Posts Tagged ‘induction’

When you first enter the discussion of the concepts of induction and deduction there is a confusing analogy that has to do with swans, I will try my best to steer away from this since it never really makes it clear at all. Still this is my case to why Ghost Hunters the TV show, something which claims to promote the idea of scientific investigation, never uses the same model as science at all. It thus can be taken that ghost hunters should never be given the weight of objective knowledge which science hopes to produce. You might have never watch the show, in which case you can apply this to many other areas, since the idea is what constitutes science and what does not, you can see how other things that claim to be scientifically valid might not be. Ghost hunters, you might be saying, why did I pick this? Well, you might not know the show still you know the notion of ghosts, you understand more than you think. You know science can’t prove it, you know they are scary, and you most likely know what the movie white noise is about, or any other movie where ghosts appear or move things. With knowing all these things I can use it to highlight how science is different, it is perhaps one of the most stable concepts I could use! Science is seen as providing a useful set of knowledge that is not only helpful it also relates closely with the true reflection of how things are. So for something or someone to claim that something is scientific they are saying that it is true and valuable, these are big claims to make. It also makes real scientific findings less useful since making such claims that don’t turn out to be true chips away at the real objective knowledge that has been created. I won’t be arguing about the evidence since at a certain level it does not really make a difference on this topic.


Science is not just induction, a process of logic, it means much more than that and it includes a series of reasoned thinking and methods. From this reasoned process, facts are produced such as under specific condition an event is likely to happen, under the label of reliability the event must happen again and again within these conditions before it then can be taken to be fact. This is one of the reasons why the method of experiments are published with the results and conclusions, so you can see this reasoned process and make judgements to how reasoned it actually is. Still the problem is how to we get from these facts and make them useful, this process is called induction. From the facts of reliable experiments we can apply them into the useful, valid and well known benefits of science which I am sure you are aware of! Let’s go to ghost hunters and deduction before we carry on. In ghost hunters they try to prove that ghost exist and are real, they used technology in an attempt to capture ‘ghosts’ and then they use this as evidence. The type of evidence they use which I like the most is EVPs, electronic voice phenomenon, whereby they place a voice recorder down either letting it run or asking questions where the answers are recorded, not heard out loud. Once these responses are heard via playing back the voice recorder it is taken that the place they are investigating is haunted or has paranormal events going on. Let’s take the assumption of the leap between voices heard and ghosts/paranormal events as a true and reasonable jump to make. This leads us all to the statement that a positive EVP event n means a result ghost/paranormal n, where n can be any number of experiences. This is an incorrect logical statement to make, since an EVP event does not necessarily ever mean that there are ghosts around answering or talking. EVPs by themselves can never prove anything, they might be the result of interference by radio signals and if EVPs are dismissed on these bases then this is a value judgment based on other things. You can’t get from EVP event n to statement to make a general statement that EVP must denote ghosts.

The debunking thing is also a really big issue on Ghost Hunters, where if people tell the team about events they think are the result of ghost the team see if anything else could have caused them. This was the case when the team recorded a door opening and closing of its own will, they went back to the door to see if a breeze could have caused it or perhaps the level of humidity expanded the wood. In the true fashion of Sherlock Holmes this is deduction, since we can deduct from the door event that if a known set of factors are not present & causing the door to open and close by itself, then we must deduce that ghosts are responsible for this. This does however, have some serious faults even though it can seem like a reasonable step of logic, the main fault is that it makes the assumption that the ghost hunting team know all possible reasons behind non-ghost door opening and closing. Let me make that a little clearer using the example of Bertrand Russell; if a turkey is fed everyday at 9am for weeks on end the turkey might deduce that ‘I get fed everyday at 9am’, that is if turkeys could speak and deduce! This is a wrong deduction since a couple of days before Christmas the turkey was killed and then later eaten. My argument is that both Ghost Hunters and the turkey were/are wrong since they might be missing one piece of information that later proves false the deduction, this weakens the whole argument that is presented by ghost hunters. The problem is not with deduction as a method of logic; it is a problem with the method to which deduction is applied to known bodies of knowledge. The mode of deduction is well known, so now let’s move to the idea of induction, something which is what science uses as its main source of applying known facts to the general.

