The principles of science (v7.5)

This post is now superseded by:
Principles of science and ethical guidelines for scientific conduct (v8.0)

Every day, numerous statements about how things relate to each other can be seen and heard everywhere. Science is normally thought of as the way of conduct that provides certainty about such relationships. However, beliefs and unsubstantiated statements can often be seen, also within science.

So, what are the principles of science then?
It is hard to say, as a well-defined set of principles for science does not seem to be readily available.

That position is supported by the following quote from National Academy of Sciences:
“The basic and particular principles that guide scientific research practices exist primarily in an unwritten code of ethics. Although some have proposed that these principles should be written down and formalised, the principles and traditions of science are, for the most part, conveyed to successive generations of scientists through example, discussion, and informal education.”
Ref.: Responsible Science, Volume I: Ensuring the Integrity of the Research Process; Panel on Scientific Responsibility and the Conduct of Research

What can be found in abundance, however, are codes of conduct like Singapore Statement on Research Integrity,  EPA’s Principles of Scientific Integrity, Max Planck Society – Rules of good scientific practice or  The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity. But none of these provides a well-defined set of basic principles for science.

It also seems that even a highly influential work within the philosophy of science: “The logic of scientific discovery”, by Karl Popper, does not provide a set of well-defined principles for science. See section “3 Perspective on definitions and truth” in this work for an elaboration of this view.

The many controversies about scientific issues indicate that it would be beneficial to have the basic principles of science defined. Unfortunately, it is not obvious what these principles should be.

This work is based on the assumption that a set of principles can be defined – and is nothing less than a bold attempt to provide a set of fundamental principles for science. Principles that can be used to distinguish knowledge from beliefs – or to recognise “fake news” or “alternative facts” for that matter.

The principles provided here have not been taken out of thin air. Some principles may be recognised as principles phrased in various ways in various sources. Others are distilled from existing international standards. However, this is an original work that provides a unique set of well-defined principles for science.

This work itself, or parts thereof, can be proven wrong simply by identifying a flaw, a logically invalid principle or a flawed definition. It can also be proven wrong by identifying a concept known to be true that can not be put forward in a way that complies with all relevant principles or a concept known to be wrong that complies with all relevant principles. 

The idea that a set of well-defined principles for science does not already exist may also be wrong since it is hard to prove that something does not exist. Anyhow, that idea can also be proven wrong simply by providing a link to such principles.

 The reason why most terms are defined within this work is that there are many different dictionaries available at the fingertips of any reader. This work cannot rely on undefined terms or terms having various definitions, as even slightly different definitions will change the conclusions that can be drawn on the basis of this work and possibly make it inconsistent or logically invalid.

The first section of this work is self-contained and provides the principles and associated definitions. The second part of this work provides the essential arguments for each principle. The third section contains the perspective on definitions and truth that is applied in this work.

This work may be reproduced on the condition that the reproduction includes a link to the original site: https://principlesofscience.wordpress.com

1 The principles of science

Science or Fiction´s principles of science (v7.5)

§1 A scientific argument consists of clearly stated premises, inferences and conclusions.

§2 A scientific premise is verifiable. Premises and their sources are identified and readily available for independent verification.

§3 A scientific inference is logically valid.

§4 A scientific conclusion is deduced by application of axioms, definitions, and theorems or measured properties and scientific concepts that have already been verified or validated.

§5 A scientific concept consists of statements that are logically valid conclusions deduced from premises that are themselves logically valid conclusions, axioms, definitions or theorems.

§6 A scientific concept is well-defined and has a well-defined capability of prediction within a well-defined context.

§7 A scientific concept can only be validated by comparison of predictions deduced from that concept with measurement results. Whenever predictions differ from measurement results, by more than the combined uncertainty of the measurement results and the claimed capability of the concept,  there must be something wrong with the concept – or the test of it.

§8 A scientific concept can only be referred to as validated for the context covered by the validating tests.

§9 A scientific statement is based on verifiable data. Data and precise information about how that data was obtained are readily available for independent verification. Whenever data are corrected or disregarded, both uncorrected and corrected data are provided together with a scientific argument for the correction.

§10 A scientific measurement report contains traceable values, units and stated uncertainty for well-defined measurands in a well-defined context.

§11 A scientific prediction report contains values, units and claimed capability for well-defined measurands in a well-defined context.

To keep traceability to a full account with definitions and explanation, these principles can only be reproduced on the condition that a link to this site is included: https://principlesofscience.wordpress.com/2017/02/26/the-principles-of-science-v7-5

Definitions for The principles of science

argument: a conclusion inferred from a set of premises 
attribute: a characteristic used to describe or define a thing
axiom: a statement that is self-evidently true and accepted as a true starting point for further deduction
belief: an acceptance that something is true without proof
calibration: comparison of a measurement with a reference having a known uncertainty
capability: maximum difference between predictions and measurements
clearly stated: stated in a manner that is only open to the intended interpretation
comparison: quantification of the difference between
concept: any expression of a relationship between two or more measurands
conclusion: a statement inferred from one or more premises
context: a set of those things that have an influence on an observed, measured or predicted value
contradict: demonstrate that a statement is not true
correct: replace a measured or predicted value with another value
data: measured or predicted value of a measurand or relationship between measurands
deduction: a combination of premises into a conclusion by means of mathematics and logic
definition: a set of distinguishing characteristics
disregard: remove a value from a series of data that is used as a premise
document: an identified collection of words, numbers and symbols
false: a statement that can be contradicted by a sound argument within the defined context
hypothesis: a propounded statement or concept that has not been verified or validated
independent: not under influence of the party propounding a concept
inference: logical connection between premises and conclusion
logically valid: the truth of the premises guarantees the truth of the conclusion – it is impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion nevertheless to be false.
mathematics: a consistent and logically valid system of symbols and operations on these symbols
measurand: well-defined property that can be observed or quantified by a measurement
measure: quantify a measurand by establishing the ratio between that measurand and a reference that serves as a unit – and assign a number representing that ratio, and the associated unit, to that measurand
measurement (result): a measurand quantified by a value and an associated unit
nature: any thing and any relation between things
observe: conclude if an attribute is in accordance with a definition
precise information: sufficient for replication by an independent person using equal tools
prediction: quantification of a measurand without any foreknowledge about an eventual measurement result
premise: a statement used to infer a conclusion
property: an attribute that can be observed or measured
prove: demonstrate the truth of a statement by means of axiom, definitions and theorems.
readily available: available without further request
reference: a measurement device or procedure that has an unbroken chain of calibrations to the definition of the unit
relationship: a quantified change in measurand A is followed by a quantified change in measurand B
science: systematic discovery of truth
sound: a conclusion that is logically valid and based on true premises
source: identified document containing a premise
statement: a logical proposition that can be either true or false within the defined context
test: an activity that can verify or validate
theorem: a conclusion that has been proven and that can now be used as the basis of other proofs.
thing: whatever that can be defined
traceable: having an unbroken chain of calibrations to the definition of the unit
true: a statement that can not be contradicted by a sound argument within the defined context
uncertainty: quantified accuracy
unit: a well-defined quantity that has one unique value
validate: demonstrate the truth of a concept within a well-defined and applicable context
verify: demonstrate the truth of
wrong: not true

2 Arguments for the principles of science

Introduction

It should be noted that one of the ideas with this work has been to provide fundamental principles of science – in a compact manner. A significant effort has been invested in limiting the amount of text to an essential minimum.

Regarding §1 A scientific argument consists of clearly stated premises, inferences and conclusions.

The constituents of an argument can be recognised in §1 and the associated definitions.

Within science, it should be possible to verify that an argument is sound – that the argument is based on true premises, and that the truth of the premises guarantees the truth of the conclusion. 

An essential characteristic of science is that arguments should be independently verifiable. To be able to verify that an argument is sound, the intended interpretation must be clear.  An argument that is open to multiple interpretations can not be verified by an independent party as it can not be known which interpretation is the correct one to verify.

Regarding §2 A scientific premise is verifiable. Premises and their sources are identified and readily available for independent verification.

A premise can only be verified if it is properly referred to. Both the premise itself and the source containing the premise should be identified, and the source should be available for verification.

If a premise can not be verified, the premise can only be accepted on the basis of a belief in the proponent of the argument.

Regarding §3 A scientific inference is logically valid.

If an inference is not logically valid, it follows from the definitions that the truth of the premises does not guarantee the truth of the conclusion – it is possible for the premises to be true and the conclusion nevertheless to be false. Hence, the conclusion can then only be accepted on the basis of some kind of belief.

Regarding §4 A scientific conclusion is deduced by application of axioms, definitions, theorems or measured properties and scientific concepts that have already been verified or validated.

A scientific conclusion may be applied in an argument for or against a propounded statement or concept, or as part of a scientific concept.

A logically valid construction that ends up in a conclusion has to be based on something. In the case of abstract constructions like mathematics, the basis for the construction will be axioms, definitions, and theorems.

In the case of constructions intended to provide a correspondence between an abstract construction and observations and measurements of nature (like physics), the axioms, definitions, and theorems may be about nature or about the correspondence between an abstract construction and nature. In this case, the construction may also be based on observed or measured properties or scientific concepts that have already been verified or validated.

As an example, it will normally be acceptable to base a scientific conclusion on a concept like Newton´s laws of motion within their validated context, or on a measured property like the gravitational acceleration (approximately 9,8 m/s^2 on earth). The application will dictate how accurate that measured property will have to be – whether 9,8 m/s^2 is sufficiently accurate or if a more accurate value is required.

Regarding §5 A scientific concept consists of statements that are logically valid conclusions deduced from premises that are themselves logically valid conclusions, axioms, definitions or theorems.

The entire concept will have to be a logically valid construction that has a well-defined and true basis. If there are any logical fallacies in a construction, the result will be that the concept can only be accepted on the basis of some kind of belief.

A concept that is under construction, or has not yet been validated, should be clearly identified as an hypothesis to avoid premature application of the concept.

Regarding §6 A scientific concept is well-defined and has a well-defined capability of prediction within a well-defined context.

To facilitate independent judgment, the concept itself will have to be well-defined. If the concept is not well-defined, it can not be tested by an independent party. An independent party will not know what to test and how to test it. 

Concepts are only valid within a context. One example of this is classical physics: “Beginning at the atomic level and lower, the laws of classical physics break down and generally do not provide a correct description of nature.” (Ref.: Wikipedia; classical physics; at the date of publishing this work). To facilitate judgment of a concept, the context for which the concept is claimed to work well will have to be defined.

Many concepts got a capability of prediction of the value of a measurand, but not exactly. A concept may have a capability of prediction with some uncertainty. To facilitate judgment of a concept, the capability of the concept will have to be defined. If not, there is no way to tell if the concept performs as claimed or not, or whether it is useful for an intended use or not.

Regarding §7 A scientific concept can only be validated by comparison of predictions deduced from that concept with measurement results. Whenever predictions differ from measurement results, by more than the combined uncertainty of the measurement results and the claimed capability of the concept,  there must be something wrong with the concept – or the test of it.

Any collection of words, numbers, and symbols is an abstract construction that may or may not correspond with observations and measurements of nature.

Within many areas of human expressions, like in politics, religion, love, hate, humor or whatever; it may not matter if an expression corresponds with nature. An essential characteristic of a useful scientific concept, on the other hand, is that of correspondence between predictions of that concept and observations and measurements.

Even if a concept complies with §1 to §6, there is no guarantee that the concept is a complete construction that also provides a correspondence between that concept and observations and measurements of nature. Without testing it, it can not be known for sure that the concept is complete, that there are no errors in it, that the concept is correctly constructed or that the concept actually has the claimed capability of prediction.

The only way to know that a concept performs within the claimed capability, within a defined context, is to deduce predictions from that concept, measure nature within the same context and see if the difference between predictions and measurements is within the claimed capability of the concept.

In judging the results of the test, the uncertainty of the measurements will have to be taken into account. Repeated tests are required to ensure that the results are representative.

