Monday, January 16, 2012

Day 70: What a Feeling!

Why yes, I do use a lot of song lyrics as titles! But this one was just because I had an amazing weekend. As much as I loved being home, it's good to be back!

My first class today could largely be boiled down to "correlation is not causation". We saw how you can prove that bread is one of the greatest problems in the world, though frankly I'm rather disappointed that she didn't make any mention of how the decline of pirates has fuelled climate change.

We also looked at different scientific research methods etc, and while I'd covered all of this in various other spots throughout my education. Something popped out at me and gave me a new way of looking at research. As this wasn't really a lesson, it will be hard to phrase as one, but I'll give her a whirl.

Lesson 66: How something is studied is largely influenced by the nature of the thing itself.

Ok, now some clarity. The majority of scientific progress is done through Positivist research. To immensely simplify some complex ideas, Positivism is the basis of the theory, hypothesis, test, observe, conclude science most people know. Basically, the basic laws and theories that govern the natural world mean that you can predict an outcome and test it, and it will be repeatable no matter who does it.

An alternative to Positivism is the Interpretative Approach. It is mostly used when talking about psychology, sociology and the like. That is to say things that aren't directly and obviously beholden to, or more accurately governed by chemistry, physics and their rules and interactions.

Here's where it gets muddy. Human consciousness is referred to as an emergent property. On their own, no one part of the body contains human consciousness, but taken all together suddenly it's there! It's like with chocolate. No single molecule amongst the hundreds in each bite of chocolate can be said to "taste like chocolate", but with all of them together, there you have it.

So, when you're trying to determine the physical laws and interactions that govern a reaction, you use the Positivist Approach. But when you're trying to study an emergent property like human consciousness and it's resulting cultures and societies, the emergent approach, the Interpretative Approach, only makes sense.

If I ever make any at all...

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