The Scientific Method

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  • #31
dekoi
You are continuing to return to the notion that science was at some point and time, philosophy. Science is in no way related to philosophy.

If you do not mind, let me suggest my reply to the thread "Can Everything be Reduced to Pure Physics" in Metaphysics and Epistemology. It outlines the general differences between science and philosophy.

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Science is believed to be a means to give reason for once unexplainable phenomenon. It promises validity and preciseness. Some even state that science is an omnipotent method, which lives in the foreground of knowledge. It is beyond philosophy, as philosophy only lives in its unnoticed shadow, theorizing what science promises to eventually prove. The arisen conflict is not the dispute of science as a means of knowledge, but its claim to be an omnipotent source of this knowledge. Perhaps, it is the origin of scientific knowledge, but certainly not knowledge altogether. Since scientific knowledge only proves the most naïve and minor questions – which might at that certain moment, seem like enormously important ones --- while philosophy is a completely distinct method; a method which explains what science cannot.

The importance of philosophy should not be ignored. It is of course, greatly ignored in our civilization. Though, the most previous statement is ignored as well. It is difficult to communicate such messages to such narrow minded humans – who have devoted their entire life to one methodology of knowledge. These “automata” have been programmed by everything ranging from their education system to their media’s commandments. Once children who believe in epistemology as a synonym for scientific explanation, now are completely independent adults, who adapt to this perverse notion of complete scientific knowledge.

The universe is complex beyond our comprehension. The most intelligent of our civilization have been stuck in dazed state, where everything seems to be designed for something else in this infinite universe-puzzle, yet simultaneously, nothing seems to be related to anything else. The world appears strangely interconnected and disconnected at the same instant; scientific knowledge creates this perception. These people have failed to realize what is already in our nature. They have not understood, and therefore appreciated, human’s quest and hunger for knowledge; and not only scientific, but universal knowledge. Intellect which could explain the reason for Mars’s atmosphere, just as well as it could give meaning to our lives. Scientific, as well philosophical and theological knowledge is what we have been gifted with in our own human nature.

We can not use the same principle to explain the universe. Just as we could not live a life solely on one certain, specific principle. We need a combination of methods. One can not explain life using only the scientific method; nor only theology, or only philosophy. It is a combination of these which demonstrates the complex nature of the universe. Physics (or more generally, 'science',) is a simple tool, used to describe simple situations. It is productive – in fact, the most productive of anything known to humans. Yet philosophy allows us to produce knowledge beyond the scientific. We become aware of not only our external, physical surrounding and of specific occurrences and objects, but of our general meaning. The unimportant questions are answered by science. Science can not answer the most important questions because its method does not allow it. Science is pure physicality. Philosophy answers the questions which science fails to answers in a valid, clear, definite way. What philosophy does not answer, theology does. Each of these: science, philosophy, and theology, has its own way of answering questions. Its own 'method' if you will. You would not, for example, ask a physician to fix your car, because it is not his field of knowledge. You would ask a mechanic instead. Similarly, you would not ask a mechanic to prescribe you medicine. It is in no way, related to his method of work. Science is not sufficient enough for living a good life, and creating a good society. While humanity progresses, it realizes the questions which philosophy can answer, and those which science can. When that is realized, the question will be sufficiently answered by a specific method. Science investigates. Philosophy does not. Science is trapped inside the senses and human experience. Philosophy goes beyond the senses, and travels into the realms of reason and profound thought. Science can only investigate the phenomenal world. Everything beyond, is in fact, beyond its comprehension.

We should not look at philosophy as a shadow of physics or science. Philosophy is not the means of answering questions which science, in time, will answer anyway. We must come to realize they are two completely distinct methods of human intelligence. We do not philosophize and then use science to explain our philosophy. Science only attempts to answer what philosophy states. Similarly, philosophy sometimes attempts to answer what science can. "There is no dialogue between them".

Science is a means of producing. Philosophy does not produce anything at all. But knowledge is not only science. There is another use of knowledge. That use is philosophy. This philosophical knowledge directs us – directs us towards the good; towards our meaning. “The utility of science is production, and the utility of philosophy is direction.” Consequently, religion gives us the grace and faith to follow the directions with.
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Well, a good understanding of how the Sun generates so much heat and light required patience considerably beyond one lifetime ... depending on how you understand the term 'science' (and I see from later in your post that you seem to have a very long term view), well over 5,000 years!

