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Philosophy of Science III


Theory (Icel. kenning) “A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.”
Theory: The coherent story The ability of individuals and groups to create “coherent stories” of how phenomena in the world are connected and produce rigorous models that support the stories is a necessary condition for scientific progress.
Theories Explains the connections between things in the world
Hypothesis (Icel. tilgáta) A prediction about the relationship between a limited set of phenomena, as explained by a particular theory.
Support from evidence The strongest form of evidence is rigorous hypothesis testing using scientific experimentation: clearly thought-out tests of the claims that naturally fall out of the Theory to be tested. It helps if the hypotheses concern unexpected results.

Ways to Generate Knowledge

Empirical Mathematical Philosophical
Key Focus / Topic physical universe numbers, sizes, numeric relations anything and everything
*Key Method of Investigation* comparative experiment logic, calculation, computation human reasoning and insight
*Main Discourse Method* journals, conferences, books journals, conferences, books journals, conferences, books
*Absolute Certainty* attempted, not attainable in principle attainable not attempted, not attainable in principle
*Result Certainty* attempted through quality experimental design and execution achieved through correct application of deduction on axioms not attempted
*Result Generality* attempted through internal and external validity of experiments attained through proof attempted through human reasoning
*Key Driving Force* human creativity and ingenuity human creativity and ingenuity human creativity and ingenuity
*Key Enabling Underlying Principle* the world is logical the world is logical the world is logical

Can One Method Support Another?

Empirical Mathematical Philosophical
from Empirical to - no
mathematics cannot get support from empirical methods because the former is axiomatic
(what experiment would support that 2+2=4?)
empirical results can be used to limit and/or focus philosophical investigations
from Mathematics to yes
via modeling and analogies
- yes
mathematical arguments can be used to limit and/or focus philosophical investigations
from Philosophy to yes
a fundamental function of philosophy is to inform and guide empirical investigation
philosophy informs and guides mathematics

Research in Computer Science

UI / UX Data Science Info Networks Simulation
Example Researcher Marta Lárusdóttir Jacky Mallett Magnús Már Halldórsson Jacky Mallett
Example Focus relevance & effectiveness of methods identifying sleep patterns building better wireless networks understanding behavior of groups
Key Methodology Type empirical empirical mathematical simulation
Key Investigation Methods Observations
(e.g. think-aloud testing),
and experiments
massive data analysis, statistics
artificial intelligence
network analysis, modeling modeling and simulation
Whose Behavior is Studied? individuals, end-users individuals, end-users, groups algorithms, hardware systems, institutions, societies
Fields With Comparable Features psychological research disaster management formal modeling and verification economics

The Nature of Theories

Where theories come from Scientific theories almost never “pop out” complete and finished. They get assembled piece by piece, until there are so few pieces left that someone figures out a full picture - a complete story to be told, explaining the phenomena at hand.
Scientific theories: Always evolving Although scientific knowledge is the most reliable knowledge there is, most scientific theories (the best ones for any given topic) at any point in time are theories in flux in that they are actively being put to the test.
Scientific Progress Progress in science follows a starts-and-stop pattern; when there is a relatively complete outer framework “filling in” of missing information can be done (e.g. figuring out the many mechanisms at work within cells) in relatively smooth progression, but when a framework is missing not much happens until someone produces a theoretical framework that provides a more complete picture (e.g. the gap in understanding mental phenomena and neural behavior).

Theory and Empiricism

“Observable” Philosopher: what you can observe with your senses. Scientist: what you can measure
“Non-observable” hypothetical concept (that may become observable at some point, in the scientists sense).
Empirical laws Rule that relate two or more observables. Example: Color wheel artithmetic - yellow+blue=green.
Theoretical laws Rules that deal with non-observables.
Rule ←→ law Law: Rule that has become established (through experiment).
Empirical laws ←→ facts Empirical laws relate facts about observables.
Empirical law ←→ Theoretical law Similar to empirical ←→ facts relation.
Theoretical example The concept of “atom” would never arise out of observation.
Empirical example The concept of the “heat expands metal” can be measured on observables.
Theoretical laws produce empirical laws E.g. Theory of Relativity predicts bent light in gravitational fields.
Correspondence rules Relate theoretical laws with empirical laws and observables.

Will Science Ever Be "Done"?

The Big Question Will science ever be “finished”? Will it ever have explained reality to such an extent as we can say “we now have a complete theoretical framework where every theory has been unified (explainable in a single overall theory), everything is understood and everything can be predicted.”
Answer 1 It will not finish because, at the current speed of scientific inquiry, the human race will perish before all things in the universe have been fitted into a complete model/Theory of All.
Answer 2 It is already “finished”, in that its uncovering of big theories is slowing down, inevitably - for all practical purposes - grinding to a halt in the next 100 years.
Answer 3 We will build intelligent machines that can do science at 10k times the speed of humans. Hence we might be done with theoretizing the universe within humanities timeframe.


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