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Published on January 21, 2008

Author: Sebastiana

Source: authorstream.com

Briefings in Research Practice:  Briefings in Research Practice Dr. N. Krasnogor Coursework 1:  Coursework 1 Write a 1/2 page essay answering the following questions with what you have already in your brains, i.e without consulting any other sources : What is science? How is it different than other belief systems? Why we do science? How science is done? Send it to my by email the day of the lecture (2/October) with subject “What is Science?” We will read some of these in class and discuss on the 3/October Extracts From Students Courseworks (and Discussions):  Extracts From Students Courseworks (and Discussions) “In my mind the phrase science refers to the acquisition of knowledge through the scientific method, and the body of knowledge already acquired by that means. “ “Good ideas such as Darwin’s theory of evolution are usually born out of extensive observation and deduction “ Slide4:  “In science, unlike in other belief systems, there must be proof of a statement before it is believed in. This proof may be theoretical (mathematical proof), by experimenting or by observing the subject. Therefore, science is often performed by making experiments with the studied subject and observing, or just observing the subject without interfering. “ Slide5:  “Science is a human’s passion to know, to understand and to live with. We do observation or experimentation or both to get those. Mostly we observe on things that are beyond our control such as nature, people behaviour etc. to identify our answers. For things that we can manage we do experiment on them or we create activities to simulate their natural processes such as mostly practiced in chemistry or biology. With science, it feeds us with hard answers and solution we seek for in life. “ Thinking About Science:  Thinking About Science Science is held in high esteem and well regarded overall. People accept that the “scientific method” gives science a special role in human affairs This is evident when even religious leaders, politicians, etc recurr to science as an aargument of authority. Eg. Christian science said “Science speaks and says the Christian Bible is true” Eg. Communists say that historical materialism is a science Eg. Creationists have clouded their religious zeal under a rubric of scientificism, “Creation Science”, “Inteligent Design” Slide7:  Thus, some important questions arise: “What exactly is the scientific method?” “Is is legitimate to apply it beyond the so called hard sciences?” So lets explore these issues… What People Think About Science:  What People Think About Science “Science is derived from the facts”, in contrast to “The law was given to Moses, Christ, Mohamed, Buddha, etc” Science is special because it is assumed to: Be based on facts Facts can be unambiguously established by careful, unbiased use of the senses Based on what we hear, touch, see, smell rather than on personal opinions or mental ruminations. These observed facts form a strong and secure basis for science If the reasoning that leads from facts to laws and theories is sound then the resulting knowledge can be said to objectively established Slide9:  The so called empiricists (17th & 18th centuries) and positivists embrace the previous points Empiricists such as John Locke, George Berkeley and David Hume believed that knowledge is derived from ideas implanted in the mind by way of the senses Positivists (the Wien circle, 20th century but initiated by August Compte in the 19th) generalised the concepts of the empiricists (knowledge derived from facts of experience) but paid much closer attention to the logical form of the interrelation between facts and knowledge Slide10:  Two issues must be considered in more details: The nature of the so called “facts” and how do scientists come to know them? The nature of the “derivation process” that leads scientists from facts to theories and laws Thinking About Facts:  Thinking About Facts Some basic assumptions by the layman and scientists alike are: Facts are directly given to careful, unprejudiced observes via the senses Facts are prior to and independent of theory Facts constitute a firm and reliable foundation for scientific knowledge But… is it that simple? Slide12:  What do you see? Slide13:  What do you see? Slide14:  And now? What do you see? Observation is based on our evolved bodies and their limitations:  Observation is based on our evolved bodies and their limitations Closure Continuance Similarity Alignment, etc Slide16:  Other examples: http://www.exploratorium.edu/exhibits/f_exhibits.html http://www.colorcube.com/illusions/illusion.htm Slide17:  So why is all this important to us as buding scientists? The same “facts” might look different to different observers The perception of facts are different than the actual facts that are “out there” There are implicit biases (e.g. evolved aparatuses for) in perception Revisiting: “Facts are directly given to careful, unprejudiced observes via the senses” “Facts constitute a firm and reliable foundation for scientific knowledge” Slide18:  It is posible to draw examples from the practice of science that exemplify the previous points: What the observer see (his/her inner experience) is not determined solely by the images in their retinas but also depends on experience, knowledge, expectations and biology. A budding scientist must learn to be a good observer & recognise its biases/prior-knowledge base! Slide19:  Recall Chalmer’s botanic virtual expedition… “You go out on a field trip to collect botanical facts. You are acompanied by a trained botanist. Both of you collect observations (ie. Facts) during the trip.” Ask youself: “who collected the more relevant facts?” Revisiting: “Facts are prior to and independent of theory” Slide20:  The collection of facts requires more than a simple enumeration of visual perceptions It requires the knowledge of the appropriate conceptual scheme and how to apply it! Thus, facts are not determined in a straighforward way by sensual stimuli Thus, statements of facts presuposes knowledge, hence it is inacurate to acertain that first we determine facts and then we derive knowledge for the later is required for the former. Modification of the three statements:  Modification of the three statements The formulation of observation statements presupposes significant knowledge The search for relevant observable facts in science is guided by that knowledge Neither of the above undermines the claim that knowledge has a factual basis established by observation Moreover: Slide22:  The (pre)availability of a conceptual framework is one thing, its true or falsity another completely! Eg.: “Algorithm X has O(n^3.14) complexity” Clearly requires knowledge about complexity and algorithms BUT whether it is true or not of X that its complexity is indeed O(n^3.14) does not depend on that pre-existing knowledge as it is a property of X Slide23:  Thus, the idea that scientific knowledge is based on facts acquired by observation is not undermined by the realisation that some knowledge is necessary to make those observations (or that facts don’t enter seamlessly our brains) If the truth/false status of observation statements can be established by observation then, *regardless* of how these statements (e.g. theories) came to be formulated, observation statements confirmed by observation are a robust basis upon which to build scientific knowledge

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