Thursday, November 5, 2009

ON RULES AND METHODS OF SCIENCE

June 16, 2009

As defined, science is a method of problem solving that is concerned with the empirical; a systematic body of knowledge. It mainly consists laws, theories and certain fixed principles on observable phenomena. But then there were some thinkers who did not view science as such but rather questioned its exclusivity and ‘infallibility. One of them is Feyerabend, who, in his ‘Against Method’, claimed that science had a chaotic history, and questioned the certainty of rules and systematic methods on which it was founded upon. This paper will discuss what the rules and systematic methods in science are for and how Feyerabend viewed the purposes given. Right then, it will provide an evaluation regarding the arguments presented.

PURPOSES OF RULES AND METHODS

We acquire knowledge through these methods and rules. Here is where we base our experimentations and observations. Science could not be considered as an ‘organized’ body of knowledge without these laws and methods governing them. Using these methods, we may be able to verify, test, and validate certain phenomena and solve a problem. Methods and laws seek to simplify what is complex when it comes in observing or describing a phenomenon. ‘It provides an objective process to find solutions to problems in a number of scientific and technological fields.’1

FEYERABEND’S VIEW

Inductions, generalizations, experimentations, investigations, etc. are all enclosed in a box called ‘scientific method’. Certain rules and systematic procedures could be said as the final authority governing this body or discipline. Laws and theories are the firm foundations on which every scientist stand upon. Mainly, these rules were made to simplify science and make it more ‘objective’. Science, up close and personal, is ‘complex, chaotic, and full of mistakes’. So maybe, a ‘little repair’ would do, like making it simple and eclosing it with strict rules. Fragments, consisting of simple, complex, and ridiculous ideas were collected, polished and packaged into seemingly firm and certain methodologies. Secondly, rules and methods were established to exclude science from other disciplines. It simply implies that it has a logic, language and system of its own. The boundary line it has built was merely a defensive wall for it not to be intruded by other disciplines (or people under this discipline) that might weaken it. This is seen in the uniformity of its actions and secrecy of its ‘historical processes’. Now, we consider science different from philosophy, theology, arts, and other given disciplines. Now, we 1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science are facing the dilemma of whether we will give science the right in dealing with knowledge. Science has become limited and restricted due to the manipulation of its nature and history. In his attack against the tradition that has proliferated in this discipline, Feyerabend emphasized the ‘anything goes’ principle. Simplifying science and making it exclusive hinder growth and progress, so his assertions, ‘we must keep our options open because the world is a largely unknown entity,’ and ‘liberal practice is necessary for the growth of knowledge makes a lot of sense. Major changes and revolutions in science were due to violation of certain principles (Einstein vs. Newton; Galileo vs. Copernicus). ‘We find, then, that there is not a single rule, however plausible, and however firmly grounded on epistemology, that is not violated at some time or another’. Certain violations are springboard for progress. Thinkers who are lawbreakers and who have decided not to be bound by strict rules are the major revolutionaries. Without them and their discoveries, science would not be as it is today. We could not solely owe the growth of knowledge and scientific progress to these fixed rules and methodologies. I am not saying that these rules are hindrance to progress—but only there are times that they hinder progress. There are times that it is better to abide by these laws, but there will come a time that you have to let go of them to achieve a better result. Of all the factors and characteristics, it is tentativeness that the scientist must hold on to. In experimentation, ‘he must be aware that his descriptions are incomplete and not permanent and is always subject to the discovery of new data. He must not put a period when it comes to its finality or totality (William James, paraphrased)’. Feyerabend intruded science and tried to analyze it under the light of a discipline outside it. The ideas and realizations may look sound, but this action may not work at all times.

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