Re: Prediction

Richard Spear (rspear@PRIMENET.COM)
Sun, 10 Sep 1995 08:47:04 -0800

On 10 Sep 95 at 3:58, Michael Thomas Carson wrote:

> Thanks to Nick Corduan for talking about predictive law in science.
> It seems clear to me that anthropology makes good use of the scientific
> thought process (hypothesis-testing). Conclusions are reached, which
> might be considered "laws." Any law (from natural or behavioral science)
> is applicable within spatial and temporal boundaries. Further
> anthropological work (in the form of hypothesis-testing) can help to
> define these boundaries. Another good idea would be to explain why these
> boundaries exist. Ideas, anyone?

Well, Mike -

Seems to me that a "law" that is applicable only in a particular time
and place is hardly a law ... this sounds awfully close to historical
particularism. This thread on predictability, science and
anthropology and another thread here on cultural evolution will have
an interstice soon, I think.

Is prediction a *necessary* component in science, or is science
explanatory? Well, the Scientific Method (western, capitalized)
requires an hypothesis presented in falsifiable terms and the
replication of experiments used to prove the hypothesis ... the
hypothesis can be interpreted as a prediction of the outcome of
experiments testing it, yes? An earlier posting used the freezing of
water as an example of prediction, and the example raises a few
interesting points.

Hypothesis: Water will freeze into ice at a temperature at or below
0 degrees celsius. True, given that the water is pure water, that
the water is at ground level, that .... etc., etc.

Physics has to take into account the variables when it makes
"predictions", and they are aware of and in control of these
variables. Social scientists are *not* aware of or in control of all
the variables effecting their "experiments". This may be why you
attempt to place temporal and spacial boundaries around predictions,
but as the caveats grow, these then become observations of an
incident, and not predictions.