Nick Corduan (nickc@IQUEST.NET)
Sat, 9 Sep 1995 22:37:07 -0500

Hi, All!

Since I'm the one who first brought up the idea of prediction that got this
whole thread started I thought I should offer up a clarification of what I
meant. That meaning seems to have been los somwhere in the shuffle!

It was in the context of "Is anthroplogy science?" and I put forth the idea
that one of the criteria for scientific law is that it must be able to
predict, and that this is osmething which should be kept in mind when dealing
with our question of debate.

I did *not* say -- and this is where I think I failed in my communication of
the idea -- that *science* must be able to predict to be science . . . I said
(or meant) that *a* scientific *law* must be able to predict to be considered
a scientic law.

The distinction may not be clear so let my illustrate with some natural
science again before I explain how it applies to the issue. (And, no, this
is not a sign of my lusting for anthropology to be like physics . . . <g>)

OK, the science of physics. (I should porbably pick another one, but what the
heck . . . <BG>) Let us assume for a moment that I am a physicist studying
the behaviour of particles -- specifically the way they react to other
particles of various types. Let us further suppose that I put forth a theory
that electrons, when bombarded with photons, change the direction of their
spin. This is physics; I am doing science (poorly, but that's not the topic
<g>). To be considered a law of physics, however, this theory of mine must
be able to be used to predict how elctrons will react when bombarded with
photon particles. If the electrons' spin remains the same when later
bombarded with more photons, then the theory is not a valid law, for it failed
to predict properly.

In other words, the prediction to which I was referring is a test of law, not
a test of genre.

To apply it to the question at hand -- Let us now take not too great leap of
imagination and say that I were an anthropologist studying the peoples of the
Moche valley, from most ancient times up to most modern. In my studies of
their culutre, let us imagine that I discover a trend towards increased
complexity of the architecutral template, matched with a corresponding (let's
say) decrease in the authority wielded by the central, ruling figure. I
then, in this figurative study, theorize that this pattern will follow
throughout, and that authority for the central ruler will continue to decline
while architectural complexity will correpsondingly increase. If, in fifty
years, the Moche valley is ruled by a totalitarian dictator and the
archtiectural template has "devolved," my theory has been denunked, for it
could not predict. Nevertheless, I was doing anthropology; I was "doing
science." The same would apply, if I looked at the studies of my friend Ana
in the Rhine valley, noticed a similar trend, and then tried to apply the
theory to all of humanity. If the theory then fails to accurately predict
the results of a study of architecture mathced with centralized-authority in
all cultures of the Earth, it ahs been disproven as a law. However, I was
still anthropologizing.


Nick Corduan "...there is as much dignity in tilling
at a field as in writing a poem."
( --Booker T. Washington