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

From: Don Winterstein <>
Date: Tue Jan 13 2009 - 03:09:07 EST

[Sorry about the belatedness.]

DW: 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.

GC: I am unclear what you are saying here.

DW: Nothing profound: A good theory elegantly accommodates all known observations. A correct theory must accommodate all possible observations. No existing theory is known to do that, and possibly none is capable of it.

GC: All scientific theories are subjective claims....

DW: All statements are both subjective and objective. Some statements are more subjective than others. There's likely a continuum between the most subjective and the most objective. But good scientific theories lie at the objective end of this spectrum.

A statement becomes an object the instant it is made. That's why all statements are objective: they can be analyzed for information concerning the persons making them. Every statement also has its origin in someone's private world, so that's why they're subjective. (I said earlier I'd prefer to divide reality into private vs. public instead of subjective and objective, because it's possible to define private and public precisely.)

At the subjective end of this statement spectrum lie exclamations that emerge spontaneously from someone's private world, such as, "This sunset is beautiful." The closer a statement is to being "untainted" by anything outside one's private world, the more subjective it is.

At the objective end of this spectrum lie statements based on careful measurements of objects or phenomena by many different competent investigators all of whose measurements agree within error limits. A book listing physical constants would contain many such objective statements.

In between would lie statements based both on private feelings and on some volume of information from the public world. --Informed but biased opinions.

When many scientists with competing objectives agree on the suitability of a scientific theory, the theory takes on a status of objectivity close to that of the facts it accounts for. It's statements then become objective, or "truth as we understand it."


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: George Cooper<>
  Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2009 7:01 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.




    ----- 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 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.










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Received on Tue Jan 13 03:10:20 2009

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