Formulating Science in Terms of Possible and Impossible Tasks

Chiara Marletto, Edge, Dec 11, 2014
Commentary by Stephen Downes
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This is a very interesting but conceptually difficult discussion of an alternative approach to the creation of scientific theories. In current theory, we  describe and explain what is and what isn't by formulating hypotheses and testing predictions. But in many cases, the predictions fall short because the theory doesn't describe what is actually the case, but what is possible. In communications theory, for example, we talk about what sort of system could transmit information. Or in biology, we talk about what sort of structures could produce evolution. But often these systems are not producing any particular communication or evolved organism, so we can reduce the descriptions to descriptions and predictions concerning underlying physical entities. Constructor theory provides that theoretical framework, allowing us to talk about information and processes in the same language we use to talk about particles and forces. It's worth looking at, because it suggests a way of being able to talk about education scientifically without being reductionist.

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