Problems of scientific worth
January 06, 1999
Simon writes : "So what is it that gives a particular problem its cientific worth ?" and later he writes : "Can the scientific worth of a problem be determined by scientific method ?".
First we need to clear terms. We use the term "scientific" as religious people use the term "god". Both have different meanings to different people depending on their educational background or beliefs. Let us accept that by "science" and "scientific" we refer to facts discerned by methods used that are based on systematic experimental approach. Then Simon's first above question may be reworded "what is it that justifies expending effort and means on a systematic experimental study of a particular problem ?", and his above 2nd question becomes "can we answer a question of a human value by a systematic experimental assessment ?"
There will be various answers to the two reworded questions as human beings vary in values and in attitudes and in age ( how urgent/important are issues). My own answer to the first question is what I have said earlier, namely that our major call should be to learn OUR BASICS, our universe and our origin and our nature. My answer to the second question is "no, because a worth is a human value tag and thus is not an existing entity; yet by my own scale of values the worth of a scientific find is directly proportional to how much it contributes to our learning of our universe and to our origin and nature.
It seems to me so simply clear that it may be confusing.
From: Simon, to SCIENCE-AS-CULTURE@MAELSTROM.STJOHNS.EDU
Dov writes:" I feel embarassed and uneasy and offer my sincerest apologies. Actually I thought you brought up an interesting question when you wrote "Now, investigating and studying a subject in an "orderly scientific" manner does not make it a worthy "scientific" target nor gives it a "scientific" value."
This strikes me as so clearly true that I get confused. It suggests that many if not most problems studied — no matter how methodologically pure the procedure, no matter how brilliant the resulting logic, no matter how vitally important to the well being of mankind the answers may be — are not scientific problems. (This position seems bolstered by the fact that most people in the world are not scientists, yet problem solving is the stuff of most productive human activity.) These other studies may have social value, economic value, aesthetic value, political value and maybe religious value, but no scientific value. So what is it that gives a particular problem it's scientific worth? Who makes these calls and what standards do they use do do it? Can the scientific worth of a problem be determined by scientific method?
Lots of questions.