A Model of Knowledge and Tools for Theory Creation




Dr Graham R. Little PhD AFNZIM



© 2000 Graham R. Little




Table of contents

Summary of previous papers
Why does or must knowledge have a structure and what does that mean?
Is knowledge continuous?
Does truth exist? Or, is there a Reality and how do we know?
Is there or can there be method to science?
How can we decide between myth and science?
The tools for modelling the structure of knowledge
     Immediate effects, ultimate effects and primary operations
     Definition of a system, variable and fact
     The selection of a system
     The difference between a variable or system and its value
     Definition of a scientific theory
Congruence between knowledge using the tools above and ‘natural’ knowledge
Properties of the knowledge produced using the tools
     The knowledge produced exists in variables that are abstractions from reality.
     The arrow specifies a ‘communication channel’ between the variables
     Ultimate and immediate effect relations can be treated mathematically (Ashby 1960).
     There always exists a mechanism
     The existence of A è B does not imply B è A (Ashby 1960).
     There are likely to be more than one system of immediate effects able to explain the observed ultimate effects.
     Ultimate effects are the summation of all underlying immediate effects.
     Types of explanation
Congruence of the model with actual knowledge
     Summary of the congruence issues between the knowledge arising from the model and existing knowledge
What is meant by the notion of mechanism and how is it related to cause?
     Cause and epistemology
     Cause and consciousness
What is objectivity in science?
What are the ethics of science and why are they important?
     Rule 1: The purpose of the rules.
     Rule 2: Without prejudice.
     Rule 3: Concept creation.
     Rule 4: Multiple inputs to judgment.
     Rule 5: Treat all views with respect.



In the first two papers a theory of knowledge was constructed that is quite distinct from existing epistemology, particularly traditional epistemology that ties knowledge to a state of the observer.

The theory developed here ties knowledge to the necessary and sufficient conditions of the universe external to the observer.

A consequence of the method of construction of knowledge, in particular knowledge describing a dynamic universe is that knowledge itself has a definite structure.

In this paper further detailed consequences of this new theory of knowledge are explored leading to the presentation of a conceptual model of knowledge itself. The congruence between knowledge and the type of knowledge arising from the model is explored. Finally is shown how the model of knowledge can aid in the creation of theory in science.


Summary of previous papers

Events: Knowledge is based on a definition of an event that involves observer independent elements and observer dependent elements.

A differentiated Reality: The observer independent elements are derived from the fundamental and necessary differentiation of the universe. The fundamental postulate is that in the absence of a differentiated perceptual field relative to the perceptual modality of the observer there is and can be no perception.

The observer: The observer dependent elements are first the pre-existing behavioral and emotional responses learned by the individual or pre-existing in the individual a consequence of the genetic evolution of the species. Second, the knowledge and experience of related events resulting in classification of the particular event according to these pre-existing classifications or the use of these classifications in analogy as a means of describing and understanding the event.

Each event is unique. Because of the observer dependent elements, each event is unique in relation to a particular observer. In situations where the changes in Reality (see previous papers for the definition of these terms) are observed by more than one observer, then there was a unique event for each observer. These unique events containing as a common element the observer independent changes in Reality that were the initiating changes giving rise to the events.

Concepts: Events are grouped according to the properties of that event. These properties being aesthetic -form, shape, color and including other physical and chemical description; spatial, as being in some place according to some system of reference; and involving a rate of and degree of change. Thus if some frequently occurring event came to be known and labeled E, with properties E(p), then any new event with some subset of E(p), say E(p’ ), that is properties bearing some likeness to the typical properties of E, would be called E, or strictly an ‘instance of ’ E. Typically, in daily life we do not use ‘instance of ‘, thus if we attended a wedding we simply say ‘we went to a wedding’. Every one knowing it was not the same wedding I went to three months ago. And while also knowing there are certain features necessary for it to be called a wedding, I would still ask ‘and what was it like?’ because I know it can be quite different to anything I might have attended before yet still be a wedding. So it is with all events, and all knowledge of all events. I would not need to ask ‘and what was it like’ if and only if the definition (knowledge) of the event, that is the properties of it E(p) were so tightly defined as to leave no room for variation (which is the case for scientific variables and systems of variables).

Objects are special types of events with a rate of change of zero. Things appear as objects when the rate of change is very slow as compared to the perceptual processes of the observer. Given existing understanding of the universe it is debatable whether the universe contains any true objects. Apparent objects merely have rates of change slow in relation to the normal perspectives of the observer concerned. Thus we might refer to a rock as an object, and expect it to be there on our next boat trip. But would not be confident of it being there in two billion years.

Change: To all observers, without change there are no events. It is change that is the base of the dynamic universe.

Constant conjunctions: Regular sequences of events are constant conjunctions. They describe change relations within Reality. That is, the observer independent element of a constant conjunction is the change in Reality.

Prior experience: The observer dependent elements of a constant conjunction are the experiences of earlier events with the same or similar properties, where the current experience is not taken as a ‘new and immediately existing event’ but is categorized and ‘seen’ according to the experience of previous similar events. It is in this way that species (in particular humans) come to apply what W. Ross Ashby called ‘borrowed knowledge’, that is knowledge pre-existing the event and not derived from that event.

Perception and conceptual level: There is a ‘natural level’ of perception for all species. Imagine a constant conjunction A è B at that natural level of perception, and it is uncovered that A è C, and Cè B are the underlying mechanism of A è B. There are now two systems or two levels of constant conjunction, the one being the mechanism of the other. It is this process that gives rise to the notion of conceptual level.

Abstractions: All knowledge is an abstraction from Reality, involving the grouping of events with like properties and this grouping becoming to be how we ‘see’ subsequent similar events. It is an abstraction in that we may or may not ‘see’ or ‘understand’ all of the properties of some event.

Scientific knowledge arises as a tightening of the natural process whereby all knowledge comes into being. Classifying events according to their properties, but being more systematic and more precise into the nature and description of those properties. This means that if event E has properties e1, e2 and e3, then any subsequent event to be classified E, must have exactly the properties of E, no more no less, unless some variation is known and accepted.

Variables (capital V): A particularly significant class of events in science is those with only one property, these events within this system of knowledge are called Variables. A Variable is the simplest, non-reducible element of science.

Systems: All scientific concepts not Variables are systems of Variables and can in principle be reduced to the underlying components the underlying Variables.

Knowledge as classes of events is not ever observed. What we observe are ‘instances of’ some class of events. That is we only ever observe an actual event, the feeling of ‘knowing and understanding’ any such event is merely the result of familiarity and losing sight of the actual process in which we are embedded. Another way of stating this is that we do not ‘see’ variables or systems of variables, only the value(s) of those variables under specific conditions.

Truth does not arise as an issue within this theory of knowledge; it arises in traditional epistemology because knowledge is defined relative to truth. Knowledge is not so defined in this system where the observer dependent and independent elements of knowledge, and the process whereby knowledge comes to be are all described without reference to the beliefs of the observer.

Truth for each of us as individuals is an act of individual judgment. Individually and collectively the veracity of judgment is taken to be proportional to the breadth of our perspective (that is the number of factors or elements we bring to account) and the effort in pursuit of each factor or element.

Scientific theory: The above theory of knowledge leads to the definition of a scientific theory as a set of variables and systems of variables and the relationship between them whereby the ‘flow of change’ through Reality is described. A scientific theory can be used to predict Reality by inserting the values of some variables or systems of variables into the theory, and then the values of other variables can be calculated. For example, if we know the length of a pendulum we can calculate the period.

Growth of knowledge: Because knowledge is based on the classification of events it follows that the growth of knowledge is simply the noting and classifying of new events.

