Which Science?

###### FROM CHUCK TUCKER 951205 ######

       Abbott's (951203.1645 EST) [Science or mush] inspires this
       post. This view of scientific inquiry is (as I see it) much
       closer to what Runkel proposes a "action research" or the
       method of "possibilites." It is also (not strange for me)
       a method consistent with the pragmatic method of inquiry. It
       relieves one of the responsibility of pretending that anyone
       can PROVE anything.

       I would also like to point out what I believe to be the most
       valuable lesson of Runkel's book which as he states: "Use a
       method to do what it can do. Do not try to make it do what
       it cannot. No one method is good for everything. But every
       method is good for doing something worth doing."(186)

       BTW, for the first time I had three students this semester who
       did DEMO1 apparently reading the instructions written by Powers
       who turned in their answer sheet with all .0000 correlations.
       Questions: Are these human beings behaving as "Living Control
       Systems" or not? Do these results "test" PCT?

       Regard, Chuck




                         Rollo Handy and E. C. Harwood

                        Great Barrington, Massachusetts:
                       Behavioral Research Council, 1973.
                           Original pagination in [ ].


        The extensive literature on scientific inquiry provides
        many conflicting recommendations as to the most useful
        procedures of inquiry to be followed. The tentative
        conclusions we have reached in our inquiry into inquiry
        are different in many respects from the descriptions of
        scientific method usually found. The following summary
        of some of our major, but tentative, conclusions may
        therefore be useful to readers. Our immediate objective
        in this short statement is not to satisfy the reader that
        our views are useful, for that is the task undertaken in
        the entire volume, but rather to provide orientation for
        the reader before he grapples with detailed consideration
        of the problem.

        We have attempted to make this summary report immediately
        useful to the reader by avoiding specialized terminology
        and by stating our conclusions with a minimum of elaboration.
        The full account of what we should both include and exclude
        in the suggested procedures of inquiry will require detailed
        consideration of the material provided in the rest of the
        volume; the orientation summary below should indicate the
        general direction of the advance we believe has been made
        and thus facilitate the reader's task.

                          How Inquiry Proceeds

        1. The inquirer becomes aware of a problem situation.

        2. He observes some facts that appear to be pertinent.
            Various aspects and phases of the situation are
            differentiated, some changes among them are measured,
            and a tentative partial description of what is
            happening is begun.

        3. In noting connections among some of the things
            observed and measured, other connections may be imagined.
            The inquirer focuses on what seem to be the pertinent
            aspects and phases of the situation, and develops a
            conjecture as to what may happen under specified

        4. That conjecture may involve other facts to be observed,
            perhaps including some facts originally not believed
            to be pertinent. As the inquirer proceeds, he may find
            that the original problem situation is quite different
            than it first had seemed.

        5. The tentative description of what happens is supplemented
            and perhaps revised. Transformations via verbal or
            mathematical logic may be used. What were earlier taken
            as facts may be revised or rejected.

        6. Perhaps another conjecture occurs to the inquirer about
            possible connections among facts, including measured

        7. Investigation of the new conjecture requires further
            observation and perhaps results in the development of
            a more adequate description. These procedures of
            observation, reconsideration, renewed observation;
            i.e., the interweaving or reciprocal stimulation of
            what are sometimes called empirical observations and
            the formulation of hypotheses, may be repeated many
            times in succession.

        8. Finally, if the inquirer is successful, a description
            adequate for resolving the immediate problem situation
            is developed.

        9. Future inquiries may further supplement the description
            of what happens; in some instances new inquiries may
            reveal aspects or phases that force drastic amendment
            of the best earlier description.

        10. Inquiry has no necessary end. A COMPLETE description of
            even a simple problem situation apparently never has
            been achieved and may never be, but an adequately useful
            description is the goal of modern scientific inquiry.

