Re: Separation of science and religion

Moorad Alexanian (alexanian@UNCWIL.EDU)
Mon, 24 Nov 1997 12:58:28 -0500 (EST)

At 02:36 PM 11/24/97 +0000, Richard Dimery wrote:
>> Theory may suggest what experiments to do but experimental science is indeed
>> theory free. Experimental science is constituted by historical propositions
>> of the type: "on such and such a day I released the stone and it fall as
>> follows." The generalization of such events constitutes the laws of
>> (experimental) science. The interpretation or understanding of the laws
>> constitutes theory.
>Even data, I'm afraid, is often seen as theory-laden. There is some
>interpretation going on even when we report things. If you talk about a
>stone going through a glass window, you're making assumptions about the
>state and nature of the glass before and after the event, talking about
>properties of glass containing counterfactuals (unbroken glass is fragile,
>meaning that _if_ it were to have a stone thrown at it, it _would_ break.)
>You're classifying "glass windows" as transparent sheets made of a
>category of compounds based on aggregate. You're assuming your eyes aren't
>deceiving you, and the stone isn't just passing through the glass.

I believe the main interpretations go on inside one's head--how to make
sense of your sensory perceptions. The types Kant raised about the a priori
nature of the notions of time and space. I do not think the example you give
contradict anything I said. Of course, the question of measurements is a
nasty problem in quantum mechanics since it seems one needs a macroscopic,
classical system to interact with the microsystems in order to make

>Even needles flickering on electronic equipment are theory-laden
>observations. We don't just say "oh, the ammeter needle is moving 30
>degrees. That's interesting". We say "oh look, there are 4.5 amps moving
>thorugh that wire" (excuse my physics). Our observations generally have an
>extra layer of interpretation even before we start to Interpret them.

I do not see any difference between your meter reading and what Tycho Brahe
did in his naked observations of planets and their motion. The laws were
derived by Kepler using his planetary notions which were consistent with the
observations of Brahe. The theory was provided by Newton.