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Epistemologicaly speaking…what is science?
Posted: 31 December 2007 10:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]  
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ender!krum - 30 December 2007 04:08 PM
burt - 29 December 2007 02:29 AM

As an analogy, you are saying something like the conclusion, based on scientific techniques and theories, that the generation of electro-magnetic radiation of certain wavelengths allows the propagation of information through empty space is not a scientific conclusion since it is used to develop radio technology.

You misrepresent my position.  Since those wavelengths are “readily available, in an active state” the findings can be subject to “repeatable observation and experimentation.”  This makes the finding scientific.

In contrast, using tools, developed in a scientific manner, on subjects which are not “readily available, in an active state” creates findings which cannot be subject to “repeatable observation and experimentation.”  This does not invalidate the finding - it simply places it outside of the usefulness to scientific inquiry.

Ok, I will give you an example to hopefully illustrate why I think that position doesn’t hold up under pressure.  Events A, B, C, and D all are agressive actions that lead to a war of some sort between nations.  You certainly agree that history deals with studying these causes and teh effects of such aggressions. 


When someone says “when we go into Iraq, we will be treated as liberators just as we were in France after WWII”.  The hypothesis here is that the events leading up to the reception for US tropps in France after WWII are directly correlated with the military acting as “liberators” of a nation previously under governmental stress. 

The observations are in two parts: one is that we were well recieved in France at that time as liberators and the other is that the events that lead to establishing us as liberators to the citizens in France have been replicated in modern day Iraq. 

The prediction is that US troops will be seen as liberators of Iraq by the citizens there. 

This is testable by simply seeing what happens.  We now know that this was NOT at all what happened in Iraq, therefore the factors previously assumed true that established us as liberators of France are NOT actually being replicated in Iraq.  The hypothesis was wrong and needs adjustments.  Either the interpretation of the Iraqi situation was incorrect or the interpretation of what lead to our reception in France was incorrect. 

Can you see how this is a direct application of history?  In fact, it is the goal of history to make such studies in this manner.  The object is to learn about the past to understand the present and to predict the future.  So if this isn’t scientific to you, despite intrinsicly using the scientific method and being the search for provable, testable facts, then what constitutes science?  The way I see it, the methods for gathering information within history relies either loosely on science or exclsuively on science or soemwhere in between, but in no way can reliable history be established without any sceince creeping in, even if it was just establishing a timeline of interaction based on testimony.  If the timeline doesn’t add up, the testimony is ignored.

You seem to want to narrow history down to not include the methods of gaining the information it is seeking, ignoring the goals of history as it relates to the search for facts, and also beyond the point of application.  The method for gaining the information is scientific and includes hypothesis, timeline scaling and adjustments, very often geology or archeology or other sciences that are seeking historical understanding. 

And you say this isn’t to be included in the definition of the discilpline itself?  And you understand that the application is itself a hypothesis based on observations of past events (and their causal events) and make predictions and are tested and then affirmed or reformed, right?  It just seems to me that you have narrowed your view of history to the point that it only encompasses non-scientific understanding…which I submit doesn’t exist.  Even testimony, if it is to be relied upon for historical recording, is examined scientifically and requires evidence.

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Posted: 31 December 2007 11:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]  
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burt - 30 December 2007 10:45 PM

But that is not quite what you said before.  The finding is scientific but its application may well be in a non-scientific field.

I am not sure if it matters where the application of a scientific finding is used (I will have to consider this). 

However, my primary point remains that for something to be considered “science” (i.e. a scientific finding) it must be “the study of a subject which is readily available, in an active state, for repeatable observation and experimentation.”

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Posted: 31 December 2007 12:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]  
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You can do repeated testing on all sorts of things by recreating them or by looking at other, present examples of them.  For example, geology isn’t the study of how rocks formed mountains long, long ago.  It is studying actual modern rocks and natural phenomena that takes place in the formation of the planet’s features as we see them today.  Geology takes that information and can apply it to how the formation of various geological features takes place, and thus applies it to understanding how mountains formed many years ago long before the current batch of geologists were alive to study the mountains. 

You can also pose a similar case for cosmology or astronomy.  In astronomy, NONE of us were around for the birth of the stars cosmologists study, yet the discipline has helped physicists a huge deal in understanding all sorts of stuff about how matter interacts and how energy can be transferred.  These sciences make claims about how planets or whatnot were formed not based on guesswork, but based on the rigors of the scientific method narrowing down the possibilities to only a couple options, a handful being more supported by strong evidence than the others.  This is why scientists accept the Big Bang Theory.  You seem to think sciences can only make testable predictions if they are tested on the objects being studied.  I don’t agree with that. 

I should also point out that cosmology tells us that the atoms in your body and that make up the universe were all born either during the Big Bang or in the cores of stars.  So to make a point saying physicists arne’t applying the understanding to the same objects they were studying isn’t really going to hold water technically.

History is repeatable in an active state btw.  Historians are constantly noting the conditions that allow for events to happen in current events.  By “an active state”, you should reword that to say something like “something that can be studied at the present time and isn’t exclusively based on unrepeatable experimentation”.  Not sure where you got that definition for science, but perhaps you misunderstood what that part was meaning?  It seems to me the “an active state” merely means you have to be able to study it today to keep from forming a wrong conclusion and in teh future someone never being capable of overturning it and doesn’t mean that the object/phenom being studied must be in operation before study can be useful.