There are many ways to adjust a concept to match observations and measurements. Many kinds of curve fit, parameterisation, change of definitions or addition of hypotheses can be used to adjust a concept. The problem with adjustments, however, is that adjustments may hide that the concept does not have the claimed capability of prediction.

Some concepts may need some kind of basic calibration and adjustment, but if a concept really has the claimed capability to predict the value of a measurand, there should be no reason to adjust the concept to a particular test.

The reason why it is so useful to compare predictions with measurements is that all kinds of adjustments of the concept to match measurements are logically impossible. It is impossible to adjust a concept to match something that is not yet known. Prediction excludes all kinds of adjustments of the concept to match the measured values.

There may be other ways to validate a concept, but all other ways leave a possibility that the concept has been adjusted to match measurements. Hence all other ways to validate a concept should also be followed by a scientific argument proving that the concept has not been adjusted to match the measurements of that particular test.  Without such proof, the concept can only be accepted on the basis of a belief that the concept has not been adjusted particularly for that test.

If a concept is not tested by an independent party, the concept can only be accepted on basis of a belief in the party propounding a concept.

Regarding §8 A scientific concept can only be referred to as validated for the context covered by the validating tests.

A test is performed within a context. Obviously, the test is only valid for that context.  As a principle, the concept can only be referred to as validated for the context covered by the validating test.

It may be that interpolation or extrapolation to some extent can not be contradicted by a sound argument, but that is not normally the situation.

However, the party propounding a concept might be able to put forward a scientific argument for the validity of interpolation or extrapolation, and it might be that no opponents are able to put forward a counter argument. Anyhow, extrapolation or interpolation should be followed by a scientific argument.

Regarding §9 A scientific statement is based on verifiable data. Data and precise information about how that data was obtained are readily available for independent verification. Whenever data are corrected or disregarded, both uncorrected and corrected data are provided together with a scientific argument for the correction.

Whenever a statement is based on observations or measured or predicted values, the data should be readily available for independent verification. If not, the statement can only be accepted on the basis of a belief.

There might be errors in the experiment that produced the data. Such errors can possibly be revealed by an investigation into how the data was obtained or by an independent replication of the experiment.

Anyhow, the statement can only be verified if precise information about how that data was obtained is readily available. If not, the statement can only be accepted on the basis of a belief.

Finally, it can be irresistible to disregard or correct data. There may be scientific arguments for doing that. If so, those arguments should be verifiable. If not, data should not be corrected, discarded or disregarded.

Regarding §10 A scientific measurement report contains traceable values, units and stated uncertainty for well-defined measurands in a well-defined context.

Obviously, a measurand will have to be well-defined, how else can anybody know exactly what has been measured?

Also, the measurement result will also have to be provided as a value together with the associated unit. A value without a unit is meaningless.

By using a unit in accordance with the International System of Units, the unit will already be well-defined. If the unit is a non-standard unit or even a hitherto unknown unit, the unit will have to be properly defined in the measurement report.

Whenever a measurement is performed by some kind of measurement device, the measurement device should be traceable by an unbroken chain of calibrations to the definition of the unit. Without a traceable measurement device, there is no way to know if the measurement is accurate, there is no way to quantify the uncertainty of the measurement.

Regarding the uncertainty of a measurement, the introduction to the following free and readily available guideline: Guide to the expression of uncertainty in measurement;  JCGM 100:2008, explains why quantification of uncertainty is essential:  “When reporting the result of a measurement of a physical quantity, it is obligatory that some quantitative indication of the quality of the result be given so that those who use it can assess its reliability. Without such an indication, measurement results cannot be compared, either among themselves or with reference values given in a specification or standard.”

For the principles provided in this work, it is regarded sufficient to state that it is essential that the uncertainty of a measurement is provided in the measurement report. Obviously, there are benefits in providing the uncertainty in accordance with an international standard or guideline. By not providing the uncertainty in accordance with a standard or guideline, there is a risk that the measurement report is regarded insufficient and that no judgments can be made on basis of that report.

Finally, it is also essential that the context for the measurement is well-defined. All the things that are known to have an influence on the value of the measurand should be identified.

(This principle has been based on section 7.2.1 in the freely available international guideline: JCGM 100:2008; GUM 1995 with minor corrections; Evaluation of measurement data — Guide to the expression of uncertainty in measurement.)

Regarding §11 A scientific prediction report contains values, units and claimed capability for well-defined measurands in a well-defined context.

This principle is an analog to §10 about measurement reports, this should be no surprise since predictions are supposed to be comparable with measurements. A claimed capability may be expressed and documented in the same way as the uncertainty of a measurement.

3 Perspective on definitions and truth

As mentioned in the introduction to this work, even a highly influential philosophical work like “The logic of scientific discovery” by Karl Popper does not provide a set of well-defined principles for science.

The first version of this work (“10 theorems for ideas about how things work”) started out as an attempt to identify a set of principles, or methodical rules, as established by Karl Popper. That turned out to be a bit challenging, as his methodical rules were not defined and identified in a clear manner.

The following quote may shed some light on why:
“It is, I now think, the fact that most philosophers regard definitions as important, and that they have never taken my assurance seriously that I do regard them as unimportant. I neither believe that definitions can make the meaning of our words definite, nor do I think it worth bothering about whether or not we can define a term (though it may sometimes be moderately interesting that a term can be defined with the help of terms of a certain kind); for we do need undefined primitive terms in any case.”
Ref.: The logic of scientific discovery; Page 463; (Addendum, 1968)

In this work, that view is opposed by the position that definitions are of uttermost importance for an evaluation of the truth of a premise, inference or conclusion. Take for example the symbol: “+” in mathematics. Without a definition, it would just be a meaningless cross.

Even though it may seem that a definition can never be precise enough for all possible readers, the set of principles provided in this work is based on the axiom that: It is possible to define terms so precisely that a propounded statement is only open to the intended interpretation. If that is not the case for a particular statement in a particular context, a meaningful argument about that statement will not be possible.

