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Ape Language

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Ape Language

All areas of science put forward questions about differing ideas and follow a process in order to try and obtain the answers. This process may include observation in order to make a hypothesis, designing the experiment which will test your prediction, controlling the variables and interpreting the data before rejecting or accepting your hypothesis. This is an example of a simplified scientific process.

Throughout history many individuals have come up with ideas in which they feel is the correct scientific process. To name a few Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn and the Logical Empiricism idea. Despite being on the same subject, these three have particularly differing view points on what is right and what is wrong.

Logical empiricism claims that all knowledge is derived from our experiences and if a statement is made that cannot be connected to experience then that statement should be rejected as meaningless. Therefore, their view is that we are born without any kind of knowledge and only gain it through experiencing things first hand. It classifies everything, including the external world as theoretical.

Induction is the part of logical empiricism that moves from the specific to the general. Induction states that observation statements forming generalisations must be large; observations must be repeated and no accepted statement should clash with an already existing universal law. Thus by this process we have theories, generalisations, scientific laws etc. However, criticisms have arisen from this process of induction with people claiming is not logically justifiable.

Logical empiricism takes a conservative view and often finds itself turning blind to alternative explanations and theories. They attempted to simplify things to far with sense experience and logic being their simplified answer.

In the documentary Ulcer Wars logical empiricism is a small but key element to the study in which Doctor Barry Marshall involves himself in. Marshall found bacteria in the stomach of 90% of ulcer patients that people had never seen before. Thus his work was majorly criticised and rejected as doctors of his time had all been trained to know that bacteria does not grow in the stomach. He and a colleague attempted to grow this bacteria to prove their point. After accidently leaving the incubators longer than they usually would, the bacteria grew. This is where they made their discovery for the cure for ulcers, which was deemed incurable by most. To prove this theory to the rest of the world, who did not accept the trials he had done, Marshall tried to infect himself with ulcers by drinking the bacteria which would cause all the acid in the stomach to disappear. Thus sickness is a result of the overwhelming bacteria in the stomach compensating for the missing acid. This part is where the logical empiricism comes into play. Marshall through self experience was trying to convince others of his idea. By using himself as a patient, he was making a statement out to the medical profession that his discovery was in fact true even if it defied convention. After taking antibiotics for 2 weeks, Marshall was back healthy again proving his theory through his own sense experience to be correct.

Whereas in the ape language case studies, logical empiricism is not seen as sense experience by the experimenters, as it is not really possible, but the researchers new they had to see the apes using language before they could accept or reject their hypothesis. As they thought by seeing it, it would mean that the chimpanzees did have the knowledge for language. But it proved to be a bit more complex then the simplicity of the logical empiricism argument.

Karl Popper was more of a realist. Which is a striking comparison to logical empiricism as these two views seem to be in conflict with one another. He was a great defender of the theory of dependence and saw humans as pattern recognisers who construct certain generalisations from their own experiences unconsciously.

Popper believed that a real world exists independently of us and our sense experience and that if human life ceased to exist, the world would continue to go on without us. He claimed that the defining feature of a scientific approach is critical, open, rational debate.

According to Popper the aim of science is to accurately portray the true nature of the world. Even though we will never be able to experience the whole world, or ever know if the universal generalisations are true. Progress, in Poppers view is only achieved in science through elimination of false theories.

Only one statement that contradicts a universal statement is enough evidence to falsify that universal statement. This is seen in Ulcer Wars with Barry Marshall coming up with an idea that contended all the text books on ulcers. There was no incentive to further research into a cure for ulcers when most were making lots of money out of treatments

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