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

From: David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com>
Date: Wed Jan 07 2009 - 14:16:43 EST

You might want to read Polanyi's "Personal Knowledge."

You said: "The term "objective" that I understand is the one that says
scientists should be able to agree upon the measurements taken. Further,
this agreement is much more than science by consensus."

I respond: Well, but again, the decision which measurements to take, what
they signify, what statistical models to employ, etc., are personal
decision, not purely "objective" ones. Yes, this is "more than"
*mere*consensus, because to some extent the potential scope of the
research
program is limited by the subject matter being investigated. But it is
"science by consensus," as all science ultimately must and should be.

It seems to me there's a lot of wheel-reinventing going on here. Popper,
Lakatos, Kuhn, Polanyi, Laudan, Bhaskar, etc. in POS all have covered this
ground, without much resolution I think.

David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology

On Wed, Jan 7, 2009 at 1:39 PM, George Cooper <georgecooper@sbcglobal.net>
wrote:
>
> I think Polanyi was right -- "subjective" and "objective" can't be
separated. And I think Bhaskar is right -- we make contact with reality
when we do science, and progressive knowledge is possible, but this realism
is always infused with the critical notion that every human knowledge claim
is situated and never purely objective.
>
> I disagree with Polanyi (though I claim no knowledge of his work), there
is certainly a qualitative difference between the "objective" and the
"subjective". The term "objective" that I understand is the one that says
scientists should be able to agree upon the measurements taken. Further,
this agreement is much more than science by consensus. Non-scientific
subjective ideas are opinion-based, not measurement-based, thus the claims
of science are distinctly different than other subjective claims.
Measurements do not just exist within scientific claims that hard-wired to
the subsequent scrutiny from science they invite. A good theory must have
predictability and testability, this requires measurements that are
objective.
>
> Coope
>
>
>
>
>
> David W. Opderbeck
> Associate Professor of Law
> Seton Hall University Law School
> Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
>
> On Wed, Jan 7, 2009 at 10:21 AM, Nucacids <nucacids@wowway.com> wrote:
>
> Don writes: "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."
>
>
>
> Coope replies:
>
>
>
> "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.]""
>
>
>
> I agree with Don on this point, as the sentence "Subjective claims have no
direct influence on science" seems to be conflating science with
measurement.
>
>
>
> 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.
>
>
>
> Whether or not particular experiments are conceived and/or performed is
the consequence of subjectivity. To quote Francois Jacob:
>
>
>
> To produce a valuable observation, one has first to have an idea
>
> of what to observe, a preconception of what is possible. Scientific
>
> advances often come from uncovering a hitherto unseen aspect of
>
> things as a result, not so much of using new instruments, but rather
>
> of looking at objects from a different angle. This look is necessarily
>
> guided by a certain idea of what this so-called reality might be. It
>
> always involves a certain conception about the unknown, that is,
>
> about what lies beyond that which one has logical or experimental
>
> reasons to believe.
>
>
>
> I would say that subjective claims do have direct influence on science
because they *guide* science at every stage. 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.
>
>
>
> - Mike
>
> ----- Original Message -----
>
> From: George Cooper
>
> To: asa@calvin.edu
>
> 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
measurements.
>
>
>
>
>
> 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.
>
>
>
> Coope
>
>
>
> ----- Original Message -----
>
> From: George Cooper
>
> To: asa@calvin.edu
>
> 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
measured...."
>
>
>
> 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
them.
>
>
>
> Relationship rules for Objective and Subjective claims.
>
>
>
> 1) The objective elements of any subjective claim are open to
scientific scrutiny.
>
>
>
> 2) Any subjective claim, scientific or otherwise, is also affected by
the manner in which the subjective claim uses the objective claim for
basis/support/justification.
>
>
>
> 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.
>
>
>
> Coope.
>
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Received on Wed Jan 7 14:17:31 2009

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