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Posted: 31 December 2007 12:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]  
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To supplement my argument about history as science, and to better illustrate the use of the scientific method and other science discplines within the field of History, you guys and gals can watch some of the video seminars given at MIT on the topic of Historical analysis methodology at the following link (requires RealPlayer):

http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/History/21H-931Spring2004/LectureNotes/index.htm

It gets into detail on the methodology in terms I have outlined specifically in the 2nd seminar/lecture.  The first one is mostly aboutlooking at how History is presented in literature compared to real world History.

Btw, for those who care, you can find all sorts of great video lectures, lecture notes, exams and tons of other course resources from MIT on that site available to anyone for free.  So if you want to further your understanding of various fields of thought without paying for an MIT education, here’s your chance.  smile

[ Edited: 31 December 2007 12:48 PM by tavishhill2003]
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Posted: 31 December 2007 12:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]  
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History is dependent on a great deal of what scientists (and even perhaps nonscientists such as yourself) label “contingency”.

Most scientists examining the specifically historical aspects of the universe (including, for that matter) human history suggest that you cannot make these historical aspects “scientific” until you have several specifically independent examples. This means, in effect, that to study the historical aspects of life on earth scientifically, you must first have several planets on each of which carbon-based life has originated, and study their histories independently to determine which aspects are due to common causes and which are due to contingency. The same is true for the history of the universe as a whole. We only have one example (so far) to study.

The histories that we have are essentially an incomplete documentation of a singular sequence of events. Without multiple independent histories to study, you have no statistics.

For additional references, I suggest you look into statistical mechanics and the principles of statistical ensembles. It is up to you to obtain an adequate understanding of this very general principle.

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Posted: 31 December 2007 03:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]  
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1) I’m an astrophysics major.  I have degrees in architectural engineering, civil engineering, and minors in philsophy, mathematics and physics.  Trying to label me as a “non-scientist” simply because you lack the counterpoints to properly oppose my position isn’t winning you any merit badges. 

2) No, “most scientists” do not proclaim that history cannot be science.  If you are going to toss out an argument from authority, the least you could do is note the authority instead of imagining some false concensus.  The very idea that courses are taught at well reputed universities on historical methodology that center around the scientific method, yet that “scientists” consider history to not be scientific, is just plain stupid. 

3) Again, no.  You don’t need to study the history of civilizaed life on various planets to use the scientific method to study the history of humanity or the history of anything else on our rock.  If you want to make comparisons to how other civilizations interact with each other from other planets, you would do a comparative study in that vein, but your claim that all science is derived from studies of alien civilization is again very stupid.  You are in effect claiming that cosmology, astronomy, astrophysics and really every discipline within Physics are not to be deemed areas of science.  Good luck finding a single scientist to agree with you on that one.

4) You didn’t bother telling me what your definition of history and science are Salty.  That is a major issue in the discussion.  I like to use the dictionary meaning of science and accept elaborations on that terminology.  There is no possible way to spin my definition of science as I use it and as it is defined in the dictionary or in any history text as a study that is not scientific…no matter how hard you try. 

In case you missed it, I’ll repeat my definition of a discipline of science in a more elaborated way:

science=an area of study that is built around gaining information by using concepts such as the scientific method AND can produce verifiable, provable, and repeatable results that are independent of some sort of external doctrine.

History fits that definition.  You have somehow misunderstood what I said about causation btw.  The idea that every bracnh of world history is one long string of singular events is quite stupid as well.  At any given time, there are inumerous events happening in the universe, including vast amounts here on earth.  To study history and to apply it by making predictions

You also seem to have a very odd view of what determins statistics gathering in history.  I’m not sure how you ended up with such a warped view of historical stats, but I might as well set the record straight while I’m here.  Statistics dealing with history are things like artifact age or geological or archeological information or textual information about an event or person or place that is claimed to be from whatever era you want to isolate for study.  What you are trying to push seems to be probability, which is a branch of statistics, but FAR from the all-encompassing focus of statistics. 

LOTS of independent study comes in in history of the same events.  Just look how many efforts have been made to nail down the events of something like 9/11 for example.  You are mistaking the independence that is required for multiple sets of data for PROBABILITY for what determines if something is sceintific.  You are ASSUMING that historians can learn nothing whatsoever from studying the sequences of events that tend to repeat themselves in given situations.  What’s that word I keep using here?  Oh yeah…stupid. 

The fact that humans have progressed this far is proof that you are incorrect.  We do learn from past mistakes and by analyzing past events and their underlying factors and applying the casue/effect scenarios to modern life.  Are ppl perfect at it?  Fuck no!  If we were, this forum wouldn’t have need to exist as things like religion would have dissolved long ago. 

In closing, I’ll again point out that I seriously doubt there is a historian or other scientist who agrees with you on your claims Salty.  Perhaps you can also deifne what social sciences are too as every single definition of that term I’ve ever seen includes History.  Maybe start with convincing EVERYONE else to stop agreeing with me before you try to fling your rhetoric my way again.  You sound like D’Souza for crying out loud.  “Non-scientists such as yourself”...Hahaha…get a clue.

[ Edited: 31 December 2007 03:55 PM by tavishhill2003]
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Posted: 31 December 2007 04:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]  
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ender!krum - 31 December 2007 04:03 PM
burt - 30 December 2007 10:45 PM

But that is not quite what you said before.  The finding is scientific but its application may well be in a non-scientific field.

I am not sure if it matters where the application of a scientific finding is used (I will have to consider this). 

However, my primary point remains that for something to be considered “science” (i.e. a scientific finding) it must be “the study of a subject which is readily available, in an active state, for repeatable observation and experimentation.”

