Results 1 to 17 of 17

Thread: When does a protoscience become a science?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Posts
    5,717

    When does a protoscience become a science?

    I was thinking it was when a foundational theory was developed; like atomic theory for chemistry or evolution for biology, but that would mean geology wasn't a science until the 1950s. Given that psychology doesn't have a foundational theory yet, does that make it a protoscience?
    "Occam" is the name of the alien race that will enslave us all eventually. And they've got razors for hands. I don't know if that's true but it seems like the simplest answer."

    Stephen Colbert.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Australia
    Posts
    7,373
    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    I was thinking it was when a foundational theory was developed; like atomic theory for chemistry or evolution for biology, but that would mean geology wasn't a science until the 1950s. Given that psychology doesn't have a foundational theory yet, does that make it a protoscience?
    I thought the generally accepted definition was that it becomes a science once the majority of people in the field are constructing and testing competing theories (and accepting the results!). Doesn't need to be the 'foundational' one - it is the move from stories and speculation to a systematic use of the scientific method. Geology, for example, has had competing and tested theories from two to three hundred years ago. It doesn't matter that they are not the theories we accept today - they were theories and people were testing them against observations.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Nowhere (middle)
    Posts
    38,931
    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    I was thinking it was when a foundational theory was developed; like atomic theory for chemistry or evolution for biology, but that would mean geology wasn't a science until the 1950s. Given that psychology doesn't have a foundational theory yet, does that make it a protoscience?
    Science is a process of a analysis, not a fixed result. A science is an area of study, so any topic that is being studied through the scientific method, is a science.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Norfolk UK and some of me is in Northern France
    Posts
    9,687
    There is no such thing as a protoscience, nor a foundational theory. There is scientific method, now, not always, it has evolved well after many scientists paved the way. But now we have method, hypothesis, tests. Failure to falsify. Much of psychology struggled until the brain could be studied while alive. Now there are plenty of hypotheses , tests , and accepted theories. Theories are not dogma, they are as good as the last test failed to falsify. If the OP is debating psychology, it is a new science because the mechanisms of the emotions are only recently discovered. And it is complex in its structure. But then all science is new. We never stop testing and making adjustments to our models.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Nowhere (middle)
    Posts
    38,931
    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    There is no such thing as a protoscience,
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protoscience
    In philosophy of science, there are several definitions of protoscience.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Posts
    14,775
    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    There is no such thing as a protoscience, nor a foundational theory.
    The page that NCN quoted showed that there are a variety of definitions of protoscience. When you say ďthere is no such thingĒ do you mean that you donít believe the concept exists or that you donít think itís a valid concept. One of the definitions seems to be what people did to try to explain nature before the scientific method. Perhaps you mean that shouldnít be called protoscience but rather pre-science or something like that?
    As above, so below

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Norfolk UK and some of me is in Northern France
    Posts
    9,687
    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    The page that NCN quoted showed that there are a variety of definitions of protoscience. When you say “there is no such thing” do you mean that you don’t believe the concept exists or that you don’t think it’s a valid concept. One of the definitions seems to be what people did to try to explain nature before the scientific method. Perhaps you mean that shouldn’t be called protoscience but rather pre-science or something like that?
    Yes thank you for picking that up, I perhaps am playing with words like others. Coining protoscience is to invent a pseudomeaning. As soon as evidence was used in place of introspection, we can recognise science. Most sciences got going before any of us were born and they called themselves natural philosophers, if we rename them protoscientists, have we added anything? Karl Popper put a lot of the philosophy together to give a modern definition of the scientific method, which I based my comments upon. I suppose my red light went on with “foundational theories” because that sounds like Laws, which were and are coined like dogma. Early scientists used “Laws” for math models that fitted experiments and made predictions. When the OP used psychology, which is a new science, there is a resonance with preordained Laws, namely duality. The ghost in the machine. We cannot test whether Ohms Law, Boyles Law, Newtons Laws are preordained somehow but we know they need tweaking as models, as we study more detail.

    So I cannot say people cannot coin new words, as you point out. My knee jerk response was because I perceived back tracking on the scientific method , which is under attack. But I do not mean under attack in the OP. It is a fair question.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Norfolk UK and some of me is in Northern France
    Posts
    9,687
    Pondering this more, perhaps the distinction I prefer is between technology and science, rather than the idea of protoscience. If we exclude electronics and nuclear devices, most technology could have progressed without science. Using trial and error we can devise machines, weapons and construction as technologies with no atomic theory, and very simple maths. But some people are not satisfied with things that just work, they want to know how and that is the germ of science. Science moves on just as technology moves on. Flint hand axes were the tool and weapon for hundreds of centuries before the technology advanced enough to add handles. Metallurgy made huge strides before any understanding of atoms and even flight can be imagined from trial and error without science. Today we take the interplay for granted. But our ancestors ran empires without any science at all. But personally I do not want to rename technology as protoscience any more than calling the first observational studies, protoscience. OK it’s a point of view!
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Posts
    5,717
    Alchemy is usually held up as the archetypal protoscience, and you could argue that the earliest astrology was too, at least the astrology contained in the Babylonian astronomical diaries. I don't think protoscience has anything to do with technology; it is, as you said, about gathering evidence, even if the interpretation of that evidence was not as rigourous as it would have been under the scientific method.
    "Occam" is the name of the alien race that will enslave us all eventually. And they've got razors for hands. I don't know if that's true but it seems like the simplest answer."

