Analytical Decision Making
November 3, 2012
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What data can you offer to support the proposition that people often make decisions without having gathered evidence to support those decisions?
There are no right or wrong decisions in research, only more or less defensible ones.
Ways of "Knowing"
There are five basic ways of knowing, or of gaining knowledge
1. Tenacity: We continue to do a certain thing a certain way because it has always been done in that particular way, tradition
2. Authority: Authority figures, or experts, make assertions which we accept because we trust them and the statements they make
3. A Priori: We believe certain things and accept them as true because they are self-evident; intuition; rationalism
4. Magic: Supernatural intervention
5. Science: Based on empiricism, science is descriptive, not prescriptive. We must rely on the first four ways of knowing as well as science, to gain knowledge about the world
Scientific Knowledge Is Not Necessarily Truth
There are four fundamental reasons (and many other reasons) that the empirical approach of science does not equate with the Truth: Sensory Data:
1. We rely on sensory data (sight, smell, touch, hearing, tasting) to provide us with an accurate reflection of reality, but we can never be sure that the reflection is accurate because we cannot be sure that our senses are reliable (Descartes' Devil)
2. Logical Positivism: This is (was) the major philosophy (epistemology) underlying the scientific method in physics, chemistry, astronomy, psychology, etc. It was developed in the 1920's by a group of mathematicians, philosophers and scientists called the Vienna Circle. It states that meaningful statements about the world are only those that can be proven to be true or false through observation (or logic in the case of mathematical statements, e.g. 2+2=4). However, particularly in the social sciences, but also in the physical sciences we violate these rules. Three cases in point: A. We seeks Universal Laws or Truths; these can never be proven true because it would take an infinite number of observations to do so. B. We study hypothetical constructs such as attitudes, beliefs, values which are not observable. C. A mathematician named Godel showed that all logical systems are flawed -- they cannot be both consistent and complete.
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3. Life Span of Scientific Theory: All scientific theories change over time and sooner or later are replaced by better ones. Scientific theories and the nature of science are constantly changing, and if science is in constant flux, we cannot say with certainty that its answers are absolute. Someone once said that what we know is whatever theories are in vogue at any given time.
4. Observability: Science requires that a theory be tested through observable evidence. Particularly in the case of historical phenomena, evidence may have been destroyed or otherwise unavailable. Explanations without available evidence are discounted even though they might be otherwise tenable. The debate about the fate of dinosaurs is a case in point.
Teleological: humans seek to fulfill their needs
Humans act of their own volition, choose their own behavior
Humans interact with their environment, not react to it
Researchers look for rules that govern behavior as opposed to laws that determine behavior
Instead of seeking to explain what is "out there” in the world, humanistic scholars are interested in how humans interpret what's "out there"
"Johnny ran down the hill because he wanted to" as opposed to the S-R explanation that he did so because of reward history.
Conflict theory; continental philosophy; cultural studies; Marxism
Relies on proactive research, value laden