But science studies many things that are not readily available in an active state.  By your definition, you exclude major areas of the “soft” sciences: anthropology, psychology, sociology, and so on.  I still go with my own definition of science: the use of human reason to study the natural world subject to criteria that have been developed to allow intersubjective agreement and avoid error and illusion.

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Posted: 31 December 2007 05:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]  
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tavishhill2003 - 31 December 2007 08:36 PM

1) I’m an astrophysics major.

Sure. All evidence to the contrary. See, you talk, or rather, rant, like a history major. You don’t give any indications of knowing squat about astrophysics, and you seem to have no interest in bringing your knowledge of the subject to bear on any matter under discussion here or elsewhere in the forum. What could astrophysics possibly have to do with helping to illustrate that theism is a low-probability belief system?

tavishhill2003 - 31 December 2007 08:36 PM

I have degrees in architectural engineering, civil engineering, and minors in philsophy

... but you can’t manage to type “philosophy” correctly. Maybe you need to get yourself a minor in “Typing”, too, to round out your program.

tavishhill2003 - 31 December 2007 08:36 PM

The very idea that courses are taught at well reputed universities on historical methodology that center around the scientific method, yet that “scientists” consider history to not be scientific, is just plain stupid.

So much for dismissing arguments from authority. Pot: Meet the Kettle. With a sprinkle of personal attack. Note that I am not dissing scientific method in archaeology, etc. Use of C-14 is handy for establishing chronology. Note that even a perfect chronology of what-happened-when will not assist you in deciding how things might have gone differently, which could go a long way toward showing that you actually understood something about history.

tavishhill2003 - 31 December 2007 08:36 PM

the least you could do is note the authority instead of imagining some false concensus

Well, on the authority of the dictionary you love so very, very much, here is how you spell it: “consensus”.

tavishhill2003 - 31 December 2007 08:36 PM

You don’t need to study the history of civilizaed life on various planets

In fact, you may not study such a subject. I thought that would be clear to you. I need to use words with fewer syllables in communicating with you. Forgive me, Mr. Hill, for reminding you yet again to sign up for that typing course. Either that or slow down just a tad while you are ranting.

tavishhill2003 - 31 December 2007 08:36 PM

I like to use the dictionary meaning of science and accept elaborations on that terminology.

Just as any respectable astrophysicist will surely want to do, rather than giving an account of the methodological practices actually in use in his discipline as an example, to wit:

tavishhill2003 - 31 December 2007 08:36 PM

science=an area of study that is built around gaining information by using concepts such as the scientific method AND can produce verifiable, provable, and repeatable results that are independent of some sort of external doctrine.

Yes, indeed. This, however, is the definition from the side panel of the box of Science Krispies out of which you ate your sugar-soaked academic breakfast this morning. Waitaminit. Maybe you are majoring in astrophysics in Middle School. Or maybe it’s Middle Earth.

tavishhill2003 - 31 December 2007 08:36 PM

You are in effect claiming that cosmology, astronomy, astrophysics and really every discipline within Physics are not to be deemed areas of science.

Wherever do you come up with this stuff? My specific examples consisted of 1) the history of life on Earth 2) human history and 3) the history of the Universe, all three of which are unique histories. I emphasized that if you want to distinguish causality from contingency, you need statistics.

tavishhill2003 - 31 December 2007 08:36 PM

At any given time, there are inumerous events happening in the universe, including vast amounts here on earth.

Hmm. Vast “amounts” of “events”. Vast “quantities” of “things happening”. Practically “inumerous”.

Well, sure. Inumerous. Perhaps you meant to type “numerous”. Perhaps you meant to type “innumerable”. In any event, you show remarkable creativity with the English language, as befits a guy with so many degrees, majors, and minors in neat subjects like architectural engineering, astrophysics, and (any day now) typing. You might have spent some time studying other words in the dictionary besides “science”. Like “numerous” and “innumerable”. Woo-hoo!

tavishhill2003 - 31 December 2007 08:36 PM

The idea that every bracnh of world history is one long string of singular events is quite stupid as well.

Slow down and enjoy the subtle pleasures of constructing an irrational rant. I’m sure you meant to give us the aphorism that “history is just one damn thing after another”, but you haven’t yet passed all the courses for your minor in Aphorisms, yet. Well, that can be forgiven. As with history,  where did the time go?

tavishhill2003 - 31 December 2007 08:36 PM

To study history and to apply it by making predictions

Making predictions about the past is one thing. This is considered child’s play by most historians. Making predictions about the future should only be applied to making a fortune in the stock market. One can easily see why the ranks of billionaires are so over-burdened with ex-history, er, ex-astrophysics majors.

tavishhill2003 - 31 December 2007 08:36 PM

You also seem to have a very odd view of what determins statistics gathering in history.

I have no idea whatsoever, but I have a feeling you cannot really edify me further, even on anything having to do with astrophysics, architectural engineering, or typing, for that matter.

tavishhill2003 - 31 December 2007 08:36 PM

Statistics dealing with history are things like artifact age or geological or archeological information or textual information about an event or person or place that is claimed to be from whatever era you want to isolate for study.

Yes. It is important, as I said, in history, to know what happened when. Everything in history begins with that. How far it goes beyond that is the task of brilliant scientists like yourself.

I ask, though, how many French Revolutions have there actually been? What are the statistics on that? As far as I know, the French Revolution is one-of-a-kind. The Russian Revolution is quite different, even aside from having taken place more than a century later. I’m sure they got some ideas from those Frenchies, though, rather than vice versa.

tavishhill2003 - 31 December 2007 08:36 PM

What you are trying to push seems to be probability, which is a branch of statistics, but FAR from the all-encompassing focus of statistics.