    Stephen Colbert.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Norfolk UK and some of me is in Northern France
    Posts
    9,687
    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    Alchemy is usually held up as the archetypal protoscience, and you could argue that the earliest astrology was too, at least the astrology contained in the Babylonian astronomical diaries. I don't think protoscience has anything to do with technology; it is, as you said, about gathering evidence, even if the interpretation of that evidence was not as rigourous as it would have been under the scientific method.
    I have to agree, but technology is utilitarian as was alchemy and astrology, whether successful or not, it was done to make practical predictions or advantage. Darwin was a scientist, and of course there were mathematicians who had little technological ambitions. But I would not call Darwin a protoscientist, nor Euclid. I am not trying to make science a pursuit without practical application, but we often defend science for its own sake and often fail to see the practical outcomes during the research. Today the dividing line has blurred, we have directed science, like vaccine research , as well as blue sky stuff. I do not see why we need to further blur what science is by calling some of it protoscience, just because it was pre Popper. I guess it is the motivation that makes empirical work divide. And we cannot escape the enlightenment idea that challenged creation. Darwin works for that analysis too. He found himself forced to abandon beliefs when presented by evidence. Galileo faced exactly that dilemma, we cannot call him a protoscientist, surely.? Technologists were not challenged in the same way. At least i cannot think of similar examples where technology messed with myths.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Nowhere (middle)
    Posts
    38,931
    Why could we not call Galileo a protoscientist?
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Posts
    14,775
    To me, to be honest, the discussion about "foundational science" is much more interesting than the definition of what "protoscience" is. I may have a slightly non-traditional view, but I think that the scientific method was just something that was formalized, not created, and that there were people before the formalization who actually did science, and people afterwards who have very non-scientific views. In fact, there are scientists in Japan, for example, who are very formal in their own studies but who make judgements about the personalities of other people based on their blood type... Similarly, if for example Galileo really dropped rocks off the leaning tower (it's not clear he really did), that would make him a scientists I guess.

    About foundational theory, I think that it's true that you would have no nuclear physics before it was known there was a nucleus, but for example with geology, I think you could do science as long as we knew there were minerals. Similarly, you could do chemistry as long as we knew there were chemical reactions, even if we didn't know they were created by electrons. So for psychology, I think you can do science even if there is no "foundational theory" (to be honest, I'm not exactly sure what that means). In the case of genomics, for example, there was the "central dogma" of DNA-RNA-protein, but nowadays it is understood it is much more complicated than that.
    As above, so below

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Norfolk UK and some of me is in Northern France
    Posts
    9,687
    It is the term foundation theory that is non scientific. You might claim a foundation hypothesis, even a vague one, like realising from geology that sand is worn down mountains, and that implies huge timescales. Then you set out to test predictions from that. Evolution was a foundational idea or hypothesis and Popper even said it remained an hypothesis because we cannot rerun the experiment. ( I think DNA mutation hypothesis has changed that to a testable theory) Dogma is the enemy of science. And foundational theory sounds like Dogma massaged to sound scientific.. I just don’ t see the need for the concept of protoscience. In psychology the infant is thought to be doing science, using Bayesian feedback to improve prediction until control of the body is good enough to walk, to talk, to form theory of mind and so on. That is the closest to protoscience because the infant is largely unaware of the cascade of neuron synapse connections going on in its body. But is that a helpful word?
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Norfolk UK and some of me is in Northern France
    Posts
    9,687
    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Why could we not call Galileo a protoscientist?
    Because he was a scientist. He made observations and formed hypotheses and made models to fit his observations.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Posts
    14,775
    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    Because he was a scientist. He made observations and formed hypotheses and made models to fit his observations.
    I agree there. I think that Galileo was probably a real scientist.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    As above, so below

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Posts
    14,775
    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    It is the term foundation theory that is non scientific.
    Sorry, Iím not not sure who you are responding to, as you didnít quote, but I agree that the term foundation theory is non-scientific. Iíd like to see a definition of what it means.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    As above, so below

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Norfolk UK and some of me is in Northern France
    Posts
    9,687
    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    Sorry, I’m not not sure who you are responding to, as you didn’t quote, but I agree that the term foundation theory is non-scientific. I’d like to see a definition of what it means.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    My guess is foundation theory is bad alternative to hypothesis which is a well used word. I mean within science we know what that is, it is also used casually as a synonym for theory, but we have to live with that. For me the early scientists took a wrong track in naming their maths models as Laws, no doubt they thought they were discovering laws of nature, from God, but that was, if you like, a founding belief. But like theory, Law has a specific use in science, another in the courts. It can lead to forgetting about the not yet falsified part.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •