universe and call our guesses empirical evidence. This is not bad. It is the best and only thing that we can do. We must, however, realize that when we put the tag “empirical” on something that does not make it true or absolute.
    It simply may mean that this is our best SWAG (Scientific Wild Ass Guess).
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 8, 2004 #2
    Royce, Your right there, just have a whisky, it will be OK. :approve:

    So then is knowing just pure faith?
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2004
  4. Jul 9, 2004 #3
    Thanks, I feel better already. If fact I feel like another one. :wink:

    No, knowing is knowing what you know and don't know. Knowing that the data collected or the information in books, even text books, or scientific papers is not Gospel, not absolute, and is little more than a statistical probability not fact or truth. I can remember a lab instructor telling us that first we have to determine how good is our data.

    There is nothing that is known absolutely or with absolute certainty. We must question or reserve some little bit of doubt or skepticism. All knowledge is experiential subjective perception. Empirical knowledge is not absolute nor necessarily of any higher order of knowledge than any other kind of knowledge just because of the tags "emperical" or "scientific"; nor does emperical knowledge necessarily preclude or invalidate any other form of knowlege, data, information or experience. IMHO :approve:
  5. Jul 9, 2004 #4
    OK but which one is the pure faith, the knowing what you know or the what you don't know or niether?

    If your capable of taking a lot of time to fully read this, you might, add an antidote to, what you have written. It will be like sipping good old irish whiskey.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2004
  6. Jul 10, 2004 #5
    Short answer, neither. Knowing is in a way the opposite of faith. If one has knowledge one does not require faith in that area. Knowledge is based on experience and understanding which of course is all subjective. The only Absolute Truth that I know in this area without going into religion is; "I am." That is not a matter of faith; nor, is it a matter of faith that I do not absolutely know anything else but must deduce it from experiential evidence. I am in the process of reading your link and will get back to your when I've finished.
  7. Jul 10, 2004 #6
    You stated a few posts ago that we can not trust anything about knowing. Faith would be the only thing left if you trust nothing? I agree with you on the "I am". But what if you used the link for testing all the rest? :rolleyes:
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook