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The difference between science and engineering?





mike1reynolds
Iíve noticed all my life that a lot of engineers confuse themselves for being scientists without having any notion of the real distinction between science and engineering. Engineering is not a science at all, it is a vocation, like grease monkey mechanics.

Engineering is all about taking an example of something, zooming in on it and finding the most optimal solution for that one tiny occurrence, the specific piston they are working on, or whatever.

Science is about taking a huge step back from the problem at hand and finding a universal solution for all problems of that kind.

As such, science is profoundly more in tune with philosophy, while engineering is the very antithesis of philosophy.

I assume that a BEd is an engineering degree, Bikerman?
HereticMonkey
Gee, I would have thought of engineering as a science (some of those "unique" solutions tend to be used more than once). Heh: I just remembered the difference between Engineering and Science as per Xeno's Paradox (a scientist and an engineer are challenged to kiss a girl, but must Xeno's Paradox to get to her (they can only go half the remaining distance); the scientist quits, but the engineer does it until he is just a step away from the girl, and then makes the final step Very Happy ).

I think engineering and religion have a lot in common:

1 ) They take plenty of faith.
2 ) There is a definite belief in a higher power, whether it be God or the person paying.
3 ) Money is not your main motivator.
4 ) You're always looking for loopholes in the way reality works.
5 ) There is a dark side and a light side (religion has Good and Evil, engineering has duct tape).
6 ) It's not important how things work, so much as they do.
7 ) Consumption of specific liquids at specific times is extremely important (Catholics have Communion Wine on Sundays; ever seen an engineer before his Morning Coffee?).
8 ) If buildings, ships and cars did not have a spirit of some sort, then why do they have names?
9 ) If you had to tell a Catholic priest that there was no God, an engineer that his building was going to collapse, or Mike Tyson that he was a wimp, is there any sane individual that wouldn't choose Tyson?
10) Engineering is a way of thinking based on imaginary numbers; how can it not be a religion?

[Had to do it...]
HM
mike1reynolds
I'm a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech, and a hell of an engineer
A helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva engineer
Like all the jolly good fellows, I drink my whiskey clear.
I'm a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech and a hell of an engineer

Oh, if I had a daughter sir
I'd dress her in white and gold
And put her on the campus
To cheer the brave and bold.
But if I had a son sir
I'll tell you what he'd do
He'd yell, "To hell with Georgia!!" (GSU Bulldogs)
Like his daddy used to do.

Oh, I wish I had a barrel of rum
And sugar three thousand pounds
A college bell to put it in
And a clapper to stir it round.
I'd drink to all the good fellows
Who come from far and near.
I'm a Ramblin', Gamblin', hell of an engineer!

=========================================

"To cheer the brave and bold." was often substituted with "To increase the ratio", "To raise the ratio", "To help the ratio", or "To boost the ratio" as a reference to the large ratio of undergraduate men to women.

Women, especially alumni, often substituted "Like his daddy used to do." with "Like his mommy used to do."

At the conclusion of the song there was a call of "Go Jackets!" responded to with "Bust their ass!" Following 4 of these calls and responses, the song was ended with a call of "Go Jackets!! Fight!!" More recently however, the student body now yells "Fight! Win! Drink! Get Naked!"
make_life_better
mike1reynolds wrote:
Science is about taking a huge step back from the problem at hand and finding a universal solution for all problems of that kind.


Not quite as I understand it; although there is an element of that by implication. To do science requires:

(1) Start with some observations, usually about the real world but could be theoretical

(2) Invent or devise a theory that explains those observations

(3) Use that theory to make testable predictions about something that you don't know, preferably something non-trivial and non-obvious or better still something counter-intuitive and different from what other theories predict

(4) Do the experiment and get some more observations. If your new theory makes predictions that are a better match for the results of the experiment, it's a better theory.

Then of course, any gaps or mismatch between the predictions and the experiment are interesting observations that need to be explained - so go and revise the theory or invent a new one that is even better.

When science gets too far from testable theories, it can be argued that it is nearer to philosophy; but in principle it is built up from many layers of theories, experiments and observations which should have been well described and repeatable so anyone can test them (in principle).

Engineering is rather the art of making things work. Many great feats of engineering have been done by people before there were really robust scientific theories to underpin everything that went into them. In many ways, an engineer may not care about the science at all and still be successful.

mike1reynolds wrote:
I assume that a BEd is an engineering degree, Bikerman?