Understanding: New events noted and classified, alone may be mere anomalies. Because the universe is a whole, and our understanding is atomic (based on non-reducible fundamental variables) then understanding of new events does not occur until those events are related to other known events such that the new events take their place alongside all known events. When this occurs, there is an increase in our understanding of the universe. It follows that it is possible to have knowledge of the universe without understanding, and that we can also have understanding that predicts new events and so can lead to an increase in our knowledge of the universe.

Thought and Reality: The ontology of this theory of knowledge has as its core knowledge and Reality. We can only comprehend reality via our knowledge and understanding. Change is the fundamental of a dynamic universe, our knowledge and understanding describing the flow of change. Within Reality there are mechanisms generating this change, including the initial perturbation initiating some set of changes within some sub set of Reality. Our understanding and knowledge of the initiating perturbation and the mechanism whereby that perturbation travels through the sub set is our causal description of that change in that sub set. Technically, cause is defined as a relation between classes of relations between classes of events. Cause is a part of our knowledge and understanding, a representation of the mechanisms and perturbations of Reality, and must never be confused with those mechanisms and perturbations.

Cause: We can only ever have ‘sufficient cause’, since to seek absolute cause would implicate every event in the universe this being beyond our physical capacities. The extent of our ‘sufficient cause’ being in relation to our efforts in pursuit of causal understanding or ‘truth’.

Description without understanding: Within this theory of knowledge we can have a constant conjunction with no knowledge of and hence no understanding of the mechanisms of those conjoined events. For example, ideas è behavior that is the relationship between thoughts and action can be postulated as a constant conjunction even though we do not know nor understand how this can occur. Such constant conjunctions merely highlight opportunities for research and theory creation.

Reduction: The process of reduction occurs if and only if the variables describing some system are divided into more fundamental variables retaining the quality of description of the initial variables. When this does not occur, then it is not a reduction, rather a shift to a new and different domain of science. For example, discussing attention in psychology, the properties of attention as a variable being psychological, attention can then not be ‘reduced’ to neuro-physiology since the variables of the latter describe the physical operation of the brain and are not themselves directly psychological. This leaves open the question of why and how discrete domains of science come to be, and is the first topic of this paper.

Limits of knowledge and understanding: If we begin the reduction process at some point, what do we have when the variables can be reduced no further? We have previously created the image of a variable or system of variables as a box, abstracted from Reality, the properties of the variable defining the boundaries of the box. The contents of the box are then seen as the values able to be assumed by the variable, the ‘instances of’ the variable in fact observed or understood to be possible. We only ever perceive ‘instances of’. Any domain of science is then able to be reduced to the Variables (the single property elements) the basis of that domain. Where it is not known what the fundamental Variables of a domain might be, or where the domain is unable to be reduced to these elements (the Variable with single properties), when the domain is then reduced as far as it can be, what then do we have? There can only be a system of variables and relationships between them, the internal operations of those systems being unknown and so there can be no way of knowing or identifying the mechanism whereby the constant conjunctions occur at this conceptual level. The imagery is one of ‘boxes’ (the systems of variables) with known and possibly predictable input/output relations across them, but with no understanding of how those input/output relations occur.

Why does or must knowledge have a structure and what does that mean?

The first question is what is meant by structure? I take it to mean two main things. First, that knowledge can be described in terms that are not self-referring. For example, the traditional view of knowledge as justified true belief. What is not confronted here is the question of what precisely is the distinction between belief and knowledge? What if belief is simply an aspect of something more general and knowledge is an aspect of the same thing? And how can these issues be determined upon with out having a general theory of psychology? I do not want to get too far ahead in the development of the ideas but the general theory of psychology that emerges from this philosophy clearly distinguishes between a variable (or system of) and values of that variable. If then some types of values are grouped and classified as such and such, this is not of itself particularly significant. For example, grouping all objects that are one meter long, or all stars of a given brightness. These may be occasionally useful things to do, but are not of any general or theoretical interest.

What if in the structure of a general theory of psychology, a general theory of the person there was only a single variable relating to conscious thought, call that variable Thought (the capital signifying it as a variable). Then all thoughts that is, any particular thought or idea or belief is simply a value of this variable. It follows that grouping some together and calling them say beliefs, or true justified beliefs is of the same conceptual status as grouping together stars of the same brightness or all objects of one meter. These are the types of issues to which I refer when I argue that the problems of a general theory of psychology, general theory of knowledge and cause are all linked and to resolve one demands a full and complete resolution of them all. This is what I have done, and these papers are presenting the ideas in sequence, simply because it is not possible to present them all at once. The development here is sensible and reasonable, but does not reflect how the ideas were in fact produced, this process was iterative, forced to be so by the clutch of conjoined problems with any solution being carried around the circle to ensure it solved all the issues.

The first form of structure of knowledge then arises through the fact that one of the bases of knowledge is a fundamental aspect of the universe essential if knowledge is to come to be. These fundamental aspects of the universe are not dependent on the observer. As a species humans may describe them a certain way, but all species are bounded by these fundamentals, each describing them in their own way, but each description embracing the same three elements of spatial, aesthetic and dynamic differentiation.

A second form of structure arises from conceptual levels where some knowledge is related in specific ways to other knowledge, which is turn is related to yet other knowledge, the system of knowledge forming hierarchies of understanding. If we can build a model that can represent the fundamentals of a differentiated universe, and can also provide a system whereby knowledge at one level is related and integrated with knowledge at other conceptual levels then we will have created a conceptual model of knowledge of the universe, of scientific knowledge. It is a model of scientific knowledge because it is a model of the fundamentals of a differentiated universe, those fundamentals being the essential building blocks of all knowledge.

An interesting but slightly aside question is whether knowledge is created or discovered, which precisely parallels the question in mathematics, the answer is some of both the fundamentals of the universe necessary for knowledge to be are unable to be reduced to anything more fundamental, nor are they able to be reformulated into some other system of concepts. However, all knowledge above this set of fundamental building blocks can be seen in other ways and from other points of view that aggregate and classify the same changes into different events. In this way we can and do create knowledge. Equally, the changes are as they are, and any number of events (classification of the changes) may relate to the same changes in Reality. Uncovering what those changes in fact are is the act of discovery, always intertwined with the ideas we use which are our creations.

Is knowledge continuous?

If the notion of variable is accepted, that is a concept with a single property, and where this property is well defined, then variables are the basis of science. As the fundamental concept of science, a system of variables defines a domain of science that describes a particular aspect of Reality, that is describes particular types of events, those events having the properties as defined by the variables. For example, the domain may be geology describing geological events or physics describing physics events. The events described by geology, having the quality of geology are different events from those described by physics. If we move from the geological events to a description in physics the quality of geological description is lost, also the events described are of a more general nature, that is occur more and at more places in Reality, but they are not geological events. (Recall that factors part independent of the observer and part dependent describes an event.)

Moving outside a domain means that the nature of the description is changed, and the events embraced by the new domain different from those embraced by the original domain. For example, if we shift from geology to physics, then the events embraced by each domain are quite different. Now we can have events described by geology and other events described by physics, and we can ask a number of questions.

All events are explained by the variables that define the domain in which the events best fit, that is we best understand some event in terms of the domain of science that embraces that type of event. So we best understand geological events in terms of geology. This seems tautological, and in part it is, however the definition of an event is not and that is the final source of this argument.

