Re: definition of science

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <dfsiemensjr@juno.com>
Date: Sun Apr 24 2005 - 15:26:54 EDT

On Sun, 24 Apr 2005 13:14:55 -0400 "Alexanian, Moorad"
<alexanian@uncw.edu> writes:
>
> It is the goal of scientists to "mathematisize" as much as possible
> their disciple following the successful examples in the physical
> sciences. Of course, complex systems may not be amenable to such
> treatments. However, even weather prediction, a complex system is
> based on computer simulations.
>
> If science is defined as "simply systematized knowledge and
> systematic increase of that knowledge," then everything is science.
> I believe is best to define science via its subject matter.
>
Let me demonstrate my ignorance on the matter of meteorology. Is weather
prediction a matter of computation or of pattern matching? I recall
reading some years ago of an experiment to compute the weather for a day
using all the measurements available--including some special to the test.
It took 48 hours on the fastest available computer to do the computation.
However, I don't believe that teraflop supercomputers were then in use.
Additionally, the broadcast reports will occasionally mention different
models consulted, and I doubt that local weathermen are running elaborate
computations. Is there a meteorologist in the crowd who can clarify the
matter?

As to defining "science," is it /scientia/ and /Wissenschaft/, or the
narrower natural science commonly assumed in English? Moorad clearly
assumes the latter. But further questions arise. We recognize measurement
if mathematics is involved, though what kind are allowed gets us into
disagreement--like the "rat psychologists" and "real psychologists" a
colleague described. A major difference is that experimental
psychologists demand instrumental measurements and applied/clinical
psychologists allow rating scales and similar approaches that have a
subjective element. There is a clear difference in the definition of
"science" between the two groups of psychologists, as among many other
groups. The different views seem to be matters of methodology rather than
subject matter.

Does objectivity make something scientific? I can think of nothing much
more objective than recording the outdoor temperature at 10 a.m. every
morning, a common exercise in many elementary classrooms. But, according
to knowledgeable commentators, it's not science because it has no
theoretical connections. But consider someone counting the occurrence of
words, the length of sentences, etc., in various works or parts of works,
running comparisons and declaring the same or different authorship,
period, or whatever. Is this science, or voodoo? Why? Is it better than
taking the first letter of every nth word, or some related scheme, in
order to find a message? Both involve objective numerical data and at
least an implicit theory.
Dave
Received on Sun Apr 24 15:33:03 2005

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Sun Apr 24 2005 - 15:33:08 EDT