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Empirical Evidence Make Progress In Knowledge Philosophy Essay

1496 words (6 pages) Essay in Philosophy

5/12/16 Philosophy Reference this

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The dictionary definition of empirical evidence is evidence relating to or based on experiment and observation (rather than theory) or on practical experience (without reference to scientific principles). This type of evidence is necessary for a theory, in different areas of knowledge, to be confirmed. Empirical methods are generally used to base a theory or derive a conclusion in sciences (such as the natural sciences or the human sciences) after collecting all the necessary data. The meaning of the word empirical derives from the ancient Greek word for experience (εμπειρία), which means knowledge based on direct perception of things or events through our senses. Therefore, empirical data is information that is derived from the trials and errors of experience. In this way, the empirical method is similar to the experimental method.

The empirical method is generally characterized by the collection of a large amount of data, with or without much idea of what to expect. The empirical method is necessary in entering completely unexplored fields, and becomes less empirical as the acquired knowledge of the field increases.

Throughout centuries researchers use empirical research and evidence to test reality i.e. to test “the state of things as they actually exist”, basing their findings on direct or indirect observation. This kind of research is mainly applied to empirical sciences, mainly the natural sciences and the human (social) sciences. In these areas knowledge should be based on observable phenomena capable of being experimented for their validity by other researchers working under the same conditions.

In natural sciences empirical evidence is crucial and scientists can count on this to continue experimenting and make progress discovering new sights. The core skill of a scientist is to make observations, i.e. receive knowledge of the outside world through the senses. The scientist sees, hears, or in some other way notices what’s going on in the world and becomes curious about what’s happening. This also includes reading and studying what others have done in the past since scientific knowledge is cumulative.

In physics, for example, when Newton came up with his Theory of Motion, he based his hypothesis on the work of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo as well as his own, newer observations. Another example is Darwin who formed his Theory of Evolution based on the works of other naturalists but mainly on observations during his voyage to chart the coastline of South America, a voyage that lasted almost 5 years, during which Darwin spent most of the time on land investigating geology and making natural history collections [2] .

In chemistry, the most important issues of atomic theory have been proved experimentally and nobody doubts about the existence of i.e. atoms. Nowadays, everybody knows and nobody can deny that all elements are made of atoms and all atoms have a nucleus. Moreover, science and technology helped to discover and study the tiny world of atoms. For example, nucleus, the massive centre of the atom was discovered in 1911, but it took scientists another 21 years of experimenting to identify its parts (protons, neutrons, electrons). In addition, for many years scientists thought that there was nothing smaller than the proton or the neutron in the nucleus of the atom. In 1968, they discovered that there are new particles inside the proton and the neutron (the quarks) that are even smaller. As we can see, chemical theory is confirmed by detailed agreement with experimental results, although, it takes scientists many years of experimenting and observation.

Biology is the science that studies life mainly from an experimental perspective. Observations and experiments are used vastly to help scientists gather information and make conclusions on several aspects. For example, in biology, disease resides in cells (and, perhaps ultimately, in genes), but we know this because cellular dysfunction can be demonstrated experimentally. In addition, disease can best be controlled by attending to cellular function and dysfunction and by intervening to manipulate the cell using techniques that have empirically demonstrated effectiveness.

In human sciences the situation is different. Sciences such as Psychology have just recently managed to convince people that they are credible. This has been mainly achieved because through observations and experimenting it has produced quantifiable, repeatable results based on empirical evidence. In other sciences such as Economics, Economists have conducted controlled experiments constructed to observe participants’ reactions to specific situations. However, in many cases behaviour is governed more by emotion than by reason. In all human sciences, the experiments are performed on human beings, using relatively small sample sizes and artificial environments which make the results difficult to generalise. Nevertheless, no one can deny the usefulness of observations on human behaviour during different….

In other areas of knowledge, such as Mathematics, the methods used to verify knowledge are independent of experience. Of course they involve an objective, careful and systematic study of an area of knowledge, but facts depend on reasoning alone as in the equation 1+1=2 for example. Mathematics is considered to be the science of rigorous truth and an island of certainty in an ocean of doubt. In such areas of knowledge, empirical evidence cannot be used to make progress. However, one of its main branches, geometry, actually started as a natural, empirical science. Hilbert made important contributions to both axiomatic geometry and to general relativity. Of course, a geometrical theory in physical interpretation can never be validated with mathematical certainty, no matter how extensive the experimental tests to which it is subjected. Like any other theory of empirical science, it can acquire only a more or less high degree of confirmation. Indeed, the demand for mathematical certainty in empirical matters is misguided and unreasonable, since mathematical certainty of knowledge can be only attained at the price of analyticity and thus of complete lack of factual content [3] . This is also summarised in Einstein’s words: “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality”.

The same stands for areas such as history, art, and religion. Religion, for example, is purely a matter of faith. People who choose to believe in God do not have evidence to support it and people who choose not to believe in God do not have evidence that there is no God. There is also no more evidence for any one God than for any other. It is just as sensible to worship the Gods of the ancient Greeks or Egyptians as it is to worship modern deities. Everybody must decide for himself or herself which religion (if any) to follow. And, when people decide to follow one religion, they believe that God exists even if their belief cannot empirically verified or falsified. Their belief is mainly based either on intuition or on some – more or less intense – personal religious experience. Some others have faith and their belief is based on the feeling that “there must be something”. As we see, whether or not God exists is something that cannot be proved (scientifically) by experimentation or observation, therefore, the existence of God is something that different people have different intuition about.

As regards arts,

From the above, I believe that empirical evidence used in the form of observation, experience, or experiment should be used in natural and human sciences, in order to provide accurate and unbiased information. This information will consist a reliable guide for future generations, which will be based on this information to make the necessary progress through further investigation.

From the examples given, it is obvious that researchers should never stop examining, questioning and experimenting in order for new findings to come to light. Previous knowledge and experimental results form a solid base for new discoveries that make progress and evolve sciences. Above all, however, every scientist should question and analyse any findings in the most objective way and not allow prejudice influence his thoughts and his results.

No hypothesis or theory can be called scientific or accepted if it lacks empirical evidence in favour. Therefore, empirical evidence can be use both to accept or counter any scientific hypothesis or theory.

http://www.experiment-resources.com/empirical-evidence.html

Read more: http://www.experiment-resources.com/empirical-evidence.html#ixzz0gIvSLOZN

There is no evidence to support the doctrines of a particular religion.

After all, certainty cannot be found in any area of knowledge. Even if we prove something by experiment or observation, it may turn out to be false after some years or more.

The complete work of Charles Darwin on line (http://darwin-online.org.uk/)

http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?viewtype=side&itemID=F10.3&pageseq=1

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