chapter  1
27 Pages

The Data/Theory Dialectic: The Nature of Scientific Progress

WithHayne W. Reese

Science is a collection of interrelated facts derived from scientific observation and interpretation. Observation is scientific if it is done carefully under known conditions; interpretation is scientific if it is based on theoretical analysis. The methodological domain is used to obtain data, but data are not scientific knowledge they have been interpreted within the theoretical domain. In I. Lakatos’s theory, a scientific research program consists of a sequence of theories that are related because they are all expansions of a basic initial theory. The problem with methodological generalizations is that, considered in abstraction from that which they generalize, they are sterile fragments of a richer language actively in use in the laboratory and the scientific study. Remove Marxist sociopolitical activism, and the thesis provides a model of the nature of scientific progress. Dialectical materialism has been challenged as pseudoscientific because it is a degenerating “research program.”