RE: [asa] Objective vs. Subjective (and the Green Rules)

From: George Cooper <>
Date: Wed Jan 07 2009 - 13:16:35 EST

Hi Mike,


I agree with Don on this point, as the sentence "Subjective claims have no
direct influence on science" seems to be conflating science with


Think of the scientific method - observation, hypothesis, experiment.
Psychologists have shown that we don't really passively observe, we actively
perceive. Thus, the foundation of the scientific method, observation, is
subjective. This subjective element then gives rise to the hypothesis, an
expression of the mind's eye, and thus another layer of subjectivity. It's
not until we get to the experiment that measurement comes into play (unless
previous measurements are incorporated into the hypothesis). Yet, as I
noted before, the interpretation of the measurements is subjective. But
it's more than that.


I agree with your conclusion but argue that today measurements play a much
larger role in the nascent formation period of most modern hypothesis. At
least I think this is true in astronomy and cosmology, and I assume it to be
so in biology. A few centuries ago may have been a different story. I
could be wrong in this thinking, but either way, your original argument
against my wording seems quite fair.


So, I am convinced my rule as it was stated oversteps its bounds and
obfuscates its intent. I was trying to say that opinions (religious
mainly) will not directly change the way science does business, which
involves the measurements themselves, as well as, the interpretation of
those measurements. Science doesn't intentionally bend itself to
accommodate any religious view, though indirectly it might due to funding,
bias, etc. It certainly would bend itself to the subjective arguments that
were scientific in nature, as you and Don are saying. Does this view make
sense? If so, how do I word the rule so it is concise but clear?


They influence what we perceive, how we explain, what we choose to measure,
and how we interpret those measurements. Yet it is the measurement that
allows us to move beyond this sea of subjectivity. For subjective claims
have no direct influence on measurement.


Yes, we can't stand on the Island of Science until objective evidence (ie
measurements) is our foundation. Even though religious and philosophical
claims may include objective elements, these are used in a different manner
than scientific theory, though it too is subjective. There is a qualitative
difference sense science scrutiny is not a preference for science, it is a
requirement intrinsic to all scientific theories. This difference also
places boundaries on our Island of Science (The Shores of Science) as
concrete foundations (Measurments) don't float. [Ok, I'm having some
metaphor fun, but it seems to work. J]







- Mike

----- Original Message -----

From: George Cooper <>


Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2009 10:01 AM

Subject: RE: [asa] Objective vs. Subjective (and the Green Rules)


Hi Don,


Thanks for your views on the green rules.


Subjective claims have no direct influence on science.


On the contrary; subjective claims are what drive progress in formulating
scientific theory. We sometimes call them hypotheses. A. Einstein: "The
theorist who undertakes [to flesh out a theory] should not be carped at as
'fanciful'; on the contrary, he should be encouraged to give free reign to
his fancy, for there is no other way to the goal."


I agree with Einstein; subjectivity is not pejorative term. Supposition,
hypotheses, conjecture, theory, views, ideas, insights, and other subjective
claims are all part of the process found in science. The intent of the
statement was to show that they do not directly alter the foundation to
science. Reliable and accurate facts are not altered by any opinion
(scientific or otherwise). Also, part of the intent was to claim that
religion and philosophy do not alter the facts directly, but indirectly.
Nevertheless, subjective ideas are essential to finding things useful from
the data. That is why I followed the statement with, "[Subjectivity can
indirectly greatly influence science via the scientist and supporting
parties, but the foundational measurements remain objective.]"


Unfortunately, my statement does seem to be an overstatement and I need to
word it better. Perhaps something like, "Subjective claims can not alter
the foundation to science (ie. factual evidence)." Any advice?



objective elements of any subjective claim [are open to scientific scrutiny]


A subjective claim once stated is an arrangement of words now divorced from
the private feelings that gave rise to it. Every word of the subjective
claim is an object in the public domain. So yes, both the words and their
meaning can be scrutinized--but not the feelings that gave rise to them.


The intent of this rule is to claim that any element within subjective
claims that can be tested scientifically (objective measurements) is
vulnerable to what science has to say about it as a result of those



Geocentricity was not a subjective claim but a scientific theory that seemed
to account for known observations (when you include the epicycles).


All scientific theories are subjective claims but are noticeably different
than other subjective claims (eg religion) since they are founded upon
objective elements. Thus, theories are not cast in stone, but are models
that intentionally require objective elements, allow testability, and
include predictability. No better models exist for addressing natural
phenomena. It was the objective elements of Geocentricity that allowed it
to be shown as false since it made predictions such as both crescent and
gibbous phases for Venus (Ptolemy's model, not Tycho's), and no stellar
parallax, etc.


If a theory were required to be correct before we could call it a scientific
theory, there wouldn't be any such thing as a scientific theory.


I am unclear what you are saying here. Scrutiny applies to all scientific
theories and this scrutiny often presents very favorable results to theories
that are the best models.




----- Original Message -----

From: George Cooper <>


Sent: Tuesday, January 06, 2009 11:07 AM

Subject: RE: [asa] Objective vs. Subjective (and the Green Rules)



"Could we not simply define "objective" as being that which can be


Don said, "That's close, but I prefer "public" versus "private."
Information that's public is info that people can obtain in principle if
they have the resources and the motivation. Information that's private is
info that in principle cannot be checked out by anyone but has come to an
individual via personal experience. Science works partly because it
restricts itself to public info; but that does not mean private info is
necessarily any less valid: It just may not be valid to anyone other than
the one who received it.


The distinction between private and public is helpful in understanding the
important differences between objectivity and subjectivity. But subjective
opinions (and paintings) are usually made public and open for debate as to
their merit, except in monologues, so the "public" term is easily lost in
its general definition.



I would like to present something I have had a little help with I call the
"Green rules" - they seem too basic so I chose to add a little color to


Relationship rules for Objective and Subjective claims.


1) The objective elements of any subjective claim are open to scientific


2) Any subjective claim, scientific or otherwise, is also affected by the
manner in which the subjective claim uses the objective claim for


3) Science has influence upon subjective claims in proportion to the
weight science can bear upon the objective elements within them. This weight
is a product of the strength that science has in the respective area of
knowledge, and the amount of exposure within the subjective claim that the
objective elements have to this "pressure" from science.


4) Subjective claims have no direct influence on science. [Subjectivity
can indirectly greatly influence science via the scientist and supporting
parties, but the foundational measurements remain objective.]



I would appreciate comment, as I feel these are a bit too green (a worse
pun, sorry).


These can be applied to almost any religious or philosophical claim.
Consider the Geocentric claim that was supposedly seen as biblical. What
changed the opinion of the Church? It wasn't Galileo during his house
arrest for advocating the Heliocentric model. It was the fact that the
religious claim that the Earth was the center of the universe, and related
claims (eg. perfect celestial orbs) included objective elements within the
claim that allowed scientific scrutiny, when technology improved, to
influence the credibility of the Geocentric claim. The Church elected to
reject the initial scrutiny that Galileo thrust upon them, but eventually
they were too impacted by objective evidence to hold onto their
Aristotlean/Ptolemy/Aquinas view, or the adopted Tychonic model by the
Jesuit scholars.











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Received on Wed Jan 7 13:17:02 2009

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