All events have more than one property, they have location in space and time therefore have at least two properties. I have some trouble imagining an event that has no other property other than these; therefore all events have three or more properties. Thus no variable can itself be an event, since by definition a variable has only one property. The system of variables thus describes a set of possible events by defining the properties able to be exhibited by those events. Within any domain of science, all events can be described by some combination of the variables that define the bounds of the domain. The variables are the lowermost conceptual level within a domain, and all events within the domain are understood in terms of these variables. At any particular conceptual level, the causal explanation lies in the relationship between the description at that level and the explanation at the next level. Ultimately all causal explanation is in terms of the description of the event and the relationship that description makes with the fundamental variables of the domain. For example, an avalanche is an event, the causal description being in terms of the relationship of the description of the event with the description in terms of increased temperature, the rain and the reduction in the binding forces within the mass of overhanging snow.

Within a domain of science causal explanation in terms of the fundamental variables defining the domain is ‘sufficient cause’. The question is would going to another domain of science; say physics provide further causal understanding? For example, would full and complete understanding of the binding forces between crystals and the atomic basis of those forces increase the understanding of the avalanche? I argue it would not, what it does do is provide greater detailed understanding of the mechanism whereby the cause occurred. Elucidation of mechanism is not necessarily adding to our causal understanding, nor does it necessarily enable greater ability to alter the cause and so alter the event. I argue that the best and most useful causal understanding of the avalanche is in terms of geology, going beyond this is possible but the geological causal description offers sufficient cause.

The above arguments are at their weakest when applied to events that are all physical. They take on an added dimension when applied to events that include thought. The fact that we are and do act on the ideas in our minds is hard to refute. "Knowing the bridge is washed out, I went the long way home", convoluted explanation of such statements has been attempted on numerous occasions, none very satisfactory. Within this theory of knowledge we can invoke an interactive system of Thoughtè Action without being able to yet describe the mechanism whereby it occurs. The physical basis of the mind and of thought is not denied, we merely do not know how it occurs, but it is hard to deny that it does occur. It then follows that if the domain of psychology contains ideas, and this in part defines the bounds of psychology, and if these ideas are variables, then they are not reducible to the underlying neuro-physiological systems. The status of neuro-physiology is and only is as the mechanism whereby ideas are causal. The implication is that at least part of the causality of psychology is vested in ideas that are not reducible to events in the brain. It is too early to go further into these issues, which are the core topics of the next two papers.

Note: is a variable a black box across which things happen? For example, length, it varies with pressure and temperature, and while measuring a ’fixed’ entity, it is only true at a stated pressure and temperature. The concept length offers no understanding of how this can occur. So measuring length is also to specify temperature and pressure.

Within a domain, there is sufficient cause when everything within the domain is explained in terms of the variables defining the domain. Ultimate cause involves relating every event in the universe to every other, because of the regress implicit in the relationship between systems of events at one conceptual level and those at lower levels.

Does truth exist? Or, is there a Reality and how do we know?

For this discussion truth is taken as complete and final understanding of the universe beyond our senses, that is a full identity between reality and Reality, ignoring for now the question of how we could or would ever know even if such a state were achieved.

It follows that the existence of truth depends on the existence of Reality independent of our perception and senses, and which we try to understand through construction of our reality. If such a Reality exists beyond our reality, then we can with appropriate effort make our reality ever more faithfully reflect the Reality, so that which we construct, our knowledge can increase in verisimilitude.

The problem of establishing the existence of something beyond the senses has a long history. The most interesting aspect of this debate is why has it been so hard to establish something that intuitively feels so natural and so right?

Insight into the difficulty is gained through the rule of relations. This states that for a relationship to exist between two objects then each object must be independently observable. Now what happens when we observe Reality? Do we see reality and Reality? We simply do not. In fact it appears that we only ‘see’ Reality via a reality, that is what we perceive is dependent on what there is and what is in our mind. (I do argue for the existence of mind, and define it as the class of events that are generally mental consisting of ideas and feelings and the intermingling of the two. Thus mind is a domain of science.) If we are unable to perceive separately Reality and reality for ourselves then any argument on the existence of Reality based on our individual perception is bound to be fraught with difficulties arising from the inherent problem defined by the rule of relations. And this is in fact the case.

The alternative is to use a third party that is a third party can perceive my reality and the Reality. Currently this is not technically possible, but imagine a state where there existed a machine that could classify for a person what each neuron did. Then it would be possible to observe them observing something and to monitor their brain image while simultaneously monitoring the object of the image. Then reality and Reality could be observed for that person. This does not prove the existence of a reality and separate Reality for everyone. But provides sensible base to apply our judgment and move forward on the proposition that there is a reality and a Reality and that the problem of truth, at least the problem of an absolute scientific truth is to make our reality match as closely as possible the Reality.

Is there or can there be method to science?

If we are moving forward on the basis there is a Reality, and our problem is to bring our reality to match it, then we have a direction, and we have a start point (assuming that we are not already at our destination). A little abstract, but the notion is clear enough. It would then follow that some actions by us would move us toward the direction and others would not. Those actions that bring our existing understanding closer to the Reality, closer to the absolute truth of it are then the preferred method of science. So to that extent we can say there is method in science, without yet determining exactly what that method might be.

The second issue that must now be added is the problem truth in the sense of the existence of a rule or a process whereby truth is made evident. Within this philosophy there is no such rule and no such process. Truth, in the sense of a rule, is dependent on the breadth of view adopted, the depth of research into that view and the extent that our understanding, or concepts or model (for here I use the terms interchangeably) matches or is consistent with the evidence. But even then, we need be careful, for merely ability to get the right answer does not of itself mean we have a model of the mechanisms of the universe whereby those numbers came to be in Reality. We come to then the defining of the method of science as it arises within this epistemology.

There is an absolute truth and with hard work in research and theory creation and by applying careful and balanced judgment we can progressively bring our individual realities and our collective reality closer and closer to the Reality.

There are now three other important questions in relation to the idea of method in science; these can be put as follows.

Tension in science: Within science is there some method or means whereby we can know what lines of research to follow, what are the most likely issues to work on?

General method: Within science is there necessarily some method that always leads to ‘good science’?

Individual method: For individual scientists are there techniques and processes, in other words method that leads to ‘good science’?

Within science there can and will arise ‘tensions’ in the sense of an uncomfortable fit between aspects of what we know and understand. For example, the following list illustrates some of the types of tension that can and will inevitably occur.

We can see and sense these tensions, and when they are evident, and then we know there is work to do because we have not yet got it fully ‘right’, by that I mean there is yet ‘truth’ to uncover.

Unfortunately, if we were dealing simply and solely with something intellectual, then these tensions might be enough, but science deals also in a social world, and this can and does distort judgment. For example, truth can and is distorted for some or all of the following reasons.

The problems can occur for example, where there is an existing dominant paradigm to which some scientists are committed and where some sections of the community of scientists and those served by that community would be disadvantaged should the paradigm be changed. Then social, political and financial interests could potentially distort ‘truth’ (in the sense of an idea closer to Reality). It is unlikely that such an association of interests could restrict or distort the truth indefinitely. However an extended period involving years to decades is conceivable, for example through influence on the prestigious journals, invites to the prestigious conferences, etc, so certain ideas and influences could be relegated to a minor role, lower than the idea may in fact justify on solely intellectual grounds.

The second question relates to whether or not there is a particularly and general method that is the ‘proper scientific method’, and by which all science should be conducted. From within this theory of knowledge there are two critical aspects to science, the first is the identification and systematization of events. This is the growth of knowledge, and is the fundamental empirical aspect of science. The second critical aspect of science is the integration of events into the greater system of knowledge and understanding. This is not an empirical activity; it is rather a conceptual, desk related creativity activity. In its simplest form it is theory creation, in its more advanced form it is the integration of a theory within a broader theory. For example, ‘simple’ (in the sense of dealing with one issue) theory creation would be a theory of radiation and atomic disintegration, complex theory creation would be the integration of this theory with theories of atomic forces, quantum theory and gravity.

