53 thoughts on “Blackford: moar on scientism

  1. I see a vague parallel here with the comparison between deterministic and random events. Radioactive decay is random yet predictable; breaking a billiard ball set is deterministic yet unpredictable.

    At the one extreme we have things that lend themselves perfectly to the scientific method, such as determining the acceleration of gravity or the molecular structure of aromatic hydrocarbons.

    At the other extreme are things that are diminished by excessive analytical thought, such as all those things that people love in their personal ads (going to concerts, long walks on the beach, hot sex, playing sports, that sort of thing).

    On the one hand, scientific analysis is often greatly aided by non-linear, intuitive thinking. Newton’s Apple and Kekulé’s snake immediately spring to mind. On the other hand, the foundation is laid with empiricism, not intuition.

    Similarly, on the one hand, the scientific method can often be a useful tool in creative endeavors. You probably need a minor in math to fully appreciate a Bach fugue; it’s a really good idea to check the weather and tides before going for that walk on the beach; Masters and Johnson revolutionized our understanding of sex; and there’s oodles of science and technology in even the simplest of competitive sports these days. Yet, in each of those, the analyses must be supportive of and secondary to simply being in the moment and feeling the way forward.

    I very confidently feel that the entire human experience can be reduced and synthesized. This doesn’t bother me at all, as I fully expect any such analysis to reveal new insights that will only serve to further enhance my empirical understanding of the universe and my ability to enjoy it.

    Cheers,

    b&

    1. Hi, Ben! Not to disagree with your post, but since we both play trumpet, I can ask rhetorically, “How do we slur back and forth between two notes that share the same fingering?”

      One type of answer (to “how we slur”) is a model (of the physics), and I expect a good model would show we can ascend by increasing the air supply and making some other adjustments (maybe to the arch of our tongue, the focus of our lips, etc.). This type of answer takes a point of view I call “F=ma” for lack of a better name. Visiting this point of view occasionally is essential to improve my playing.

      A second type of answer (to “how we slur”) is more internal to the mind of the individual, where we discover and coordinate parameters in our mind (consciously and unconsciously). For example, Jeff Smiley’s trumpet method includes exercises to isolate or exaggerate the use of air to change pitch. This makes the slurs too harsh, and then Smiley trusts that when a student needs to make slurs more musical, the student quickly finds the coordination to do that on their own.

      This second type of answer seems outside science, in my opinion. We can observe if a student of Smiley can slur both ways, so we can tell if the student “got” the distinction — so in some sense, there are right answers for the students to get, and this is a real “way of knowing” — but this “way of knowing” involves personal experience and epiphany. The student could document their epiphany by writing a personal narrative (which I would value), but then I would say a personal narrative is outside science.

      Maybe Russell Blackford will see this as an example of a system of knowledge that is real and valuable but outside science. The book Zen in the Art of Archery is a personal narrative that might help more people see what I mean.

      tl;dr How do I shot web?

      1. Dave, I think the way I’d approach the mental aspect is twofold: analytical and intuitive.

        First, there’s every reason to be absolutely confident that even the intuitive mental processes involved can be thoroughly analyzed, if nothing else then by “simply” creating a model brain. (Obviously, this is waaaaay beyond current technology, but that’s an engineering problem.)

        Back in the real world, if you’re trying to slur properly…well, again. When you’re in a performance, you’re guaranteed to step all over yourself if you’re thinking of airspeed and tongue placement and lip tension and what-not. All that has to be so automatic that it doesn’t even register on your consciousness; you must simply hear the music in your head and do what comes “naturally” (though, in fact, it’s a most unnatural act) to bring that music into reality.

        But in the research environment of the practice room, a scientific approach is absolutely going to be your best bet. As you point out, there have been a great many pedagogical studies to determine what teaching methods are the most likely to produce the best results in students; the most successful of those will be the ones which have adopted the scientific method.

        Us trumpeters tend to be a rather unscientific lot, but I’d love to see somebody do a rigorous and suitably blinded study of teaching methods applied to young students.

        I also suspect that real-time visualization of internal organs (such as can be done with X-Ray videography) would be immensely helpful…though, of course, we need affordable techniques that don’t leave subjects glowing in the dark. Imagine trying a bunch of things blindfolded at random; listening to the playback again blindfolded and ranking the results; comparing the visual record against the ranking; and lastly playing the exercise again with a real-time overlay visually comparing what you’re doing with what you did the best previous time. In compact form, that is exactly the scientific method: hypothesize, test, analyze, evaluate, repeat. (Of course, that’s also an excellent recipe for non-technology-assisted practice sessions.)

