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Criteria of validity in empirical sciences

 
Speakpigeon
 
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Speakpigeon
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13 December 2018 06:45
 

As I see it, the unique criterion of the validity of a theory in empirical sciences, say, physics, is that the theory should produce results in line with our observation of the physical world, ranging from our direct visual observation of nature to experiments involving possibly, and increasingly so, complex installations, machines, apparatuses and sometimes a large team of scientists working months to agree on an interpretation of the results.
Do you agree with this presentation of this criterion, including with the suggestion that it is not only the main but that it is also the only criterion admissible in empirical sciences like physics.
If you think that there are other criteria necessary to assessing the validity of a theory in empirical sciences, what are they?
EB

 
Brick Bungalow
 
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Brick Bungalow
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13 December 2018 15:22
 

Mmm. I’ll unpack as best I can. Pardon if I’m not following the thread. I have no formal training in science and speak with no authority past my personal opinion.

I like the ideological position that gives primacy to empirical evidence if the idea is to deny credibility to things like dogma or special revelation. If you are inferring something like that I agree.

If you are saying that science in general rests upon evidence that is available to our senses I would not agree. Especially not emergent science. I think most evidence is actually difficult or impossible to discern without the requisite training and instrumentation.

Further, a lot of emergent research seems to challenge the familiar formula of scientific methods. Some of it consists of rote cataloging. Some theories sit in an indefinite hypothetical limbo while we wait for technology to catch up. Some equations are reliably predictive but lack a corresponding model. Some measurable and predictable phenomena lack even a hypothetical explanation. Lots of gray areas basically. I like the idea of some universal ethos of science but its hard to pin down. I think the standard often varies between disciplines for practical reasons.

 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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Antisocialdarwinist
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14 December 2018 08:17
 
Speakpigeon - 13 December 2018 06:45 AM

If you think that there are other criteria necessary to assessing the validity of a theory in empirical sciences, what are they?
EB

Repeatability of results by different teams working independently of each other.

 
 
Nhoj Morley
 
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Nhoj Morley
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14 December 2018 12:05
 

I would say the defining principle is that such investigations must be author-free. A hypothesis or theory has an author but the results or proof must be demonstrate-able, repeatable and not dependent on who does the experiments. The resulting conclusions belong to reality and are not taken on any authority.

Having confidence in an experimenter’s veracity is not the same as taking a conclusion as read from an unquestioned authority.

 
 
burt
 
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burt
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14 December 2018 22:35
 
Speakpigeon - 13 December 2018 06:45 AM

As I see it, the unique criterion of the validity of a theory in empirical sciences, say, physics, is that the theory should produce results in line with our observation of the physical world, ranging from our direct visual observation of nature to experiments involving possibly, and increasingly so, complex installations, machines, apparatuses and sometimes a large team of scientists working months to agree on an interpretation of the results.
Do you agree with this presentation of this criterion, including with the suggestion that it is not only the main but that it is also the only criterion admissible in empirical sciences like physics.
If you think that there are other criteria necessary to assessing the validity of a theory in empirical sciences, what are they?
EB

I suggest a reading of the book Foresight and Understanding by Stephan Toulmin. He contrasts the two criteria of accurate prediction and conceptual understanding, pointing out that in general scientists will go for the second of these in preference to the first; in a sense, that while the first is important for science, without the second we don’t have science at all.

 
Speakpigeon
 
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Speakpigeon
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15 December 2018 07:26
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 14 December 2018 08:17 AM
Speakpigeon - 13 December 2018 06:45 AM

If you think that there are other criteria necessary to assessing the validity of a theory in empirical sciences, what are they?
EB

Repeatability of results by different teams working independently of each other.

Sure,
I think of that as subsumed within the theory being in line with observation. It’s a technical aspect of scientific work that deciding a theory being in line with observation may require large teams, long months of interpretations etc., and, indeed, independent teams repeating the observations.
EB

 
Speakpigeon
 
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15 December 2018 07:55
 
Nhoj Morley - 14 December 2018 12:05 PM

I would say the defining principle is that such investigations must be author-free. A hypothesis or theory has an author but the results or proof must be demonstrate-able, repeatable and not dependent on who does the experiments. The resulting conclusions belong to reality and are not taken on any authority.

Having confidence in an experimenter’s veracity is not the same as taking a conclusion as read from an unquestioned authority.

Same as above, I guess.
EB

 
Speakpigeon
 
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Speakpigeon
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15 December 2018 07:59
 
burt - 14 December 2018 10:35 PM
Speakpigeon - 13 December 2018 06:45 AM

As I see it, the unique criterion of the validity of a theory in empirical sciences, say, physics, is that the theory should produce results in line with our observation of the physical world, ranging from our direct visual observation of nature to experiments involving possibly, and increasingly so, complex installations, machines, apparatuses and sometimes a large team of scientists working months to agree on an interpretation of the results.
Do you agree with this presentation of this criterion, including with the suggestion that it is not only the main but that it is also the only criterion admissible in empirical sciences like physics.
If you think that there are other criteria necessary to assessing the validity of a theory in empirical sciences, what are they?
EB

I suggest a reading of the book Foresight and Understanding by Stephan Toulmin. He contrasts the two criteria of accurate prediction and conceptual understanding, pointing out that in general scientists will go for the second of these in preference to the first; in a sense, that while the first is important for science, without the second we don’t have science at all.