And what you seem to be attempting to push is “the cart” by placing the horse behind it. This has been tried on many occasions in history, and still we find that the past comes before the future. Surprise!

tavishhill2003 - 31 December 2007 08:36 PM

I might as well set the record straight while I’m here.

You might as well. You shall pass this way but once. Trust me. (Audible sigh of relief from the back of the classroom.)

tavishhill2003 - 31 December 2007 08:36 PM

LOTS of independent study comes in in history of the same events.

Independent, eh? In what sense might that be? This is important to me, TavishHill, so I hope you will indulge me. The history of the same events. This is still not quite the same as history repeating itself.

tavishhill2003 - 31 December 2007 08:36 PM

You are ASSUMING that historians can learn nothing whatsoever from studying the sequences of events that tend to repeat themselves in given situations.

I wouldn’t say, exactly, “Nothing”. But I would like to know in what sense this knowledge is, how do you say it?—scientific. I would very much like to know that. I doubt you have read this far, but had you done so, I would not be holding my breath waiting for an answer.

tavishhill2003 - 31 December 2007 08:36 PM

The fact that humans have progressed this far is proof that you are incorrect.

Yes. You’ve come a long way, baby. The history of science will give you example after example, of the only sequence of historical events that can unequivocally be called “progressive”. Why do you suppose that is, tavishhill?

tavishhill2003 - 31 December 2007 08:36 PM

We do learn from past mistakes and by analyzing past events and their underlying factors and applying the casue/effect scenarios to modern life.

Certainly. But after all this huffing and puffing, an example or two of learning from past mistakes would be a kind of, er, godsend. Or gods-end. You might catch my drift, here, if you’re done huffing and puffing.

Ah. Science. Did I mention “science”? Now there’s a gods-end. And tell me, whatever happened to “The Enlightenment”?

tavishhill2003 - 31 December 2007 08:36 PM

Perhaps you can also deifne what social sciences are too as every single definition of that term I’ve ever seen includes History.

No. I cannot “deifne” worth a damn. OR deify, if that’s what you meant. I’ll stick with considering History a branch of the Humanities. So sue me.

tavishhill2003 - 31 December 2007 08:36 PM

Maybe start with convincing EVERYONE else to stop agreeing with me before you try to fling your rhetoric my way again.

Well, Tavish, if you cannot dazzle them with your astrophysics, baffle them with your bullshit. Happy New Year, you absolute flying nutcase.

[ Edited: 31 December 2007 05:36 PM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 31 December 2007 10:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]  
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Salt Creek - 31 December 2007 10:23 PM

Sure. All evidence to the contrary. See, you talk, or rather, rant, like a history major. You don’t give any indications of knowing squat about astrophysics, and you seem to have no interest in bringing your knowledge of the subject to bear on any matter under discussion here or elsewhere in the forum. What could astrophysics possibly have to do with helping to illustrate that theism is a low-probability belief system?

I don’t know squat about astrophysics?  Excuse me?  Perhaps I missed your test.  Should we discuss black hole formations perhaps?  My major isn’t part of this discussion other than you ignorantly asserting that I “don’t know squat” about it according to you.  I have no need to talk about black holes to describe the fact that under every definition I’ve ever seen for science, history fits just fine.  Astrophysics has nothing to do with that fact other than supporting the claims I made showing that history and science are tightly linked through various disciplines.

And we aren’t talking about theism at all here.  Try to keep up please.  We are talking about history as being a branch of science.  I said it was a science and you started tearing up for some reason and decided you knew better than every historian or scientist out there saying otherwise.  You know more about historical data gathering techniques and statistical methodology than anyone at MIT according to what you are claiming.  Any minute now surely you can illustrate this to the rest of us. 

... but you can’t manage to type “philosophy” correctly. Maybe you need to get yourself a minor in “Typing”, too, to round out your program.

Yeah I am a very lazy typist when it comes to message boards.  One of the quickest ways to see how feeble someone’s position is in a “debate” is to note how soon their efforts deteriorate into bitching over grammar or typos.  Would you mind getting back to the arguments instead of nitpicking spelling?  Or were your arguments dissolved from my last post?

So much for dismissing arguments from authority. Pot: Meet the Kettle. With a sprinkle of personal attack. Note that I am not dissing scientific method in archaeology, etc. Use of C-14 is handy for establishing chronology. Note that even a perfect chronology of what-happened-when will not assist you in deciding how things might have gone differently, which could go a long way toward showing that you actually understood something about history.

How am I using an argument from authority?  I already gave you a shit ton of reasons why history is a science.  My argument is NOT from authority, it is supplemented by authority.  I am pointing out that your claims are no grounded in reality at all unless you have chosen to use a radically different definition of science or history than what academia uses. 

Are you saying history is about studying “what might have been”?  That would definitely be a huge contrast to what historians would tell you, at least as the primary goal of their efforts.  They like to primarily only worry about what did happen and what might happen in the future, not what might have happened in the past had things been different.  So to you history=the study of what might have been?  Yes or no?

Yes, indeed. This, however, is the definition from the side panel of the box of Science Krispies out of which you ate your sugar-soaked academic breakfast this morning. Waitaminit. Maybe you are majoring in astrophysics in Middle School. Or maybe it’s Middle Earth.

So you say me and everyone else is completely wrong and only you have the proper definition of science?  Ok then, please share with the class.  What constitutes science to you?