        If, as I strongly suspect, there are far more similarities in the physiological techniques of great players than there are differences, one could take it a step further and use a reference overlay of a great player. Something like that could easily take decades off the time it takes to mature as a performer.

        So…I still stand by my position. There’s plenty of room for real scientific analysis in the arts. You just have to be sure that it doesn’t overwhelm your primary objectives.

        Cheers,

        b&

    2. Re Bach fugues: perhaps a minor in maths might be helpful in appreciating the construction of some Bach fugues, but I have too often heard Bach fugues played as though on a knitting machine to seriously believe in a purely intellectual approach. A physical feeling for dance, for musical tensions and relaxations and for what changing harmonies express is far more valuable for the performer (as opposed to the mathematically minded musicologist or the author of the fascinating ‘Godel, Escher Bach’) than knowledge of mathematics – though I would not want to be taken as suggesting is not relevant or might not be helpful. I don’t how much mathematics Tatyana Nicolayeva or Karl Richter or Pablo Casals or George Enescu (whose performance of the great chaconne in the D minor partita is the greatest I know)had, but they all had a wonderful sensitivity to musical movement and drama, and a wonderful ear: and music is understood principally through the ear.

        1. And I like your pointing out that scientific analysis is often ‘aided by non-linear, intuitive thinking’. Crick and marijuana (was it?). If there weren’t odd, off-the-wall ideas coming in, there would be little to work on.

          1. A small quotation from Kotlyarov’s ‘Enesco: His Life and Times’: partly in consequence of his youthful studies of Bach, Enesco considered polyphony ‘to be not an artificial display of ingenious contrapuntal technique, but a living tissue made up of several melodic lines, each of which preserved its expressive quality.’ He also studied counterpoint at the Paris Conservatoire with Andre Gedalge, who distinguished clearly between the fugue as a school exercise and the fugue as musical art. Kotlarove also says that Enesco’s early studies of Bach ‘helped him to develop that rare quality that N. Rimsky-Korsakov had termed “the ability to hear a voie progression”‘ – something that is of the utmost importance in playing a Bach fugue musically.

      1. Yes, the music/math meme may be a bit too played up. Certainly Bach was no mathematician. On the other hand, it should be understood that, while musical tension and relaxation register with us physically, teasing out how they are effected is an entirely intellectual pursuit. A composer or performer who only “feels” their way through their craft will not be successful. (At least in principle – many hacks DO in fact achieve success. I’m looking at YOU Stephen Paulus and Morten Lauridsen!)

        For truly keen insight into how and why music works, you can’t beat the writings of Heinrich Schenker. He sometimes goes off on unnecessary nationalistic tangents, but his observations and analyses are powerfully astute. The wikipedia on “Schenkerian analysis” is pretty decent.

        1. I’m glad you agree that music/maths meme can be overdone. To say that, though, is not by any means to suggest that writing good music does not involve a great deal of hard intellectual work and is merely emotional(I realise you are not accusing me of this, but I have come across that attitude a bit too often, particularly the kind of person who suppose that the arts are no more, really, than ‘cheese-cake’, as one illustrious philistine puts it).

          1. ‘particularly FROM the kind of person’ – and thank you for pointing me to Schenker, though I immediately felt dubious about the suggestion that rhythm is a sort of secondary element… perhaps that’s why he didn’t get on with Stravinsky. But I shall look into him more.

        2. And one more point: do you know Aniruddh D. Patel’s ‘Music, Language and the Brain’? It is a book that I haven’t got round to reading through seriously yet, though I have dipped into it. Patel is a neuro-scientist and was a pupil of E.O. Wilson, and he takes explores in this book the biological base of music and language. What I like about Patel is that he is not in any way interested in the ‘Two Cultures’ quarrel, and so, unlike, say, Pinker, he has no interest in taking sides and putting down the arts, but is genuinely interested in the art that he has chosen to study, and clearly, respects, enjoys and understands it deeply

          1. No, I’ve not heard of that book, but I’ll certainly pick up a copy. I read a book called “Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy” by Robert Jourdain. It contained a few insights about why music means something to our brains, but mostly it tended to the pat and banal. I was disappointed.