Sure, if we are to consider whether a theory is valid, we need to have a theory to begin with. Having a theory is definitely more important than being able to validate it. The question, however, is about criteria of validity.
EB

 
Speakpigeon
 
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15 December 2018 08:25
 
Brick Bungalow - 13 December 2018 03:22 PM

Mmm. I’ll unpack as best I can. Pardon if I’m not following the thread. I have no formal training in science and speak with no authority past my personal opinion.

I like the ideological position that gives primacy to empirical evidence if the idea is to deny credibility to things like dogma or special revelation. If you are inferring something like that I agree.

Not really the subject here.

Brick Bungalow - 13 December 2018 03:22 PM

If you are saying that science in general rests upon evidence that is available to our senses I would not agree. Especially not emergent science. I think most evidence is actually difficult or impossible to discern without the requisite training and instrumentation.

By observation, I mean whatever evidence is available through our senses but deciding as a group of people on the validity of an observation requires consensus and this will usually be done through some sort of conventional process. 

Brick Bungalow - 13 December 2018 03:22 PM

Further, a lot of emergent research seems to challenge the familiar formula of scientific methods. Some of it consists of rote cataloging. Some theories sit in an indefinite hypothetical limbo while we wait for technology to catch up. Some equations are reliably predictive but lack a corresponding model. Some measurable and predictable phenomena lack even a hypothetical explanation. Lots of gray areas basically. I like the idea of some universal ethos of science but its hard to pin down. I think the standard often varies between disciplines for practical reasons.

These seem to be scientific activities, results or theories done or produced by scientists which are not science. String theory for example. I’m happy to say it’s a scientific theory but to my knowledge it has not been validated.
I guess the critical line is between observations, inasmuch as they can be repeated by whomever has the technical wherewithal, and all sorts of things that cannot seem to be repeatable, repetition being essentially the necessary condition for consensus.
I agree that we’re moving into unknown territory and science may have to evolve. Well, it seems to be doing just that. However, I don’t see how a group of people could agree on something being science unless they’re able to reproduce to their personal satisfaction observation of whatever evidence is said to exist.
Also, whatever the various standards for validating observation within different empirical sciences, they all include observation. Compare to mathematics.
EB

 
mapadofu
 
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mapadofu
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15 December 2018 08:42
 

I’m suspicious of being dogmatic about the idea that relationship to empirical observation is the *only admissible* criterion.  As indicated by Burt, some level of “interpretability” or “generalizability” may also be allowable as a criterion (in some aspects of) science—this may not apply if you’re trying to formulate some sort of Platonic ideal of science, but for science as practiced. I believe other considerations might come into play.

 
Speakpigeon
 
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15 December 2018 09:11
 
mapadofu - 15 December 2018 08:42 AM

I’m suspicious of being dogmatic about the idea that relationship to empirical observation is the *only admissible* criterion.  As indicated by Burt, some level of “interpretability” or “generalizability” may also be allowable as a criterion (in some aspects of) science—this may not apply if you’re trying to formulate some sort of Platonic ideal of science, but for science as practiced. I believe other considerations might come into play.

I think I’ve already responded to that in my reply to Brick Bungalow and others here. Interpretation and generalisation are conditions on what people may decide to accept as admissible observations, and it varies a great deal from empirical science to empirical science.
I’m not too interested in dogma, only in logical argumentation. Observation seems indispensable in all empirical sciences, by definition of the word “empirical”. 
Consensus about observation, however, is not implied by empiricism. It’s may be required by the actors concerned, and usually it is and for good reasons. But as far as I am concerned, any idiot can do science on his own, privately and for his own purposes. Who would care?
EB

 
Jefe
 
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15 December 2018 09:21
 

Are we talking about observational science, here?

 
 
burt
 
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15 December 2018 09:52
 
Speakpigeon - 15 December 2018 07:59 AM
burt - 14 December 2018 10:35 PM
Speakpigeon - 13 December 2018 06:45 AM

As I see it, the unique criterion of the validity of a theory in empirical sciences, say, physics, is that the theory should produce results in line with our observation of the physical world, ranging from our direct visual observation of nature to experiments involving possibly, and increasingly so, complex installations, machines, apparatuses and sometimes a large team of scientists working months to agree on an interpretation of the results.
Do you agree with this presentation of this criterion, including with the suggestion that it is not only the main but that it is also the only criterion admissible in empirical sciences like physics.
If you think that there are other criteria necessary to assessing the validity of a theory in empirical sciences, what are they?
EB

I suggest a reading of the book Foresight and Understanding by Stephan Toulmin. He contrasts the two criteria of accurate prediction and conceptual understanding, pointing out that in general scientists will go for the second of these in preference to the first; in a sense, that while the first is important for science, without the second we don’t have science at all.