      The actual order of successful inquiry seems to be: awareness,
      observation, partial description, conjectures leading to
      further observation, etc., until an adequate description has
      been formulated. Descriptions of a small part of the full
      sequence may be mistaken as the key to the whole process;
      e.g., when inquiry is understood as beginning with a
      "well-formulated" hypothesis and then searching for evidence,
      or when mathematical transformations are assumed to be the
      essence of scientific inquiry, or when logical deductions are
      emphasized. If the interweaving of observation and tentative
      descriptions that has been so productive in past inquiries is
      departed from, the verbal and mathematical transformations used
      by the inquirer may not be applicable to the data involved.
      Many inquirers have endeavored to achieve useful descriptions
      by means of extended verbal logic, or by mathematical
      transformations not closely connected with observable data, or
      by the computer models that recently have become popular
      (by means of which so-called "theoretical constructions" and
      mathematical transformations have been mechanized or automated).
      Some of the displays of technical proficiency may be impressive,
      especially to those less skilled in mathematics, but there is
      little evidence that useful scientific inquiry has been advanced
      thereby, and there is much evidence that such elaborate theorizing
      lends a false appearance of authenticity to assertions that by
      no means are scientifically warranted.[3]


      ANTI-THEORETICAL VIEWS. From time to time writers can be found
      who put far more emphasis on the role of the laboratorian than
      on the role of the theoretician.[11] Sometimes such emphases
      may tend in the direction of maintaining that scientific inquiry
      is only data-collection, but more often those emphases are
      protests against premature theorizing or insufficient attention
      being given to testing. Thus Alvin G. Goldstein says: "In
      psychology, most theories are stated before enough solid
      information has been collected, and as a result there is a
      ridiculous profusion of theories." A statement made in 1937
      by George P. Murdock would find acceptance among many workers
      today, and not only for sociology: "Sociology...has a plethora
      of hypotheses. What it most needs...is more factual studies to
      test them." 10 B.F. Skinner is an eminent behavioral scientist
      often cited as anti-theoretical. Attention here will be focused


on an article in which he describes his early research methods. Skinner says:

        This account of my scientific behavior up to the point at
        which I published my results in a book called THE BEHAVIOR OF
        ORGANISMS is as exact in letter and spirit as I can now make it.
        The notes, data, and publications which I have examined do not
        show that I ever behaved in the manner of Man Thinking as
        described by John Stuart Mill or John Dewey or in
        reconstructions of scientific behavior by other philosophers
        of science. I never faced a Problem which was more than the
        eternal problem of finding order. I NEVER ATTACKED A PROBLEM
        BY CONSTUCTING A HYPOTHESIS. I never deduced Theorems or
        submitted them to Experimental Check. So far as I can see,
        I had no preconceived Model of behavior - certainly not a
        physiological or mentalistic one, and, I believe, not a
        conceptual one. The `reflex reserve' was an abortive, though
        operational concept which was retracted a year or so after
        publication in a paper at the Philadelphia meeting of the APA.
        I was working on a basic Assumption - that there was order in
        behavior if I could only discover it - but such an assumption
        is not to be confused with the hypotheses of deductive theory.
        It is also true that I exercised a certain Selection of Facts
        but not because of relevance to theory but because one fact
        was more orderly than another. If I engaged in Experimental
        Design at all, it was simply to complete or extend some
        evidence of order already observed. 11

     Despite Skinner's specific disclaimer that he did not behave as
     Dewey suggests problem-solvers behave, Dewey described just the
     kind of procedures Skinner tells us about in the case history.
     Dewey's emphasis on the whole transaction in which a scientist
     carries out his inquiry, including the role of the equipment and
     technology available to the scientist at work in a given setting,
     is also what Skinner emphasizes. Indeed, the "earthiness" Skinner
     stresses is what Dewey, unlike many writers on scientific inquiry,
     also stresses. Again and again Skinner mentions problems he
     encountered in studying rat behavior, or in devising machinery to
     aid his observations, or in improving that machinery to make the
     experimenter's work easier, or resulting from his limited time for
     experimentation under given life conditions. The detail Skinner
     gives about his own case history fits with Dewey's methodological
     advice: look at the full transaction, in which one organism (the
     scientist) is involved with other things and events (in this
     instance, rats and the equipment used to observe them), rather
     than to adopt procedures in which the various aspects and phases
     of a transaction are taken as separate "reals" existing
     independently of each other.