As i said earlier, scientific questions and philosophical ones do not relate in general terms.
If that theory took beyond a lifetime to produce, that only suggests that a philosophical theory of similar magnitute would take even longer.

You're joking, right? The origin and evolution of the universe? The nature of eclipses, stars and comets? The origins of the mammal Homo sap.? The causes of disease, weather, earthquakes? If I am not mistaken, most of these have come into the domain of science only in the last 500 years or so (and the origin of the universe, only the last 100 or so)
Response:
Therefore, although our perception of them has changed, their nature has remained the same.

And, in a few words, can you describe that invariant nature?
Natural Law.
:: Every object has a purpose. Everything/Anything is somehow fitting for something else. A woman and a male for example. Everything about the two seems to be interconnected. They seem to be complete when united. This is an example of the natural law. E.g. It is our purpose to unite with the opposite gender. Philosophy has a purpose. As well as science. We discover this purpose over time. This "purpose" has never changed. Only our understanding of it has.
 
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  • #32
selfAdjoint
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It's not very useful to use philosophical categories to criticise the discoveries of 19th century science - which is most of the every day physics and chemistry we know as nonspecialists. That is all so established and cut and dried and proved six ways from Sunday that it's a fool's errand to attack it or try to replace it from first principles. Besides, all the best philosophers of the past attacked it vigorously, with no effect.

To critique things like quantum field theory or string theory from a philosophical perspective is more doable, and though it requires a considerable investment in education there are some useful voices doing that. Just as there are mathematical physicists there could usefully be philosophical physicists, but I warn you, just like the former, the latter would be dry as dust and technical to a fault. Mathematical physicists pride themelves that their work is more rigorous than that of the ordinary physicists. I suppose the pride of the philosophical physicists would be that their categories are more sharply defined and clearly stated.
 
  • #33
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dekoi said:
Science is believed to be a means to give reason for once unexplainable phenomenon. It promises validity and preciseness.

The conclusions of science are neither completely valid nor precise, but are tentative. The progression of science may travel towards greater validity or precision, but this is not a guarantee. Science can promise that it will change over time, which is expected.

dekoi said:
Since scientific knowledge only proves the most naïve and minor questions

dekoi said:
It is difficult to communicate such messages to such narrow minded humans – who have devoted their entire life to one methodology of knowledge.

dekoi said:
The most intelligent of our civilization have been stuck in dazed state, where everything seems to be designed for something else in this infinite universe-puzzle

Perhaps this is not the sort of rhetoric to present to an audience consisting mostly of scientists, ex-scientists, science educators, or people who like science?

dekoi said:
The universe is complex beyond our comprehension.

The universe is comprehensible* and the principles that govern the universe are known to a high degree of accuracy. Hence our ability to manipulate matter and energy on an unprecedented scale.

(*I like the Einstein quote: "The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is entirely comprehensible.")

dekoi said:
Philosophy does not produce anything at all.

I don't think philosophy produces nothing, hence, what would be the point? Philosophy produces interesting debates :smile:, different perspectives and insights, changes in behaviors and attitudes, and changes in public policy.
 
  • #34
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dekoi said:
I fully understand the scientific method.

After reviewing your posts in this thread, it is clear you do not fully understand the scientific method. If you did, you would not have made statements that suggest those using the scientific method believe it can prove anything or that the scientific method is universal in its ability to prove anything. This misconception of yours is deeply troubling because not only is it based upon a serious error (pointed out by several on the first page), but it suggests everyone else makes the same error.

Other severe errors are made in the last post. At no time would I ever suggest science is believed to give reason for once unexplainable phenomenon. You give no reason for making this statement. You state that science is an omnipotent method, without ever giving a reason why it is believed to be such. I certainly would never say it was, and know of no one else who does. You state that the universe is beyond our comprehension, but provide no evidence of such.

In the end, you have consistently made the same error throughout both threads; you have a grand misconception of the scientific method and the knowledge it produces, and assume everyone else does as well.