The empirical aspects of science are defined by the rule that events must be observable and need not be inferred. Theory has two aspects, the first is in the ability to get the right answer, that is systems of equations and calculations that accurately predict the properties of events under prescribed conditions. The second aspect of theory is the conceptualization of the mechanisms whereby the events and the properties of those events are manifest. These three aspects, one empirical the other two theoretical are the only ‘rules to the game’ of science as arising within this theory of knowledge. Outside of this, there is no necessary and inherent method to science that a scientist should and must follow.

There is one further comment relating to the social aspects of science and of the conceptual nature of science. As I will show later in this paper, there are most often several ways events at a higher conceptual level may be explained by the underlying events at a lower conceptual level. That is there will always be the potential for competing explanations. Currently this aspect of science is greatly undervalued, with conceptions of science being dominated by notions of all embracing paradigms, and if one’s thinking happens to fall outside the currently accepted authority, then funds, publications and invitations are few and far between. To follow through the notion of truth as herein developed, that is proportional to breadth and depth of effort, then our collective truth is best served by encouraging multiple explanations and enabling lines of empirical and theoretical effort most likely to distinguish the better or the one with greater verisimilitude.

The final question on method relates to the efforts of the individual. Are some ways of thinking and conceptualizing more effective? Can we learn better creative techniques? Can we learn tighter ways to imagine more effective experiments leading to tighter definition of events and their properties?

The answer is that it is that scientists can learn to be more effective, and that teaching better systems of creativity, and better systems of conceptualizing will lead to better, sharper science. I learned my science thirty years ago, at Canterbury University Chemistry Department, Christchurch, New Zealand where I completed a PhD. I hope things have changed, and that they have always been better overseas; but we were offered no understanding of creative or conceptual tools, limited perspective on the broader overviews of science that offered rationales and integration of the events we chased in the daily routine of the lab, and little or no introduction to the great significance of theory at all levels of science.

In later papers I will develop and offer the notion of nouskills as the systematization of thinking processes that when adopted improve upon the thinking processes that we randomly developed from school, parents and friends. I firmly believe there are scientific nouskills that will greatly assist the scientist to do better that which they chose to do. But even then, we need always be aware of the genius, the one who obeys no rule or process we understand, but nonetheless does create and advance both theory and understanding.

Overriding all notions of method, all processes that may aid us be better, there is always only our judgment of what is the truth of the matter. And given the as yet fragmented nature of science, it is perhaps best if that was not fully committed to any one paradigm, theory or system of thought.

How can we decide between myth and science?

Some key issues in relation to the question of distinguishing between myth and science has already been addressed and is summarized as follows.

There is a Reality and therefore there is in principle Truth, namely the set of ideas that is congruent with Reality in every respect (Note, this is not a definition of religious truth, only a definition of scientific truth)

There is no rule or system of defined actions able to unequivocally define or determine which of two competing ideas is ‘truer’, that is which is closer to Truth (Using the capital ‘T’ to define Truth as the noun denoting that set of ideas perfectly congruent with Reality).

Humankind has and can only ever have its individual and collective judgment in determining upon the truth of alternative propositions.

Important aspects of the theory of truth were discussed in the second paper. The diagram summarizing the theory is reproduced below.



The typical questions of truth

The answers as they arise in this epistemology

The general question: What is truth?

What is nature of truth?

Truth is a judgment made by a person or people of some thought or view of some situation. It is our own assessment of the validity of some value of the variable Thought as evidenced within us. When involving only one person I will typically talk of 'subjective' and when socially agreed I will typically talk of 'objective' (these generally after Karl Popper, namely that objectivity is shared and agreed subjectivity).

What is true of this situation?

The truth content of some thought (some value of the variable Thought) is functional to the effort we have expended in relation to exploring that situation and on the veracity of that effort. In simplest terms the truth content, what is true of this situation is proportional to the multiplicity of inputs to judgment about that situation. The greater the range and scope of the inputs to judgment the more accurate the judgment the higher the truth content.


From these elements then arises the proposition that the harder we work at determining the truth of our theories the greater the probability that our theories are closer to the Truth. For example, comparing modern scientific thought with that thought of some ancient tribe that existed four thousand years ago. With the work and collective effort of humankind over the last four thousand years the theory proposes that how we see the universe today is more accurate and ‘truer’ than how it was seen by members of that tribe. There are certainly greater problems in determining the truthfulness of competing theories in modern science, and in some instances it may require the passage of many, many years before the weight of effort build to insightful understanding and accurate judgment on which theory is ‘truer’. The nature of the inputs and effort enabling good judgment is summarized in the section below on ethics of science and in particular the discussion of rule four on multiple inputs to judgment.

Perhaps the greatest problem for scientists today is where social prestige melds with determined person’s opinion on this or that theory and in an outburst of support the demand of science for patience is temporarily overlooked. It is the discomfort in the face of uncertainty and ambiguity urging too hasty commitment to those who have no more than an overpowering self-belief.

The tools for modelling the structure of knowledge

The tools for modeling knowledge are drawn from the work of W. Ross Ashby (Ashby 1960, see previous papers). Applying the tools enable conceptualization of a system and its dynamic workings in a precise manner. ‘Precise’ in the sense that relationship between the variables is precise, describing the flow of a perturbation through the system.

Application of the tools results in the first instance with a conceptual schematic of the system under study. This is the core, but in itself is not the theory, which must include description of how the schematic represents the system and how it accounts for the features of the system. There are three tools derived from Ashby.

Immediate effects, ultimate effects and primary operations

Primary operations are... 'to enforce, or select one set of variables and external conditions then to watch and see what state the system moves to under its own dynamic forces... that is to observe the transition from one particular state under particular conditions...' (Ashby).

The idea of primary operations embodies two crucial issues namely the definition of the system to be studied and the selection of variables to be used in studying the system. Taken together these are the issues that determine how we conceptualize the system.

An immediate effect occurs when a change in A is followed by a change in B. The arrow Aè B describes the effect.

When there are two (or more) immediate effects, A è B and Bè C, then an arrow can be drawn as Aè C. This is an ultimate effect, and is the summation of all underlying immediate effects.

These tools describe the dynamic operation of a system. They are the precise conceptualization of the change relations hence they are a systematic way of identifying and labeling the change relations and of identifying relative conceptual levels.

Definition of a system, variable and fact

These definitions have been offered in previous papers, but included here for completeness. In conjunction with the concepts provided by Ashby these provide a system for the creation of knowledge.

A variable is first a concept or idea, and we understand how these come into being. They are of the status of Platonic forms, the properties of the idea existing in Reality in the multitude of ‘instances of ‘, the idea bearing some particular relationship to each ‘instance of ‘. Thus a chair may be used as a table, with the idea table bearing a particular relationship with this particular instance of a table while simultaneously the idea chair also bears a particular relationship with this specific instance of.

The proposition arising with this theory of knowledge is that the ideas grew from the experiences of the ‘instances of ‘, the ideas being classification of those experiences (each such experience being an event, the terms experience and event being largely interchangeable). The system of ideas we have today being the result of tens of thousands of years of evolution of this process.

What is proposed is to tighten this process. That is to begin with the general and somewhat vague notions of a variable that we have, and to define the properties. Then, if any instance does not match the properties, we do not have a variable. In the example of the table and chair above, both ideas, of a chair and a table, match the object in question because the object has some of the properties of both. In normal circumstances of everyday life we seldom precisely define the properties of the ideas we use. This lack of precision is unsatisfactory for the purpose of science.

