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Criteria of validity in empirical sciences

 
Poldano
 
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Poldano
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18 December 2018 23:31
 
Speakpigeon - 16 December 2018 02:14 AM
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

An intransigent solipsist wouldn’t attempt to reach any consensus, believing it to be meaningless. A person starting from a solipsistic assumption might try to use consensus, or attempting to bring about a consensus, as part of an investigation to determine the likelihood of the existence of other minds. According to another definition of solipsist, i.e. a narcissist or other self-absorbed person, he might seek a consensus to assure himself of his ability to have an effect upon the world.

 
 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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19 December 2018 08:56
 
Speakpigeon - 15 December 2018 07:26 AM
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

Probably just semantics, but I don’t think “observation” quite captures the emphasis on “repeatability” that the process called “science” implies. Maybe it depends on what you see as the bigger challenge, or the primary goal of science. To my mind, the biggest challenge for creatures with a subjective awareness of reality who wish to glean objective facts about reality is separating the objective from the subjective. Repeatability by disparate groups is the mechanism by which that (sometimes) happens. If everyone in your research group shares the same beliefs and biases, then it doesn’t matter how large the group is or how many observations you make. You’ll all be observing reality through the same distorting lens.

 
 
burt
 
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burt
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19 December 2018 10:11
 
Speakpigeon - 16 December 2018 02:04 AM
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.



You are taking a overall viewpoint, philosophy of science rather than science. If you’ve ever actually done science you’d know that it’s often the case that the logical consistency of a theory is not known while the theory is being developed, and some theorists will be working on that so that when an apparent contradiction is discovered the work is to look for resolutions through processes of assimilation and accommodation rather than tossing out the theory. In addition to the Toulmin book, I suggest an essay by Thomas Kuhn, The Essential Tension, in a book of the same name.

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

No, criteria like simplicity, elegance, beauty are non-rational but it’s not the case that all formulations will produce the same theory. Theory construction is a very tricky business and you can often have competing theories where there is equivocal evidence for making decisions between them. Then it comes down to a scientist following one of two paths: (a) chose one of the theories to work on and support; (b) suspend judgment and look for some valid way to make a distinction. The former choices are usually made on non-rational criteria.

Falsification is appealed to mainly in the soft sciences, not so much in physics or chemistry. And you seem to be falling for the Fallacy of Falsification, which is that according to strict falsficationism, any single disagreement with experiment falsifies a theory. But in practice that is not the case, and many theories are continued to be developed even in the face of contrary observations. The best example was given in an article by Dirac in Scientific American about 40 years ago (give or take a few years). He pointed out that when Schrodinger was working on developing an equation to describe quantum systems his initial effort took special relativity into account. But the equation he got didn’t agree with experiments—it predicted wrong behavior for electrons. So he left out the special relativistic parts and wrote the Schrodinger equation, which did agree with experiments. A few years later it was discovered that there was an additional property of electrons (spin) and if this was included then Schrodinger’s original equation actually did fit experiments where relativistic effects were important, and the Schrodinger equation did not. But now the relativistic equation was developed by somebody else and is called the Klein-Gordon equation. Dirac’s comment on the affair was “It is better to have beauty in ones equations than to have them agree with experiment.”

 
nonverbal
 
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19 December 2018 12:39
 

Burt, are you talking to yourself? If so, I love it. Maybe I’ll try it myself as an attempt to successfully make a point with our local analytic philosopher who at times becomes anal.

 
 
burt
 
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19 December 2018 14:03
 
nonverbal - 19 December 2018 12:39 PM

Burt, are you talking to yourself? If so, I love it. Maybe I’ll try it myself as an attempt to successfully make a point with our local analytic philosopher who at times becomes anal.

Had trouble parsing things out. But yes, I often talk to myself, or to the wall in the white room I’m in. Sometimes I’m not sure if I am the wall.

