Friday, August 31, 2007

The primacy of observation over theory

If I had to summarize what AMNAP is about, it is that observations are more important than theories. The great failing of all dogmatisms, is that they develop theories about the nature of the world, what is possible, and what is not, and then filter through the facts in order to fit them to whatever theory is currently popular.

Stephen Braude writes quite eloquently about that here:

As far as parapsychology is concerned, some would say, “I can’t accept that a table levitated (or that someone received information directly from a remote location, or influenced a random number generator by thought alone). It simply makes no sense (or is overwhelmingly improbable) in terms of our scientific knowledge. . .

Besides (and even more to the point), it’s completely obvious that we can know that something is the case without knowing why it’s the case. . .

Many critics, then, seem to have it backwards. Theoretical speculation requires, from the beginning, careful and systematic observation. Without the initial accumulation and systematization of observed facts, scientists won’t even begin to know what they’re theorizing about. Moreover, as the history of science demonstrates, we often think we know how to explain observed facts until better explanations come along. So obviously, our currently preferred explanations never provided much (if anything) in the way of additional assurance that the phenomena were real. On the contrary, no matter what science eventually takes the phenomena to be, their reality was our starting point, the source of our puzzlement and our urge to find an explanation.

No comments: