[b-hebrew] Scientific Methodology (was Re: Dan (was: Where Was Jacob's Ladder)& Scientific Methodology)

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Sun Nov 11 05:04:22 EST 2007


On Nov 11, 2007 11:25 AM,  Edward Belaga wrote:
> Dear Karl and Yitzhak,
>
> without entering in the Biblic particularities of your dialogue, I
> would suggest a more careful use of the autority of "modern science".

Hello Edward,

Since you are a "hard" scientist, I have no doubt you can contribute to this
discussion.  Karl frequently claims that certain linguistic and other theories,
such as evolution, cannot be scientific because they cannot be observed,
and if they can be, they cannot be repeated.  Here are some recent and
not so recent examples:

http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/b-hebrew/2005-September/026176.html
http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/b-hebrew/2007-October/033976.html

We can take an extreme position and argue that in astronomy, we
cannot fully replicate an experiment.  We can view the stars -- but if
we try to replicate it, we are viewing the stars at some point later in
time -- when the stars, galaxies, and clusters have slightly moved,
and conditions have slightly changed.  We can never replicate the
experiment.  We can further argue that observations from particle
physics, that we are not really observing the particles.  We are
measuring some very limited side effects, and our interpretation of
these side effects is guided first and foremost by our theories.  Does
this mean that particle physics is not a science?  History and
historical linguistics leave us with a relatively fossilized record of
a given number of data.  New data is relatively a rare discovery --
finding an unknown archive in a new language, or containing some
previously unknown historical account.  Our theories work by
trying to make sense of the data.  The observation is within those
relatively few data that we have at hand, and of course, it is hard
to discuss repetition in this context.  For example, if Lemaire
inspects the squeeze from the now lost fragments of the Mesha
inscription and says that a previous reading ryt should be hyt,
did he "repeat" any observation or experiment?  Karl's
conclusion is that history and historical linguistics cannot be
sciences.  This is nonsense -- it is based in a misunderstanding
of what it means to "observe" and also, in using a definition geared
towards a particular natural science (biology).

As an article I recently referenced on list concluded, the best falsification
of a theory in any science is always a better theory.

Here is where I made the reference.  It discusses linguistics but I think
it is applicable to any history or reconstruction, and it even brings in
Einstein as an example:
http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/b-hebrew/2007-November/034370.html

Yitzhak Sapir



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