Empirical Inquiry: Limitations and Possibilities

Paul Grobstein
Center for Science in Society
7 December 2007

| overview| no unwobbling pivots | story | intersubjectivity | inquiry and education |

No Unwobbling Pivots?
(loop 1)

Any given understanding is a distinctive material state of the brain

States of the brain are influenceable by

  • genes
  • sensory input (including inputs from other people)
  • randomness
All understandings are empirically rooted, derive from past events (depend on inductive processes)

Strengths and limitations of science (more generally, of empirically/inductively derived understanding)

A traditional perspectiveA loopy story telling perspective
Science as body of facts established by specialized fact-generating people and process

Science as successive approximations to Truth

Science as authority about "natural world"

Science as process of getting it less wrong, potentially usable by and contributed to by everyone

Science as ongoing story telling and story revision: repeated making of observations, interpreting and summarizing observations, making new observations, making new summaries ... individually and collectively

Science as skepticism, a style of inquiry that can be used for anything, one which everybody is equipped to to/can get better at/be further empowered by, and contribute to - a way of making sense of what is but even more of exploring what might yet be

The crack

  • Multiple stories for a given set of observations
    • 3,5,7, .... ?
    • 1+1=2 or 1+1=10?
  • Observations in turn depend on stories
  • Science is as much about creation as about discovery

On to story ...