www.biografiasyvidas.com - Aristoteles father of LogicInduction in science is the reverse of deduction, rather than starting with what we know, what happens is that we learn from a series of events happening within a certain set of conditions and it goes towards the top level of knowledge. Of course, it is not that simple and there are three conditions to which must be applied in order for particular events to achieve status at the top level of knowledge or create a general theory. The first is that the number of events occurring within the condition must be extensive, the second that this event must occur within a slightly different set of conditions (to test the boundaries) and last of all no observation must produce a different event. Let me put this into a context, if I wanted to know what would make people punch me or attack me physically in some manner not really depending on who that person is, I would first have to have some inspiration about the topic. I might go read some books that are roughly relevant to the topic, from this I would get a general idea to how I would go about experimenting and finding the information I need in order to create a general law. Perhaps this information would be something like I must attack first and then just stand in front of that person. What I need to do is then go around doing this and even if it works 100% of the time, this is still not enough. I need other people to do the same thing and many times, once all the results are in & we can see that it works 100% of the time we can create the general law, as long as there any event where my theory is not falsified and is untrue in a set of conditions. If it is, then I must adapt or drop my theory, still if it holds true then we can thank induction for this. Of course, this is not true I just made it up. Still what happens once we get the general laws, we can then do something clever and use deduction in order to make them useful.

You might at this moment think that both Ghost Hunters and science results from the same form of deduction in the end, even if the information is form another way should this really be considered to be so different? The answer is yes, even though science uses deduction in the end to get from the general laws to predicting particular events, the information that has been created is so different it changes the nature of deduction. Scientific induction creates the knowledge in such a way, very unlike the deduction of ghost hunters, that things can be proven to be wrong, this creates accountability within the method of using deduction from scientific induction. I will illustrate this; when the door opened and closed in ghost hunters the type of deduction used meant that once all known things are removed from the situation then the ending result means it is ghost activity. There are no balances or checks involved within this and it can mean that the ending conclusion has no real meaning or truth behind it; this means it is easy to disagree on the grounds of bad logic. Let’s now turn to science and the deductive statement that aspirin can remove a headache, this came from a body of inductive knowledge, it was independently checked and if an event was found to be in violation of the particular body of knowledge that it came from then this will be related back to that knowledge changing it in the process. The body of knowledge that the ghost hunters use is common experience, the things that they know from what has happened to them, each other and the things that they can think of. Ghost Hunters might claim that they are doing their investigations from a scientific approach; still this idea has to be rejected.

In the Ghost Hunting episode ‘child Haunting & Sutcliff House’ one of the main men said that there are degrees of being scientific, this is not the case. Either something follows the rules of science so it should be considered scientific or it does not, there are no degrees about it. There is something else about scientific induction which is also ignored, the idea that predictions must be present in order to validate the conclusions that are made. If these predictions are made and then proven false this should create feedback, if this feedback is denied then it should never be considered as science. The only conclusion I make about the ghost hunters team is they are professional, they are allowed to present themselves as so, although when it comes to scientific this comes with responsibility. This claim is unfounded and they should never make it! Having said that science is not perfect, I am referring to real science now, if you have ever read about falsificationism then you are well aware of these problems. There are also arguments against the idea of induction, since they are more complex I won’t really go into them here, although be aware they are there.

www.akademika.noA little more on this matter…

If you are interested in this area then I suggest a great book called “what is this thing called science?” (ISBN 0-335-20109-1) which covers all the issues I’ve discussed here and a lot more, so if you ever wanted to actually know what science is then this is the book for you.


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Image taken from - www.d.umn.edu One thing that amazes me is that science tends to work quite often; I don’t need to tell you that you already know. The point here is that it tends to work, still there are places where the misunderstanding of science comes in, these are my thoughts on how science sometimes is not based upon real knowledge rather agenda based needs. The aim of the positivists who had its home in part in Vienna, one of the most liberal places in the world at the turn of the last century, was to create an independent body of knowledge that in affect was a real reflection of the world as it exists. In truth as the result of the Vienna circle and those the preceded & came after the circle created three types of worlds, the members are most likely known to you such as Comte, Ayer and Carnap. Ok you have only heard of Comte, that’s ok the names are not that important here. The first world they created was that of Faith and habit, this world was seen as those unimportant things each generation picked up and their children adopted this meant very little because they could not be seen as true and were different from person to person. The second world was that of the metaphysical, in other words religion and its use of explaining the events that where happening. Since this again can’t be observed and tends to differ, this world was also dismissed. The third world was created by the rational and logical person, with the assumption of the scientific method; there are many assumptions in this method. The idea was not that these three worlds could survive side-by-side rather, the second world had replaced the first and the third would replace the second.