We do not.
 
  • #35
arildno
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" Science can not answer the most important questions because its method does not allow it. Science is pure physicality. Philosophy answers the questions which science fails to answers in a valid, clear, definite way. What philosophy does not answer, theology does. Each of these: science, philosophy, and theology, has its own way of answering questions. Its own 'method' if you will. You would not, for example, ask a physician to fix your car, because it is not his field of knowledge. You would ask a mechanic instead. Similarly, you would not ask a mechanic to prescribe you medicine. It is in no way, related to his method of work. Science is not sufficient enough for living a good life, and creating a good society. "

Yet again you perpetuate this silly and inaccurate analogy, dekoi. Stop it!

"Philosophy does not. Science is trapped inside the senses and human experience. Philosophy goes beyond the senses, and travels into the realms of reason and profound thought. Science can only investigate the phenomenal world. Everything beyond, is in fact, beyond its comprehension.
"
This arrogant nonsense is beneath comment.
 
  • #36
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Science is not purely physicality, science deals with the demonstrable. If it can't be repeated and demonstrated, it ain't science. This is true for christian scientists as well as the most skeptical scientist. For a christian scientist, what is written in the Bible can be demonstrated repeatedly while for a skeptical scientist quantum mechanics can be demonstrated repeatedly, whether it ultimately has any "physical" cause or not.
 
  • #37
dekoi
And would the "demonstrable" not be physical? If it is repeated and demonstrated, is it not physical?

arildno, your post simply stated that i made an arrogant reply, with no arguments whatsoever. Would it not be much more practical to PM me and tell me that? Is the point of replies to share knowledge with others, or to give titles to specific members?
 
  • #38
Nereid
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dekoi said:
And would the "demonstrable" not be physical? If it is repeated and demonstrated, is it not physical?
It's an interesting question dekoi!

How does one go about doing research on the subjective experiences of other humans? By asking them to make some kind of report of their experiences while at the same time watching the dials and gauges of the incredibly sophisticated equipment that monitors their brains as they report! (I'm sure you'll agree that humans' subjective experiences are entirely within their brains).

But, to turn your question around, how can convey anything whatsoever about your subjective experiences (e.g. talking with a non-physical entity) except by a physical medium? Indeed, how do I know you even exist, except via my computer screen and the internet? (not to mention any of your ideas!)

Not to belabour the point too much, if you claim there is something 'non-physical', or 'non-demonstratable', the only way you have to tell anyone else about it is through physical means, and then at least some aspects of your 'non-physical' experiences have been captured in physical form, and are amenable to study by the scientific method.
 
  • #39
dekoi
Good point Nereid.

Although you would agree that the essence of metaphysical or philosophical knowledge is still missing -- if you discuss is with someone else via physical means. However, i do understand your point, and it is worth noting.
 
  • #40
arildno
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1.Again, you choose not to address the fact that your analogy is simply innaccurate.
2. As for arrogant nonsense, look at your wording concerning science and philosophy respectively.
 
  • #41
russ_watters
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dekoi said:
Perhaps philosophy and science were perceived differently 5000 years ago, yet that does not mean they have at all changed their domain of applicability. You have to understand philosophy, as well as science, were discovered by humanity. They were not created by humanity. (And although many will say this is purely subjective, i tend to disagree). Therefore, although our perception of them has changed, their nature has remained the same.
I share Nereid's objection and let me expand with my take on it:

IMO, you fundamentally misunderstand what "science" and "philosophy" are. It seems from what you have said that you might define science as 'the set of laws that governs how our physical universe operates.' But thats wrong. Science is the search for the set of laws that governs how our physical universe operates. Similarly, philosophy is also a method of searching for answers, not a set of answers in itself.

The difference may seem subtle, but its extrordinarily important. It means, among other things, that science didn't even exist in a coherent form before about 500 years ago (or, at least, nowhere near its modern form). Aristotle called his work "natural philosophy" and I consider that accurate: it was philosophy, not science. And where Aristotle's work has been largely discarded as not scientific (not just wrong - Newton was wrong, but we still use his work because it was scientific), a large part of what used to be philosophy has now been completely taken over by science. The reason for this, of course, is that philosophy developed first and for a while, it was the only way to approach a search for knowledge.

