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Monday, July 20, 2009

Uncommon Descent Contest 6 winner announced: Why waste a crisis, especially in genomics?

This was the question:
Here's On the Epistemological Crisis in Genomics by Edward R Dougherty, which moved in Current Genomics, April 2008.


There is an epistemological crisis in genomics. At issue is what constitutes scientific knowledge in genomic science, or systems biology in general. Does this crisis require a new perspective on knowledge heretofore absent from science or is it merely a matter of interpreting new scientific developments in an existing epistemological framework? This paper discusses the manner in which the experimental method, as developed and understood over recent centuries, leads naturally to a scientific epistemology grounded in an experimental-mathematical duality. It places genomics into this epistemological framework and examines the current situation in genomics. Meaning and the constitution of scientific knowledge are key concerns for genomics, and the nature of the epistemological crisis in genomics depends on how these are understood.

He kvetched,

The rules of the scientific game are not being followed. Given the historical empirical emphasis of biology and the large number of ingenious experiments that have moved the field, one might suspect that the major epistemological problems would lie with mathematics, but this is not the case. While there certainly needs to be more care paid to mathematical modeling, the major problem lies on the experimental side of the mathematical-experimental scientific duality. High-throughput technologies such as gene-expression microarrays have lead to the accumulation of massive amounts of data, orders of magnitude in excess to what has heretofore been conceivable. But the accumulation of data does not constitute science, nor does the a postiori rational analysis of data.
What's happened since? Another black hole?

Contest question, for a free copy of Expelled?: What rules of science are relevant for genomics. Are they being followed?
This one didn't attract a lot of entries and they were all from the same person. Principally, I suppose, that is because many people interested in genomics react to the "crisis" the way I reacted to a recent claim about a crisis" in cosmology around gravity. To most of us, a crisis is when you lock yourself out of the house and see through the window that the dog has tipped the candlabra and set fire to the carpet. If you don't do something useful right this minute, you soon won't have a house or a dog.

Okay, and the winner is, by acclamation, Lock, for 2:
From Edward R Dougherty: "But the accumulation of data does not constitute science, nor does the a postiori rational analysis of data."

I assume he uses an a priori framework with which to make that judgement?

Of course he does. And rightly so. And that lens is the one science should be using (and does… but not consistently).

Here is the insanity… science uses this lens religiously, except that when doing so the evidence points to religious conclusions.

Denyse, you asked: "What rules of science are relevant for genomics?"

Available empirical data examined consistently through the lens of the 'law of non-contradiction'.

"Are they being followed?"

Really now… is that question necessary?
While Lock says he already owns Expelled, it may make a handy gift item, so he needs to be in touch with me at, to arrange shipment of his prize.


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