            I should have revisited the wikipedia article I recommended before I did so. It’s been a couple of years since I looked at it – I did nit recall just how liberally the author(s) tossed the word “subjective” around. Schenker’s method may allow for some interpretation, but it’s nowhere near as wishy-washy as the first few paragraphs make it sound.

            About rhythm, I don’t think Schenker’s idea was to devalue the importance of rhythm as a musical ingredient. It’s just that the deeper structure of the music is necessarily arrhythmic. An important pitch in the background may be elaborated with a few, or several notes in the foreground, or surface structure. So, as the article states, rhythm is a characteristic of the foreground. That’s all.

            Thanks for the book recommendation!

  2. Ben Goren said:
    “scientific analysis is often greatly aided by non-linear, intuitive thinking”
    The scientific method simply tests the ideas presented to it to see whether they are incorrect. It really doesn’t matter where the idea comes from in the first place – a holy book or a drug induced dream can be the source of ideas. So far it’s the latter that’s produced the better ideas although neither have produced ideas as good as, for instance, those coming from the imagination of science fiction writers.

  3. The scientific method simply tests the ideas presented to it to see whether they are incorrect.

    In the narrowest of senses, you are (of course) absolutely correct.

    However, science is commonly (and correctly) understood to be a means of gaining information about the universe in an effort to further understand it. In that sense, the scientific method, though an indispensable aspect of scientific pursuit of knowledge, is not sufficient. At least, not yet.

    Cheers,

    b&

    1. I think the word “science” can mean the scientific method – defined similar to my previous post – and alternatively the public definition of science. THAT is probably best defined as “the collection of facts about the natural world”. This definition is the one that the NCSE tends to use when they talk about science being compatible with religion. If you use the second definition then ancient stories can be a source of some facts about the world (for instance some geographical or historical facts).

  4. As I see it, the point that Blackford wants you take away is that you’re abusing the term “science” when you define it so broadly that even humanists are doing science.

    Compare: Suppose I define “philosophy” to be “any rational inquiry.”

    Scientists (or at least good scientists) are then just natural philosophers (a term that long predates “scientist”). Note that this is supported by the fact that Coyne, for example, has a Doctorate of Philosophy in biology.

    Historians are just philosophers of the past. Doctors are just philosophers of medicine. etc.

    Now one can play this game, but then you just lose all sight of important distinctions between various fields.

    Likewise, if you use the term “science” so broadly that it includes literary studies, you’re abusing the term. There are reasons for distinguishing the sciences from the humanities, the arts, and so on.

    1. I want to agree with you that distinctions between disciplines must be made.

      But then, how do we distinguish between great and poor art? Surely we can’t be content to let epistomology in the humanities collapse into a relativistic, subjective heap. As soon as we try to “really find some things out” about art, are we not thinking scientifically?

      Aside: “Subjective” seems to me to be an altogether overused term. Often, it seems a refuge for those who lack the inclination or ability to perform investigation of any depth.

      1. As soon as we try to “really find some things out” about art, are we not thinking scientifically?

        In a word: No. Not if “scientifically” is supposed to pick out something that is distinctive of physicists and biologists (as opposed to art historians and musicologists).

        1. My experience with art history is extremely limited so I won’t address that subject. But musicology is quite well suited to rigorous scientific analysis, I assure you.

          When it comes down to it, discovering the math that describes planetary orbital motion and discovering the math that underlies a Bach fugue…the two processes are indistinguishable.

          Now, add in the subfields of musicology devoted to psychology (including cognition and neuropsychology), medicine (including music therapy), ethnomusicology, sociology, education…I’d be happy to give you contact information for professors at a Research I university who specialize in music who are doing hard science every bit as much as those in the biodesign institute.

          Cheers,

          b&

        2. The reason I prefer Jerry’s definition of science is that Russell’s seems quite narrow, and (not to sound condescending) rather naive. “If you’re not fiddling w test tubes and wearing a lab coat, it’s not science.”

          I wouldn’t regard science as some kind of meta-discipline that only includes physics, biology, chemistry and the like. Rather, isn’t it an epistemological tool we use to find out what’s really going on in our universe? No matter to what discipline we apply it? Like Ben, my field of expertise is music. Music, and the psychological impact it has on us is just as real as anything else in the universe.

    2. Words can have multiple, even contradictory meanings.

      The Apple Dictionary (New Oxford American) defines the noun as:

      the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment: the world of science and technology.