What do we need as properties of a variable for us to use the idea with confidence to produce knowledge of known characteristics? In simple terms it is any concept within any system, which varies. I do not mean this simple definition. What is meant is a concept of known and precise characteristics. Furthermore, one that involves certain qualities of description that is lost if the variable is altered or reduced to any other system of variables. For example, the variable length has the single property of extension. Nor can length be reduced to any more fundamental concept. The concept length cannot be reduced to the concept point, for a point is the absence of extension. Thus to make such a reduction the quality of the description is in fact lost. In a similar manner space cannot be reduced to systems of coordinates, for coordinates are an absence of space. Thus we have length and space as interrelated but independent variables not able to be reduced to other, more fundamental variables. A variable can then be defined as a concept within defined boundaries, exhibiting a single property. And if it is reduced to any underlying concepts or variables, this property is lost. In summary, a variable has one property and is not able to be reduced. I call this ‘coherence’ thus a variable is a coherent concept. This is important further in the discussion for I will show that coherent concepts define non-reducible domains of science. The difference between the use of the properties of the idea ‘variable’ and the idea ‘chair’ is solely in the degree to which the properties are to be applied in determining what is and is not a variable. Thus, to continue the analogy, there is no labelling a chair a table. It either is or is not a variable. This does lead to a strengthening of precision, and is very helpful in theory creation, however as I will show, making the decision in practice as to what is and is not a variable is not easy. The importance of the decision lays in the question whether or not we are dealing with any fundamental theory or whether we are dealing with an intermediate theory able to be reduced to more fundamental components and explanations.

Any concept not a variable is a system of variables. It exhibits more than one property but can have specific states (see definition of a fact below), and can interact with other systems or variables. Systems contain two or more variables by definition, although it is not necessarily known what those variables might be. Hence the term ‘system’ is to be read ‘system of variables’. Within any domain of science all systems are at a higher conceptual level than the variables, and any such systems can in principle be reduced to those variables. This process can also occur across domains of science if the appropriate understanding exists of how the domains relate.

An example of the application of this process would be to the concept photon. Because it exhibits multiple properties, including the issue of whether or not it is an object with extension in space, the photon would be defined within this theory as a system. And because it is at the current limit of knowledge, we do not know the nature of the variables implicated within this system, or if the variables do exist, and are currently understood variables, and then we do not understand how those variables relate to the system photon.

A fact or datum is the particular state of a variable or a system under particular circumstances. It is that which is measured, and as such it is the specific ‘instance of ‘.

Incoherence is not strictly the opposite of coherence; rather it is an adopted state of mind to avoid introducing assumption into the analysis of systems. This is to avoid ‘borrowed knowledge’ (Ashby 1960). A degree of assumption is always present, particularly over the selection of variables with which to conceptualize the system. But the enforcing of the idea of a system under study as an incoherent complexity is a discipline able to assist a more rigorous analysis.

The selection of a system

The selection of a system and variables is determined by setting the boundaries. First, the boundaries of a system circumscribe all that which is part of the system; everything beyond is then the environment of the system. Note: these boundaries are not fixed and can be changed as more is learned of the system. Variables are then selected that are judged or found to best describe the system. It is at this point that pre-existing knowledge, ‘borrowed knowledge’, is most likely to be influential. Variable selection is most likely to be via the application of pre-existing variables, and it thus not strictly free of prejudice. (In the sense that any prior conceptual framework applied to a situation is implicitly prejudicial in that the situation may have uniqueness not evident or overlooked by applying the existing concepts.)

The difference between a variable or system and its value

The difference between a variable or system and its value is now evident in that a variable or system is identified and defined through repeated observation of its properties. A singular occurrence is the value of the variable in a particular instance. It follows that variable and any system of variables is a class of concept that bears a particular relation to perception, but is not immediately perceived. What we perceive are singular occurrences and we come to understand them by conceptualizing and classifying them. The singular occurrence, the set of values, is the Reality, bearing in mind all the issues implicated in achieving any understanding of Reality.

The variables are observed as instances of in singular regularities (events or event conjunctions) and do not have to be inferred. We construct knowledge and explanation by conceptualizing and classifying. We can understand that knowledge as itself a system of variables and systems as abstractions from that reality such as to provide predictive explanation of the reality. For example E = mc² is knowledge, but we do not observe this, only particular instances of it.

Definition of a scientific theory

We can now define a scientific theory as a system of variables that by inserting specified values could provide prediction of events or sets of events. For example, the difference between a technology and a theory, the theory models Reality whereas the technology enables prediction without any model of what is happening. At the limit of knowledge any theory can only be a technology since there is no knowledge beyond this limit (by definition), hence there can be no model of Reality, of the mechanisms of Reality that describe how the events at the limit of knowledge come to be.

The concepts of variable and system can be symbolized as empty boxes abstracted from reality, the boundaries of the box defining a class of singular perceived occurrences with specified properties. The contents of the box represent the values of the occurrences.

A crucial question is to what extent is this system of knowledge consistent with actual knowledge, or the type of knowledge previously taken for granted? This question is the topic of the next section.

Congruence between knowledge using the tools above and ‘natural’ knowledge

At the core of the issue is ‘can knowledge be modeled?’ Is it in fact possible to have understanding of understanding, knowledge of knowledge, to have the conceptual structure of conceptual structure?

Perhaps interestingly I have never doubted that this was possible, so I went ahead and tried to do it. After Popper, it was obvious that knowledge existed as something independent of any particular person. The creation of knowledge required an intelligence, and for knowledge to be other than markings on paper, or etches on a compact disk intelligence is again necessary. I will not seek to represent Popper’s arguments here, for I am more intent to explore where they lead. Those who dismiss the idea that knowledge exists beyond any one of us or who seek some infallible philosophical argument I in turn dismiss. I regard the traditional view of epistemology (knowledge as justified true belief) as naïve, limited and pursued by socially enclosed systems of vested interests. We are forever left only with our judgment; it is mine that a better, more useful and more fruitful position is achieved by adopting the proposition that knowledge exists beyond any one of us. If it is so, then knowledge is part of the universe along with everything else, and then along with everything else, why can it not have a structure. The final point in this chain is that if knowledge does have a structure, and if such can be uncovered or created, then at that point epistemology ceases to be philosophy and becomes science. At this point as well the reflexive nature of the issues becomes crucial, for that described as the model of science must also apply to the model of knowledge if it too is science. In some considerable part the proof of the initial propositions will be determined by the result, now this may not be the best form of philosophy, but it is practical science, and as has now been made clear, that is what is being pursued.

Understanding and exploring the structure of knowledge is no different from exploring the structure of a tree or of pressure as the movement of molecules. Knowledge holds no special place in the universe, it being another object available for study and to creative conceptualization.



Properties of the knowledge produced using the tools

Question; when we apply the tools what type of knowledge do we create? How can we understand it?

The tools above are the refinement and more precise conceptualization of the fundamental notion of change relations arising from the model of knowledge. The tools give precision to the relationship between knowledge at different conceptual levels. The hypothesis is that examining the properties of the type of knowledge created using the tools is effectively exploring the nature of scientific knowledge itself.

The knowledge produced exists in variables that are abstractions from reality.

Specifically, the knowledge resulting exists in classifications of repeated observation of singular occurrences (or ‘instances of’ or events). And that a class of ‘instance of ‘ is an abstraction from reality then used to label, describe, and predict other ‘instances of ‘ in that class. Where event-1 is followed by event-2, and where we can perceive each event separately, and where the events are examples of variables A and B, then we say A leads to B, or more specifically, a change in A is followed by a change in B, Aè B.

