Title 5 – KQ 2 : How far can the methods of testing and accepting knowledge claims be dependent on adequacy of evidence ?

KQ 2 : How far can the methods of testing and accepting knowledge claims be dependent on adequacy of evidence ?

Evidence through observations or data inspire, lend support to, and help refute scientific hypotheses and theories. Evidence has been the foundational element for testing of hypotheses and theories in areas of Natural sciences , Social sciences and History. This knowledge, built over centuries, has been continuously tested and refined through a very rigorous scientific method that derives its power and legitimacy from evidence.

However , in the past century or so doubts have been raised on the efficacy of the tests and methods based entirely on evidence. “In 1958, Norwood Hanson in  Patterns of Discovery undermined the division of observation versus theory, as one can predict, collect, prioritize, and assess data only via some horizon of expectation set by a theory. Thus, any dataset—the direct observations, the scientific facts—is laden with theory.”

Besides this, the Theories with subject matter consisting of Ideas rather than the empirical data , are only equipped with elementary theorms and statements that , offcourse , cannot possibly be scientifically tested through empirical observation. Also there exist theories , even in Natural Sciences , with stipulative definitions and conventions , idealizations and Non-observable entities that make claims that are not empirical which basically means that cannot be tested by means of observation or experimentation.

The same argument of “ the lack of Empirical Evidence” figures very strongly in Atheists versus Believers debate that there has not been any reliable , testable evidence to support the hypothesis that God exists and it is therefore NOT rational to believe that there is a God. Because , if God exists and interacts with us , then God’s interactions must be measurable and detectable in some way but no such interactions have been observed or measured till date. The Atheists further argue that Faith , being personal , private and unmeasurable , is a great excuse to evade the need to bring in evidence in Religion. So do we actually require to test and falsify to establish if God Does Exist?

The debate over Realism vs Antirealism began in late 19th century when scientific theories extended beyond the realm of the observable and remains so even today . Charles Peirce (1839–1914) , who was highly influential in laying the groundwork for today’s empirical scientific method emphasized that rational concepts are meaningful ; go beyond the data given by empirical observation and there is a need need to counterbalance the ‘data driven’ empiricist view. Many theories , once regarded as empirically successful , are now believed to be false . Yet , the replacements of theories are attributed to the progressive nature of scientific knowledge stressing upon the fact that only superfluous unobservables , not well supported concepts , are dropped during such replacements.

Even with ample of evidence, say lots of data and observation points , interpreting the evidence relating to an idea is not so comprehensible in our complex and dynamic world. Very often, the multiple lines of evidence require considerable weighing and choosing relevant to the validity of a idea in inquiry.