Science

Science

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0131-4.ch002
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Abstract

The purpose of this chapter is to provide insights into the nature of scientific research with the emphasis on the design perspective. Early science had started out of the practical needs of human cultures. From the modern perspective the artifactual nature of early scientific constructs is particularly manifest. The design viewpoint can be applied to the major classes of sciences both in form of reverse and forward engineering. Scientific method has been crafted by the philosophers of science throughout the millennia. There are analogies between the major aspects of the scientific method and artifact design process. Inventiveness and creativity play an essential role in the development of human knowledge. Some major scientific breakthroughs have been made thanks to the invention of thought experiments. Some philosophers of science view theories as tools—the artifacts that do not necessarily relate to real entities. Critical treatment of competing theories supports this view.
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Scientific Predisposition

“All men by nature desire to know”—this quote by Aristotle aptly underlines humans’ natural predisposition towards finding out the workings of the world around them. The curiosity towards understanding the hidden mechanisms of nature might have been a powerful trait that helped the individuals endowed with such capacities to better survive in a hostile environment. This quality, some believe, has been favored by natural selection and humans utilized it to build internal representation of their environments and conduct thought experiments (Roger, 2007).

In Darwin’s Dangerous Idea Daniel Dennet introduces the “Tower of Generate-and-Test,” where he places different types of living organisms on different levels with respect to their perceive-and-act cycles (Dennett, 1995). The Darwinian creatures are those with pre-wired stimuli-response pairs who have no capacity for changing their behaviors flexibly. The Skinnerian creatures can learn from the action choices their made in a reinforcement fashion. They obtain feedback from the environment and in the future rely on actions that led to pleasurable experiences in the past. The Popperian creatures have a capability to model relevant aspects of reality with the purpose of making their choices before committing to an action.

Humans are Popperian creatures. We have the capacity to perceive the environment, and also, as a result of such perception to build knowledge about its workings. Immanuel Kant proposed that in order for any meaningful perception to appear, certain structures must exist a priori in human mind (Kant, 1999). These “pure” categories, he suggested, are necessary for humans to perceive objects in the world and promote cognition. He listed twelve categories along four major topics: quantity, quality, relation, and modality. Examples of categories include unity, causality, necessity, possibility, reality, and others. Thus, according to Kant human beings have a set of pre-given mental qualities by means of which they can perceive objects and phenomena and make connections between them. In other words, these categories enable human knowledge. Many of these notions (most notably, causality) are also often described as the attributes of Science.

Human cognition is enabled by the psychological apparatus at our disposal. Our brains are capable of performing a variety of precious tasks, such as perception, action, memory, learning, concept formation, and others (Coren, Ward, & Enns, 1999). Concept learning, for example, enables humans to form concepts that relate to classes of objects sharing certain similarities (Bruner, Goodnow, & Austin, 1967). Using concepts humans can classify a variety of objects and events into a set of formed categories and respond to them adequately.

Thus, apparently there are philosophical, psychological, and genetic roots for the general human predisposition towards knowledge: the object of science. Perhaps, the so-called Personal Construct Theory (PCT) proposed by Kelly most strongly underlies the claim that humans are, in a certain aspect, naturally-born scientists (Kelly, 1955). Kelly saw humans as personal scientists who form their own “constructs” in order to model the aspects of the world around them. This quality is utilized by humans so that they could anticipate events. In other words, according to Kelly, people build their own internal private theories, form private hypotheses and make observations that either fit or don’t fit their “theoretical” models.

Kelly had formulated his theory in terms of postulates and corollaries. The Fundamental Postulate states: a person's processes are psychologically channelized by the ways in which he or she anticipates events. Some example corollaries include:

  • A person anticipates events by construing their replications.

  • Persons differ from each other in their constructions of events.

  • Each person characteristically evolves for his convenience in anticipating events, a construction system embracing ordinal relationships between constructs.

  • A construct is convenient for the anticipation of a finite range of events only.

  • A person's construction system varies and he successively construes the replications of events.

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