 
EN
 
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EN
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19 December 2018 14:06
 
burt - 19 December 2018 02:03 PM
nonverbal - 19 December 2018 12:39 PM

Burt, are you talking to yourself? If so, I love it. Maybe I’ll try it myself as an attempt to successfully make a point with our local analytic philosopher who at times becomes anal.

Had trouble parsing things out. But yes, I often talk to myself, or to the wall in the white room I’m in. Sometimes I’m not sure if I am the wall.

Then the Mexicans are paying for you??

 
nonverbal
 
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19 December 2018 14:10
 
burt - 19 December 2018 02:03 PM
nonverbal - 19 December 2018 12:39 PM

Burt, are you talking to yourself? If so, I love it. Maybe I’ll try it myself as an attempt to successfully make a point with our local analytic philosopher who at times becomes anal.

Had trouble parsing things out. But yes, I often talk to myself, or to the wall in the white room I’m in. Sometimes I’m not sure if I am the wall.

You’re showing ample evidence of one person, at least, who understands and accepts validity of two sides to a story, whichever story it might be.

 
 
burt
 
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19 December 2018 20:36
 
nonverbal - 19 December 2018 02:10 PM
burt - 19 December 2018 02:03 PM
nonverbal - 19 December 2018 12:39 PM

Burt, are you talking to yourself? If so, I love it. Maybe I’ll try it myself as an attempt to successfully make a point with our local analytic philosopher who at times becomes anal.

Had trouble parsing things out. But yes, I often talk to myself, or to the wall in the white room I’m in. Sometimes I’m not sure if I am the wall.

You’re showing ample evidence of one person, at least, who understands and accepts validity of two sides to a story, whichever story it might be.

Wait, are you telling me there are only two sides? Will have to reset everything.

 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
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20 December 2018 06:14
 
nonverbal - 19 December 2018 12:39 PM

Burt, are you talking to yourself? If so, I love it. Maybe I’ll try it myself as an attempt to successfully make a point with our local analytic philosopher who at times becomes anal.

Just an incidental note here…

If you mean by “analytic philosopher” one who is both philosophical and analytical, true enough, but if you mean a philosopher in the analytic tradition of philosophy, not even close.  If I had to subscribe to any -ism and call myself an -ist, it would be pragmatism and pragmatist, one of the three traditions in 20th century thought (along with continental and analytic). 

FYI.

[ Edited: 20 December 2018 07:46 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
Speakpigeon
 
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20 December 2018 08:12
 
Poldano - 18 December 2018 11:31 PM
Speakpigeon - 16 December 2018 02:14 AM

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

An intransigent solipsist wouldn’t attempt to reach any consensus, believing it to be meaningless. A person starting from a solipsistic assumption might try to use consensus, or attempting to bring about a consensus, as part of an investigation to determine the likelihood of the existence of other minds. According to another definition of solipsist, i.e. a narcissist or other self-absorbed person, he might seek a consensus to assure himself of his ability to have an effect upon the world.

Me, I think a consistent solipsist would seek the consensus of all the minds that exist, just to make sure, and in effect his own and nothing but his own.
EB

 
Speakpigeon
 
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20 December 2018 08:44
 
burt - 19 December 2018 10:11 AM

You are taking a overall viewpoint, philosophy of science rather than science. If you’ve ever actually done science you’d know that it’s often the case that the logical consistency of a theory is not known while the theory is being developed

This thread is about the criteria for validating scientific theories, not whether or why scientists choose to develop a theory to begin with.

burt - 19 December 2018 10:11 AM

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


Falsification is appealed to mainly in the soft sciences, not so much in physics or chemistry.


I think Newton’s theory was no longer a valid scientific theory once it had been falsified by the repeated observation that Mercury wasn’t quite where Newton’s theory predicted. I think that’s a pretty good reference. Whether scientists themselves at the time admitted to it quite speedily enough is another matter. That people lie all the time doesn’t mean truth is a meaningless concept or that there are no truths at all.

burt - 19 December 2018 10:11 AM

And you seem to be falling for the Fallacy of Falsification, which is that according to strict falsficationism, any single disagreement with experiment falsifies a theory.