This gradual takeover happened quite simply because philosophy gives wrong answers to questions about what is going on in the physical world. And for the parts of philosophy that science hasn't helped solidify, the answers are all subjective.

On this board and others, I have seen a one-way confict between science and philosophy, with philosophers attacking science in an effort to keep it from intruding on the domain of philosophy. But this is futile. As Nereid noted (and I'll expand), virtually anything that can be written down or recorded in any way can be studied scientifically. This doesn't leave a whole lot of room for philosophy.

But I did say its largely a one-way conflict: though a few scientists have delved into those questions that remain unanswerable (why are we here?), most scientists (for now) are content to just let them go and leave them to philosophers.
 
  • #42
selfAdjoint
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Three guys who did science in Greek antiquity:

Aristarchus (measured distance of sun and moon)
Eratosthenes (measured size of earth)
Hipparchus (discovered precession of equinoxes)
Archimedes (developed laws of floating bodies)
 
  • #43
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I have been fearfully mislead concerning the definition of three!

:biggrin:

Just playing!
 
  • #44
russ_watters
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selfAdjoint said:
Three[4] guys who did science in Greek antiquity:

Aristarchus (measured distance of sun and moon)
Eratosthenes (measured size of earth)
Hipparchus (discovered precession of equinoxes)
Archimedes (developed laws of floating bodies)
Fair enough. Would it be fair though, to say that while a few people did practice what can be considered "science" prior to the Renaissance, it didn't really exist as a coherent/preferred methodology for investigating physical phenomena until then?
 
  • #45
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dekoi said:
And would the "demonstrable" not be physical? If it is repeated and demonstrated, is it not physical?

arildno, your post simply stated that i made an arrogant reply, with no arguments whatsoever. Would it not be much more practical to PM me and tell me that? Is the point of replies to share knowledge with others, or to give titles to specific members?

The demonstrable by definition influences the physical, but need not be physical in and of itself. Again, if quantum mechanics is utterly random and without physical cause, this can be demonstrated but only by observing the physical itself. If light is "pure" energy (whatever that means!) it can only be demonstrated to be pure energy because of its interactions with what we call the physical.
 
  • #46
Nereid
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russ_watters said:
Fair enough. Would it be fair though, to say that while a few people did practice what can be considered "science" prior to the Renaissance, it didn't really exist as a coherent/preferred methodology for investigating physical phenomena until then?
It's possibly more accurate to say that elements of what we call science today can be observed in almost all groups throughout history (and pre-history), whenever enough time and effort is put into the study (by modern anthropologists, ethnobotanists, historians, etc). The discovery and use of plants for medicinal purposes may be an example. The historical and intellectual roots of today's 'science' do include a lot from the Renaissance. What methods were used, how well codified they were, in what domains they were employed, how systematic an approach was used, ... these are all fascinating dimensions to explore in HPS. :smile:
 
  • #47
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russ_watters said:
Fair enough. Would it be fair though, to say that while a few people did practice what can be considered "science" prior to the Renaissance, it didn't really exist as a coherent/preferred methodology for investigating physical phenomena until then?

I don't think it existed as a coherent methodology until the nineteenth century. Before that experiment was catch-as-catch-can, and really not different in kind from what Archimedes did. Theory was a branch of mathematics.

BTW I used the htrae-retnuoc mrof snamuh drawckab definition of three in my earlier post. ;)
 
  • #48
russ_watters
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Sounds reasonable. Different societies leaned in different directions - some more towards religion, some more towards philosophy/science, some with mixtures. This may just be the anthropic principle (it didn't because it didn't), but I wonder why science never coagulated into its current form before modern times? It seems the Greeks were close. I wonder why it didn't happen for them - perhaps its Aristotle's fault...?

I only took one "history of science" course in college and it was really interesting. I'd like to know more...
 
  • #49
arildno
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russ_watters said:
Sounds reasonable. Different societies leaned in different directions - some more towards religion, some more towards philosophy/science, some with mixtures. This may just be the anthropic principle (it didn't because it didn't), but I wonder why science never coagulated into its current form before modern times? It seems the Greeks were close. I wonder why it didn't happen for them - perhaps its Aristotle's fault...?

