What is the role of experiments in science? - Chapter 3

What is the meaning of relevant facts?

Reliable facts can be established by careful use of the senses. Science does not need 'just' facts, but relevant facts. These facts should come to us in the form of experimental results and not as observable facts - a large number of facts that can be determined by observation are totally irrelevant to science. If experimental results represent the facts on which science relies, they certainly have not come to us simply through the senses. Experimental results are fallible, can be updated or replaced, can be out of date, rejected or may be ignored. Outdated experimental results can be rejected and replaced with new ones. This has major implications for the orthodox philosophy of science because it undermines the widespread notion that science is based on certain grounds.

Which facts are relevant to science and which are not, depends on the current state of development of science. In order to collect facts that are relevant to the identification and specification of different processes, it is necessary to isolate the process in research and eliminate the effects of other processes. It is, therefore, necessary to conduct experiments.

What is the importance of setting up and updating experiments?

Starting a new experiment is not easy, it can take months or even years. When the experimental design is appropriate and disruptive factors have been eliminated experiments should be suitable and interpretable in what they measure or what they attempt to measure. Any flaw in the relevant facts could create these disturbing factors which in turn could lead to unsuitable experimental measurements and incorrect conclusions. Therefore, experimental results may be wrong if the knowledge on which they are based is missing or incorrect. Experiments can be updated when they no longer apply because new research shows different results or when they are considered irrelevant.

What requirements are set for the results?

It is not only necessary for the experimental results to be adequate but they must also be suitable or significant. The extent to which a result is significant depends very much on how the practical and theoretical situation is understood. It is also important for the results to be objectifiable and replicable. In addition, results must be objective. This means that everyone who performs the same experiment should get the same results.

Is an experiment an adequate basis for science?

Experiments are theory-dependent in certain respects aswell as fallible and revisable. Experiments are also determined by the world and not purely by theory. If a theory is used to assess the adequacy of experimental results and the same results are presented as evidence for the theory, then we are in an infinite circle. Therefore, there is the possibility that the relationship between theory and experiment contains circular reasoning. However, this does not mean that results that are labeled as significant only ever involve one reason and therefore one form of truth. However, it does help to reach a point where the attempt to test the adequacy of scientific theories against experimental results is significant.

If there is a dispute between proponents of opposing theories, there is a chance that none of them will be accepted. In such cases, additional observations will be needed and, if the area is interesting, scientists will want to contribute immediately. Within science, hypotheses that cannot be verified are viewed with suspicion. They are therefore not quickly accepted.

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