No. I explicitly stated that falsification, like acceptance of a theory, requires repeated observation.

burt - 19 December 2018 10:11 AM

But in practice that is not the case, and many theories are continued to be developed even in the face of contrary observations.

This thread is about the criteria for validating scientific theories, not whether or why scientists choose to develop a theory to begin with.

burt - 19 December 2018 10:11 AM

The best example was given in an article by Dirac in Scientific American about 40 years ago (give or take a few years). He pointed out that when Schrodinger was working on developing an equation to describe quantum systems his initial effort took special relativity into account. But the equation he got didn’t agree with experiments—it predicted wrong behavior for electrons. So he left out the special relativistic parts and wrote the Schrodinger equation, which did agree with experiments. A few years later it was discovered that there was an additional property of electrons (spin) and if this was included then Schrodinger’s original equation actually did fit experiments where relativistic effects were important, and the Schrodinger equation did not. But now the relativistic equation was developed by somebody else and is called the Klein-Gordon equation. Dirac’s comment on the affair was “It is better to have beauty in ones equations than to have them agree with experiment.”

So, you’re saying that Schrödinger actually decided to give up a theory that wasn’t yet validated because he thought it had been falsified by observation. Clearly, this way of working on science is falsified by Dirac’s observation.
Still, this thread is about the criteria for validating scientific theories, not whether or why scientists choose not to develop a theory to begin with.

burt - 19 December 2018 10:11 AM

No, criteria like simplicity, elegance, beauty are non-rational but it’s not the case that all formulations will produce the same theory. Theory construction is a very tricky business and you can often have competing theories where there is equivocal evidence for making decisions between them. Then it comes down to a scientist following one of two paths: (a) chose one of the theories to work on and support; (b) suspend judgment and look for some valid way to make a distinction. The former choices are usually made on non-rational criteria.

Sure.
EB

[ Edited: 20 December 2018 08:47 by Speakpigeon]
 
burt
 
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20 December 2018 09:34
 
Speakpigeon - 20 December 2018 08:44 AM
burt - 19 December 2018 10:11 AM

You are taking a overall viewpoint, philosophy of science rather than science. If you’ve ever actually done science you’d know that it’s often the case that the logical consistency of a theory is not known while the theory is being developed

This thread is about the criteria for validating scientific theories, not whether or why scientists choose to develop a theory to begin with.

burt - 19 December 2018 10:11 AM

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


Falsification is appealed to mainly in the soft sciences, not so much in physics or chemistry.


I think Newton’s theory was no longer a valid scientific theory once it had been falsified by the repeated observation that Mercury wasn’t quite where Newton’s theory predicted. I think that’s a pretty good reference. Whether scientists themselves at the time admitted to it quite speedily enough is another matter. That people lie all the time doesn’t mean truth is a meaningless concept or that there are no truths at all.

This is not the case. Newtonian gravitational theory remains a valid scientific theory, just not the one that is accepted as the best theory given current information. It is recognized as the limiting case of general relativity when dealing with weak gravitational fields and is still used when computing planetary orbits, or computing the orbits for space probes. So regardless of what you think, the actual scientific standing of Newtonian theory remains.You could equally well say that Newtonian theory of motion was falsified once quantum mechanics was developed, but again the actual fact is that it remains in use and is seen as a limiting case of quantum theory. And the conceptual background of Newtonian theory remains the conceptual background of both general relativity and quantum theory. So to be precise, in terms of validity criteria, Newtonian physics is a valid scientific theory for conditions of weak gravitational fields and situations where the action involved is large compared to the Planck constant. 

Speakpigeon - 20 December 2018 08:44 AM
burt - 19 December 2018 10:11 AM

And you seem to be falling for the Fallacy of Falsification, which is that according to strict falsficationism, any single disagreement with experiment falsifies a theory.

No. I explicitly stated that falsification, like acceptance of a theory, requires repeated observation.

burt - 19 December 2018 10:11 AM

But in practice that is not the case, and many theories are continued to be developed even in the face of contrary observations.