Another issue with The logic of scientific discovery is the  perspective on truth, as illustrated by the following quotes:
“It should be noticed that a positive decision [test result] can only temporarily support the theory, for subsequent negative decision [test results] may always overthrow it. So long as theory withstands detailed and severe tests and is not superseded by another theory in the course of scientific progress, we may say that it has ‘proved its mettle’ or that it is ‘corroborated’.. by past experience. Nothing resembling inductive logic appears in the procedure here outlined. I never assume that we can argue from the truth of singular statements to the truth of theories. I never assume that by force of ‘verified’ conclusions, theories can be established as ‘true’, or even as merely ‘probable’.” 

The perspective on the term truth that has been taken in this work is that, if all definitions are in place and relevant tests have been performed, we are able to conclude if it is true that a well-defined concept really has the defined capability within a well-defined context.

Engineers will probably be familiar with this definition of truth. Engineers will be used to demonstrate the truth of their constructions – to verify and validate that a construction has a defined capability within a defined context. In particular, verify and validate are both terms that are also used in the widely used international quality standard ISO 9001.

It should be noted, however, that even though a concept can be true by the definition used in this work, another concept that has a better capability of prediction or is valid for a broader context may be eventually be discovered or invented.

By this definition, Newton´s law of universal gravitation can still be regarded to be true in the sense that the concept has a definable capability of prediction within a definable context. While Einstein´s general relativity can also be regarded to be true, but that concept has a better capability of prediction within a wider context.

It should also be noted that even if a concept is true, it can still be useless. It may be a true prediction that the precipitation at a defined location on a defined date will be between 0 and 1000 mm, but that prediction will also be of no value.

An example of this perspective on truth can be a television system. A television system can transmit a movie via a fiber and display it on a screen (whenever everything in that system performs in accordance with its design). That functionality is true – it can not be contradicted by sound argument.

It is remarkable that a lot of things have to be true for television system to work properly, more things will have to be true than an individual person can fully understand. However, even a kid can tell if it is true that it works.

This work can only be reproduced on the condition that the original source is identified by a link to https://principlesofscience.wordpress.com 

This is a work by “Science or Fiction?” with invaluable support and scrutiny by “Gnomish”. – See how it evolved.

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47 thoughts on “The principles of science (v7.5)

  1. Pingback: Good Science Has Nothing to Do With University Degrees | al fin next level

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  3. Here is a good solution to the problem of saying what truth is.
    First, recall that science only allows a thesis to be held as “true” in a tentative way: however unlikely, we must proceed under the assumption that the finding may one day be demonstrated to be false. Maybe a little false, or may a lot false.

    This solution uses two concepts. “Truth” and “knowledge.”
    “Truth” is, by definition, that which is true. [This requires that you assume there is such a thing as truth, outside of your own phenomenology.]

    And more on truth: “truth” is always a generality about how the physical world works. We make a specific prediction, “this knife will rust unless I rub some mineral oil on it,” based on the truth about steel rusting, given certain conditions, etc., etc. Similarly, “this knife rusted because you failed to rub some mineral oil on it” is a specific claim, which may or may not be true, but really is able to be made because of the “truth” about steel and rust.

    “Knowledge” is justified belief. “Steel plus water (etc., etc.) equals rust.”

    Science then is a system for determining which of our beliefs are justified.

    This arrangement makes “knowledge” our best guess at the ultimately-unknowable but seemingly quite familiar and obvious “truth.” “Knowledge” is our tentative working hypothesis.

    It is similar to “technology;” a knowledge of how to reliably cause some effect.

    This allows us to claim we have knowledge of how to reduce a fever, while allowing for a better method to emerge in the future. We can claim that chemistry works according to the atomic theory, a “knowledge,” and then later recognize that atomic theory is a pretty good knowledge, while sub-atomic is even better.

    Before we had sub-atomic theory, “atomic theory” qualified as “knowledge.” Proper skepticism kept us from going too far and concluding that our knowledge could not be improved at all. Yet, if we had truth, our knowledge would have had to have been true, but it was not.

    This is very wordy, but I hope it helps. By properly being skeptical, we can “have” or “ascertain” knowledge, while keeping the options open regarding “truth.”

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    • Thanks a lot for your comment. As it turns out this has also become a hobby of mine. The good thing about having this as a hobby is that I am completely free from any external expectation about what to do and not not to do and what to think or not think.

      Regarding truth and knowledge, I think it is reasonable to say that nature is true. Whatever is – is and whatever happens – happens. I also think it is reasonable to say that human expression of what is or happens in nature will always be a model expressed with symbols and words that are more or less well-defined.

      Within logic, the word «truth» is closely related to the Three traditional laws: identity, non-contradiction, excluded middle. If something is – it is true. If something is not – it is false.

      The law of identity: ‘Whatever is, is.’
      For all A: A = A.

      The law of non-contradiction ‘Nothing can both be and not be.’
      In other words: “two or more contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time”: ¬(A∧¬A).

      The law of excluded middle: ‘Everything must either be or not be.”
      In accordance with the law of excluded middle or excluded third, for every proposition, either its positive or negative form is true: A∨¬A.

      What follows from this is that it is essential to have a clear definition of this something «A» to be able to tell if it is or if it is not. In other words, it is essential to have a clear definition of A to be able to tell if A is true or not.

      As I refer to in my thesis, Karl Popper regarded definitions as unimportant, as he stated: “It is, I now think, the fact that most philosophers regard definitions as important, and that they have never taken my assurance seriously that I do regard them as unimportant.» Anyhow, it seems that he sort of defined truth within natural sciences as a perfect representation of nature in the form of a theory that could never be improved. Obviously, we can never reach that level and even if we did we would not know that we had reached that level of perfection. In that respect, Karl Popper was right. And, your expression that «knowledge generally, if things are working well, approaches truth asymptotically» seem to be a good representation of Karl Popper’s use of the term truth.

      I just happen to think that it is not fully satisfactory to think only that way. We can not reserve the term truth to something that can never be reached. We need a more useful perspective on truth within scientific conduct, law and all kinds of human communication.

      And that is where my thesis becomes relevant in my view. The principles I defined are those fundamental principles I think must be met by a scientific idea that is claimed to represent independently verifiable and reliable knowledge. I also think about knowledge that we must be able to tell if knowledge is true or not. To be able to tell if knowledge is true or not, that knowledge must be presented in a way that makes it possible to conclude on whether that knowledge is true or not.

