For Rick & Bill Powers

*** Resending note of 11/18/93 21:29



FROM: Bill Cunningham

From Bill Cunningham (931118.2130)|

Rick Marken (931118.0800)

Is this the way you guys do science?

No, not really. Usually, I just read tea leaves. But that requires
draining the teacup.

I was sorta under the impression that one of the goals of science was to
establish general truths from what must always be a limited set of
observations. The idea, as I've understood it, is make a few observations
and then conjur up some wild-assed guess of a hypothethized generalization--
which if true must have certain consequences independent of the original
observations. Then, I suppose, it might be a good idea to make some additional
observations to see if that was a good guess. There are probably some
fancy pants rigorous rules for doing this, but tea leaves and augury do
just fine. But thank you for your concern.

Bill Powers (93118.0630)

I look at that posting time and continue to be amazed at the time and
patience you put into this--let alone insight. Can't tell whether that
hour was an early start or the result of an all-nighter. Either is impressive!

Only in some people's opinions. Those are the people who like to
see general principles behind specific processes; they aren't
satisfied with knowing HOW a system works, they want to put that
HOW in the context of a higher-level perception of principles.

I would probably not have said it quite that way, but I agree. And
I'll confess to being one of those people. But the reason for trying
to establish the higher-level perception of principles is to predict
reasonably well what will happen under moderately different circumstances.

When they succeed, it seems to them that they have found the WHY
of the system; why it HAS to be organized that way.

That's a generalization that I'm not sure is universally true.

This gives the status of incontestible _a priori_ truth to the
principles, and makes it seem that the principles somehow have a
guiding influence on the lower-level processes, as if they were
purposive and forbad any other lower-level processes from
existing. They are purposive, but the purposes are those of the
person who wants those principles to apply...........

That's a generalization whose universal truth is quite disprovable.
I'll concede mountains of evidence on the existance of fools and self
delusion. I'll even plead guilty on occasion. But I've also seen
evidence to the contrary, particularly in the matter of extending
the principle into areas where it might not apply. Fools do rush in
and angels do fear to tread (getting nowhere); but there are careful
explorers, too. In PCT terminology, maybe these folks are responding
to a higher level principle.
One of the areas that really intrigues me is the business of synthesis,
where new ideas are created from pieceparts of extant ideas, usually
taking a perception from one background setting and applying it in
another. Creating/extending scientific theories falls into this
category. Boss Reality ultimately reigns, whether tested for initially
or surfacing nastily sometime later.


Bill C.

Bill Cunningham, ATCD-G
HQ TRADOC//ATCD-G//(804) 727-3441/DSN 680-3472//