The arrow specifies a ‘communication channel’ between the variables

(Ashby 1960). The two variables are linked, the arrow specifying the direction of control, but nothing can be inferred as to the mechanism whereby control is exercised. Picture, for example, a system consisting of a valve and a pressure gauge as below.

valve positionè gauge reading

We could quickly establish that the valve position affects the gauge reading as above. If we imagine that this is all we know or could see of the system we might be tempted to speculate on the mechanisms. It is a simple pressure cooker where the flow of energy and mass are not in the same direction as the observed direction of control.

The caution is very important, here we have a very simple system which, when approached on the basis of the tools, namely as an incoherent system which we must conceptualise, quickly gives rise to immediate effect relations which grasp the essence of the system but which can be misleading as to the mechanisms.

Ultimate and immediate effect relations can be treated mathematically (Ashby 1960).

There are several important consequences, two are that they give rise to constants between variables, and can also give rise to probability descriptions.

Recall the equations developed by examining a television set: P,S = ƒK, where P and S are picture and sound quality, and K the knob position. It could readily occur that the function, or some part of it is a constant, then the equation would become P,S = C.ƒK, where C is the constant. If the function was linear, with a slope of three, then the equation would be P,S = 3.K. The functionality between any two variables is a consequence of the mechanism linking the variables. Thus in this example, the three times linear functionality is a consequence of the mechanism linking the knob position to the picture and sound levels and quality.

Probability functions arise in the same manner. If on one hundred occurrences of Aè B, there arose 50B1, 20B2, 10B3, 10B4, and 10B5, where each of B1 to B5 were variations of B, identifiable from B, then this could be treated as a probability distribution. But this does not mean that Aè B is intrinsically probabalistic, first, because A and B do not ‘exist’. What exists are the perception of singular instances E1, and E2.1, E2.2, (where E2.1 are the events the specific instance of B1) etc, giving rise to the classes of events A, B1, B2, etc. And from Aè B2, we can conclusively say that a communication channel exists between perceived instances of E1 and E2.2. From this, we infer a mechanism, but for now have no idea of the nature of it.

There always exists a mechanism

This is the working hypothesis of this knowledge. The thrust of science is to uncover that mechanism.

This hypothesis is falsifiable under the following proposition.

If Aè B denotes a correlation of the universe, that is a set of events E(A) and E(B), that occur with such regularity and similarity as to be classified A and B. For example, the sun rising and setting.

And if Aè /mè B denotes there is no mechanism operative between A, B.

And if Aè c/è B denotes there is no communication channel between A, B.

Then: there exists no A, B such that Aè /mè B, or Aè c/è B or both are ever valid. I call this the universal mechanistic postulate; more simply put, there is always a mechanism. The fact that events seem, to us, to occur without a mechanism or in ways we cannot or are unable to conceive is a statement about our ignorance, more precisely a statement about 'what we left behind' when we classified the events used to explain the system.

The rule of relations is a crucial issue as regards the universal mechanistic postulate. If, at the limit of knowledge no variables or systems are discernable below that level, which is the definition of the limit of knowledge, then there can be no A’ distinguishable from A such that in Aè B, A’ is discernable as the mechanism. Under such circumstances we could be tempted to speculate there is no such A’, and hence no mechanism. That is, that Aè B just happens, a function perhaps of ultimate propensities. Such conclusions based solely on the fact we are ignorant of the variables and systems of variables at conceptual levels below the current limit of knowledge seems to me to be unjustified.

The universal mechanistic postulate is stated in the negative, to enable clear refutation. There only needs to be proved one A, B such that Aè /mè B or Aè c/è B is valid for the postulate to fail. Existence of events that have no conceptualized mechanism, particularly at the limit of knowledge, even detailed prediction and analysis of such events using probability, is not proof there is no mechanism. Proof can only come about when there exists a system in which the rule of relations is maintained, such as the pressure cooker above, within which we can clearly see an A, B such that there is no Aè c/mè B. To date, all our scientific endeavors have always uncovered mechanisms.

The existence of A è B does not imply Bè A (Ashby 1960).

Each communication channel has to be established independently.

There are likely to be more than one system of immediate effects able to explain the observed ultimate effects.

Imagine approaching a system where what we first observed are the gross qualities and features, the ultimate effects.


There are several types of immediate effect system that could result in these ultimate effects.


Only careful testing and analysis can identify which of these is valid and reflects Reality. If reality is our subjective view, and Reality is that which truly is, the Truth is reality=Reality.

Beyond A, B, C we may also uncover D and E such that A è B only occurs through D and Bè C only occurs through E. Then we could have:

It may well continue to be useful to discuss the system in terms of A, B, C even though we know the underlying mechanisms of D and E.

Whatever level of concept, there will be underlying immediate effects, and there will also be conceptually more general ultimate effects. We need to beware of variable confusion, where we concept some variables that appear at the same conceptual level but are in fact not. This could occur, for instance, in neural systems that underlie thought, where psychological and neurological variables become intermingled.

Ultimate effects are the summation of all underlying immediate effects.

Ultimate and immediate effects are relations between classes of events. And because of the universal mechanistic postulate all relations between classes of perceived events are ultimate effects with the thrust of science being to identify and systematize the underlying immediate effects. The result is that the reduction from ultimate effects to immediate effects is an infinite regress.

A è B is analyzed into A è A1 è B1 è B, and so on. Also, A è A1 can also be analyzed into Aè A1.1 è A1, and so on. In part this follows from the fact that an event is partly observer dependent.

In this model, A1, A2, etc are different from A, and the sequence is the representation of elucidating the arrow. That is, the sequence is exploring the mechanism whereby a change in A results in a change in B. This process is not a ‘reduction’ in that the variables or systems A & B remain intact.

In principle it is an infinite regress. In practice, the regress ceases at the current limit of knowledge. That limit is at the point where there are no variables or systems able to be built into immediate effect relations such as to provide mechanistic explanation of the classes of events currently being observed.

Types of explanation

A relation between classes of events is the conjunction analyzed by Hume and found to be insufficient reason to attribute cause. Within this epistemology relations between classes of events are conceptualized as immediate and ultimate effects. At some conceptual level the knowledge produced provides descriptive explanation. That is it describes how a perturbation travels through the system under study. This leads to the question of the source of any perturbation, and whether or not a system can be its own source of a perturbation. Perturbations can arise from outside the system, but also a system can have its own inherent tendencies. For example variables within a system are often measured as mean values, no matter the level of accuracy, with some intrinsic variation about the mean. With the existence of any multiplier effects within the system, this alone could be sufficient for perturbations to occur. This is most important when considering theories of the universe, where by definition there is no environment.

Because the relations between classes of events are classified into two types, the epistemology produces a second type of explanation existing as the relation between immediate and ultimate effects. This is causal explanation, and is described as the relation between classes of relation between classes of events. By considering the sun rising tomorrow we can see the influence of this on belief. Mere repeated observation is, as known, insufficient. However, we have an in-depth understanding of the mechanism of the solar system. We also have a rather good picture of the immediate environment, this comprehensive model involving a system of ultimate effects (the sun rising and setting) and a system of immediate effects, gravity, relativity, etc all providing accurate predictive value. But it still offers no guarantees. Within this epistemology there is always the possibility of an event in some distant part of the universe affecting this solar system via mechanisms we have not conceived nor previously observed. No matter the extent or level of understanding, this must always be the psychological and emotional state of affairs.


A major issue is to what extent and in what way is this system of knowledge ‘able to be reduced’? The process of exploring the immediate effects underlying any set of ultimate effects is a reduction if, and only if, the variables are changed. For example, in Aè B, the system can be analyzed into Aè A1è A2….B2è B1è B, but this does not reduce A or B to anything more fundamental. It is solely the elucidation of the mechanism whereby A effects B.