Wherever do you come up with this stuff? My specific examples consisted of 1) the history of life on Earth 2) human history and 3) the history of the Universe, all three of which are unique histories. I emphasized that if you want to distinguish causality from contingency, you need statistics.

Yes, and in doing so you completely ransacked what the study of statistics actually is by asserting that you need to establish multiple histories of events for different planets if you want to learn anything useful for our own history.  And that is a completely retarded assertion to make as it makes the same claims for the other areas I noted.  By your logic, we have to have a large number of other universes to actively study in order to learn anything about the history of ours.  That is an incredibly stupid claim of yours that you aren’t backing up anywhere.

Hmm. Vast “amounts” of “events”. Vast “quantities” of “things happening”. Practically “inumerous”.

Well, sure. Inumerous. Perhaps you meant to type “numerous”. Perhaps you meant to type “innumerable”. In any event, you show remarkable creativity with the English language, as befits a guy with so many degrees, majors, and minors in neat subjects like architectural engineering, astrophysics, and (any day now) typing. You might have spent some time studying other words in the dictionary besides “science”. Like “numerous” and “innumerable”. Woo-hoo!

Ahem… http://dictionary.reference.com/search?r=2&q=innumerous

Making predictions about the past is one thing. This is considered child’s play by most historians. Making predictions about the future should only be applied to making a fortune in the stock market. One can easily see why the ranks of billionaires are so over-burdened with ex-history, er, ex-astrophysics majors.

I didn’t only mention how historians make predictions about the past.  I also noted that they apply what they have learned from the past to possible future outcomes.  This is why companies study marketshare for their respective industries and the products that gain marketshare.  So they can get an idea of what got ppl to buy these products in the past and how to use that information to create successful products in the future.  Do you really imagine that ppl these days are just randomly making decisions about how to run their companies?  Do you really believe someone like say Bill Gates isn’t looking at the underlying causes of past successes in the technology fields to establish more money for his company going forward?  Do you really think that?

I have no idea whatsoever, but I have a feeling you cannot really edify me further, even on anything having to do with astrophysics, architectural engineering, or typing, for that matter.

Independent, eh? In what sense might that be? This is important to me, TavishHill, so I hope you will indulge me. The history of the same events. This is still not quite the same as history repeating itself.

Oh good, at least for the time being you have come back to the discussion instead of acting like a child who is fighting desperately to keep from losing an argument by tossing on personal insults to complete strangers.  Let’s continue.

Yes, independent in the sense that lots of ppl vigorously study events without the consent or endorsement or information sharing of others who have done the same previously.  In the example I gave, 9/11, we have a huge amount of investigations into the events of that day from an enormous amount of groups.  Some of them civil, architectural, and structural engineering students from universities like the one I attend.  Some from other groups of engineers and scientists.  Some from various government agencies and international organizations.  These are independent studies of the same events of that day. 

And you are misunderstanding what I said about the timeline argument and why your version of it doesn’t work.  You made the claim that we need other planets and their civilizations in order to have scientific study of the events of our own world.  You tried to support this by saying that since time is experienced as linear, there is only 1 timeline for world history.  I replied saying that is not true because at any given time, we have an innumerous amount of coincident events going on in our world.  So any given point in time can have an almost infinite amount of events going on.  Not just one. 

So to act as if there aren’t enough events throughout history to form a useful sample space for statistical study is just blatantly false.  The underlying factors of events can easily be determined in many cases and successfully applied to making future predictions.  Other cases are more complex and take some time to establish the universal elements.  I gave an example of this in my other posts discussing this with someone else in the thread. 

I wouldn’t say, exactly, “Nothing”. But I would like to know in what sense this knowledge is, how do you say it?—scientific. I would very much like to know that. I doubt you have read this far, but had you done so, I would not be holding my breath waiting for an answer.

For example, the US was treated as liberators in France after WWII.  The NeoCons analyzed the factors leading up to such conditions and had thought the same conditions were in place for Iraq.  Or at least, they thought the observations being made suggested the conditions were similar.  They may have misinterpreted the factors present in Iraq or the factors responsible for being well received after WWII in France.  Either way, they were wrong.  Going forward in this country, most of us know better now.  We saw the hypothesis…we saw the predictions…and we saw the test and are living through the results.  New hypotheses are being formed for how to set up a foreign policy.  One that is radically altered from the previous hypotheses that were apparently based on faulty information. 

Can you honestly not see the scientific method at work here?  You can apply the results from the predictions and what you have learned about the validity of the previous hypotheses to reshape modern understanding of the world around us.  Just like every other science does.  Historians use scientific methods of gaining information and observations about a state of the world or an event…they use the scientific method to discern why things happened the way they did…and they apply what they learn to current events and make predictions for the future provided the right conditions emerge again for events similar to the ones of the past.  These predictions provide results confirming or denying their hypotheses and we learn more about our world and the causes for some of the events therein.

If you have trouble understanding this is the scientific method, it can only be due to you having a warped understanding of what that term actually means.  So if you can’t see it all over the place in history, then you need to lay out exactly what your definition is.  You refuse to use a dictionary definition for the proper terminology…you disagree strongly with the academic definitions…and you disagree with the connotative understandings of the terms.  So by all means, share why those definitions are all completely wrong and give us your version.

I’ll stick with considering History a branch of Humanities.

History is both a humanities and a social science as classified in academia.  Aspects of it fit purely in the realm of scientific inquiry and the much less accurate aspects fit in the realm of speculative studies of the human condition (aka humanities).  The aspects that are in the humanities are not there because of choice.  No one passes up quantitative data in history if it will confirm or deny their hypotheses.  They only speculate when they have no other means of determining the facts analytically.  Also, humanities aren’t automatically incapable of being scientific in nature.  Try finding logical support for your claims before they teeter and plummet from your mouth.

