Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Methodology and the Sciences

The very fact that something occurs means that it must be natural. It exists, therefore it is natural. Thus, there is no supernatural. Science deals with the natural reality around us by using man's reason to discover natural laws. The natural laws all exist objectively, it is merely a question of discovering them and correctly understanding them. On the one hand, we have the subjectivity of human value judgements. On the other hand, we have the objectivity of the natural reality around us. While the subjectivity to the individual is an important factor, its existance does not render natural laws inexistant or insignificant, it merely means that the human mind has limits in its ability to percieve and understand the natural laws.

A problem arises when people attempt to sweepingly predict human behavior. The correct position would be that individual human behavior is subjective and not accurately predictable. We may be able to intuit a certain degree of insight into what people may do, but it ultimately is up to that individual's self-determination to decide on how to act. The attempt to predict the behavior of a collective made up of diverse (and therefore unequal) individuals is a fallacy and inevitably will not produce accurate results. A strictly empirical view in the sciences cannot accurately understand or predict the individual's moral self-determination. A poll or a graph cannot read the mind of the individual.

Yet on the other side of the coin, there still are objective laws of human action that exist, it is just that empirical data cannot accurately measure or predict it. The end result of being overly empirical or utilitarian is that fundamental questions of logic (and perhaps more importantly: ethics) are completely skipped, and thus the "experiment" occurs without any logical or ethical foundation. In short, the methodology of the "natural sciences" cannot be applied wholesale to the "social sciences". The study of human behavior cannot rely on charts and number punching. The individual's thoughts, decisions and actions cannot be accurately "decoded" via empirical methodology because of the mere unique existance of the individual. It must be noted, however, that this is an objective natural law of human action, and thus both the subjective and objective aspects compliment eachother.

Which leads us to the question of chaos vs. order in science. Einstein, while most certainly a great contributor to the pool of knowledge, was overly mechanistic. He believed that everything could be predicted, thus his fruitless years spent on his "theory of everything". The entire universe, to Einstein was uniform and 100% predictable. He could not accept the idea of probabilities that was deduced from his own works by later scientists. The later scientisits, namely, the quantum physicists, developed a more chaotic outlook on the universe based on probabilities. But could it be that both of these extremes are wrong, or rather, they both have different aspects of truth and falsehood (this type of methodology is called methedological dualism, I believe)?

For example, let us suppose that an experiment shows us that something is a matter of a very wide array of probabilities. Does it logically follow that there is no natural and objective laws that govern the universe? Absolutely not! In fact, both views are complimentary to eachother: It is an objective natural law that your experiment's subject is a matter of probability. As I initially said above, it exists, therefore it is natural. Furthermore, probabilities are not completely chaotic. Rolling a die is a matter of probability, yet there is a limited number of results. Einstein was missing the point when he said "god does not lay dice with the universe". A die has 6 sides, and therefore while it is a matter of probabilities, if you were able to accurately measure and calculate the motion of you throwing the die, you could theoretically predict it.

It would be an error to conclude that something is not true or natural because of the fact that you are a human being with limits on your abilities. Einstein's theory on what you'd experience if you were traveling at the speed of light doesn't become a falsehood because of that fact that, at least according to what we can deduce from the universe, we never will move at the speed of light. This would not make the theory false, it merely demonstrates the limits of human action and/or perception. Thus, it is a grave error to declare that there is no objective truth - some atheists make this mistake by transfering their disbelief in objective "supernatural truth" into an equal disbelief in objective natural truth (it does not require religious faith to believe in an objective truth and natural laws). The strict subjectivist viewpoint is wrong insofar as they deny the existance of a natural truth and natural law. On the other hand, the strict objectivist viewpoint is wrong insofar as they ignore the subjectivity of value judgements.

The grave error of the mainstream of the social sciences is that it disregaurds the moral self-determination of the individual and the existance of natural law. The "conventional wisdom" in these fields is generally quite utilitarian, with little to no concern for questions of right and wrong. But by divorcing themselves from questions of ethics, they sacrifice all principles and all logical deduction from the start (this tactic also functions to falsely shield them from criticism). This is the grave error of utilitarianism. It's sole measuring stick is utility, emperical results. By disregaurding questions of right and wrong, utilitarian methodology functions to provide false "justification" for things that are not justified when analysized under logical deduction and basic ethical principles. For example, reductio ad absurdum, something as ridiculous as theft could be "justified" using utilitarian methodology, by simply pointing out that theft was the easiest way to maximize utility and/or leads to the most maximum result in utility. This kind of methodology is the plague of our modern times in the popular mind, as it affects everything from politics to individual human behavior.

In conclusion, the modern problems of the social sciences, government and social relations can be traced to some combination of the following: (1) The denial of natural order (2) the denial of subjectivity in human thought and action (3) the exclusion of ethical and logical questions and (4) the denial of the moral self-determination of the individual.

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