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Must Scientific Knowledge Be Considered Relative?

 
 
NotreDame05
 
  1  
Reply Fri 28 Oct, 2011 03:59 pm
@wandeljw,
wandeljw wrote:

In the philosophy and sociology of science, there is a school of thought that scientific research is driven by cultural, social, political, and even financial profit frameworks. Thus, the view that scientific facts are objective is being attacked.

This is a complex issue that involves philosophy, anthropology, sociology and the scientific method itself.

Any thoughts?


Good question. I think there probably is some scientific research not driven by cultural, social, political, or financial frameworks, or they are minimized as to maximize objectivity.

However, I am not convinced the facts deduced from scientific research driven by these frameworks is lacking objectivity, or has less objectivity. To be sure, some may have an agenda and as a result, their data is selective, or their interpretation of the data is questionable, but I am not convinced this is so by others within the same framework.

Any specific examples to amplify where this has occurred or operates as a good example of where it likely transpired?
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Fri 28 Oct, 2011 04:02 pm
@NotreDame05,
The questions posed in the field of science may be cultural, social, or political, but the results are objective.
0 Replies
 
FBM
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2011 07:39 am
@bigstew,
bigstew wrote:

Quote:
My current understanding is that scientific knowledge is inferential and therefore can never attain certainty, given the limitations of human perception. Hume, et al.


Hume's verificationism isn't a widely endorsed epistemology.[/uo]

I didn't say anything about verificationism, but if I had, your reply would still be an ad populum argument.

Quote:
Further, inference may not entail certainty, but that doesn't mean knowledge is relative, nor can we attain justified true beliefs regarding reality.


I realize the OP was about relativity of knowledge, but my post was about uncertainty, so I don't see how this applies to what I wrote. I was going after the problem with induction. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/induction-problem/
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2011 08:48 am
@Finn dAbuzz,
Finn dAbuzz wrote:
And, as we all know, scientists are not subject to the foibles of lesser men,

That misses the point of science. Scientific knowledge does not depend on the character or social status of its producers. It depends on their methods. To the extent that people draw their conclusions from repeatable experiments, refutable theories, peer review, and all that, their personal foibles won't taint those conclusions. And to the extent that people draw invalid conclusions on other grounds, other people can correct them using the scientific method. This is true whether or not those people have the word "scientist" in their job titles or not.
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2011 01:14 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas is referring to the scientific method as a set of methods and principles. In that he is right.
But it is also true that scientists may sometimes deviate from such ideals--in that regard Finn and C.I. emphasize the objective consequences of "scientists'"actions.
The reality consists, of course, of both. But imagine what the human condition would be today if we did not have the Scientific Method (no matter how much it may not be followed to the letter and spirit).

cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2011 01:40 pm
@JLNobody,
As in any human endeavor, there will be fraud and misinformation from scientists - especially in the fields of sociology.

JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2011 01:58 pm
@cicerone imposter,
Why so you select sociology for that honor? My bias is against economics. I''ve long felt that you know economists' political affiliations you can better predict their economic interpretations and explanations.
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2011 02:25 pm
@JLNobody,
It's my understanding that sociology and economics are mingled topics.

Those who profess to be sociology scientists are different than those who identify themselves as scientists of economics, because most who understand economics know it's more an art than it is a science. Sociology on the other hand addresses topics of culture, ethnicity, and other societal topics such as race, intelligence, ethics, and such. Many theories proposed by social scientists make claims that are found on ignorance, such as "why blacks are not intelligent."

Sociology also studies human economic activities that may have some value; such as why investors invariably buy high and sell low. During the recent market downturn, many sold their stocks (from fear); it was the wrong move as was proven by last week's rise in the market.

I'm not trying to imply that all sociological studies are wrong; but some of the research and their results are based on personal bias that is not worth the paper it's written on.
0 Replies
 
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2011 03:02 pm
Surely the "status" of all social science versus that of natural science is influenced by the greater use of statistics and "confidence levels". This point reflects on the predictive function of what we call "science". The fact that economic "measurement" ( interval and ratio levels) is conducive to a more extensive range of statistical analysis compared with that applicable to sociological measurement might suggest greater trust of "confidence levels".
igm
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2011 03:10 pm
Surely, it's always 'relative' to the axioms chosen.
0 Replies
 
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2011 03:18 pm
@fresco,
I'm not so sure statistical analysis provides us with any form of "confidence" level, because economies are always in flux. It's impossible to measure all of the variables needed to provide the necessary information on macro-economics.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2011 07:26 pm
@JLNobody,
JLNobody wrote:
Why so you select sociology for that honor? My bias is against economics. I''ve long felt that you know economists' political affiliations you can better predict their economic interpretations and explanations.

That's only true to the extent that economists don't change their theories when evidence refutes them. In other words, it's only true to the extent that economists are not acting as scientists.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2011 07:38 pm
@cicerone imposter,
cicerone imposter wrote:
It's impossible to measure all of the variables needed to provide the necessary information on macro-economics.

Not true. All the standard workhorse models of macroeconomics-101 only use a few variables, and there's plenty of statistical evidence to test them against.

  • Neoclassical growth theory predicts the economy's long-run future o as a function of the capital stock, the saving rate, and present output. There's statistics on all those variables.

  • The quantity theory of money, encasulating the views of monetarists, deals with inflation and output as a function of the quantity of money. All those variables can be well measured.

  • The IS-LM model, encapsulating Keynesianism, deals with employment, the interest rate, inflation, and output as a function of consumer spending, private investment, net exports, government spending and the quantity of money. All those variables can be measured empirically, and they are.

What more information do you need and don't have?
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2011 07:56 pm
@Thomas,
Granted, and that happens too often when their economic activities are politically laden .
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2011 08:24 pm
Social sciences lend themselves to political advocacy more easily than physical sciences. For example, the American Sociological Association in recent years has issued a resolution calling for an end to U.S. military action in Iraq and another resolution opposing a U.S. constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages.
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2011 08:34 pm
@wandeljw,
But this advocacy is not itself sociology---just as it isn't physics when the American Physical Society issues statements against nuclear testing. To generalize, not everything scientists do is science.
0 Replies
 
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2011 08:47 pm
@Thomas,
How does all those so-called statistics prove future economic performance, and how are they used?

If they are so reliable, why didn't they project last week's market rise?

I know of no method that can project future economic activity. If people are able to project any economic future, those making investments would time their investments right 100% of the time, and become wealthy. Why haven't they done so?

Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2011 09:00 pm
@cicerone imposter,
cicerone imposter wrote:
How does all those so-called statistics prove future economic performance, and how are they used?

They don't prove future economic performance, they measure it when it happens. And by doing so, they test today's theories about future economic performance and possibly refute it.

cicerone imposter wrote:
If they are so reliable, why didn't they project last week's market rise?

They are not reliable, and they don't have to be in order to be scientific. Reliability plays no part in the definition of science. Meteorologists, for example, can't reliably predict next week's weather either, and yet the physics that generates the predictions is perfectly scientific, not to mention perfectly sound and well-understood.
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2011 09:19 pm
@Thomas,
So what ****'n difference does it make to help us prepare for the future?
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2011 09:35 pm
@cicerone imposter,
cicerone imposter wrote:
So what ****'n difference does it make to help us prepare for the future?

Ask any East German, Russian, or Cambodian. They used to live under communistic regimes that used dogma rather than science to run their economy. Ask them if their current, more scientifically-informed way of running it makes a difference to them.
0 Replies
 
 

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