      • a particular area of this: veterinary science | the agricultural sciences.

      • a systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular subject: the science of criminology.

      archaic knowledge of any kind.

      That pretty well addresses all your concerns, I think. As always, one should be careful to clearly indicate which sense of a word one is using, but that’s part and parcel of good writing.

      Cheers,

      b&

      1. “Words can have multiple, even contradictory meanings.”

        And in English, many, perhaps most words do. I am “typing” [a verb now two removes from its noun – the word “type-writer” was at first condemned as a barbarism] this on a “key””board” looking at a “screen” covered in “writing”. Which is why people who object to the secondary meaning of “gay” are just coating their homophobia in pedantry (whereas my objection to its tertiary meaning of “lame/bad” is perfectly reasonable, because it’s derived by homophobia from the secondary meaning).

        On topic; isn’t it mainly non-scientists who have an exaggerated respect for science as being a collection of ultimate truths (“It’s a scientific fact / It’s a scientific fact / It’s got to be accurate, it’s got to be exact…”) that is the essence of “scientism” and scientists who know much better how tentative and doubtful it all is?

        1. I dont think anyone has claimed that science is a collection of truths. Rather, it’s the process whereby we uncover truth, as best we can.

        2. …isn’t it mainly non-scientists who have an exaggerated respect for science as being a collection of ultimate truths (“It’s a scientific fact / It’s a scientific fact / It’s got to be accurate, it’s got to be exact…”) that is the essence of “scientism” and scientists who know much better how tentative and doubtful it all is?

          I really like that.

    1. That’s really a fascinating discovery. And really not so OT…empirical observation leads to investigation… 🙂

  5. I understand where Blackford is coming from when he says looking out the window to see if the sun is shining isn’t “doing science.” It sounds silly to assert this. It sounds silly. But isn’t one in fact doing science in this scenario? Just because all the measurements and analyses are being made by our bodies in perhaps an instinctual and mostly subconscious way doesn’t mean it’s not essentially the same procedure as a more complicated scientific one that involves artificial measurement-taking devices. Neil DeGrasse-Tyson recently said that scientific instruments can be thought of as extensions of our sense organs. They simply provide us w information unavailable to our senses.

    I think it’s incorrect to say that we MUST make a distinction between “looking out the window” and “doing science.” This distinction perpetuates the idea many folks have that science is some far-off, esoteric thing w little to no real consequence for their everyday lives.

    1. Re: looking to see if the sun is shining brings to mind an old song:

      There’s a change in the weather a change in the sea,

      If that don’t work there’ll be a change in me

      My wall will be different my talk and my game,

      Nothing about me’s gonna be the same,

      I’m gonna change my way of livin’ and if that ain’t enough,

      Then I’ll change the way that I strut my stuff ’cause

      Nobody wants you when you’re old and gray,

      There’ll be some changes made today.

      Oh there is one sure you can always count on it’s change yes it’s change,

      THE SUN WILL RISE AND THE SUN IS GONNA SET,

      You can depend on it to change,

      And when you think your life is all serene,

      Something happens and it (“smack”!) breaks your routine,

      There is one sure thing you can always count on it’s change, yes it’s change!

      1. And what would be worng with that?

        My cat does science, to the limits of his abilities. For example, he’s discovered that he can open doors when I’m near by repeatedly leaping up and grabbing the door handle until I open it for him. I think a very valid case can be made for the fact that, in a very restricted and limited manner, he applied the scientific method to arrive at that discovery.

        When young students drop a feather and a pebble to see which falls faster and attempt to explain why, is that not science?

        Granted, my cat is rather unlikely to win any Nobels in the foreseeable future. Then again, I doubt Jerry will, either. Does that mean Jerry doesn’t do science?

        Somebody — Richard Dawkins, perhaps? — has pointed out that even Religion is science; it’s just that it’s bad science. It makes claims about the world; it just holds to those claims despite observations of evidence that contradicts it.

        If my cat can develop an internal model of the world, perform actions based on that model, and modify his model and his behavior based on the observations he makes of the results of his actions…isn’t that not only science, but good science?

        Cheers,

        b&

        1. Well, if you’re going to say science is something that’s been going on since long before humans came on the scene, you’re going far, far outside the usual meaning and we need a new word to single out the stuff people are doing in labs.

