RE: Chronicle of Higher Education

From: Moorad Alexanian (
Date: Thu Dec 27 2001 - 12:06:19 EST

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    It is clear that man can act as a physical device detecting physical objects,
    may it be bacteria, a swinging pendulum, etc. That is done for convenience and
    for the fact that physical devices are not yet available to perform such
    measurements. Science deals with the physical and so the physical must be
    detectable by the physical---hence, the definition I give for the subject
    matter of science. If you can take photographs of bacteria, then man can view
    these photographs (physical devices) and do his study just as good as man can
    view the bacteria directly. Of course, man can detect the non-physical, viz.,
    self, deity, love, etc. Physical devices detect physical behavior of making
    love but not the notion of love. If one cannot in principle define his/her
    disciple in terms of physical measurements, then that discipline is not
    science. Areas of difficulties are the study of man himself or studies where
    man is the only detector--no physical detectors detect what man detects.

    >===== Original Message From "D. F. Siemens, Jr." <> =====
    >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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