RE: Moorad's assumed time line

From: Alexanian, Moorad <>
Date: Fri May 21 2004 - 13:51:12 EDT

Contrary to what Bridgman writes, I believe that when humans use their rationality they are doing more that just science. Human logic is used in subjects that have nothing to do with science. One has to define a disciple, say, science by its subject matter and not merely by the fact that when doing it we are using our brains even to the utmost!



        -----Original Message-----
        From: on behalf of George Murphy
        Sent: Fri 5/21/2004 8:11 AM
        To: Jim Armstrong
        Subject: Re: Moorad's assumed time line

        ----- Original Message -----
        From: "Jim Armstrong" <>
        Cc: <>
        Sent: Thursday, May 20, 2004 10:48 PM
        Subject: Re: Moorad's assumed time line
> I am inclined to think that something essential has been lost in some of
> the discussions here about the nature of science. I suppose I state the
> obvious here, but it seems to me that the core of science is the
> process, the four familar steps. There is nothing intrinsically
> mathematical about the scientific process, though it gets more specific
> in accuracy (and confidence level) when it lends itself to mathematical
> statement. Physics falls most clearly into that latter category,
> involving quantitative instrumentation for much of what it does
> experimentally, and wonderfully concise and accurate mathematical
> description. However, the basic processes of science do not require
> mathematics to come to some conclusions with reasonable confidence. The
> level of confidence obviously is a variable that is more subjective as
> one moves away from good crisp descriptive mathematical models.
> Part of what makes the social sciences [I'm willing to characterize most
> of them as science because most anything meaningful is concluded on the
> basis of those four steps of the scientific method] softer with respect
> to variations from central tendency and levels of confidence is the
> underlying human element, statistical variation that derives from human
> choice and a typically huge (perhaps indeterminate) numbers of
> influential variables. I don't think that is a basis for sniffing at
> their status as sciences as much as it is perhaps a call for more
> respect on the basis of some important, even life-changing insights
> achieved along the way; and perhaps even to better acknowledge their
> success despite the difficult nature of the statistics-"endowed" terrain
> and what will undoubtedly prove to be the relatively immature state of
> the data-deriving "instruments".
> I have a sense that we lose something fundamental and important when we
> move the definitional focus of scientific practice away from the simple
> 4-step cycle to concentrate instead on the accuracies of physical sensor
> derived data and mathematical models, just one particular subset of the
> ways to "do science".
> ...or so it seemeth to me. JimA
                Science involves observation of the world (including controlled
        observation = experiment) and the use of reason - not necessarily in that
        order. Beyond that any description of a "scientific method," whether or 4
        steps or anything else, as prescriptive & not merely descriptive isn't very
        helpful. In 1865 Claude Bernard, in An Introduction to the Study of
        Experimental Medicine, put it this way:
            In a word, if men of science are useful to philosophers, and
        philosophers to men of science, men of science remain free, none the less;
        and masters in their own house; as for myself, I think that men of
        science achieve their discoveries, their theories and their science apart
        from philosophers. ... As for Bacon and other more modern
        philosophers who try a general systematization of precepts for scientific
        research, they may seem alluring to people who look at science only from
        a distance; but works like theirs are of no use to experienced scientists;
        and by false simplification of things, they mislead men who wish to devote
        themselves to cultivating science.
                Percy Bridgman (Nobel Prize in Physics, 1946) was more succinct:
        "Science is doing your damnedest with your mind with no holds barred."
Received on Fri May 21 13:51:42 2004

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