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Science 2: Is a Broader Conception of Science still Science? Stuart A. Umpleby The George Washington University Washington, DC.

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Presentation on theme: "Science 2: Is a Broader Conception of Science still Science? Stuart A. Umpleby The George Washington University Washington, DC."— Presentation transcript:

1 Science 2: Is a Broader Conception of Science still Science? Stuart A. Umpleby The George Washington University Washington, DC

2 Three conceptions of science 2 1.Ben Shneidermans notion of Science 2.0 – sharing open source data via the internet 2.Gibbons, et al. on mode 2 research – discipline-oriented research vs. product oriented research or process improvement research 3.Von Foersters second order cybernetics and Soross reflexivity theory are leading to a reconsideration of our conception of science

3 Are these changes really new? 1.The internet, open source data, and academic globalization are leading to a great expansion in collaboration 2.Multi-disciplinary product development teams are required by advanced technology 3.The sociology of knowledge is not yet considered to be the foundation for the social sciences. Radical constructivism is not widely known in the U.S.

4 World 1 2 3 Observer Description

5 A diagram of science 1 and science 2 World, observer, and description correspond to Poppers worlds 1, 2, and 3 The triangle also describes three phases in the development of cybernetics – engineering cybernetics, biological cybernetics, and social cybernetics The left side – world and description – is science 1 The whole triangle is science 2

6 Engineering cybernetics The classical scientific method Create and test descriptions of the external world A photograph metaphor – theories should be accurate descriptions

7 Elements of the classical philosophy of science Experiments are used to test theories Theories give meaning to observations Quantitative predictions are preferred to merely qualitative predictions Observations should be independent of the characteristics of the observer Results should be reproducible by other experimenters

8 What is wrong with this view of science? Maturana pointed out that every statement made is made by an observer Science is a social activity. Thomas Kuhns view of how scientists work. Examples of physics and economics Social systems are composed of thinking participants.

9 Biological cybernetics Another name for second order cybernetics The intention is to explain how the brain creates descriptions of the world

10 World 1 2 3 Observer Description

11 How the nervous system works Image on your retina The blind spot Move your eyes relative to your head Playing football: did the stadium move? Listening to a speech Conversations at a party Two kittens Injured war veterans

12 Images on the retina are inverted

13 The blind spot experiment

14 Two Kittens

15 Injured war veteran

16 Realism vs. constructivism Realists assume that the world is primary and ideas are secondary. Ideas are imperfect representations of the real world. This is an old philosophical debate. Constructivists point out that anything we know about the world we know through our senses. We have immediate access to ideas, but not to the world. Neurophysiology supported the constructivists

17 Lessons learned from neurophysiology The brain does a lot of work for us that we are not aware of Although we think we accurately perceive the external world, the reality we perceive is our own invention, based on our experiences and our interpretations of them Remember that animals perceive quite different worlds

18 World 1 2 3 Observer Description

19 Social cybernetics The sociology of knowledge – our views of society are influenced by our position in society Theories of society, when they are accepted and acted upon, change society Reflexivity – human beings both observe and participate in social systems. The metaphor of driving a car


21 Two conceptions of how to structure knowledge Most philosophers of science Cause and effect If, then Analysis Reductionism Theory E.A. Singer, Jr., Churchman, Ackoff Producer - product Necessary conditions Synthesis Expansionism Method

22 Science one vs. science two Observation Description Test knowledge Extrapolate/ forecast Reproduce experiments Accuracy/ precision Participation Prescription Solve problems Create/ design Achieve agreement or acceptance Usefulness

23 The case of economics A thermodynamic model of the economy People in an economy are assumed to be rational profit maximizers with complete information which is available to all A series of Nobel Prizes have been awarded to people who have successfully challenged one of these assumptions Economics is now defined by its method

24 How to deal with the philosophy of science Avoid it, work around it, ignore it Enlarge it Heinz von Foerster suggested including the observer in the domain of observations If we add a new dimension, all the results in science 1 also support science 2

25 New philosophy of science An Application of the Correspondence Principle Old philosophy of science Amount of attention paid to the observer


27 Do human activities change systems? Human beings change social systems by changing laws and theories As technology improves, human beings are even changing the natural environment – soil, fish, climate We are learning to think about ourselves as participants in the systems we study But to do that we need to change our conception of science

28 Ideas Variables Groups Events A reflexive theory operates at two levels

29 Self-reference leads to inconsistency Lou Kauffman has shown that inconsistency is not the problem. Rather there is a need to pay attention to process and multiple possibilities Once participants are admitted as part of the process being modeled and their decision making and design abilities are taken into account, then the multiple possibilities to which they give rise must be taken into account and not seen as contradictory Contradiction arises in the demand for simultaneous but opposing possibilities. When simultaneity is opened up into process, then contradictions open up into multiple possibilities

30 Objections to paying attention to the observer Including the observer requires self-reference, a form of inconsistency. Lou Kauffman has shown how to reinterpret this difficulty Science would lose the claim of objectivity, the claim to objective authority The new activity should be called art or philosophy, not science

31 Our ideas as constraints Science 1 was our invention. It is constraining us We can choose to live within the constraints, or we can choose to reinterpret the constraints and design a new conception of science

32 Is a broader conception of science still science? We need to surrender our claims of objectivity and our feelings of deductive certainty But we can define multidisciplinary methods We will still have peer review to identify high quality work

33 Contact Information Prof. Stuart Umpleby Department of Management School of Business George Washington University Washington, DC 20052 USA

34 Presented at the World Multi-conference on Cybernetics, Systemics, and Informatics Orlando, Florida June 29 – July 3, 2010


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