On the Taxonomy of Scientific Inquiry

Project Wolf is currently mostly on hold while I gather appropriate resources and information. You can find the rest of my posts on Project Wolf through the Project Wolf category. This post is a summation of some of my recent thoughts on the status of experiment, which I will hope to substantiate and research further.

One of the primary aims of Project Wolf has been to illuminate the shift of science to controlled experiment which happened following the renaissance. New technology enabled a different sort of engagement with the pursuit of knowledge, and a change in the way that we think about knowledge acquisition.

I have been thinking more recently about ways in which technology in modernity has enabled us to open up new vehicles for the acquisition of scientific knowledge, and it struck me that with computing power we do indeed have a new mode of experimentation which is arguably different from traditional experimentation: modelling.

Previously my thoughts had been very focussed on a clear articulation between a exegetical, descriptive and observational scientific mode of inquiry, in contrast to a model of inquiry based on experimentation and the ability to create controlled conditions under which it is possible to replicate events. I am currently working from the point of view that modelling does not quite fall into either category.

I am currently positioning my taxonomy of inquiry as follows:

Observational Science: science which stems from the observation and description of events or things, usually captured in a literary manner. Examples might include the works of Darwin, Freud and others.

Experiment: science which takes a theorem and tests it under controlled conditions where outcomes are measured against a neutral baseline, with the aim of clarifying a general law.

Modelling: science which starts with an assumed general law and builds a larger picture on those assumptions, from which predictions of varying accuracy can be made.

If I am to explore, through Project Wolf, the rise of experiment through development of better technology, it would be sensible to consider my next step to explore if something similar is happening with modelling through the increasing capacity of computer technology.

If you have come across work on the philosophical status of scientific modelling, please do leave a comment.


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