Scientific Thinking LO21936

AM de Lange (
Fri, 18 Jun 1999 16:16:51 +0200

Replying to LO21909 --

Dear Organlearners,

Leo Minnigh <> writes:

>A (crap) detector is a siever or filter. It splits the worth from the
>crap. BUT (1) all the succes of filtering depends on the mazes
>of the very sieve! If the mazes are too wide, nothing else than
>crap will fall through, no gem will be detected.

Greetings Leo,

John Gunkler's "crap dedector" creates powerful images within me. To
use it as a metaphor for the third stage (observation => speculation
=> falsification) of the scientific method is very natural to me. I
have been trained as a physicist and chemist. Detectors play an
immense role in these two subjects. But I am fully aware that since
most other people have little, if any, exposure to detectors, few of
them may find the "crap detector" a powerful metaphor. I wish they
will write how they perceive the "crap detector" as a metaphor.

To think of "gems" in stage 3 (falsification) is somewhat dangerous
because it can lead to confusion. Stage 3 works on the outputs
(products) of stage 2 (speculation). What stage 3 does, is to
distinguish a complementary duality in the outputs of stage 2. A
complementary duality is a special kind of categorical identity. It
consists of precisely two possible identities forming a whole. An
object has to corrrespond with the one or the other identity. The
complementary duality mostly used in the scientific method is the
duality with identities "true" and "false". This is why I used the
name "falsification" for the third stage. There is also another reason
which I will soon come to.

It is possible to use other kinds of complementary dualities. The one
which I have become very fond of, has the identities "essential" and
"trivial". I am now refering to the method of "eidetic reduction" in
the phenomenology developed by Edmund Husserl. Others may differ from
me, but I consider "eidetic reduction" of phenomenology as a most
powerful variation on the scientific method and thus still part and
parcel of the scientific method. Thus I could also have called stpe 3
of the scinetific method by the name "trivialisation". Heuristics is
yet another variation based on another kind of complementary duality.

The message which I want to bring across, is that we are now in the
transition from the scinetific method to what may be called "deep
scientific method". In the "deep scientific method" humankind will
freely make use of many kinds of complementary dualities and not
mostly the "true/false" duality as well as complementary trialities,
4-alities, 5-alities, 6-alities, 7-alities, etc. This should give you
another perspective on the role of the seven essentialities.

Please note that I choose "trivialisation" rather than a ###-tion
based on "essential", the other member of the duality. Likewise I have
chosen the name "falsification" based on "false" rather than a
###-tion based on "true". In this sense I am very fortunate that the
name "falsification" has already been used by Sir Karl Popper. He
considered "falsification" as the key to scinetific thinking. Some
critics, like the philospher David Stove, believes that Popper was
advocating "fallibalism". The philosophy of "fallibalism" is deadly to
creativity. I will not go so far as Stove. I do not think that Popper
had deliberately denied stages 1 and 2 of the scinetific method. What
Popper did, was to show that
* stage 3 is essential to the scientific method
* stage 3 has to be denying rather than affirming.

I want to go one step further than Popper. People usually think of
stage 3 as negative rather than positive. Like you have written "It
splits the worth from the crap". However, we should try to think even
stronger in terms of destruction rather than construction. The basic
idea in step 3 is to discriminate against anything which is not
creatively viable. The strongest type of discrimination which I can
think of is destruction rather than construction. Thus, what Popper
may have tried to say, is that scientists have to destroy anything
which might be true (and not what might be false). If something
apparently true can be destoyed , then it cannot be persistently true.

This "scientists have to destroy anything which might be true" is a
great obstacle to many Christians. The key to resolve the issue is the
word "might". Truth gets destroyed when some false statement parades
as a true statement. Thus these seemingly true statements have to be
weeded from the true statements. To try proving true statements as
true once again, is an overkill. Further, it leaves less time to weed
out the false statements. In terms of the seven essentialities it is
very easy to "prove" a true statement as false -- impair an
essentiality unobtrusively and our perception of truth will immerge
destructively. Think of this falsification as the "purification" or
"refining" which the Bible speaks of.

Whereas stage 3 (falsification) has to be destructive (negative) to be
effective, stage 2 (speculation) have to be constructive (positive) to
be effective. Many scientists fail in stage 2 because trying to aplly
the destructivity (negativity) of stage 3 also to stage 2.

It is also possible to fail already in stage 1 (observation) by
clinging to the Law of the Excluded Middle (LEM) in terms of "either
destruction or construction, but not both". Some try to be positive in
stage while others try to be negative. Both cases lead to a multitude
of failures. It is my carefully formed opinion that in stage 1 the
scientist has to be neutral -- the third case which is not allowed by
LEM. All observations are valuable. Unfortunately, there is a vast
difference between observation and perception. In order to to focusd
on observation rather than perception, try to observe those things
which have not been observed before.