      Finally, as the trust in science is on a decline, I think it would be beneficial to define certain criteria that scientific ideas should be expected to comply with. Certain criteria that make it more easy to say: «Hold on a moment, the idea here presented as science, does not meet the principles of science, hence that idea is not independently verifiable, that idea can only be accepted on the basis of a belief. Scientific ideas are supposed to be objective and independently verifiable.»

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      • nicely done.
        “a perfect representation of nature” is popper’s neoplatonism –
        the confusion of a symbol for an abstraction with the actual entity it purports to represent is called ‘concrete bound’. it is an epistemological defect.
        at popper’s restaurant you can order pictures of food and complain about how bad the paper tastes…lol
        but abstraction is not a defect- it is the means by which cognition functions – it is ad majorem gloriam H. sapientiae. disrupting cognition has been the target of the mystics since time immemorial.
        popper’s just another one of those.

        Liked by 1 person

      • actually, any animal with a brain performs abstraction- that’s what brains do.
        at the most fundamental level (described by shannon, aka information.theory) truth correspond exactly to existence.
        the bit is the irreducible element.
        it is a binary alternative. period.
        truth is not a number; it is a state of being.

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    • I appreciate the blog, and science postings. I also muse over these things as one of my long-time hobbies. It just occurred to me that I think I was taught this bit of it by someone saying that knowledge generally, if things are working well, approaches truth asymptotically. Closer and closer but never meeting – by definition – by the definition noted above.

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      • Yeah – that is what Karl Popper thought us: scientific theories must be falsifiable – he also thought us that all theories are false! Hence – we can never know that we have reached a theory that is true – everything is false!

        While it might be true that we can never know if it is true that we have reached a perfect representation of nature that can never be better represented, that is not a very fruitful perspective.

        I like to think that we should be allowed to think that a theory is true if the predictions of that theory repeatedly turns out to be within the claimed capability of that theory, for a given context.

        Truth is well defined within logic The three traditional laws. Is it – or is is it not? If it is – it is true, if it is not – it is not true. There is nothing between true and false. Anything between true and not true is false – not true.

        That is why definitions is that important. We really need to know exactly what is claimed to be true.

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  4. I´m planning to give each of the principles a name as follows below. Any thoughts on that?

    Ҥ1 The clarity principle
    A scientific argument consists of clearly stated premises, inferences and conclusions.”
    Ҥ2 The traceability principle
    A scientific premise is verifiable. Premises and their sources are identified and readily available for independent verification.”
    Ҥ3 The logical validity principle
    A scientific inference is logically valid.”
    Ҥ4 The deduction principle
    A scientific conclusion is deduced by application of axioms, definitions and theorems or measured properties and scientific concepts that have already been verified or validated.”
    Ҥ5 The logical construction principle
    A scientific concept consists of statements that are logically valid conclusions deduced from premises that are themselves logically valid conclusions, axioms, definitions or theorems.”
    Ҥ6 The definition principle
    A scientific concept is well-defined and has a well-defined capability of prediction within a well-defined context.”
    Ҥ7 The validation principle
    A scientific concept can only be validated by comparison of predictions deduced from that concept with measurement results. Whenever predictions differ from measurement results, by more than the combined uncertainty of the measurement results and the claimed capability of the concept,  there must be something wrong with the concept – or the test of it.”
    Ҥ8 The context principle
    A scientific concept can only be referred to as validated for the context covered by the validating tests.”
    Ҥ9 The data availability principle
    A scientific statement is based on verifiable data. Data and precise information about how that data was obtained are readily available for independent verification. Whenever data are corrected or disregarded, both uncorrected and corrected data are provided together with a scientific argument for the correction.”
    Ҥ10 The measurement report principle
    A scientific measurement report contains traceable values, units and stated uncertainty for well-defined measurands in a well-defined context.”
    Ҥ11 The prediction report principle
    A scientific prediction report contains values, units and claimed capability for well-defined measurands in a well-defined context.”

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    • the principle is of abstracting the principles was the point of the exercise, of course.
      so that’s as it should be.
      my only suggestion is to find how to subsume most of that into definitions so you can reduce the number of distinct ‘principles’ to 5 or fewer.
      https://hyperdiscordia.church/law_of_fives.html
      there actually is a good psychological basis for it.

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        • the principle: BE LOGICAL!
          by exercising these virtues:
          CLARITY – be cogent and unambiguous
          DEDUCTIVE – draw inferences from known facts and proven axioms.
          CONCLUSIVE – state hypotheses and conclusions as logical propositions that evaluate to T or F

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          • Brilliant.

            I think this is the point where many struggles:
            “state hypotheses and conclusions as logical propositions that evaluate to T or F”

            Hence, the question of whether a theory is true or false is often mal-phrased.
            A better question may be:
            Is it true that this theory, within this context produces a result that deviates from observation by less than the stated capability of this theory?
            This is a question that, if it is properly phrased, may evaluate to True or False.

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          • oh, gee… suddenly there’s no ambiguity.
            what a concept!
            let’s see popper fill that full of holes!
            (that’s comedy from the existential cowboy who is always happy to shine some darkness on any topic)

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          • you’re gonna do what you show how to do the way you show how to do it, eh?
            that’s the kind of harmony found in truth.
            almost ready to define ‘beauty’ now?

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          • All that is known to be or not to be
            is distinguished and observable by fellow men.
            All that is known to happen or not
            has already been predicted and observed by them.

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          • sentence #1:
            for that to be true, you’ll need to constrain the context some.
            it is true for principles but not for particular events which, once having passed, are no longer directly observable.
            much of what we know is not sensible (meaning accessible to the senses) nor perceptual at all.
            we know it by virtue of reason which is the application of logic.
            once it has a name, it has been declared as ‘known’.

            sentence #2:
            i’m not sure what is the concept(s) you wish to embody with it so i don’t know how to fix it.
            ‘prediction’ is especially confusing to me.

