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Re: Social Science, Science, and Empirical Study
by n0705590
09 July 2002 10:49 UTC
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There are a few things that I would like to add to this debate.  Ilya 
Prigogine argues that the most important 'silent' scientific revolution, 
silent because it has matured over a number of decades, is the 'probibilzing 
revolution'.  By this Prigogine maintains, and demonstrates, that 
'probabilities' do not reflect faulty data, human imperfection or the 
inedequacy of measurement tools, but a real state of affairs in nature.  Thus 
the title of his book, 'The End of Certainty'.  The fact that we call 
'extremely high probabilities certainties' simply reflects the heritage of a 
scientific tradition in which only certainty will do.  Moreover, the whole 
problem of the transition from a probable condition to an actual condition is 
being dealt with at the moment by both scientists and philosophers.  One of 
the most striking examples is Manuel DeLanda's excellent book, 'Virtual 
Science and Intensive Philosophy', in which he indicates that this 
conceptualisation of actualisation can perfectely be understood through 
Deleuzian ontolgy.  I strongly recommend this text.  Onther books include 
Keith Ansell Pearsons' 'Philosophy and the adventure of the Virtual'.  The 
term Virtuality in this (Deleuzian) philosophy relates to the REAL possible 
actualisations that could take place, this is a highly useful concept for the 
understanding of Complexity Science.

>===== Original Message From Luke Rondinaro <larondin@yahoo.com> =====
>Mike Alexander wrote:
><Yes they are all probabilities, but extremely high probabilities we often 
call certainties.  The fact that mathematical descriptions for heat and mass 
and energy transport (the processes underlying weather and much else) have 
been formulated doesn't mean that this has been done for all fields in 
physics.  A GUT hasn't been found yet because nobody has found it.>
>Isn’t calling them “certainties” somewhat misleading?  Might it not imply an 
absolutized, determinism of sorts?  …
>I see your point about not having a GUT because no one’s found it yet – but 
given what Science does know, shouldn’t we at least have a 
mathematic-predicate logical conceptualization of such a thing?  Or better 
yet, should we have at least an integrated, wholistic, mathematically defined 
understanding of its (unified) subsets in the topics of modern physics 
scholarship (i.e., “mini-GUT’s as it were) for Mechanics, Fluid Dynamics, and 
so on? …
><Complexity and Chaos theory are misunderstood by many people.  Weather 
cannot be accurately predicted because of the non-linear nature of the 
expressions describing transport phenomenon. Unlike linear equations, non 
linear equations can "blow up".  That is, a small discrepancy at the initial 
condition rapidly leads to ever larger discrepancies as time goes by.  An 
example is prediction of the position of a billiard ball after it ricochets 
off the walls of the table.  Given precise initial direction and velocity of 
the ball we can quite accurately predict the path of the ball after the first 
ricochet.  Indeed pool players routinely do this.  After several ricochets we 
no longer have an accurate projection of the path of the ball, even with 
extremely accurate initial conditions.  After 20 bounces the ball could be 
anywhere on the table, we have absolutely no idea where the ball will be.
>Even if we had "perfect" knowledge we cannot know the exact initial 
conditions of the ball because of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.  Hence 
it is theoretically impossible to have any deterministic idea where the ball 
will be after some number of bounces.  The best we can do is may a statistical 
prediction.  This despite the fact that we know the exact mathematical laws 
that govern the ball's movement.  The complete failure to use these 
exactly-known laws to make a useful prediction is a direct result of the 
nonlinear nature of the mathematical equations that describe billiard ball 
motion.  This phenomenon is what is known as chaos. >
>This is a very good description you’ve given here.  I’ll be sure to keep it 
in mind when I talk about both these topics to people in the future. It’s a 
great help.  Thanks for giving it.