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Posted: 01 January 2008 09:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]  
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tavishhill2003 - 01 January 2008 03:42 AM

My major isn’t part of this discussion other than you ignorantly asserting that I “don’t know squat” about it according to you.

Hey, you brought it up, astrophysics major that you so obviously are not.

tavishhill2003 - 01 January 2008 03:42 AM

So to you history=the study of what might have been?  Yes or no?

No. I assert that to make historical analysis into a science, you must have multiple histories beginning from identical starting conditions. That is what a scientific analysis requires. Astrophysicists (yourself among them I feel almost certain) do not assert that the particular history of the solar system is general for all solar systems, even though the accretion of pre-stellar nebulas follows certain regular patterns. We may need to bring in a discussion of the many-body problem in physics in order to illuminate this distinction further. If the many body problem is relevant to understanding the history of the solar system, it is relevant to studying the geological history of the earth, and therefore it is relevant to studying the history of life on earth. There may even be aspects of the mathematics behind the many-body problem that provide insight into the impossibility of predicting precisely the future from the past of human history. Nobody says you are trying to do this, but you are making claims about the scientific nature of the study of history that you should surely try to support better than you are doing so far.

tavishhill2003 - 01 January 2008 03:42 AM

Yes, and in doing so you completely ransacked what the study of statistics actually is by asserting that you need to establish multiple histories of events for different planets if you want to learn anything useful for our own history.

Oh. I see now. “Science” is now generalized to be any study that is capable of showing us anything “useful”. Tell me another one, oh, wise student of “science”!

tavishhill2003 - 01 January 2008 03:42 AM

I didn’t only mention how historians make predictions about the past.

Don’t you get it, tavishhill? Making predictions about the past is an oxymoron. Only an idiot is impressed by predictions of past events. One subfield of this is “Biblical Prophecy”.

tavishhill2003 - 01 January 2008 03:42 AM

This is why companies study marketshare for their respective industries and the products that gain marketshare.

This is why all investors except those with insider information are so seldom surprised by a disappointing quarterly earnings announcement. Tell me, how did we get on the subject of market analysis?

tavishhill2003 - 01 January 2008 03:42 AM

Do you really imagine that ppl these days are just randomly making decisions about how to run their companies?

How did we get on the subject of corporate management? I thought we were trying to prove that History is a “science”. With a capital letter.

tavishhill2003 - 01 January 2008 03:42 AM

In the example I gave, 9/11, we have a huge amount of investigations into the events of that day from an enormous amount of groups.

Yes, but we cannot really predict where or when another such event might occur. Knowing a lot of detail about what happened is a precursor for making a scientific study of events, but it is not a guarantor that one is capable of doing science with it.

One final bit of advice on syntax and semantics, Tavish. Do not use “amount” combined with a plural noun that is not “innumerous”. “Amount” is typically combined with a singular noun that refers to an indivisible or undivided quantity. Thus: “we have a huge number of groups”; “we have a huge amount of bullshit”.

I only hope you don’t suddenly want to start discussing 9/11 conspiracy theories, surrounding which there is a huge amount of bullshit.

tavishhill2003 - 01 January 2008 03:42 AM

These are independent studies of the same events of that day.

Okay, so now science is also any process involving multiple independent studies of any single event. This would seem to include as well a situation where several people all claim to have spotted the same UFOs. Let’s not go there.

tavishhill2003 - 01 January 2008 03:42 AM

Some of them civil, architectural, and structural engineering students from universities like the one I attend.

Which, apparently, shall ever remain nameless. I’m guessing it’s the Sam Hill Institute of Theory.

tavishhill2003 - 01 January 2008 03:42 AM

I replied saying that is not true because at any given time, we have an innumerous amount of coincident events going on in our world.  So any given point in time can have an almost infinite amount of events going on.  Not just one.

I won’t disagree with you here. But you still have some legwork to relate events to one another. Scientifically. I sense the presence of some thermite in our future. Good work on spelling “innumerous”. Don’t be humorous.

tavishhill2003 - 01 January 2008 03:42 AM

You tried to support this by saying that since time is experienced as linear, there is only 1 timeline for world history.

And you want to propose another theory? Obviously one taught at the Sam Hill Institute of Theory.

tavishhill2003 - 01 January 2008 03:42 AM

So to act as if there aren’t enough events throughout history to form a useful sample space for statistical study is just blatantly false.

History does not repeat itself. The historians repeat one another.

(Max Beerbohm)

tavishhill2003 - 01 January 2008 03:42 AM

The underlying factors of events can easily be determined in many cases and successfully applied to making future predictions.

An example would be nice. Ready any time you are, Tavish. Yes. Predicting the future would be nice. That is what a scientific theory does with respect to the result of an experiment. The better the theory and the better the experiment, the better the prediction. Get it?

tavishhill2003 - 01 January 2008 03:42 AM

Going forward in this country, most of us know better now.

Oh. I see. Now “science” is any process by which we somehow “know better”. You’re not helping your case here, Tavish. I think that few people agree with you if this is your definition of ‘science’.

tavishhill2003 - 01 January 2008 03:42 AM

One that is radically altered from the previous hypotheses that were apparently based on faulty information.

