Quote(s) of the Day

If you haven't been reading some of the posts about the Intelligent Design movement that Steve Verdon's been doing over at Deinonychus Antirrhopus, you really should. Compelling stuff; to say that I tend to side with Steve in the argument is putting it lightly. You can start here; this is a really good recent post as well. A good portion of the debate is around determing what is, and what is not, science. Personally, I see a lot of this as akin to definitions of "art." To a certain extent, we may consider anything "art." Just wander into any local Museum of Contemporary/Modern Art to see things that, absent the museum surroundings, would likely be ignored as a messy room, a garbage spill, or in some cases, the product of a problematic sewage system.

Sure, call it all art if you feel so inclined. The issue, then, is whether or not it is good art. This is largely subjective, so I'll stay out of that. But in terms of Intelligent Design, if one feels the absolute necessity to call it science, fine, but it should then be judged as good or bad science. In that vein, these bits from Thomas Kuhn's "The Function of Measurement in Modern Physical Science", taken from R.H. Coase's essay "How Should Economists Choose?" (Essays on Economics and Economists):

The road from scientific law to scientific measurement can rarely be traveled in the reverse direction. To discover quantitative regularity one must normally knw what regularity one is seeking and one's instruments must be designed accordingly; even then nature may not yield consistent or generalizable results without struggle.


Anomalous observations...cannot tempt [a scientist] to abandon his theory until another one is suggested to replace it. ...In scientific practice the real confirmation questions always involve the comparison of two theories with each other and with the world, not the comparison of a single theory with the world. In these three way comparisons, measurement has a particular advantage."

(Emphasis in original.) Of course, the text from which I crib this is excellent in itself, as, unlike some, Coase exhibits exceptional communication as well as analytical skills. To wit:

Instead of confining ourselves to a discussion of the question of how economists ought to choose between theories, developing criteria, and relying on exhortation or perhaps regulation to induce them to use these criteria in making their choices, we should investigate the effect of alternative institutional arrangements for academic studies on the theories that are put into circulation and on the choices that are made. From these investigations we may hope to discover what arrangements governing the competition between theories are most likely to lead economists to make better choices. Paradoxically, the approach to the methodological problems in economics that is likely to be the most useful is to transform it into an economic problem.


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This page contains a single entry by published on January 19, 2005 2:51 PM.

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