 Science as the key to Understanding the world – Science can get it very wrong – In the 19th Century there was a strong organic model that was adopted from the field of biology and was used on one group of people, the poor. This I could describe as the first type of eugenics formed by science, it saw those suffering from poverty not as the result of the society being unfair as it was at the time rather a different and dangerous race of people. At the time of the research there was a great worry about the conditions people were living in and the diseases that were being created by the support of the industrial revolution that were forming tightly packed cities. The poor were seen has having a choice about how they lived when clearly the choice was never given to them, there was no welfare state and if you did not work then you did not eat. Science got this approach wrong and was later dismissed as working and living conditions improved. Still this idea of the race of the poor came about because the scientists involved used their personal experience to understand a social problem and they were not objective.

Science as the progress of society – Newton published in “The Opticks” 1704 the results of how light when it goes through a prism Image from www.wikimedia.orgseparates into the colour spectrum, removing the idea that white light itself cannot be broken down and is only made up of one element. Why did this even matter to Newton? He could have not understood the benefits that would later be developed from this idea; in part we can thank him for the ability to understand radiation and infrared light which are also based on the same spectrum. Perhaps the drive to understanding the world was his greatest force. Newton did provide something much more useful, the idea of induction. I won’t go into induction that deeply here but it is the idea that first you can close the world off and take out the things you want to test putting them in an artificial environment in the process. In other words putting the objects of study into an experiment to see their nature & relationship and this is where science can also go wrong. Taking the objects of study outside of the real world so we can test them, means something more – it means that we are unable to test them in the world, so effectively science never deals with the reflection of the world. Just a controlled version of it! Most science is pushed into explanations of real world things, it is important to remember that science is simply a theoretical model and theories sometimes go wrong.

So why does Science appear to be a contradiction and wrong at times, it’s first that scientist belong to a society and being part of the society with values & social identities, those can get in the way of a rational and logical person. Although the aim is to remove the first and second worlds, they do exist and what we take from them affects who & what is studied and with what aims. This is still happening and if you don’t believe me maybe you would like to visit the Creationist museum in Kentucky. Even if the creationist museum is right, not that I believe it is, then there are still others to provide the contradiction. The second is the misunderstanding of science, it is in essence a working model of the world which does not mean that it will predict or be able to control events in real life from those working models. This is not to say there should be an abandonment of science, it is very useful. Things have come from science that are valuable and people rely on it every single day, so although it can be powerful that does not mean that science is 100% a true reflection of the world, rather it is closer to the true reflection than any other body of knowledge. Evidence that refutes current belief changes that belief and this is why the model of science keeps on growing. The ability to explain and provide is not enough, the ability to change and stand up against evidence is its greatest strength even if it can only be 95% effective at best.

We come to why science happened and took hold in Europe, this is not a simple question to answer because during the dark ages Europe dismissed science and others in the world had a much greater use of it. There came about a new set of social and historical conditions, this was a move away from the divine and the rejection of God as the one in control of the world. Human knowledge took control and this came about through four sets of general changes. With the development of the nation states across Europe it developed the idea of liberalization and social reform. The idea of making your country better and dealing with social problems was at least on the table and the solutions to the problems could be allowed to grow. There was also a change in attitude; people started to think that reason could hold the key to the ability of changing the world. If there was ever going to be a method of making life better science was seen as the most effective one to meet that aim. The old methods of the divine had its chance and it fail to make the necessary improvements. Religion itself caused the place where science could slowly form; it was because of differing religions that caused so many wars and conflicts that resulted in the social development of an understanding for the tolerance of new concepts and ideas. Once people got fed up with conflict they allowed others to think what they would like to and this opened the door for the scientific method. Last of all there was a change in the model of business; once the industrial revolution happened there was a value change in people and by this I mean how much they were worth to a society. With the development of the capitalist market just because someone was a lord it did not matter, money really did make the world go around. This rejection of the old ways allowed the successful and intelligent a place to do their work, rather than a presubscribed position being allocated.

The power of the new idea of humans and their role to play started the shift away from the traditional towards the new methods. The needs of humans became the force of the aims of science. They were able to work together to produce a new set of knowledge and the more success supplied, the higher the role and importance of science. This is of course is a very short history but it is the general direction that happened. I would like to put the reference links in here but that seems too lengthy a process however, if you are interested in the reference books please let me know and I will give them to you. I would recommend Smith’s Social Science in question, ISBN 0-7619-6041-4 if you are interested in learning more.

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