Still lacking in any ability to predict the results of future historical “experiments”. LOL. Tavish, when you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you must do is stop digging.

tavishhill2003 - 01 January 2008 03:42 AM

New hypotheses are being formed for how to set up a foreign policy.

gulp

I am on the edge of my chair awaiting the, uh, results, ready to compare the results with the predictions. Oh. Wait a minute. We have no predictions. The results, then, will be as expected: Chaotic.

tavishhill2003 - 01 January 2008 03:42 AM

We saw the hypothesis…we saw the predictions…and we saw the test and are living through the results.

Ah. So now “science” consists of seeing the predictions, making the test, and living through the results. I don’t think I want to stand in the same chemistry lab with you, my boy. I don’t think you’ve ever stood in a chemistry lab. You probably have never even set foot in an academic library. You learn everything you need to know from the internet. You are a “researcher”, but that is not the same as a “scientist”.

tavishhill2003 - 01 January 2008 03:42 AM

Either way, they were wrong.

That’s the problem with History, Tavish. It consists largely of finding out the ways that we have been wrong, and then making the same mistakes again.

tavishhill2003 - 01 January 2008 03:42 AM

Historians use scientific methods of gaining information and observations about a state of the world or an event… they use the scientific method to discern why things happened the way they did…and they apply what they learn to current events and make predictions for the future provided the right conditions emerge again for events similar to the ones of the past.

Yes, but the ability of historians actually to apply the scientific method is what is in question here. Collecting facts is part of the scientific method, but it is not the whole of it. Collecting facts without a theory is not scientific in the least.

Without the capacity isolate variables, control starting conditions, and perform repeated observations of the same phenomena in independent laboratories, you run the risk of expending a lot of effort and learning nothing. History is pouring a bunch of random chemicals into a beaker and saying: “it went bang”, then “it made a cloud of purple smoke”, then “it formed a black lump at the bottom of the beaker”, and either never getting the same results twice, or getting the same results from very different starting conditions. Not a foundation for science.

tavishhill2003 - 01 January 2008 03:42 AM

These predictions provide results confirming or denying their hypotheses and we learn more about our world and the causes for some of the events therein.

There are no predictions, Tavish, at least none that you have mentioned. There no possibility of repeating the “experiment” in Iraq to understand better what went wrong. In that sense, our capacity to learn from the experiment is not a ‘scientific’ one.

tavishhill2003 - 01 January 2008 03:42 AM

History is both a humanities and a social science as classified in academia.  Aspects of it fit purely in the realm of scientific inquiry and the much less accurate aspects fit in the realm of speculative studies of the human condition (aka humanities).  The aspects that are in the humanities are not there because of choice.  No one passes up quantitative data in history if it will confirm or deny their hypotheses.  They only speculate when they have no other means of determining the facts analytically.

Which is only “all the time”. This is the core of my contention that history is not a science.

Also, humanities aren’t automatically incapable of being scientific in nature.

True, but none of them are very scientific at the present time. I don’t care that historians themselves consider history to be a “science”. Scientists do not consider history to be a science at the present time. There may be a subject in the B-school called “management science” but that does not make it science. Collecting facts is not science until you can use those facts scientifically.

[ Edited: 01 January 2008 09:59 AM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 01 January 2008 03:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]  
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burt - 31 December 2007 09:54 PM

But science studies many things that are not readily available in an active state.  By your definition, you exclude major areas of the “soft” sciences: anthropology, psychology, sociology, and so on.

“Science” does not study them…scientific tools are applied in the study - but the outcome is not a scientific outcome.

You distinguish between “hard” and “soft” sciences.  Why is that?  It seems you understand that some of the “sciences” are not as “strong” as others.

But why even call them science?  I think this presents a false security to lay people who do not understand the difference between said soft and hard sciences.

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Posted: 01 January 2008 05:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 57 ]  
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ender!krum - 01 January 2008 08:45 PM
burt - 31 December 2007 09:54 PM

But science studies many things that are not readily available in an active state.  By your definition, you exclude major areas of the “soft” sciences: anthropology, psychology, sociology, and so on.

“Science” does not study them…scientific tools are applied in the study - but the outcome is not a scientific outcome.

You distinguish between “hard” and “soft” sciences.  Why is that?  It seems you understand that some of the “sciences” are not as “strong” as others.

But why even call them science?  I think this presents a false security to lay people who do not understand the difference between said soft and hard sciences.

They are called soft sciences because they have not yet reached the point where they can be rigorously and mathematically formulated.  (Economics is called the dismal science for some reason or other.  smile )  That doesn’t mean they are not sciences—they are based on the use of reason (rational empiricism is the philosophical term at the present stage of the evolution of science, both in the hard and the soft sciences) to understand aspects of the natural world.  The way you are trying to have it, even cosmology would not be a science, after all there is only one universe to study.

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Posted: 02 January 2008 02:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 58 ]  
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Salt Creek - 31 December 2007 05:48 PM

Most scientists examining the specifically historical aspects of the universe (including, for that matter) human history suggest that you cannot make these historical aspects “scientific” until you have several specifically independent examples. This means, in effect, that to study the historical aspects of life on earth scientifically, you must first have several planets on each of which carbon-based life has originated, and study their histories independently to determine which aspects are due to common causes and which are due to contingency. The same is true for the history of the universe as a whole. We only have one example (so far) to study.

So according to this constraint, scientists who study the origin of the universe, the origin of life, or the nature of extinct species aren’t really doing science, correct? If a paleontologist isn’t doing science, what exactly are they doing?