I only took one "history of science" course in college and it was really interesting. I'd like to know more...
My own pet theory as to why the Greeks and the Romans did not develop science beyond craftmanship (in which they excelled on many areas), is as follows:
1. In order to dispassionately observe the natural world over long periods of time and devising theories about it, it has been, for most times, been necessary to
a) be financially independent.
Sartre once said "philosophy is luxury", it is no less true of scientific research.
b) Be mentally inclined to do so; in particular, not vesting most of your intellectual powers into enhancing your social prestige, for example.

2. Now, the culture in which aristocrats grew up in Greece and Rome was extremely focused on getting the young noblemen into social forums and vying for positions(and to spend their life in service of the fatherland, if you will).
Rich individuals who didn't bother with politics where generally frowned upon, and called 'idiots' in Greek.
Hence, at the outset, it should be expected to be only an extremely tiny group of "gentlemen" who might develop what we call science.
(The seeds of science was certainly present, but more like knowledge within a specific craft, like the smith's knowledge of metals.)

3. So what's different later on?
What happened in Christian medieval culture is rather unique:
The development of monasteries meant that a host of intelligent men lived outside the "normal world", and a "life in meditation" was no longer uniformly looked down upon, but to some extent, admired.
The idea that a "life in meditation" could be a worthy life was thereby born, and hence, in a later, less superstitious age, a larger percentage of "men with means" might regard a life spent in meditation of the natural world as worthwhile than what was true in Greece and Rome
(where the "nobility of meditation" would, in general, have been laughed off as an idea stemming from dreamers and idiots )
 
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  • #50
Chronos
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The philosophy of art has always about expressing concepts in geometrical terms. Science has followed that path.
 
  • #51
selfAdjoint
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Chronos said:
The philosophy of art has always about expressing concepts in geometrical terms. Science has followed that path.

That doesn't descibe any philosophy of art that I know about. Do you mean perspective? Not a philosophy but one among many techniques.

And as for science, some physicists have been high on geometry and others couldn't seee it for sour apples. And that only described physics anyway.
 
  • #52
arildno
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I think he thought my pet theory was idiotic, and provided his own..:wink:
(Pets are usually both cute and simple-minded; it's part of their charm,IMO)
 
  • #53
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arildno said:
I think he thought my pet theory was idiotic, and provided his own..:wink:
(Pets are usually both cute and simple-minded; it's part of their charm,IMO)

My own response to your pet theory is that it only applies to the city-state period of Greek history, and somewhat misrepresents that. The existence of quite a few philosophers in the city-states does not refute, but does stress your theory. In the hellenistic period the situation was different. Large monarchies and empires dominated the political landscape and bureaucracy was well developed. Professional educators, astronomers, and librarians appeared. Eratosthenes and Hipparchus were both in the employ of the Ptolemaic empire.
 
  • #54
arildno
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You are certainly right about the Hellenistic period; it was, I believe, the most interesting period in Greece from a strictly scientific point of view.

As to the "classical" city-state period (i.e, the time of Pericles/Socrates), I think Aristophanes' scathing portrayals of philosophers ("The Clouds" in particular) are more representative of what people thought about the philosophers, than whatever the philosophers themselves wanted.
In tenuous connection with this, I believe the sophists, whose primary work was teaching rhetoric (politician-grooming) were much better regarded among the populace than philosophers like Socrates/Plato (that is, I believe, the personal /(real?) reason why Plato disliked them..)
 
  • #55
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How about this for a thought - The scientific method we know today came about as a result of the character of western religious philosophy. The belief in a single God who created the universe with a set of unchanging laws that govern it prompted the search for those laws. (I wrote a paper in college, for a physics class no less, with this as the theme)
 
  • #56
arildno
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I never said my pet theory was in any way sufficient; I do think your point has a lot of relevance.
I do think it is somewhat easier within the framework of a monotheistic religion to lend credibility to the idea that natural laws are immutable.
It is, however, a bit too easy to jump to your (and my) conclusion; "the set of unchanging laws" wasn't a particularly prevalent idea in early Christianity.
Which means:
There's a long way still to go..
 

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