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Is it Science without Math?

RuvDraba
Posts: 6,033
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6/6/2016 10:38:56 AM
Posted: 6 months ago
This question comes up at times among scientists, and I hadn't seen it posed explicitly here. It was inspired in part by Axonly's thread on whether the Myers Briggs Type Inventory in particular (and psychology in general) is pseudoscience. [http://www.debate.org...] Thanks to Ax for that thread.

As members know, in science math is used for measuring quantities -- how much of anything -- a subject, object or effect -- is observed in what space, over what time. In turn, these measures can be analysed and used to model and predict cause and effect. A great deal of science is therefore quantitative.

But science can also use qualitative methods -- that is, methods focusing on how things act and change, rather than how much they do. Such qualities can be used in natural sciences (e.g. the colours of a plant, or a description of animal behaviour), or in sociology (e.g. how people feel about a particular idea.) [https://en.wikipedia.org...]

Just as scientists can build models from quantities, they can build models from qualities too -- or some combination of both. Obviously, qualities can add context and insight to quantities, so whether they're useful is not my question.

My question is: Is science without quantities truly science? If there's no math but only qualitative behaviour, what do we gain? What do we lose? And is it still science?

Would you trust a result that reported only qualities, but not quantities? If so, when? If not, why not? And what should one do if measurements are infeasible, or unreliable?

As usual I'll recuse myself from offering opinion unless someone asks me for it. I'm interested in your views!

Over to you!
Axonly
Posts: 1,802
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6/6/2016 11:07:10 AM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 6/6/2016 10:38:56 AM, RuvDraba wrote:
This question comes up at times among scientists, and I hadn't seen it posed explicitly here. It was inspired in part by Axonly's thread on whether the Myers Briggs Type Inventory in particular (and psychology in general) is pseudoscience. [http://www.debate.org...] Thanks to Ax for that thread.

As members know, in science math is used for measuring quantities -- how much of anything -- a subject, object or effect -- is observed in what space, over what time. In turn, these measures can be analysed and used to model and predict cause and effect. A great deal of science is therefore quantitative.

But science can also use qualitative methods -- that is, methods focusing on how things act and change, rather than how much they do. Such qualities can be used in natural sciences (e.g. the colours of a plant, or a description of animal behaviour), or in sociology (e.g. how people feel about a particular idea.) [https://en.wikipedia.org...]

Just as scientists can build models from quantities, they can build models from qualities too -- or some combination of both. Obviously, qualities can add context and insight to quantities, so whether they're useful is not my question.

My question is: Is science without quantities truly science? If there's no math but only qualitative behaviour, what do we gain? What do we lose? And is it still science?

Would you trust a result that reported only qualities, but not quantities? If so, when? If not, why not? And what should one do if measurements are infeasible, or unreliable?

As usual I'll recuse myself from offering opinion unless someone asks me for it. I'm interested in your views!

Over to you!

Butterfly effect!

I'm not to sure what to think for this, but qualitative data is generally defined by quantitative data (Ie, the colour of a plant is controlled by the quantity of pigments and the quantity at which we observe light waves), so because of this, I think that qualitative data is just a simplified way of expressing some quantitative data.

Just for reference, it is late at night where I am, so although what I have written may make sense to me, there's no guarantee I have written this coherently.
Meh!
RuvDraba
Posts: 6,033
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6/6/2016 2:08:32 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 6/6/2016 11:07:10 AM, Axonly wrote:
I think that qualitative data is just a simplified way of expressing some quantitative data.
That's a good way of saying all observation is potentially measurable, Ax -- even if we may not be able to measure it at the time.

That's at least a reasonable conjecture, isn't it?

It's true that whatever quantitative data we have can be broken into qualitative categories. That's what we do with the visible light spectrum for example: we put frequency-ranges into buckets and call them colours. So all quantitative data are potentially representable as qualitative categories.

But is the reverse necessarily so?

Let me ask it another way: is your statement the conclusion of an investigative process, or an axiom of interpretation?

Or here's a third way of asking it: if your conjecture were wrong, how could that be demonstrated?

Finally, I have a sort-of 'so-what' follow up question: if as you conjecture, all qualities are categories of quantity, what should scientists do if they've observed qualities, but yet can't find the underlying quantities? Should they build no models until they have reliable measures, or form models from the qualities alone?

although what I have written may make sense to me, there's no guarantee I have written this coherently.
To me, it made a nice can-opener for my tin of worms, so thanks. :)
Axonly
Posts: 1,802
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6/11/2016 6:18:34 AM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 6/6/2016 10:38:56 AM, RuvDraba wrote:
This question comes up at times among scientists, and I hadn't seen it posed explicitly here. It was inspired in part by Axonly's thread on whether the Myers Briggs Type Inventory in particular (and psychology in general) is pseudoscience. [http://www.debate.org...] Thanks to Ax for that thread.

As members know, in science math is used for measuring quantities -- how much of anything -- a subject, object or effect -- is observed in what space, over what time. In turn, these measures can be analysed and used to model and predict cause and effect. A great deal of science is therefore quantitative.

But science can also use qualitative methods -- that is, methods focusing on how things act and change, rather than how much they do. Such qualities can be used in natural sciences (e.g. the colours of a plant, or a description of animal behaviour), or in sociology (e.g. how people feel about a particular idea.) [https://en.wikipedia.org...]

Just as scientists can build models from quantities, they can build models from qualities too -- or some combination of both. Obviously, qualities can add context and insight to quantities, so whether they're useful is not my question.

My question is: Is science without quantities truly science? If there's no math but only qualitative behaviour, what do we gain? What do we lose? And is it still science?

Would you trust a result that reported only qualities, but not quantities? If so, when? If not, why not? And what should one do if measurements are infeasible, or unreliable?

As usual I'll recuse myself from offering opinion unless someone asks me for it. I'm interested in your views!

Over to you!

Yet another interesting post.
Meh!