          1. Again, why?

            Trivially, do we need a new word for “sleeping” because people now do it in steel-framed nests lined with cloths made from petroleum-derived fibers that we keep inside artificial caves with temperature and humidity regulation?

            Do we need a new word for “singing” because it’s done into one electronic device, digitally altered, and electronically reproduced on the other side of the planet?

            Do we need a new word for “thinking” because it’s now augmented by Google searches?

            Do we need a new word for “living” because we’re no longer the unicellular organisms our great…great-grandparents were?

            We have a definition. Certain activities meet the minimum requirements for that definition. That careful consideration reveals that those activities are performed by entities not traditionally considered capable of performing them indicates that it’s “common wisdom” that’s at fault, not the definition.

            Cheers,

            b&

            1. Honestly, I fail to see the point of this discussion. We have a word ‘science’ and related words such as ‘scientist’. These words have meanings. Those meanings, like all meanings, are defined by the way the words are used by a community of speakers. Any definition given can be more or less accurate in that it can capture the distinctions and nuances in the way the word is used and teach a person to use it appropriately. Any word can also be given a new a definition and used as a technical term.

              Some people appear to think that science is good, therefore they want to define everything else that is good as ‘science’, in some sort of bizarre act of triumphalism. That’s fine. But the original meaning of the word, as it is commonly used, remains and you have achieved nothing except to introduce confusing technical vocabulary. ‘Science’ is not like ‘sleeping’ in your analogy simply because people (and animals) slept long before there were beds. Animals seek out food but it does not follow that they’re ‘Googling food’ because there are similarities between foraging and searching for information on the Internet.

              The point of my statement was that it’s an obvious absurdity to literally say “my cat is a scientist” because it’s part of the meaning of ‘scientist’ that cats can’t literally be scientists and therefore any definition that allows such a possibility doesn’t adequately capture the meaning of the word.

            2. @poke

              Well, okay, I do understand your point. But for my mind to be changed, you’d have to provide a list of those disciplines or endeavors that qualify as science, the criteria for inclusion in that list, and the reasons those criteria are valid. It seems to me that’d be pretty tricky. Where exactly will the line be drawn?

              For the time being, I’m sticking by my conception of science as an epistemological tool that can be applied to anything about which you’d like to know more.

              As I said upthread, I think it would be a great boon if more people could see that what scientists do, in a careful and deliberate fashion, is the same (albeit more complicated) kind of
              project they’re involved in when they look out the window to see if the sun is shining. It’s just less careful and less deliberate. Less overt analysis, etc.

              At the end if the day, it’s just gaining knowledge. And trying to make sure it’s reliable knowledge.

              Let’s see if this made sense. I took a double dose of Benadryl an hour and s half ago. I’ll check in the morning.

            3. Spot on, Ben. Science is any technique building on observation or experiment. Of course other animals do science, but that doesn’t mean it is overbroad. Science still excludes pure reasoning based on definitions (math and language) and faith.

          2. Perhaps it would help to say that what people do in labs represents the cutting edge of this broadly conceived science? A virtuosic rendition of what we and other animals do to figure out our surroundings? I might say that as long as brains have been on the scene, so has science.

            1. Why not say science (the stuff we do in labs) is the pinnacle of the sort of exploratory behaviour found in humans and other animals? What’s the use of such a broadly-construed definition of science?

              I might be true to say that “science is nothing more than a virtuosic rendition of what we and other animals do to figure out our surroundings”. But then why not just say that?

    2. Just to forestall any confusion, my poorly-worded second sentence should read: it sounds silly to assert that this (looking out the window) is science.

      1. “it sounds silly to assert that this (looking out the window [at the stars]) is science.”

        Is astronomy not a science? Just because something does not happen in a controlled laboratory does not make it less of a science.

        1. We’re actually agreeing on this matter. If you read my original comment up there, I say (hopefully clearly enough) the same thing you’ve said. The sentence down here was employed rhetorically.