This thread is about the criteria for validating scientific theories, not whether or why scientists choose to develop a theory to begin with.

burt - 19 December 2018 10:11 AM

The best example was given in an article by Dirac in Scientific American about 40 years ago (give or take a few years). He pointed out that when Schrodinger was working on developing an equation to describe quantum systems his initial effort took special relativity into account. But the equation he got didn’t agree with experiments—it predicted wrong behavior for electrons. So he left out the special relativistic parts and wrote the Schrodinger equation, which did agree with experiments. A few years later it was discovered that there was an additional property of electrons (spin) and if this was included then Schrodinger’s original equation actually did fit experiments where relativistic effects were important, and the Schrodinger equation did not. But now the relativistic equation was developed by somebody else and is called the Klein-Gordon equation. Dirac’s comment on the affair was “It is better to have beauty in ones equations than to have them agree with experiment.”

So, you’re saying that Schrödinger actually decided to give up a theory that wasn’t yet validated because he thought it had been falsified by observation. Clearly, this way of working on science is falsified by Dirac’s observation.
Still, this thread is about the criteria for validating scientific theories, not whether or why scientists choose not to develop a theory to begin with.
EB

Schrodinger chose to modify his initial equation (which was developed within the bounds of the existing theory, including special relativity) because of one set of empirical measurements. Dirac didn’t make any observations, but he pointed out much later in his article that had Schrodinger instead kept his initial equation he would have created a situation where there would have been a contradiction between an existing empirical result and a theoretical result and, based on that, would have been able to predict that there was something else about electrons that was not being taken into account. That would have led to further experiments attempting to resolve the contradiction and resulted in empirical validation of Schrodinger’s theorizing. As it happened, Schrodinger chose to modify his equation so that a later modification was required. Dirac was more theoretically confident (recalling his statement, “it’s better to have beauty in ones equations than to have them agree with experiment,” an when he developed the Dirac equation for the electron, this equation had two solutions with no obvious way to chose between them. One solution corresponded to the usual electrons that had been observed but the other corresponded to something that had never been empirically observed, something that was an electron except with a positive instead of a negative charge. Dirac stuck to his guns and said that such a particle must exist and sure enough experiments later discovered the positron.

I think that rather than asking about criteria for validation of scientific theories you might want to focus more on reasons for tentative acceptance of theories on the one hand, and reasons why theories have been rejected (e.g., phlogiston or Lamarkian inheritance) on the other.

 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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20 December 2018 17:17
 

Nice analysis on the two extended posts, burt. They’re informative for an informal exchange with a friend of mine on philosophy of science.

 
Brick Bungalow
 
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20 December 2018 22:29
 
EN - 19 December 2018 02:06 PM
burt - 19 December 2018 02:03 PM
nonverbal - 19 December 2018 12:39 PM

Burt, are you talking to yourself? If so, I love it. Maybe I’ll try it myself as an attempt to successfully make a point with our local analytic philosopher who at times becomes anal.

Had trouble parsing things out. But yes, I often talk to myself, or to the wall in the white room I’m in. Sometimes I’m not sure if I am the wall.

Then the Mexicans are paying for you??

I was pondering sending a few pesos to the gofundme.

 
burt
 
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21 December 2018 10:15
 
Brick Bungalow - 20 December 2018 10:29 PM
EN - 19 December 2018 02:06 PM
burt - 19 December 2018 02:03 PM
nonverbal - 19 December 2018 12:39 PM

Burt, are you talking to yourself? If so, I love it. Maybe I’ll try it myself as an attempt to successfully make a point with our local analytic philosopher who at times becomes anal.

Had trouble parsing things out. But yes, I often talk to myself, or to the wall in the white room I’m in. Sometimes I’m not sure if I am the wall.

Then the Mexicans are paying for you??

I was pondering sending a few pesos to the gofundme.

Just lots of small unmarked bills directly to my mailing address.

 
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