     According to Skinner's own words, he does make use of hypotheses,
     in the sense of conjectures or notions about possible connections
     among facts. To illustrate, let us consider one of the incidents
     Skinner cites to show that luck sometimes plays a part in
     scientific inquiry. He had constructed an apparatus for measuring
     the delay between a rat's eating the food it gets after going down
     a runway and the rat's returning "home." A wood disc, taken from
     a store of discarded apparatus, had been fashioned into a food
     magazine for releasing the rat's food. The disc happened to have
     a spindle that Skinner had not bothered to remove. He says that
     one day it occurred to him that "if I wound a string around the
     spindle and allowed it to unwind as the magazine was emptied,"
     then he could record the delays as a curve rather than as the
     polygraph-like pips his earlier apparatus had produced. Skinner
     notes that although the differences between the old type of
     record and the new one may not appear great, "as it turned out
     the curve revealed things in the rate of responding, and in
     changes in that rate, which would certainly otherwise have
     been missed." 12 Here we clearly have a conjecture being
     formed about the apparatus and then tested, with useful
     scientific results, which is just what Dewey was talking about.

     To take one more example, when Skinner was working half-time at
     the Medical School and hence had difficulty maintaining the
     desired work schedule with his rats, he attempted to overcome
     that problem by devising a way in which the rats could be kept
     at a constant level of food deprivation. He conjectured that
     if "you reinforce the rat, not at the end of a given period, but
     when it has completed the number of responses ordinarily emitted
     in that period," the rat "should operated the lever at a constant
     rate around the clock" except when sleeping, and if the
     reinforcement were set "at a given number of responses it should
     even be possible to hold the rat at any given level of deprivation."
     However, Skinner goes on to say, "nothing of the sort happens";
     what he actually got was "fixed-ratio" rather than "fixed-interval"
     reinforcement. 13 So here we have an instance of a set of
     conjectures being formulated that did not have the consequences
     it was first expected to have, but which did lead to useful

     Summarizing Skinner's early work, then, although he did not
     usually formulate deductive hypotheses about rat behavior
     before he carried out his observations, but rather observed
     rats under carefully controlled circumstances to [12] see what
     order could be discerned in their behavior, he did use
     conjectures and paid great attention to seeing what warranted
     generalizations ("laws" in his terminology) could be arrived
     at on the basis of careful observation. His discussion of
     technological and instrumental problems, often de-emphasized
     in accounts of scientific inquiry, along with the constant
     theme of the inquirer running into difficulties and solving
     them, seems to us to illustrate neatly the account of inquiry
     given by Dewey and Bentley.


     To summarize some of Dewey and Bentley's main points: When we
     observe humans we see organisms living in-and-by-means-of
     their environment (not separated from, or merely placed in,
     an environment), struggling to adjust behaviorally to a
     multitude of things and events. Among the many transactional
     processes men are engaged in are transactions that we call
     scientific inquiry. The inquirer's behavior as a scientist
     is continuous with other of his behaviors; his knowings are
     behavioral adjustments, not god-like apprehensions of the
     Real. Successful inquiries exhibit an interweaving of
     notions about things and measurements of changes. Knowing
     transactions are best investigated as they occur, rather
     than by postulating actors, or actions, or other aspects
     and phases of the transactions as separate reals that
     somehow come together on some occasions.[13]



     The procedures suggested below [A RENDITION PRESENTED ABOVE
     IN THIS DOCUMENT] have been selected as those believed to
     be most useful in facilitating progress toward the
     objective of scientific inquiry. [17] Those procedures
     are based primarily on the work of Dewey and Bentley, but
     we have not hesitated to make changes when that seemed

     Human beings have found that many problems can be solved by
     ascertaining what happens under specified circumstances.
     Therefore the first suggestion is that the objective of goal
     of scientific inquiry is a description of what happens under
     specified circumstances. Ascertaining what happens is part
     of the scientific inquirer's job, but his task is not
     completed until he has provided a scientifically useful
     description of his findings. "Scientifically useful" as
     here applied is a name or short-hand designation for a
     description that can be used by others as well as the
     inquirer concerned for rechecking the inquiry, or as a
     basis for further inquiry, or as a means of modifying
     either external events or internal adjustive behavior or
     for any combination of such purposes.

     The objective of scientific inquiry here suggested does
     not include achievement of "knowledge" in any absolute or
     final form, does not purport to establish "certainty," and
     does not offer its findings as unalterable indestructible
     Truth (whatever that may be). The goal is assertions
     warranted by the procedures of inquiry but not guaranteed
     to be fixed and immutable. The reports of scientific
     inquiry are invariably provisional, always subject to
     revision if and when better means of observation and
     measurement or other improvements in procedures of inquiry
     make possible more useful descriptions of what happens under
     specified circumstances.