If, however, in the system Aè B, A or B or both are sub-divided into components, say Xa,Ya and Xb,Yb, such that A was a consequence of Xaè Ya, and B, Xbè Yb, then the original system has been ‘reduced’ to more fundamental components (Xaè Ya) è (Xbè Yb). The effect of this is to separate ‘cause’ and ‘reduction’. They cannot be taken as necessarily the same thing. Cause exists of a descriptive explanation at one conceptual level linked to the underlying immediate effects, which effectively constitutes a descriptive explanation at a lower level. The variables at the lower conceptual level may or may not be a reduction of the variables at the higher level, and would constitute such a reduction if and only if all the variables, at both levels, were in the same domain of science.

The class of events ‘variable’ has the property of not being able to be so reduced into more fundamental components. This is the definition. However, in practice, as will emerge, deciding whether some given class of events is a variable or a system is not quite so simple.

Congruence of the model with actual knowledge

What has been constructed is a model of how a certain type of knowledge can come into being. This model is based on the creation of an idea being the use of a symbol to group events with similar properties. The symbol is then ‘the idea’ meaning, in the first instance that collection of events with properties XYZ.

Is this different from what happens? Is this different from the ‘natural’ process whereby such knowledge comes into being? I ask these questions on the basis that if we now used the processes as conceptualized we would or could feel that it was an artificial process.

Summary of the congruence issues between the knowledge arising from the model and existing knowledge

  1. Ideas are the categorization of experience based upon the properties of that experience. The properties in existing knowledge and the knowledge arising from the model are the same. The model does make ideas species specific, but I cannot see how this can be otherwise.
  2. The notion of Variable in the model is based on the notion of an idea, but made specific and tighter by specifying that a Variable must have a single property. Such a definition is not currently part of the framework of a theory of science.
  3. Events are defined in relation to the changes in the observer. Thus under this model there is no absolutely objective measure of anything by any species, that is if ‘objective’ means independent of any previous knowledge of that species or of any aspect of the physiology of the species.
  4. Events are linked in terms of the changes following any given change. In the absent of any change there are no events. This is so under existing natural knowledge and under the knowledge arising from this model. In natural knowledge they are called constant conjunctions, under this model they are called either immediate effects or ultimate effects. No matter the label the concepts describe the same phenomenon, this is also described as the flow of change through a system.
  5. No events exist whereby there are no underlying immediate effects. Currently this hypothesis cannot be proved. At stake in the proposition is whether or not the current system of ideas embodied in quantum electro dynamics (QED) is without underlying immediate effects. The history of science to date is that there have always been uncovered underlying mechanisms, underlying systems of immediate effects whereby the ultimate effect of Aè B is realized. The assumption that because (1) QED gets the right answer, (2) there are no obvious underlying events, and (3) in the two generations since QED these factors have remained despite the best efforts of several hundred of humankinds best brains: is not compelling evidence to discard the fact that there has always been a mechanism.
  6. Perception operates at initial levels of ultimate effects. It is only study and analysis that leads to the underlying immediate effects. Thus far this proposition has not failed, other than in regard QED as discussed above. The relation between immediate and ultimate effects leads to clear and unequivocal notions of reductionism and mechanism. In fact the model leads to better understanding of the relationship between critical aspects of knowledge, for example the relationship between the brain and its results, our consciousness. The model makes clear the notion of domains of science as determined by the fundamental variables of the domain, and then offers understanding of the relationship between adjoining domains. Thus a domain of science may be complete, with all events within the domain able to be described by systems of variables (theories) that circumscribe the domain. However, science itself cannot be complete, in that the mechanisms whereby the events of the domain come to be can always be reduced and further reduced into ever smaller units of immediate effects. This does not mean that the events in the domain are reducible to those underlying events the events in the domain can only be reduced to the fundamental Variables (capital intended, concepts with only one property) that define the domain.

There is congruence between previously existing knowledge, and the knowledge created using these tools such that what is proposed is that the system of epistemology outlined in these papers is a model of knowledge.

What is meant by the notion of mechanism and how is it related to cause?

This model of knowledge separates knowledge from that represented by that knowledge. We can ask: do we ever know Reality, truly? The answer is ‘yes, if our concepts are accurate and if our judgement is good’. There is no reason in principle why our concepts cannot accurately model all that is in the universe. This does assume that we have accurately interpreted the linkages between changes in our physiology (including machines that convert changes unable to affect our physiology into changes that can), changes in the perceptual field and changes in Reality. This is a complex sequence, and one where we cannot naively assume accuracy of perception.

Reality ‘is’, and mechanisms are part of Reality. Previously I have likened perception to seeing peaks of mountains above a dense mist. The peaks we are able to see are determined by the perceiving apparatus and the perceptual fields available. If the existing fields cannot influence the apparatus then the apparatus will record nothing. If we alter the apparatus tuning it to other perceptual fields it is as altering the mountains above the fog, there are now new peaks that can be seen. If the peaks are changes, then below the fog are the mechanisms whereby those changes are conveyed through Reality.

Cause is almost a redundant notion in the physical universe. Better is to ask: what is the mechanism whereby Aè B? To ask ‘why A?’ is to seek to trace the events that to lead to A here, now. Such tracing will be a regress leading to the beginning of the universe. Thus, we can only ever have sufficient explanation enabling some approximation to ‘why A here and now?’ Equally to ask what caused Aè B? Can be answered ‘the mechanisms’. So, the point of science arises as the task of uncovering the mechanisms of Reality.

To be more specific, why do we expect the sun to rise tomorrow? Following Hume we need something more than the fact it has always risen, etc. The answer lies in our understanding of the mechanisms whereby the earth, the sun and the moon through space, backed by the fact we also know enough about the immediate vicinity of the solar system to know there is nothing to alter those mechanisms. Hence we can expect the sun to rise tomorrow. The conceptual structure of our understanding is nothing more than a system of immediate effects underlying the ultimate effects of the sun rising tomorrow. It is this conceptual structure that gives causal understanding, the conceptual structure being a model of the mechanisms and those factors likely and able to influence that mechanism. The latter point being so because any system we isolate is only ever a sub set of the universe with the remainder of the universe acting as the ‘environment’ to the system selected for study.

To establish cause in the physical universe is to model with sufficient accuracy the mechanisms. To ask what ultimately caused the event will necessarily involve regress to the beginning of the universe and is thus forever beyond being able to be answered. That is the question of ultimate cause cannot be answered in principle.

Cause and epistemology

This epistemology brings vigorously to the fore questions not so readily identified in traditional epistemology. The particular question in this instance is ‘what happens at the current limit of knowledge?’ This question is important in this epistemology because the core of the approach is to explore and define the nature of the relationship between knowledge and that represented by that knowledge. The point has already been discussed, but we can now approach it from a slightly different point of view.

Cause is modelling the mechanisms of the universe, then what happens when we run out of model? Does this mean that what we have is the ultimate and the end knowledge? Ultimate knowledge? Because we have some system of concepts that enable us to calculate answers in relation to given events, does it mean we have ultimate knowledge of those events?

Within this epistemology we are not justified in declaring that because we have no set of concepts below some stated conceptual level that such concepts do not exist. This contradicts everything that has gone before in the history of science. Further, that we have not for some hundred years managed to get past the conceptual level also means nothing. It does mean that now one with the creativity or new insight has devoted themselves to the issues. Perhaps it is time to begin thinking about our attitudes and our social processes to ensure that they do not and are not contributing to our hanging up as a species at this level.

Traditional epistemology does not even begin to address the question what happens at the limit of knowledge? Or, what exactly is the relationship between knowledge and the events represented by that knowledge? And, when we have begun to address these, what does this mean for quantum electro dynamics?