>It does raise a question though; doesn’t Complexity, Chaos, & Heisenberg (to 
some extent) represent really a paradigm shift from the radically-empiricist, 
positivized, deterministic, materialistic, et al, Science of yesteryear to the 
Science of today? …
>It seems scientists have always recognized the mysteriousness and majesty of 
the natural world around us in the cosmos (indeed its multidimensionality); 
but there often seems a contradiction between this appreciation of Science and 
its critical methodology/ presentation as we’ve always learned to give it.  
Take your discussion above for example.  It certainly shows the nuts and bolts 
of C,C, & H; but still Chaos and Complexity seem to even ‘transcend’ [as it 
were] a description such as this.  For some reason these models better capture 
the mystery and wonder of the universe in a way that Newtonian mechanics never 
could?  What is it specifically about the former that makes this reality so? … 
If scientists with their science (in the 19th cen. & before) had just as much 
of a  sense and understanding of this complexity and awe-inspiring 
multidimensionality to the universe, then why couldn’t their presentation of 
science better reflect that principle?  Why does it tend to seem li!
>ke its only today that we’re recapturing in the framework of our Science the 
same sense that early Renaissance, Medieval, and Ancient scholars – not just 
in Europe – had when it came to comprehending the cosmos?
>Why does our ‘materialism’ and ‘empiricism” seem to imply “what you see is 
what you get”/”a potato is just a potato, no more no less” when clearly 
there’s nothing in the definitions of materialism/empiricism that would make 
this the case, and much of what we know from Science itself clearly shows that 
the cosmos is far more multidimensional and atomistic in its natural state 
(going beyond, in point of fact, the manifest objects and phenomena we 
encounter in our everyday experience) than such a concrete, practical 
“normalist” orientation would indicate? … If the cosmos is multidimensional 
and atomistic and we know (and have known f/ much of the history of modern 
science from the Scientific Revolution till today) that it is, then why is 
there this mechanistic, linear, normalistic orientation to our research and 
presentation of science?  Why does there always seem to be this attitude among 
many practitioners of science & social science that matter constitutes “just 
stuff” and t!
>he ‘manifest objects’ we encounter in our lives (through ordinary experience 
and/or experimental inquiry) are all that matters in our observations?  If the 
universe [like world history in Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel] is “like an 
onion” then how can we reconcile such with this “materialism of manifest 
objects” paradigm that posits a one-dimensional universe of only maybe a few 
layers to itself? …
><[Luke] The point I was driving at in drawing my distinction was that use 
tests and/or better yet “natural experiments” (of the kind mentioned in Jared 
Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel are really different from strict laboratory 
experimentation, the experimentation and empirical methodology par excellence.
>[Mike]  I don't see the difference (other than convenience).  Laboratory 
experimentation is fast.  This is why so much science has been done in the 
lab.  Consider, rather than waiting to see if a prediction comes true (which 
can take years for each experimental iteration) or searching for years to find 
the necessary data to conduct a "natural experiment" along the lines Diamond 
discusses, in the lab we can artificially produce the conditions that allow us 
to test our prediction and still get home in time for dinner!  Is it really so 
surprising that so much science has been conducted in a laboratory?
>Non-laboratory sciences progress more slowly (except for a few like astronomy 
which has a whole universe from which to pull natural experiments).>
>Convenience is a big part of it; and laboratory experimentation is fast.  But 
the difference I think comes down to something else besides – a matter of 
orientation.  If science is a matter of better understanding the nature of the 
universe via a precise study of its phenomena through empirical investigation, 
then would it not be better to get at the data of natural phenomena through 
the means of “natural experiments” and investigating objects, systems, and 
processes in their natural states? …
>{And, why should it be just as valid to get at such knowledge via laboratory 
experimentation?  Why should “artificially produc[ing] the conditions that 
allow us to test prediction[s]” create for the same results we get from 
natural phenomena, if in fact we cannot replicate the systematic entirety of 
such phenomena’s interrelated linkages?  Why does nature, therefore, always 
seem to trump complete human mastery of natural phenomena through technology?  
