August 20, 2017

The selection of relevant data

The notion that the “mind”—by which I presume is meant the “cybernism”—is at birth a “tabula rasa”, is inconsistent with the nature of its role as an integral part of a control mechanism.

A rudimentary model of the system, reflecting the experience of the species as a whole, must be inherited by each generation. This model will be postulated by the sub-system at birth as a representation of its system, and data will be detected and cybernised (organised within the cybernism) to the extent that it might serve towards confirming or invalidating it.

The cybernisation of data, and the mediation of an appropriate response, will then serve to modify the model so that it will furnish an ever more accurate representation of the system.

The detection of data and its organisation into information is consequently best regarded as a series of processes designed to bring about successive reductions in the errors or deviations from the optimum course, or “creode”1 that will enable the sub-system to maintain a stable relationship with its environment, i.e. with the larger system of which it is part, by bringing about a compensatory series of improvements to the representational ability of the model on which such actions are based.

There is no reason to suppose that the collation of scientific data should occur in any other way. It may be objected that this is contrary to the very principle of experimentation that is considered to be at the basis of modern scientific method. This is not so. The role of experimentation is precisely to determine as objectively as possible the validity of a previously established hypothesis. What it is contrary to, however, is blind random experimentation which, outside financially over-endowed laboratories, has no counterpart in the “natural” world. If this is true then scientific theories, rather than being reached “inductively”, in accordance with empiricist theory, must be regarded as postulated.

In this way, Le Verrier postulated, by purely mathematical means, the then unknown planet Neptune as an explanation of certain otherwise inexplicable disturbances of the other planets. Later, “. . . when the German astronomer Gelle directed his telescope to the spot in the night sky that had been figured out by Le Verrier, he saw there a tiny speck that changed its position slightly from night to night and the planet Neptune was discovered (1846)”.2

Dirac postulated the positron as the most elegant way of explaining certain atomic phenomena inexplicable in terms of existing variables.

Epicurus and his disciple Lucretius postulated the atom, and Bohr postulated the modern version of this ancient hypothesis. Watson and Crick proceeded in the same manner when developing the genetic code, as is revealed in the latter’s book, The Double Helix.3 These discoveries are well-known. There is a tendency, however, to regard them as scientific curiosities—and as exceptions to the general rule that science develops inductively by the meticulous examination of impartially accumulated data, in accordance with the empiricist thesis. On the contrary, it can be shown that they are merely striking examples of what is the only possible method of science.

If this were not the case, what would be the point of acquiring knowledge? In what way should a specialist be more capable of solving a problem pertaining to his specialty than the layman?

There is no reason to suppose that scientific explanations can take any other form; and this must be true for all the disciplines into which science is at present divided.

Thus, in the field of psycho-analysis, the existence of the unconscious, the theory of the Oedipus complex, the concept of repression were simply postulates to explain certain aspects of pathological mental behaviour observed by Freud during his clinical practice, and the data that he collated served but to confirm their applicability, while that subsequently gathered by his antagonists served, on the contrary to invalidate them.

In the field of psychiatry, neuroses were postulated by Pavlov to explain the strange behaviour of the dogs that he frustrated experimentally. Schizophrenia, psychoses, manic depression, are all hypotheses postulated to explain related types of mental disorder. And so we can go on ad infinitum, and include in our list all the basic laws of science at all levels of complexity: the famous first and second laws of thermodynamics, Newton’s gravity, Darwin’s natural selection, Einstein’s relativity, are all hypotheses postulated in like manner.

Each offers that explanation that appears to fit in best with available information, all of which was collated directively for its relevance to the hypothesis in question, or to its predecessor or rivals—but only accidentally at random, i.e. in accordance with empiricist method.

References

1. Waddington, C. H. Strategy of the Genes George Allen & Unwin.

2. Reichenback, Hans. The Rise of Scientific Philosophy p. 102.

3. Watson and Crick, The Double Helix.

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