Knowledge without the scientific method

Al G. Funguy
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Knowledge without the scientific method

Human beings have secured some kinds of knowledge without using the scientific method.

Can you think of any examples beyond what I've thought of? Are there any of these that you think aren't true knowledge?

Examples include:

1. Mathematical knowledge

Mathematicians may employ a kind of scientific method - e.g. manually computing the elements of a sequence to see whether a given conjecture is experimentally true. But usually the mathematician will go back and try to prove the result with deduction. Experimentally, it seems the basics of mathematics - starting with subitizing, i.e. counting small numbers - appears to be inwrought in the infant mind and the minds of some animals.

2. Logic

I don't know anyone who has really disputed the basic logic employed by the human mind. Even non-Boolean logics are basically a mathematical toy, sometimes for quantum theorists, but the meta-logic remains Boolean logic. The faculty of logic also seems to be inwrought in the human mind.

3. Austrian Economics

The Austrian school of Economics has historically varied in status between being orthodox and heterodox. It is a verbally and argumentatively deduced body of knowledge comprising praxeology or the science of human action, based on the axiom "humans act purposively", and catallactics, which involves additional axioms (such as an empirical one, "humans value leisure&quotEye-wink allowing the study of human action in market conditions. The action axiom is taken to be an a priori, apodictic truth, and anyone trying to dispute it is merely providing additional evidence of the axiom's truth. One of the many interesting results of this school is the "economic calculation problem" where von Mises showed in the 1920's that there was no means for a socialist government to rationally organize production of heterogeneous consumption and capital goods in the absence of a market price system enabling the calculation of profits and losses.

4. Biology

It is arguable that propositions like this one are tautological and unfalsifiable: that the fittest genes are aided in their propogation by natural selection.

5. Geology

Geology invokes many a priori rules of thumb such as the law of superposition, the cross-cutting relationships, law of included fragments, principle of original horizontality, principle of lateral continuity, and the principle of faunal succession.

6. Climatology

A lot of stuff here, like anthropogenic global warming, is pretty much unfalsifiable, unless you have two copies of Earth to run experiments on and you have a lifespan of hundreds of years. (And personally I think this field is wholly corrupted by Big Government money and statist ideology and I don't believe its results.)


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 I can think of gathering


Setarcos wrote:

 What a thread! What began as a discussion of rationalism verses empiricism turned into theist witch hunt. Being new to this forum, I must ask, is this how discussions are usually conducted?

Yes, pretty much. To be a skeptic in America means to fight a lot of nonsense, both religious and New Agey. (both usually grossly commercialized) By time people's nerve coating wears thin and they get into militant mentality of the war against woo woo. Which they have very good reasons for, this stuff has a great influence on American politics and human rights. And on the whole world - the war in Iraq might not happen if GWB would not be a religious nut that he is. 

The militant skepticism causes some problems, it takes effort to get a serious view on an experimental scientific evidence on what they think is woo. But after that the discussions can be quite pleasant. And there always are other favorite non-supernatural topics, like politics, economy, technology, science and so on. 



 I can think of gathering knowledge through occult and mystical methods, like revelation. They can't be called scientific, because they show things beyond our control and common perception. The usual way to "test" them is to take independent sources and compare their descriptions of metaphysics, cosmology, afterlife settings and so on and make some generalization of it. The problem here is to draw any conclusions useful in our daily life.

A revelation can also take a form of divination or consulting an "oracle". The oracle simply makes claims, predictions and so on. If the oracle is eventually proven to know otherwise unknowable (future) things, then he or she earns people's trust. For practical purposes then this oracle's words can be used as a knowledge. We must of course watch out for Barnum effect, wishful thinking, ambiguous claims and so on.

For the purpose of dealing with such "knowledge" I use three steps of "verification". The first one, the least diffcult is to check the logic or internal consistency of the claims. If they make sense, we can compare them in the second step to some external facts that we know for sure and see that they're not mutually exclusive. That is a little more diffcult, but still easier than actual scientific method. The third step, the most diffcult one is to find some facts that specifically support the claims we seek to verify - or disprove them. 

The knowledge obtained in this way is not objective at all, but it gets you past most of the bullshit you ever encounter and it works even when you can't use the scientific method, if some really, really weird shit is happening to you and there is no scientific explanation. I find this very pragmatic method much more interesting and useful than telling yourself there is a random experience generator in your head that just decided to give you a fake show of hallucinations for no reason.


Btw, what we think of as today's economy is not science, it's a cash cow. Economy itself is a natural law, it's about efficiency and expediency. For example, evolution "punishes" certain kinds of wastefulness and natural phenomena tend to happen at minimal requirements, like minimal temperature and so on.

Beings who deserve worship don't demand it. Beings who demand worship don't deserve it.

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Al G. Funguy wrote:>Again,

Al G. Funguy wrote:

>Again, since you apparently missed it, how are we incapable of testing large numbers?

Well, you are incapable. That's why you ignored my request to compute exp(exp(exp(exp(100)))).

Basic fallacy. Just because I didn't doesn't prove I can't. Try again.

Al G. Funguy wrote:
Did you even the read the article on ultrafinitism that I linked to?

I skimmed through it. Found nothing of use or interest.

Al G. Funguy wrote:
Do you like going into debates and failing to accomplish anything?

You mean like you're doing? lol

Al G. Funguy wrote:
I like debating with participants who contribute to the discussion - not those who strive to decrease the signal-to-noise ratio.

Then you'd best start saying something more than garbage. Eye-wink

Still haven't answered my challenge. Only assertions, no evidence. Sigh.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.