Wheatley Dialogue LO10250

Richard Karash (rkarash@karash.com)
Sun, 29 Sep 1996 19:43:02 -0400 (EDT)

Replying to LO10243 --

I've appreciated Jack's reply as well as all the others on this thread;
most everything said so far makes sense, and I'd like to acknowledge it
before zooming in on one point that's of special interest to me.

I was trained as a scientist (physics) and believe in it. Science and
engineering, in my eyes, have created a tremendous amount of progress.
And, not incidently, education in these disciplines has been the vehicle
for a much better life for my family who were immigrants and farmers only
two generations ago.

In my work I find a tremendous amount of confusion about what is science,
and in particular, about what is good science.

When Jack writes...

> When I ask "is it true that 'we' break things down into parts?" I find
> myself asking the question in the language of science. Underlying my
> question is,
> ---"Where's the data?"
> ---"What do we mean when we say this?" and
> ---"Show me your proof!"

I want to add some questions that would be part of science well applied.
Some additional questions that appear to me are...

---"Does that hypothesis make sense"; that is, as we turn this theory or
model over in our minds, does it have integrity?
---"What data would we examine, or what experiment would we need to do,
in order to discriminate between this theory and other alternatives?"
This is a considerable modification of Jack's data/proof questions.
---"If this hypothesis were true, what consequences would be

On a slightly different line, I think we *do* break things into parts to
think about them, and we do so because it works. At least, it works often
enough that we have learned this as a general intellectual strategy.

I have done a little engineering, and a lot of model building and
statistical data analysis in my career. For many problems, it is extremely
helpful to break them into parts. But, *good science* would be especially
attentive to whether this is a satisfactory approximation, whether this is
a good model, given the system being examined and the objective of the

I believe it would be foolish to stop breaking things into parts, not
ever do it. We would lose too much progress.

But, we must learn to see wholes and interconnections and become more wise
about *when* to break into parts, when this is a satisfactory assumption.
And, we must *always* be on the look-out for systemic considerations,
always on the look-out for what we can only see if we look at the whole.
We need to improve our skills, increase our ability to perceive these.
Especially because of our cultural orientation not to.


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