Wouldn’t it make sense that, if we had a completely exact understanding of 
natural phenomena and even the ability to physically apply that understanding, 
we should be able to completely master the wholistic and integrating dynamics 
of such natural phenomena? … Is there a specific difference to be had between 
the empiric methods of say “clockmakers” and those of “astronomers, etc.” as 
dealt with in the movie Longitude about the horologist John Harrison who 
solved the problem of getting longitude at sea by the use of his invented!
> sea clock/chronometer?  I’m not talking about generalization versus 
specialization here as much as I am talking about the empirical orientation of 
those who use an understanding of ‘science’ to do/make something 
(techne/praxis) versus those who use an understanding of science to discover 
the workings of the universe, its laws and principles (episteme/scientia/   & 
noesis = ‘understanding’)?  What do you think about these points?}
><[Luke] I’m wondering; what’s your opinion of this notion that in order for 
something to be truly empirical and scientific, then it has to have lab work 
as its central operating principle?    [Mike]  Not so.  In fact laboratory 
science is rather recent.  Astronomy is one of the oldest sciences and it is 
not laboratory-based.  Newton's laws were based on astronomical data and 
Galileo's observations of projectile motion.  The painstaking measurements of 
stellar positions undertaken by Tycho Brahe and others (before the invention 
of the telescope) surely are empirical data--yet involved no laboratory.>
>Yes, I like this explanation of yours also.  Here’s my question.  I do 
believe a lot of times Science’s critiques among religionists, creationists, 
some ID theorists, and scholars of pre-Scientific Revolution Western thought – 
the latter tending to be mainly tending to be Medieval/Classics of Greece and 
Rome among whom stand philosophers, theologians, and literary thinkers – have 
an axe to grind against the discipline.  Besides the obvious issue of 
“religious” and immaterial “spiritual” concerns, what other factors stand to 
divide this community from the scientific community?  That’s to say, what else 
might be behind their making this argument that lab work = true science and 
true empiric study?  What does it stand for these people to gain by 
discrediting Science, pointing out its “contradictions”, and pressing the 
scientific community itself to keep itself in the lab?
><[Luke] That is, in terms of the Stock Market examples we’ve been tossing 
around, there’s the level at which we’re using economic “analytical” tools 
(like Elliott Waves and Japanese Candlesticks) and the patterning of the 
Market itself to make detailed probability-predictions [and looking for 
specific results that match our particularized projection criteria].  That is 
the first level of empirical meaning I mentioned.  [Mike] Elliot waves and 
Japanese Candlesticks aren't economic analytical tools.  They belong to what 
is called "technical analysis" which is a kind of stock market astrology.  
Some market analysts employ astrology.>
>Point well taken.  Yes, they’re indeed part of “technical analysis” (which I 
should have said in my initial message or at least pointed out the somewhat 
arcane, dubious nature of the economic “analysis” involved with Elliott Waves 
and Japanese Candlesticks).  Quite right!
>The problem is – as I see it – the dividing line between stock market 
astrology (technical analysis) and legitimate economic analysis is kind of 
blurred when we end up equating accounting, business, and personal finance 
with the study of micro & macro- economics.  If there is no difference between 
personal finance and economic science, then where stands the difference 
between “technical analysis” and true economic analytical tools that are used 
by economists? …  It all ends up amounting to personally and/or 
domestically-locally rolling the dice again and again to see where they fall 
and what they’re numbers are compared to the results of previous roles.  If 
there is no difference between personal finance, et al, versus economic 
science, then regardless of technical analysis or the more legitimate kinds of 
economic projections used, the whole attempt to predict, accurately estimate, 
or project market outcomes is no more than tossing dice and personally using 
astrology to maxi!
>mize one’s gains or profits in the market.
><[Luke]  The second meaning of “empirical” would involve our consideration of 
the systematic Market process itself (and all aspects of its specified detail) 
in its natural state regardless of our observations/predictions as analysts.  
[Mike]  I don't understand this.  What is the "systematic Market process 
itself" and how is this any different (in a useful sense to people who 
actually participate in markets) from our observations, predictions and 
actions (i.e. to buy or sell).  The market IS the observations, predictions 
(beliefs about future movements) and the actions taken by the people involved 
in the market.>
>The ‘systematic Market process’ itself is what we get when we allow the 
Market to function according to its natural state regardless of political, 
social, and economic policy intrusions by government officials, corporate 
leadership, and or banking organizations.  More specifically, it’s the true 
“free market” guided by the “invisible hand” of unfettered economic activities 
of individuals and businesses doing their things in ‘harmonious’ concert – 
producing, selling, buying, trading, profiting, and consuming their wares – 
guided by the natural workings of human behavior, without the undue influences 
of organizations like the Federal Reserve, government treasury offices, or 
social elites (be they corporate, media, or so forth) monopolizing the system.
 That is what I mean when I talk about the “systematic Market process” itself.
 We would do well to let the real World System takes its course and be guided, 
unencumbered by undue outside influence, by the large-scale workings of!
> world history and “eonic” evolution (as per Professor John Landon’s “Eonix” 
research).  At least, that’s what I think.
>Regarding the difference between the “systematic Market process” itself and 
the mechanics/analysis of  the “finite game” (per James P. Carse’s book, 
Finite and Infinite Games about gaming theory) we call “personal investment”, 
“business”, “finance”, and “accounting”, the difference comes down to the fact 
that economics at its best (like the other sciences and social sciences) 
ultimately is about coming to an understanding about human behavior in an 
economic context.  That is to say, it’s about episteme, scientia, and noesis 
[to use the Classical Greek expressions for true knowledge, the true 
systematically reasoned inquiry into the entities of our world, and the true 
understanding of such things – in this case regarding human behavior and the 
state of human nature].  It’s, in some sense, less about – or at least 
secondarily about – doing something and/or making something (embodied in the 
terms techne and praxis) as it about delving into the true nature of the 
things we study!
> and their systematic dynamics as real things.
>So there’s a real formal distinction to be considered here between our 
object-as-is (human economic behavior & the systematic Market process itself 
(business cycles, economic trends, etc.) and the ways in which people use this 
object-as-is to their own ends (read “self interest”).  If there is no 
difference between the two, then all our analytical projections about what a 
market’s going to do is nothing more than rolling dice and hoping our number 
comes up; & furthermore, economics itself becomes nothing more than a game of 
Monopoly, Wheel of Fortune, and a Las Vegas casino all rolled into one.  I 
have the feeling that Economic science is much more than just this …
>You ask:  “how is this any different (in a useful sense to people who 
actually participate in markets) from our observations, predictions and 
actions (i.e. to buy or sell)?  The market IS the observations, predictions 
(beliefs about future movements) and the actions taken by the people involved 
in the market.”>  Your parenthesized point presupposes a pragmatist, 
utilitarian purpose to Economic science, so it may not be able to adequately 
posit, frame, or perhaps even ‘see’ the difference I’m suggesting.  But if 
economics is more than personal finance, etc., then we have a significant and 
all-important reason for looking at broad-based, long-term economic change 
(and a theory of World Systems) as our fundamental priority.  Without this 
distinction and frame of reference I’m talking about, our analysis can never 
go beyond the limits set by a pragmatic ideal of personal investment, 
accounting, and finance.  I suppose it’s good enough for a person to be an 
economic/financial ana!
>lyst for a big Wall Street firm that monitors stock cycles as its business; 
this being for the purpose of personal finance and investment concerns.  But 
isn’t it better to monitor what’s happening in this respect from a larger, 
longer-term, systematic perspective of market change (one that’s more 
epistemological, more altruistic and less self-interested either in the stock 
performance of particular companies one’s firm is associated with and/or in 
giving them favorable projections whether or not these companies actually 
merit such by their true economic performance) ?  … I tend to think the 
systematic, epistemological model I just outlined is the better frame of 
reference in this regard, but what’s your opinion on this issue? …
>Do You Yahoo!?
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Damian Popolo
PhD candidate
Newcastle University
Department of Politics
Room 301

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