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      • At last, I feel ready to show a draft set of ethical principles for science. It ended up with a set that follows more or less directly from the technical principles (v7.5). Obviously, we would like scientists to observe other ethical guidelines as well, like human rights or respect for Intellectual Proprietary Rights. But as you once made me aware of, Intellectual Proprietary Rights is irrelevant for the truth of a concept. And human rights is well taken care of elsewhere. Hence, ethical principles for science should only be concerned about the hallmarks of science – the truth of concepts and independent verifiability:

        §1 State clearly the premises, inferences, and conclusions of an argument.
        §2 Verify that premises comply with the technical principles of science, identify premises and their sources and make sure that these are readily available for independent verification.
        Cite precisely and identify all information that is used as a premise.
        §3 Use logically valid inferences.
        Whenever the truth of the premises does not guarantee the truth of the conclusion, identify clearly the argument as a feeling, judgment, belief, opinion or hypothesis.
        §4 Put forward conclusions in such a manner that an independent party can verify that the conclusion is correctly deduced from axioms, definitions, theorems, measured properties, and validated scientific concepts.
        §5 Put forward concepts in such a manner that an independent party can verify that the concept is correctly deduced from logically valid conclusions, axioms, definitions or theorems.
        §6 Define a concept, its capability, and applicable context in such a manner that the concept can be independently tested.
        §7 Validate concepts by comparison of predictions from that concept with observations. Only refer to concepts as validated when predictions repeatedly match observations within combined uncertainty of the measurements and the claimed capability of the concept.
        Ensure that those who are entitled, influenced, or curbed by the propounded concept or product are also entitled to have the concept or product tested.
        §8 Only refer to concepts as validated for the context covered by the validating tests.
        §9 Base statements on verifiable data and make sure that data and precise information about how that data was obtained are readily available for independent verification. Whenever data are corrected or disregarded, provide both uncorrected and corrected data together with a scientific argument for the correction.
        §10 Ensure that measurement reports contain traceable values, units, and stated uncertainty for well-defined measurands in a well-defined context.
        §11 Ensure that prediction reports contain values, units and claimed capability for well-defined measurands in well-defined contexts.

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        • that’s nicely done.
          let’s review the distinction between morality and ethics-
          morality is the science of choice (for an individual, if that’s not obvious) based on some standard of values, i.e., the evaluation of goodness or badness according to the standard.
          ethics is concerned with interaction between/among individuals and concerns only 2 criteria: ownership and damage.
          without ownership, there is no question of rights. without damage there is no claim. (credible threat is, however, a possible consideration here)
          the issue of rights only applies to a relationship between/among individuals. on a desert island, all by yourself, the concept of rights is irrelevant and inapplicable, ethics is a non.issue. but morality is never a non.issue because a man faces constant alternatives to evaluate and choose – and can die from stupid.
          there is no other kind of ‘rights’ than that of any individual- there is no other entity which can possess them.

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          • So, we might think that the primary value of life is freedom to act without doing harm to other humans, or curbing other humans freedom to act unless their actions do harm to other humans or curbs other humans freedom to act.

            We might also think that the results of scientific activity might influence or curb other humans freedom to act.

            Hence, we might think that each individual human should be able to verify that he is not exposed to any harm from scientific results, and that his freedom to act is not unnecessary curbed by scientific results.

            Anyone should then have the right to expect that a scientist or scientific enterprise that influence our lives or curbs our freedom to act provides truths about nature that can be independently verified.

            Therefore, the value of science is truths about nature that can be independently verified.

            The morality of scientific conduct should then be to provide truths about nature that any human can have independently verified.

            And that is why the ethical principles of science should be those principles that are necessary and sufficient to ensure that scientific claims about nature that humans are influenced by or curbed by can be independently verified. QED

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          • I imagine that the moment a writing is published in the name of science, it is reasonable to expect that the writing is, or may become of public interest. In particular, if we by “publish” mean: “To bring to the public attention”. The ethical principles should then be applicable whenever a writing is brought to the public attention by being published.

            Whatever a scientist do for himself, for his employer, or for his customer – is entirely up to himself, his employer, or his customer. However, it would still be wise of the customer, employer, or the scientist to observe the ethical principles of science just to avoid being fooled by a scientist, or for the scientist himself to avoid fooling himself.

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          • in the same way measurement can be done with any arbitrary units, so can morality be based on any arbitrary standard. (morality is the science of choice based on evaluation against some standard – there is nothing to say what that standard is. thus, you can have a morality that is consistent with human nature or you can have one that contradicts it.)
            ethics is similar in this regard. the moral standard which underlies it may be be good or bad.
            so if you want to be precise you must define the standard you use for the purpose of your thesis.
            deceit may be completely right or it may be evil- depending on context.
            rand noted that it is immoral to initiate force or fraud- but to use it in self defense might be completely right.
            if the beheaders ask you are you a moslem, lie or die!
            the practice of science or any other behaviour will always be ethical and moral – but the standard of values for which the virtues are practiced may be good or bad.
            so i think you mean, when you say ‘it would be wise’, is that ‘it is good according to an objective standard of values that is consistent with human nature’.
            you are now preparing to define human nature. you can do this.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Thanks for that wise comment, I will reflect on it. 🙂

            The Universal declaration of human rights gives some clues to the definition of human nature:

            Article 1.
            All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

            Article 4. 
            No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

            Article 18.
            Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

            Article 19.
            Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

            Article 26. 
            ..
            (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

            Article 27.
            (1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
            ..
            Article 29.
            (1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
            (2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

            http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/index.html

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          • I do not understand what the following is supposed to mean: “Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.”

            “in which alone” ???

