Re: Chronicle of Higher Education

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. (
Date: Wed Dec 26 2001 - 18:14:40 EST

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    On Tue, 18 Dec 2001 12:59:01 -0500 Moorad Alexanian
    <> writes:
    in part:
    > It is difficult to discuss issues involving the word science without
    > unequivocally defining what one means by it. It should be remarked
    > that the
    > subject matter of science is data collected by physical devices. In
    > physics,
    > knowing is based on evidence obtained via the interactions of
    > particles/fields. If something cannot, in principle, be measured by
    > physical
    > devices, then that something is outside the purview of science. This
    > gives a
    > clear demarcation of what science is and what it is not.
    Got to thinking about this definition of science and had to conclude that
    bacteriology is not a science. Practitioners use devices that require
    fairly sophisticated science for their design, e.g. apochromatic lenses
    and phase contrast systems. But these do not measure the bacteriological
    matters. It seems obvious to me that inoculation loops, burners, petri
    dishes and slant media are clearly not involved in measurement. On a
    similar basis, IMO, one can prove that most other disciplines are not

    Going back in history, did Galileo using his pulse to time the swing of a
    chandelier qualify as using a physical measuring device? Indeed, could
    the pendulum be part of science under Moorad's stricture before the
    derivation of its formula on Newtonian principles, which seems other than
    measurement? Indeed, can one say that gravity had then been measured?
    Coming down to the present, can eyeballing a spray of particles qualify
    as measurement by a physical device? Looks to me as though only some
    aspects of the investigation of physical matters rate as proper science.
    Sorry to have to classify all the rest of you who think you're scientists
    as practicing quasi-sciences. This has to be a category different from
    "historical science," of course.

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