Sure, if we are to consider whether a theory is valid, we need to have a theory to begin with. Having a theory is definitely more important than being able to validate it. The question, however, is about criteria of validity.
EB

And the criteria of validity fall into different categories: empirical—replicability by trained experimenters; rational—logical consistency, no internal contradictions. There are other criteria that get used (simplicity, for example) but these are not formalized. Popper put up the idea of falsifiability but had to qualify that strongly, in most cases falsifying results don’t shoot down a theory unless they continue to accumulate. Having a theory to work with, any theory, is preferable to not having one because in the latter case there is nothing that tells one what sort of experiments are relevant.

 
Poldano
 
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16 December 2018 00:07
 
Speakpigeon - 15 December 2018 09:11 AM

... 
Consensus about observation, however, is not implied by empiricism. It’s may be required by the actors concerned, and usually it is and for good reasons. But as far as I am concerned, any idiot can do science on his own, privately and for his own purposes. Who would care?
...

So, you are saying that a solipsist can engage in empirical science. If his purposes include having his opinions validated by a consensus, however, he would have a problem because he would be attempting thereby to participate in public science. A solipsist shouldn’t really care about consensus, though.

Do I paraphrase you correctly?

 
 
Speakpigeon
 
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16 December 2018 02:04
 
burt - 15 December 2018 09:52 AM
Speakpigeon - 15 December 2018 07:59 AM
burt - 14 December 2018 10:35 PM
Speakpigeon - 13 December 2018 06:45 AM

As I see it, the unique criterion of the validity of a theory in empirical sciences, say, physics, is that the theory should produce results in line with our observation of the physical world, ranging from our direct visual observation of nature to experiments involving possibly, and increasingly so, complex installations, machines, apparatuses and sometimes a large team of scientists working months to agree on an interpretation of the results.
Do you agree with this presentation of this criterion, including with the suggestion that it is not only the main but that it is also the only criterion admissible in empirical sciences like physics.
If you think that there are other criteria necessary to assessing the validity of a theory in empirical sciences, what are they?
EB

I suggest a reading of the book Foresight and Understanding by Stephan Toulmin. He contrasts the two criteria of accurate prediction and conceptual understanding, pointing out that in general scientists will go for the second of these in preference to the first; in a sense, that while the first is important for science, without the second we don’t have science at all.

Sure, if we are to consider whether a theory is valid, we need to have a theory to begin with. Having a theory is definitely more important than being able to validate it. The question, however, is about criteria of validity.
EB

And the criteria of validity fall into different categories: empirical—replicability by trained experimenters; rational—logical consistency, no internal contradictions.

I don’t think we can usefully say we have a theory unless it’s logically consistent. If so, having a theory means having a logical theory.
What remains is the validation by observation, including consensus among peers that observation of the evidence has been validated by independent observers.

burt - 15 December 2018 09:52 AM

There are other criteria that get used (simplicity, for example) but these are not formalized.

I’m not sure how simplicity would make a different theory. Obviously, there is an infinity of different formulations for the same theory that would all be logically equivalent. The difference would be in the implied ontology. Simplicity just says don’t inflate the ontology beyond what is logically necessary. However, given that these different theories are logically equivalent, if one is scientific, so is the other. We definitely prefer the simple one but that doesn’t make the needlessly complicated one unscientific.

burt - 15 December 2018 09:52 AM

Popper put up the idea of falsifiability but had to qualify that strongly, in most cases falsifying results don’t shoot down a theory unless they continue to accumulate.

I think falsifiability seems absolutely crucial. Observation is made irrelevant by any theory which is not falsifiable, Such a theory cannot be said, therefore, to be empirical. Possibly true, but not empirical.
Just as observation confirming a theory has to be validated by being repeatable and by actual repetition, falsification by observation requires repetition.
That being said, scientists are human beings, and it is to be expected that they will cling to their pet theory until there’s absolutely no doubt in their mind that it’s been falsified for good. And even a falsified theory remains somewhat useful. Still, once there’s a consensus that it’s been falsified, a theory non longer qualifies as a valid scientific theory.

burt - 15 December 2018 09:52 AM

Having a theory to work with, any theory, is preferable to not having one because in the latter case there is nothing that tells one what sort of experiments are relevant.

Once a theory is falsified, it’s no longer a valid scientific theory and you need to look for a better one.
EB

 
Speakpigeon
 
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16 December 2018 02:14
 
Poldano - 16 December 2018 12:07 AM
Speakpigeon - 15 December 2018 09:11 AM

... 
Consensus about observation, however, is not implied by empiricism. It’s may be required by the actors concerned, and usually it is and for good reasons. But as far as I am concerned, any idiot can do science on his own, privately and for his own purposes. Who would care?
...

So, you are saying that a solipsist can engage in empirical science. If his purposes include having his opinions validated by a consensus, however, he would have a problem because he would be attempting thereby to participate in public science. A solipsist shouldn’t really care about consensus, though.

Do I paraphrase you correctly?

No, you don’t.
What do you think the word “consensus” means?

consensus
1. An opinion or position reached by a group as a whole


So, what consensus would a solipsist seek?
EB

 
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