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          • the question of human rights is a matter of ethics.
            the definition of human nature is not.
            the definition of definition is ‘the set of distinguishing characteristics’
            iow, what makes H. sapiens distinct from all other known creatures?

            the ‘declaration of human rights’ is a political piece with the agenda of justifying concession of those same rights to ‘the state’ (which is some group of individuals who will have guns to compel obedience)
            it’s a collection of key-words that trigger responses – it is not a ‘work of reason’.
            gang-rape is truly democratic. who wants that? democracy is mob rule. who want’s that?
            what makes a man free is not obedience but freedom therefrom – not the form of RULE by some authority, but the absence of it.
            a lot of things can be made to work, after a fashion, if everybody involved agrees to it. rights, however, are not about consensus or agreement at all- they concern individual sovereignty.
            so for any form of ‘government’, the only objective value achievable is the protection and defense of individual sovereignty.

            what ingredient you need to identify is what it is about a human being that makes him a human being – and that will be the nature of what it is that your thesis seeks to describe what is ‘wise’ and ‘not to be violated’, i think.

            here are some clues to consider:
            humans are basically tabula rasa – they don’t know what’s good for them or bad – they have to learn what that may be and then learn how to get it by their own efforts. this alone distinguishes them from most other creatures – but not completely. the point is that there is no automatic form of knowledge to guide them- no instincts hard wired in that can guide the choices survival requires.

            being that humans acquire this knowledge and use it to define themselves….

            heh- what i put on the end of my lizard vids:
            they learn what you teach. they do what they learn. they are what they do.
            JUST LIKE YOU.

            lol- sorry- i’m trying to let you do this – these are enough clues.

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          • “what makes H. sapiens distinct from all other known creatures?”

            Honestly, I don´t know.

            I know that we got more or less of a lot of things than other creatures, but I´m not able to identify a feature that humans got that I know that no other creature got at all.

            Language – definitely not – creatures communicates.
            Logic? I don´t think so – creatures can see the difference between is or isn´t – can´t they?

            I know that other creatures can´t do Laplace transformations, but that´s not the issue here.

            And if I turn it around and try to think what it is that humans do not got at all that creatures got.
            I can´t say that I´m able to identify that either.

            I got instincts – I think.
            I could not survive without care at the beginning of my life – neither could a lot of creatures.

            I´m not sure that I need to distinguish human nature at all to define what would be wise to think for a creature to identify reliable thoughts.

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          • well, you may have been born with some reflexes, but the only instinctive behavior i can identify is about putting everything in your mouth when you were an infant crawling around the floor. for all intents and purposes, humans are not guided by instinct. that is relevant…

            signs and signals certainly convey meaning, but semiotics hasn’t got the level of abstraction for doing logic. a snarl or the wag of a tail can not do logic. without logic there is no reason. yet, this is not the starting point because it is not the origin of the distinction, but a result of it.

            “I´m not sure that I need to distinguish human nature at all to define what would be wise to think for a creature to identify reliable thoughts.”

            when you define ‘wisdom’, you are at the origin. to do it, you are stuck with identifying an objective standard of values. i can program a cnc mill and it will reliably execute the thoughts embodied in the program- yet wisdom can not reside in the mechanics which are inert.
            the language used to write the program- the collection of symbols that have meaning – are not where wisdom resides, either. they are the means by which it is expressed, but not the origin of it.
            (“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.” – Brian O’Driscoll)

            but there is no ‘wise gene’. there is nothing compelling any living thing to be wise.
            you have no instinct to define wisdom. yet the quest for wisdom does require it.
            so what compels you to make this effort in the first place? i’m not asking ‘why’ but ‘how so’?
            what makes you think there is such a thing as wisdom? what makes you think you should possess the concept? what makes you think you should use it?
            is somebody else directing you to do it?
            or are you, for your own reasons, directing yourself to use your reason to comprehend the nature of reason?
            how does it come to pass that you be programmed to perform this function? who is responsible for that?

            can you think of any other kind of creature who might be programmed to perform that function?
            heh- i’m very sure no other kind of creature would question you about it…lol
            but i don’t do your programming of you. all i will ever do is help you do it if you want to do it – because i don’t own you and that’s my ethic, to respect sovereignty. that ethic is consistent with an objective morality which, in turn, is consistent with human nature.
            how does it come to pass that i behave this way? i programmed myself to do it, duh. that’s how i got this big S tattooed on my chest that stands for ‘sapiens’. how sappy or not, is an open question, though…lol

            if you want to do the same, you’ll be the one who decides that and who does it by choice – it has to be that way with the kind of creature we are.
            you will learn what you teach yourself. you will act on that knowledge. that’s what you will become- whatever you define yourself as.
            ‘it would be wise to define yourself correctly’, know what i mean? lol

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        • I imagine that abstraction, logic, and our ability to logically combine concepts is something humans are better at than most creatures. Our dependence on these abilities for our well-being and survival distinguish humans from other creature.

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          • here’s a trick i learned. when you are having a general discussion, so it’s not made to seem a ‘test question’, ask a person to define human nature.
            if he is being guileless, he will draw upon his most intimate knowledge of the human he knows best and unwittingly define himself to you. (believe that he is what he says a human is – he’s telling you how he has defined himself)
            our dependence upon reason for our survival is, indeed, a distinguishing characteristic –
            whether or not the choice is made to exercise that faculty is another.
            it all depends on how you define yourself because that is what will guide your actions and your actions realize that definition.
            humans aren’t born knowing what they are.
            the distinguishing characteristic of humans is that they define themselves and thereby determine who and what they may be.
            that’s why it is contrary to an objective ethic to cripple a mind with lies – that is what makes it monstrous.
            a monster is a creature that struggles to contradict its own nature.
            that’s why it contradicts an objective morality to believe a lie.
            and force is a 3 dimensional realtime lie that contradicts a person’s will.
            that’s why force and fraud are contrary to an objective ethic.

            Liked by 1 person

          • you decided that of all possible ways to spend your time, this was the best use of it. that was and is your power and glory. that is how one gains self possession. it is how you claim your humanity.
            anything which may have been confusing once, with the excellent cognitive tools shining in your glossary, you can resolve easily. having examined the nature of reason carefully, you know that there is no such thing as ‘a gray area’ and that it is all black and white dots – you can resolve the dots of anything.
            you won everything that matters.
            you know your mind is competent to make judgements.
            you know that obedience can not be the basis of any morality…
            you know that somebody who deliberately deceives you is attacking your primary tool of survival- your mind. you can spot the spinners (you can see the fnords!) and they can’t infect you
            you can see how it is impossible to make somebody think

            you can show your kids how this is done and give them a survival advantage

            it’s been great. i’m so glad you won. there are never enough winners.

