Friday, July 29, 2011

Qualitative and quantitative scientific methods

Until recently it was difficult to obtain funding for research that was based on qualitative methods, because there was the erroneous belief they could not make any useful contribution to science.  This R.S. Peters excerpt explains very well the importance of these methods.

"The main function of the measurements in science is surely to facilitate the test of the hypothesis by expressing   them in more exact form.  The quantitative techniques allow science people to respond in more precise form to the problems posed by less refined qualitative methods.  But it little matters to do measurements, unless the goal of those techniques is the test of fertile hypothesis.  Measurement by itself does not produce fertile hypothesis, laboratories or research subsidies either.  In physical sciences, an enormous amount of qualitative analysis, not only precedes to the use of quantitative techniques, but it also provides postulares about the physical world, which are incorporated to the measurement techniques.  The qualitative experiences of daily life provided Galileo the necessary foundation to undertake the quantitative study of a big variety of problems. The contribution to the progress of psychological theory by men like Freud and McDougall, who did not worry about premature attempts of measurement, was more substantial than the one of those who were obsessed by the need to collect quantifiable data.  Science progress depends as much of the development of fictitious postulates as of the exact techniques to prove them. To embark in this last one, without having developed the previous thing, would be like buying a harvester to use it in the North Pole."   (p.402)

Free translation from:
G.S. Brett, Historia de la Psicologìa
Editorial Paidòs, Buenos Aires
Edited and abridged by R.S. Peters

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A captivating definition of science

Spanish is my first language.  I prefer to blog in English because it substantially places me within reach of more people over the world.  So, most of the books I own are in Spanish.  Today I dared to translate into English some captivating words that were written originally in English, but since I was not able to find on the web the original writing, and want to share it because, both in form and content, are superb ideas, great thoughts expressed with beauty and originality, I decided to translate this excerpt from my book in Spanish.  Hope that some day I am able to read these words in its original writing, which must be much more captivating:

"We tend to consider science like a "body of knowledge" that began to be accumulated when man discovered the scientific method.  That is a superstition.  It is more in agreement with the history of thought to describe science like a set of myths about the world which have not yet been proven false.

For the methodologist, the crucial stage arrives when conscious attempts are made to test the accounts provided by tradition, speculative curiosity or practical needs.

To demonstrate to a man that his account is false implies, commonly, to present oneself a better account.  Science consists of conscious attempts to refute other people`s accounts and the presentation of better accounts to replace them. The history of science is the history of the accounts whose partial falseness or correctness has been demonstrated."     R.S. Peters

Free translation from:
Brett, G.S.  Historia de la Psicologìa (History of  Psychology, edited/abridged by R.S. Peters)
Editorial Paidòs, Buenos Aires