If quantum electro dynamics is knowledge, then we cannot address the question of the nature and status of that knowledge until we have a general theory of knowledge that addresses the questions of the relationship between all knowledge and that represented by that knowledge. Then the issue of quantum electro dynamics will be a specific example of the general solution, as should be the case and is the case in all other areas of science. And as I have again put clearly elsewhere, if human knowledge is created, arising from human perception and psychology how can we create a general theory of knowledge without understanding of a general theory of psychology? To unravel any one of these questions is to unravel them all. And in the papers at this site there is one of the very few attempts to do just that, and one that meets with some level of success.

Cause and consciousness

The focus above is on the physical universe, in which cause is the conceptualisation of mechanism backed by sufficient understanding of the environment enabling us to conclude that the environment will not impact the mechanism or if it will, it is in this manner, etc, which is simply another mechanism.

What of cause and consciousness? Much modern writing has attempted to relate vagaries of consciousness and consciousness itself to the probability of modern physics. In this philosophy, the exact reverse emerges.

The physical universe is seen rather as a machine, and will proceed according to the mechanisms of that machine. In fact, this holds even if some mechanisms are probabilistic, but I am not promoting that. Precisely in the case of quantum electro dynamics I believe there are mechanisms underlying the movement of quantum particles, and things like photons do have an internal structure, we just don’t know what that is.

Within the theory of psychology that necessarily accompanies this epistemology, Thought emerges as a key variable. And, because we have clearly defined understanding of knowledge, mechanism and the like we do not need to panic if we do not fully understand the mechanism whereby Thought affects behaviour. This simply defines issues science must resolve. Within the theory as well, Thought (capital intended to distinguish it from a thought, it specifies a Variable) is not reducible to neurological events. Thus, events involving ideas and selection of one over another are legitimate parts of the social world (again, I emphasise that it is not to be taken that I am suggesting the brain is not involved, the problem of mind/body is an epistemological problem again resolved by an adequate general theory of knowledge that properly defines mechanism, ideas, theory variables, and the relationship this all makes to the events under study).

With intelligent species able to select between alternative ideas, we have free will. And with free will is introduced the only meaningful notion of cause, because free will can and does make events that would not have otherwise happened, happen, and events that would have otherwise happened, not happen. It is consciousness and intelligence that is the wild card of the universe this in absolute contradiction to Bertrand Russell’s pessimism of A Free Man’s Worship, it is conscious intelligence that will rule matter, not the other way round. Already humankind needs face the reality of its actions in that regard here, on Earth, soon.

The role of intelligence in making things not happen or happen, when they would have or not have if the universe had not been tampered with by that intelligence, makes the question of ‘what caused that?’ meaningful, because now the answer is not simply ‘the mechanism’ and humans or any other intelligence can attribute accountability and intent. So beavers cut down trees and dam the steams. Trees and streams that would not otherwise be cut down, and not so easily reduced to blind mechanisms, even for so basic an animal, because there are unquestionably ‘beaver unique factors’ that contribute to this tree and this stream, as opposed to the one over there.

Given my abiding scepticism as to the status of quantum electro dynamics, and given that I believe claims that the probabilistic nature of that theory reflects a real aspect of the universe are at very best premature, we are left with conscious intelligence as the truly unpredictable factor of the universe. In the universe that emerges in my theories, ideas are causal Thought overwhelms most other things, except perhaps passion. Having followed thus far, I ask for a little patience, for I will offer the theory and argument that leads me to these conclusions in following papers.

What is objectivity in science?

The following notes need to be read as part of the overall system of ideas, for that is their crucial context.

  1. There is no fixed rule or tool, and one will never be found because it is impossible in principle.
  2. There is no escape from the primacy of good judgment.
  3. There are guides to aid judgment, but only to aid.
  4. These guides include the following.
  5. Such a list travels far beyond naïve notions of falsification and justification, beyond any mere philosophy of empiricism.
  6. How do we know? There is no sure process or technique able to relieve us of the weight of decision.
  7. Imagine two people, one a brilliant scientist, the other mad. Both with perfectly functioning neural systems. How do we know which is which? It reminds me of the story from a friend who spent much of his life sailing the South Pacific: how many compasses should you have aboard on a trip? Not two, because if they are different how do you know which one is broken? So you take three. Which one is mad? Perhaps the one we do not agree with.

What are the ethics of science and why are they important?

It has been emphasized how the issues of cause, a general theory of psychology and a theory of knowledge are all related and to answer one is necessarily to answer them all. The only process I judged able to cope with the interactive nature of the issues and the implicit circularity is iterative, creating possible solutions and then proceeding around the loop to assess the detailed solutions that emerge. In applying this process, I adopted four rules. Initially I saw the rules as an epistemological position, paralleling that developed by say Popper or Carnap, dealing mainly with the question of validity and truth content. On full development of the theory of knowledge, I came to understand that the theory itself specified what was and was not objective. That is I did not have to use rules to decide. What then, were the rules? What was their place?

Knowledge is the classification of events, and no matter how hard I pretend not to be I am and must always be implicated in every observation I make: my prejudices, preferences, my philosophy, my likes and dislikes, my opinion of this or that person, my view on this or that philosophy or science, my knowledge and my skills. All I am is always present and in some known or unknown manner, all I am is potentially implicated in every observation I make. I am first a person, an example of an intelligent species. I am then embedded in a now understood manner in the universe that I as a scientist seek to observe. And no matter what I do as a scientist I cannot expunge myself as a person from my observations of that universe. The rules are no epistemology, they are and can only be an expression of my endeavors to conduct myself in the manner as befits the term scientist.

Rule 1: The purpose of the rules.

To enable increasingly accurate prediction of the universe.

Rule 2: Without prejudice.

To avoid prejudice by approaching the universe as a complex system which must be explored for itself, independent of any bias or preference, and in particular independent of any previous knowledge or pre-existing knowledge. And where such knowledge is used, to make it apparent, to myself first and to others second, that such knowledge had been used.

Rule 3: Concept creation.

To apply known tools producing a known type of knowledge. To seek to create theory which draws together the best of existing insights and simultaneously transcends them, to search for and create such tools if necessary.

Rule 4: Multiple inputs to judgment.

There are inevitably a number of ways to conceptualize any system each offering some predictive value if based upon carefully selected and insightful variables. The decision as to which one to adopt can only be an act of judgment. Rules - verification or falsification or any other - can only be a guide. Other guides include:

    1. Are all the variables empirically justified? Can the variables be established as having empirical validity? That is, do they exist?
    2. Does the theory integrate existing views?
    3. Does it point to new research?
    4. Does it facilitate both broadening and consolidation relevant to other domains of knowledge? (In the case of a general theory of psychology, does it integrate into organizational theory and social theory, and provide a guide to the boundaries between biology and psychology?)
    5. Is the theory logically coherent?
    6. Does it have explanatory power? Does it explain major existing problems?
    7. Is it created with minimum of additional ideas, variables or constructs? (Ockham's razor).
    8. Does it arise and explain without strain? Does it seem to be forced? Stretching too far?

Since coming to understand these rules as an ethical position I have added a fifth.

Rule 5: Treat all views with respect.

No one person has all the correct or good ideas. To always listen to the views of others and seek in those views the best of their thinking. In any conflict of views to focus any aggressive energy on ensuring I understand the ideas being offered, to acknowledge the best of the thinking and seek a better set of ideas that takes the best of my and their views and transcends both. And where that is not possible, to respectfully agree to differ and to allow the peer process to judge the merits of each. In the striving to advance understanding as put in rule 1, the conflict has no need to degenerate to conflict of persons. The energy of any challenge needs to be poured not into attack and defense, but into creative thinking that takes the best of current views and transcends it with yet greater understanding. This alone is hard enough.



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