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Discussion: Research Area
Topic: February 2003: Question 3


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Subject:   Idols of the Theatre
Author: gayla
Date: Mar 30 2003
I think you're right, that Idols of the Theatre most come into play here.  

What is also interesting about Bacon's writings when considered in light of this
roundtable discussion is that the main topic in his Novum Organan (that may be
written wrong) is the nature of scientific inquiry, which is what you are
considering.  Granted, it is from antiquity, and some of his criticisms as to
why innovations depended upon serendipity have now been overcome by computers.
Bacon said we could and should have known about the printing press much earlier,
that it could have been discovered through rigorous scientific inquiry.  His
point, as I recall it, was that scientists and researchers didn't like to do the
nitty-gritty endless detail work that would have led to many late discoveries.
But now, we have computers to do a lot of the nitty-gritty work.  Somebody has
to set up the algorithm, or the spreadsheet.  

When it comes to bias, it seems to be so deeply ingrained in us that it is
impossible to get past, yet we have to act as though it were possible to
transcend it.  With regard to bias in the questions that researchers ask, humans
can't "know" measure, so we brought in artificial objects to measure units of
length.  If there could be found something artificial to measure objectivity, it
could be applied to questions posed by researchers, to research results, to
reader perspectives, so that at least the bias could be LOOKED AT objectively,
that would be something.  The Idols of the Market, our our frequent
misunderstandings in the use of language to communicate with one another, also
comes heavily into play with research.  

If anyone has ever read "For a Breath I Tarry" by Roger Zelazny, it is about a
computer named Frost who is running the maintenance of the Northern Hemisphere
of Earth, but mankind is gone, and Frost wants to be a Man.  His problem is that
he "knows" measurement, but he doesn't know emotion, tries over centuries to
"experience" things as a human would, collects human artifacts, transports
himself to beautiful environments, all to no avail.  For us to be objective, we
will have to simulate ways to be like Frost.

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