          Apparently, I’m not so good at forestalling confusion. 🙂

  6. Of course one can define the word ‘science’ so broadly that it means any kind of rational enquiry at all, in which case, since the Scottish play has been mentioned, actors and directors are doing science when they interpret a play (and certainly interpreting a play for performance involves a lot of experimentation and playing around with things, which may superficially resemble the sort of thing that scientists do: both disciplines are very practical activities). But actors and directors are certainly not doing science in the narrower definition that Professor Blackford proposes. And surely Ben Goren’s cat isn’t, either. On the narrower definition, science naturally remains in the category of rational enquiry, but what it is seeking are explicit and testable truths that have some sort of universal import and in terms of which a variety of phenomena can be explained. And that surely is why science in the narrow sense can have little to say about, say, how an actor might speak certain lines of Macbeth’s. This is not to say that science (narrowly defined) cannot provide insights where actor-training is concerned or where the question why human beings create and enjoy art is concerned – ‘theory of mind’ and the behaviour of mirror neutrons are certainly relevant in the case of drama. But the actor’s problem is not one of illustrating some sort of explanation about the play, but that of how to speak this particular line here, and here science (narrowly conceived)is of little or no help, and may even be a hindrance to interpretation. Olivier famously decided that Hamlet should be played as having an Oedipus complex (yes, I know that Freudianism is not science, but it was taken as being science by many people in its day)with the result that people (and other actors) complained that they could not understand what the devil he was doing. And I have seen Macbeth played as a psychopath by a famous actor – something that no doubt resulted from reading up on the available psychological literature. The result was naturally dreadful. (I am aware that in both these cases it was the misuse of scientific – or pseudo-scientific – knowledge that was the principal problem, the inability to see that Oedipus complexes and psychopathic disorders were not relevant to the plays.) So how does the actor speak ‘She should have hereafter’? The line means, considered in isolation, ‘She would have died anyway, so what does it matter?’ So, considered in isolation, it is on the face of it a totally callous comment. But then the next line comes: ‘There would have been a time for such a word.’ That is to say, once, before killing Duncan and setting in train the events that ensued, or if Macbeth had refrained from killing Duncan, there would have been a time when the news of his wife’s death could have given its due… And in that line, it seems to me a terrible guilt, a terrible grief and a terrible recognition which throws the preceding line into a very different perspective. Again, it is not just the delivery of a line in isolation: how does Macbeth respond to the news? By immediately delivering the line, or by pausing before delivery – two ways that will have very different effects but could be equally valid on stage, if the actors are sensitive and good. And this in part will depend on how the actor has come to conceive of his character… I don’t honestly think that science, narrowly conceived, can have much of interest to say about this sort of thing.
    This has gone on too long. Joseph Carroll, in ‘Literary Darwinism: Evolution, Human Nature and Literature’, a book which E.O. Wilsdon admires, makes some cogent criticisms of Stephen Pinker’s silly philistinism (which was on display in some of the comments on the earlier posting on this subject), and also of some the ideas about the arts that the great man, E.O. Wilson, holds (or held, since he admires the book).

    1. One makes a rather large error in assuming a conclusion under unique conditions can be replicated under all conditions. Newton’s “universal” law of gravitation breaks down under any number of conditions. Science is not universal, it is provisional.

      Science is merely a descriptor, it does not necessarily have to provide a mechanism of action. Gravity is a description, not a mechanism. We still don’t know why gravity works exactly, just how it works.

      Mr. Harris, your insistence that actors and cats are not doing science, even narrowly defined, leads me to the conclusion that you do not know what science is. Science is a method of learning based on the evidence of observation and experimentation.

      1. Or rather, we do not yet know the mechanism by which gravity works, merely the extent to which gravitation occurs.

        1. Yes, of course, science is ‘provisional’, in that almost certainly no finding can be final, or known to be final, but scientists nevertheless strive towards creating theories, like Darwin’s, that attempt to explain a variety of phenomena in an economic manner. If you seriously suppose that cats and actors, even famous ones, are about some Darwinian, Newtonian or Einsteinian enterprise, then perhaps you might explain why you suppose this.

          1. Cats and actors are at a minimum implicitly making predictions about the results of their actions based on their understanding derived from past experience. Nobody is saying cats are geniuses at it, but it’s still empirical inquiry, more commonly known as science.

  7. I’m throwing my hat in with the people who feel that it is confusing, and deviating too far from common usage, to use ‘science’ in the very broad sense that our host prefers.

    We need a broad term – such as ’empiricism’ (but if anyone has a better term I’d be happy to hear it) – to refer to any form of enquiry which involves observation of the real world.

    And we need a narrower term – which surely is ‘science’ – to refer to the formalised version of empiricism which involves systematic observation, controlled experiments where possible, construction of theories, publication, peer review etc.

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