Re: Reply to Algeo's article in AT
Oct 02, 1995 02:35 AM
Overall I agree with your analysis.
However, perhaps John Algeo was meaning to refer to "the scientific method",
rather than "science", when he was talking about "...ordinary science...is a
game played according to certain strict rules limiting the scientist to what is
repeatedly observable under controlled conditions."
Clearly there are scientific specialties where the above definition is not
appropriate - such as paleontology et. al. (view into the past), and the
naturalist sciences (view into the present). These branches of science seldom
have have the "repeatedly observable under controlled conditions" opportunity!
However, you comment that "The fact is, science is a method for determining if
ideas are false. The main tool it uses in this determination is the experiment:
if an idea can stand up repeatedly to experimental test, then the idea probably
is not false."
In the strictest sense, it appears to me that you are actually repeating John
Algeo's point! That is, the concept of running repeated experiments (your
point) appears pretty similar to "limiting the scientist to what is repeatedly
observable under controlled condition" (John Algeo's point).
Also, you state that "As I said above, there is no fixed, immutable definition
of science. Science changes as the culture itself changes. What is common to
science is the attempt to test ideas against experience. In this regard, the
essence of science can be applied to issues of
our spirituality. "
However, I believe that this definition of science is loose. This is because it
raises the question - whose experience? This is why science in general has
avoided spiritual issues - because it is not possible to have controlled
So, in conclusion - I think the following:
1st - there is a whole area of science that insists on the more restrictive
experimental, repeatable, controlled conditions concept. I would call this the
hard science area.
2nd - there is a whole area of science where experiments and controlled
conditions are not possible - see examples above. This is the soft science
area. But if they could do experiments and control the conditions, they would!
3rd - there exists "sciences" such as psychology. However, because
psychologist have tended to not insist on controlled conditions, and have
permitted all kinds of theories without trying to strongly test them, many
scientists insist that psychology is not actually a science. I would tend to
agree with them. Unfortunately, most work with spiritual activities falls in
Therefore - I think that both you, Don, and John Algeo are right - but you are
arguing different areas of what science is. John appears to be talking only
about "hard science" - and you are talking about "soft science". But for
spiritual studies, there are requirements of repeatibility. If you can't
describe how to do certain things, and get repeatable results, under specified
conditions - then it ain't science, it's art.
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