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Posted: 02 January 2008 03:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 59 ]  
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derekjames - 02 January 2008 07:39 PM

So according to this constraint, scientists who study the origin of the universe, the origin of life, or the nature of extinct species aren’t really doing science, correct? If a paleontologist isn’t doing science, what exactly are they doing?

Of course they are doing science, but it is helpful to note that the collection of data is aimed at answering some questions that can only be answered, if at all, scientifically. When human historians collect and assemble historical accounts, what sorts of specifically scientific questions are they purporting to study?

Studying the origin of something is a very sticky wicket. You can go as far as you want down the rabbit hole of “origins” and some questions will remain unanswerable scientifically. The origin of human language in time and space is one such problem. The origin of life on this planet is another. The sequence of chemical reactions that led to the first living cell has not been fossilized. The sequence of anatomical and cognitive steps that led to the first human use of language is not marked by artifacts.

A scientist conducting experiments to try to prepare a system of cross-catalyzing and autocatalyzing chemical reactions encased in a set of nested osmotic membranes capable of self-replication, mutation, and adaptive response to its environment could be said to be trying to “understand” the “origin of life”, and is doing it by scientific means, if his experiments can be reproduced in independent laboratories according to the published procedures. Even if he succeeds in synthesizing such a system, do we say that definitely establishes the precise steps of the origin of life? Surely not. However, we will understand a great deal about the conditions under which life might have originated if such experiments eventually succeed. The work done in that laboratory is interesting to paleontologists, but it is not paleontology.

When a paleontologist studies the oxygen isotope ratios in the shells of extinct marine microorganisms to try to understand paleoclimatology, she is doing scientific work. Fossils are a large part of the data set of paleoclimatology.

What is a paleontologist doing in studying the history of life on this planet? We can see the broad sweep of its history, we can see some details. We understand something about ancient ecosystems. Until we understand modern ecosystems better (which we can only do scientifically) many questions will remain unanswered. The data that paleontologists show us about the timing and extent of mass extinctions throughout the history of life leads to further investigation. Among the aspects to ponder are deciding what aspects of mass extinctions are endogenous (as a crisis in a complex system) and which are exogenous (such as a big rock falling out of the sky). Is it important to distinguish between these sort of “causes”? Is the rearrangement of land masses and seaways by plate tectonics an endogenous or exogenous factor in any particular mass extinction? Complex systems can unravel spontaneously. You can (and you will) “unravel”, someday.

Cosmologists attempting to study the “origin” of “the” universe have a difficult job, as there are no other universes to study. Nevertheless, high energy physics has certainly enabled cosmologists to understand scientifically some of the steps in the early evolution of our universe. A scientific understanding of how universes in general come into being is, I would have to say, not immediately available.

[ Edited: 02 January 2008 03:43 PM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 02 January 2008 10:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 60 ]  
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Salty,

Again…grow up.  If you want to discuss astrophysics with me or civil engineering or architectural engineering etc, you are more than welcome to PM me or make a new thread on those topics.  But until you do, spare me your ignorance on my personal education.  Especially when your commentary on something you know NOTHING about AT ALL is only a childish, feeble attempt to insult someone in an internet discussion.  You know as well as everyone else here does that you have no evidence whatsoever suggesting to you that I don’t know about civil/archE, astrophsyics, etc.  So cut the bullshit.  No one is impressed.

Moving on…

Your entire post is nothing more than you whining that history can’t use the scientific method in its fullest purely because, in your mind, no examples exist that show how it can be applied to making testable predictions.  I gave you one already with the Iraq example.  You can pretend it isn’t valid, but you aren’t even attempting to make counter points to show why you think that way.  And who are “most scientists” you claim are refusing to call hsitory scientific?  Make me a list.  History can, and often is, forumlated into mathematical forumlas to make testable predictions. 

Go take an economics class and you can see that first hand.  Mathematical models aren’t about numbers.  They are based on items of interest and paramters.  You can just as easily take historical trends of how consumers react to certain types of products and make very successful models out of that data.  You can do the same for within any genre of culture.  This is why there are very successul business analysts who watch certain industries.  Are they or other historians always right?  Nope.  But neither are cosmologists or astronomers or astrophysicists or chemists etc. 

You can easily look at sectors of the consumer electronics market right now and see long standing assumptions about how the market factors dictating consumer purchasing that were thought to be very well understood in some cases are flat out wrong.  This isn’t due to the observations being wrong, but rather there being underlying factors that analysts couldn’t see before.  Same goes for the history of any segment of culture.

You keep claiming that history can’t make predictions, but it does all the time.  And very successfully I might add.  You may not think so, but you’d be completely wrong.  The fact we even have an internet to communicate with is proof of how strong humans have become at studying past events and using them to make successful predictions.  Are ppl studying history wrong sometimes?  Lots.  Doesn’t mean that no successful predictions are being made. 

You don’t need the entire real number line to do math.  Same goes for timelines of human hsitory, which is made up a hundreds and hundreds of different cultures and ideologies.  We aren’t talking about makinf predictions regarding how long it generally takes a species to develop space travel here.  We are talking about how predictions can be made using data gained from historical analysis. 

The issue with you seems to be that you have narrowed hsitory down too far.  I don’t see why things like the entertainment or electronics industries or the motor vehicle industries or economics in general or architecture or major segments of the art world etc aren’t welcome in your version of what “history” is.  You seem like you only want to include political issues, which also are very well studied and as I’ve pointed out utilize all the steps of the scientific within them as well.

Btw, MIT is hardly a “B-school” of science.  Neither is the University of Missouri-Rolla, which is where I attend.  (now renamed Missouri Univ. of Science and Tech. as of 2 days ago)

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