            Liked by 1 person

          • I have struggled to distinguish human nature and to identify an objective ethics. I´m still not sure that this is it. However,

            If I believe in lies I may become a monster that is both crippled with lies and unable to contradict my own nature. That is why it contradicts objective morality to believe in lies, commit fraud, and to force my beliefs upon others.

            That is it, isn´t it?

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          • I guess you have gathered by now, that whenever I´m not responsive – I´m either working on the issue or doing something else. Anyhow, I have not arrived at something presentable.

            However, I´m not finished yet. 🙂
            My next plan is to suggest a set of ethical principles that correspond with my suggested principles of science.

            I get it, that I should have titled my thesis something else – as you indicated. No one really likes to be presented with principles of science. Actually, the principles are more about grasping reality. Anyhow, no one really likes to be told about that either. People like to find their own ways, and people hate to acknowledge that there is something fundamentally wrong with their reasoning. There would be so much to reconstruct – a monster can not contradict its own nature.

            However, I could kind of reason why my suggested ethical principles of science might apply to science imposed upon the public. But I struggled to see why these principles could be applicable beyond that.

            I think you might have given me the key – the key to why these principles might even be applicable to my interaction with my youngsters.

            I guess the key to that is that lies can cripple a mind. It is unethical to cripple a mind – in the same way as it is unethical to cripple a body.

            Kid: “Is it true that I can get blood cancer by writing on my hand”
            Mother: “No”
            Kid: “Ahh – Mothers that are not doctors tell so many strange things to their kids”

            (I guess mothers that are doctors also tell strange things to their kids, but that is not the point.)

            Anyhow, I feel so privileged by having you spending so much time with me on this. I may forever wonder about how you reached your perspectives on logic and reality.

            My second vision might be to condense it all into 5 principles. Despite – as you said – nobody cares. 🙂

            Like

  5. that looks almost perfect.
    “So, we might think that the primary value of life is freedom to act without doing harm to other humans, or curbing other humans freedom to act unless their actions do harm to other humans or curbs other humans freedom to act.”
    minor quibble –
    you know there are 2 versions of ‘the golden rule’, one of which is ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ and the other is ‘do not do unto others what you don’t want someone to do to you’
    the second sums up ethics and the first is a ‘noble cause tyranny’
    the primary value of life is to live it (in a way consistent with the nature of the creature- i.e., a man must live as a man, not as a dog or a vegetable) and to maximize his joy. for this, self possession and self determination are required for H. sapiens.
    that’s morality- for each man, his life as a man is his standard of values.
    the ethics of liberty is granting mutually that every other man has the same standard (by right) – his own life as a man.
    (or defining them as a different species and exploiting them – that’s also ethics – of tyranny)

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    • “you know there are 2 versions of ‘the golden rule’, one of which is ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ and the other is ‘do not do unto others what you don’t want someone to do to you’
      the second sums up ethics and the first is a ‘noble cause tyranny’”

      I never thought about that, but the difference between the two versions is enormous.

      Like

  6. over at wuwt they are discussing ‘the principles of science’ – not your work, but their notions of it.
    it’s almost painful to watch.
    when somebody believes something which is false, that false belief occludes comprehension of all that is contradicted by it.
    not only can a person fail to observe something that contradicts his beliefs, but he is unable to remember it.
    so a lie can persist in a mind and be very very difficult to repair.
    the proper win is to equip that mind with an understanding of how to validate concepts so it may not be tricked.
    defining the principles of science rests on the principles of reason. there’s nothing special about ‘science’ in that regard except the documentation.
    so that’s how it is that one must define the principles of reason first – why all those definitions were necessary.
    it has to be truth all the way down. a concept which contradicts any underlying premise is logically false.
    and that’s how it is that one must get to the root of the matter and lay the proper foundation.
    i think you have everything you need, now. and if you can do it, then so can anybody else- anybody else who wants to – anybody who has decided that’s what he must be.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. hi – i’m away for the day. have to be brief.
    human nature is to define himself. that is the unique quality. everything else is a matter of degree shared by other creatures.
    a man can do it wrong, i.e., in such a way as to negate his other properties, or correctly, i.e., in such a way that it be consistent with them.
    the brain that does it has its specific nature as well. being that it is the main thing he uses to survive because it is what does the reasoning, the programming of it- which is very much up to him, determines what he is:
    human or less that that.
    the principles of science are not contradicted by the nature of reason or of the organ that processes concepts.
    morality is the science of choice, i.e., the evaluation of alternatives based on a chosen standard. (see how much is a matter of definitions? like ALL of it?)
    if it is not a matter of choice, it is not a moral issue. (this is the solution to the ‘life boat ethic’ problems that are designed to remove all choices but to die or not))
    and ethics is principles of human interaction (not personal choices) that do not contradict the morality.
    rights is a concept in the realm of ethics
    on a desert island, you need morality like never before but ethics is inapplicable.
    was that brief?
    minds are programmed. humans are the programmers of their own. it’s where morality gets tested and corrected. the ultimate falsification is extinction because nature only requires marginal adequacy – not superlative fitness. natural rejection drives evolution of life and of mind.

    Liked by 1 person

      • that was interesting to me from a biographical perspective.
        his concern is mainly literary writing, even though he says:
        “I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as
        an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought”

        i note that the concordance of this work doesn’t include the word ‘logic’ or ‘proof’ even once but the word ‘image(ry)’ appears 11 times and he explains about what makes bad writing bad:
        ” it can be taken as certain that the writer is not seeing a mental image of the objects he is naming; in other words he is not really thinking. ”
        which appears to equate sentiment with reason..
        and then he disparages scientific writing as if he does not understand the purpose of removing the distraction of ‘the observer’ from the all important ‘observations’:
        “4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
        5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.”

        so there are a few things to reconcile with an objectivist or absolutist metaphysics because, in the context he uses but does not define, he makes sense, but in a larger context it’s not all true.
        i had presumed that he understood the nature of cognitive tools we call ‘words’ in a more comprehensive way, but now i learn he was a skilled novelist who was exploring ‘reason’ rather than a smart philosopher producing a novel.

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  8. Pingback: Ethical guidelines for scientific conduct | Science or fiction?

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