Leo, thank you very much for your delightful stories about the
contrived failures encountered in prospecting and mining. They remind
me of many similar Siuth African stories which I have heard, South
Africa being one of the countries richest in minerals.

>In other words, looking for gems, one should not deny the crap.
>It is a matter of using another filter than the former one. So, the
>filter of the thinker is another filter than the filter of the editor
>was also separating crap from gem). This reworking or recycling
>is nothing else than an industrialised turbulent flow, recycling
>again and again.

John has written that he wish he did not use the metaphor "crap
detector". Likewise I am sorry that I have tried to extend the
"detector" part of the metaphor to the other three stages because it
reduces the fundamental distinction between the three stages. What
happens in the scientific method is that stages 1, 2 and 3 form a loop
(cycle), stage 3 connecting to stage 1. (Actually, there are several
minor loops inside this major loop involving minor substages in each
stage.) It is this very loop with its feedback potential which gives
the sceintific method such creative power. Too much negative feedback
and it dwindles to equilbrium -- too much positive feedback and it
explodes into total chaos.

Maybe we should call the active subsystem in stage 3 the "falsifier"
rather than the "crap detector". Hence the active subsystem in stage 1
and 2 might be called the "observator" and "speculator" respectively.
What do you fellow learners think?

It is because of this feedback loop that it is so easy to confuse the
three stages with each other. Two of the stages are always INDIRECTLY
(implicitly) present in the remaining stage. For example, as you have
noticed, the filtering (falsification, discrimination) of stage 3 can
also be perceived "in" (actually "from") stages 1 and 2.

Leo, is this confusion not what you express with the following words?

>In other words, I do not understand very well the stories of John
>Gunkler and At de Lange. All their detectors are nothing else
>than a series of filters. One should realise that a crap detector is
>also a gem detector. Just look on the other side of the filter or

I liked the following very much:

>The thing is that the world is not so simple that it consists of only
>crap and gems. We have already seen that with only one filter or
>detector, we are only able to separate on ONE characteristic (for
>instance colour, or size, or density). We can either split in black
>and not black; larger than a foot and smaller than a foot; denser
>than water, or less denser than water. As soon as other
>characteristics play a role, we need for each extra characteristic
>an extra filter.

What you refer to here, is the transformation of the scientific
method into the "deep scientific method" and specifically with
respect to stage 3. Dual complementaries as categorical identities
(sureness) is not the answer to the world's problems. It is plain
foolishness to try and force, for example, a triality into a duality.
It may have some value as an excercise in formalism (a screwed
up notion of level three of knowledge), but it will prevent
emergences to the sapient level (level four) of knowledge. Even
worse, it will cut us off from the tacit level (level two) of
The day when we say goodbuy to our intuition (gut feeling) is the
day when we say goodbuy to our scientific thinking.

>And At is correct that all our senses are detectors or filters
>in themselves. If we only could use our eyes, we have a tough
>task to distinguish pyrite from gold (extra filter, e.g. a magnet),
>or calcite from quartz (extra filter, e.g. a knife to see which is

What Leo writes here for the lithosphere (the realm of rocks), is
equally true for the other walks of live like the biosphere or
noosphere. For example, I often have to remind fanciers of succulent
plants not to see them as humans do, but to look, taste, feel, smell
and touch them as animals. Use all your human senses to the utmost,
becoming a "deep human". When looking at the flowers of two closely
related species which appear to be identical because their flowers are
so much alike, think of yourself as an insect. Insects are far better
capable of "seeing" inrared and ultraviolet radiation. Do the flowers
look alike when illumiated with, for example ultraviolet light? I have
done myself such "extensions" of my eyes and the results were often
startling. Great differences can be detected, differences not
observable to the naked eye using ordinary white light. The same goes
with gem stones as some of my firends in succulent palnts have shown
me. (Funny, many collectors of succulents are also collectors of
gems!) I am sure Leo can confirm it with wonderful stories and

>In my mind, all detectors are instruments which all belong to the
>stage of 'Observation' of the scientific method.

Leo, you are more than 100% correct (if that was possible ;-) That is
why I have decided that using "detector" as part of the metaphor for
each stage is confusing.

Perhaps fellow learners are now beginning to think that the scientific
method has very little to do with Learning Organisations and thus have
to be scrapped (the "crap detector" working). I do not think so. In my
reply to Winfried Dressler I will focus on this issue since I believe
that its is most important to LOs, affording us valuable insight into
Systems Thinking.

Than you Leo for the exciting dialogue.

Best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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