     At this stage of the scientific inquiry into scientific inquiry
     itself, no one inquirer or any group of inquirers has offered a
     comprehensive and systematically organized description of the
     procedures of inquiry that have proven to be most useful in
     solving problems. Nevertheless, much work has been done, and
     the procedures suggested for trial have been described in some
     detail by certain observers, including Dewey and Bentley. For
     the purposes of this report, rewording and rearranging has been
     undertaken in the hope of facilitating application of the
     procedures; but neither categorical verbal form nor apparent
     finality of expression should be misunderstood as altering the
     provisional status of the suggested procedures. The inquirer
     who attempts to use these procedures is asked to regard his
     use of them as an experiment in the conduct of inquiry.

     Involved in any inquiry is the bundle of habits the inquirer
     has acquired. All humans are subjected to enculturation from
     the day they are born, perhaps earlier. Family living, formal
     education, and other aspects of experience combine to influence
     the habits of observation, of talking, of reading and writing,
     and of responding in various circumstances. Much human
     behavior reflects the gradual acquiring of such habits with
     their tendencies to dominate action. For example, since the
     publication of Ames' experiments at Dartmouth, who can doubt
     that much of what people observe is determined by what they
     have observed in the past, by habits formed in the course of
     repeated "seeing" under certain circumstances. 16 And in
     attempting to report their observations, to communicate, men
     are greatly influenced by their habitual attitudes toward words,
     by the ways of talking to which they have become accustomed,
     however primitive from the scientific inquirer's viewpoint
     those ways of talking may be. Consequently, readers should
     not be surprised to find that applying the procedures of
     inquiry suggested here requires concentrated effort, at
     least in the beginning. Acquired habits can be changed,
     but precisely because they are habits they usually are
     not easily changed.


          Development of the Perceptual World , in Philosophy
          of Science , Vol.29, 1962, p. 326. George P. Murdock, ed.,
          Studies in the Science of Society , New Haven, Yale
          University Press, 1937, p. x.

    11. B.F. Skinner, "A Case History in Scientific Method,"
          The American Psychologist , Vol. 11, May, 1956, p. 227,
          emphasis added.

    12. Ibid ., pp. 224-225.

    13. Ibid ., pp. 226-227.

    15. Throughout this volume we emphasize the dangers of proceeding
          by means of an elaborate extension of hypotheses in the
          absence of observations of facts. Solving the vexing
          problems of men-in-society typically requires many stages
          of inquiry, and at each stage almost always more than one
          conjecture is initially plausible. The crucial importance
          of using each successive conjecture as a guide for
          further observation and measurement readily can be understood.
          Each time that progress in inquiry is blocked and a tentative
          description of what happens under specified circumstances
          remains inadequate, the inquirer in imagination conjectures
          (develops hypotheses) about the possibilities. If the
          inquirer selects the possibility that to him seems most
          plausible and proceeds on to the next blockage, without
          returning to observation and measurement, he is
          confronted with rapidly increasing odds against the
          success of his inquiry. To illustrate, if the number of
          possible conjectures at each stage is 10, his chances of
          selecting the correct conjecture 10 times in succession
          would be only 1 in 10 billion. Even if there were only
          two alternative possibilities at each successive point,
          and 10 stages, his chances of selecting all the correct
          or more useful conjectures in succession would be only
          1 in 1,024.

          Yet often we find the "free creation" of hypotheses being
          advocated to help solve the complex problem situations of
          men-in-society. The formidable amount of work required
          in making the measurements of changes from which warranted
          assertions could be developed apparently constitutes such
          a frustrating barrier to those who want immediate solutions
          that they prefer a "short-cut" via elaborate theorizing,
          despite the overwhelming odds against achieving useful

    16. For accounts of these experiments, see William H. Ittelson,
          The Ames Demonstrations in Perception , Princeton,
          Princeton University Press, 1952; Hadley Cantril, ed.,
          The Morning Notes of Adelbert Ames, Jr., New Brunswick,
          Rutgers University Press, 1960; Franklin P. Kilpatrick, ed.,
          Explorations in Transactional Psychology , New York,
          New York University Press, 1961. For an account of the
          role of habits, see John Dewey, Human Nature and
          Conduct , New York, Henry Holt, 1922.