No I don't think it is. I think you will find it's to do with education. Ever tried any?
mike1reynolds
Absolutely nothing in your first section makes any real distinction between science and engineering. Engineers must use the scientific method too, so describing the grammar school elementary ABC's of the scientific method says nothing at all about how engineers and scientists have to apply the scientific method in different ways that are nuanced. Your post is a throw away.

make_life_better wrote:
mike1reynolds wrote:
I assume that a BEd is an engineering degree, Bikerman?


No I don't think it is. I think you will find it's to do with education. Ever tried any?
I'm not interested in teching high school kids.

Wow, nothing meaningful to say while being obnoxious and condescending about it.

As to Bikerman, if his BEd is an education degree rather than the computer science related degree that he claimed, then well, that about says it all.
make_life_better
mike1reynolds wrote:
Absolutely nothing in your first section makes any real distinction between science and engineering. Engineers must use the scientific method too, so describing the grammar school elementary ABC's of the scientific method says nothing at all about how engineers and scientists have to apply the scientific method in different ways that are nuanced. Your post is a throw away.


Actually, I would contend that this is not just a school-level throw-away description of science. Many people actually never get it - science is actually such a simple idea that many people get carried away with the machinery and the books and theories, and lose sight of what science actually is about. The power of science comes from its simplicity and its implicit assumption that current theories are wrong and trying to find better ones that describe the world better.

That is not at all what engineering is about. Engineering is (loosely) about making things. Granted there is a big overlap in that many engineers use scientific knowledge and principles in their engineering, just as many scientists use engineering to help them create their experiments.

As to having different nuances, then yes engineers may be using a scientific method to improve a system without necessarily requiring a robust well-founded theory to underpin it. In a sense, engineers can use a heuristic approximation to a theory - it may still be enough to allow them to improve the system in question. But is that then science? According to textbook definitions it probably isn't; but who cares - in practice if it achieves the engineer's objectives it is probably good enough. It's probably how most of "real" science started anyway.

But even then - it is the engineer using a science-like method to achieve their engineering objectives. It's just another tool, and if "real" science happens, then it may just be a by-product.

So does the intention / purpose make a difference? Do you have to be trying to do science for its own sake for it to really count? I don't think so. Maybe someone who is trying to understand cancer (science) is doing something "better" than somebody who designs mp3 players (engineering). But what about somebody who is designing a better water purification unit for poor vilages (engineering)? What about somebody who spends 20 years arguing about superstring theory in 10 dimensions (science?)
Indi
make_life_better wrote:
That is not at all what engineering is about. Engineering is (loosely) about making things.

Eeeeehhhhh... close? >_< i wouldn't quite put it exactly that way because it is both too general and too specific. Not everyone who makes things is doing engineering, and not everyone who does engineering makes things.

Engineering is really just applied science. It is the application of knowledge to solve real-world problems.

Usually the knowledge is scientific knowledge, but engineers can (and do) use whatever sources of knowledge they can.

The difference between science and engineering is that science is the acquisition of knowledge about the physical world, and engineering is the application of knowledge for practical purposes (and not necessarily just scientific knowledge).

Just about any field that applies pure (theoretical) knowledge to produce a real-world result is engineering - even if they don't produce a tangible "thing". Consider these non-traditional ideas of engineering: behavioural engineering (the application of psychological knowledge to produce altered human behaviour), systems engineering (the application of organizational and optimization theories to produce optimally tuned systems), social engineering (the application of sociology and political science to change the attitudes of a large population). Some would argue that these are not "pure" engineering in the same sense that "soft" sciences like psychology are not "pure" science. i'm on the fence on that debate. As far as i'm concerned, any application of pure (theoretical) knowledge to produce real-world solutions is engineering, whether the knowledge is "pure" science or not - but at the same time, i would not consider someone who undertook to do social engineering to be an "engineer". Your position may differ.

make_life_better wrote:
Granted there is a big overlap in that many engineers use scientific knowledge and principles in their engineering, just as many scientists use engineering to help them create their experiments.

True, but i think a line - however fuzzy - can be drawn between the two.

A scientist uses scientific knowledge, and only scientific knowledge, to increase scientific knowledge. The product of his efforts is pure (scientific) knowledge, not any practical, useful technology.

An engineer uses knowledge, mostly scientific but it is not mandatory that it be only scientific, to solve some real-world problem. The product of his efforts is a solution or a technology (in the broadest sense of the word), but not new (pure) knowledge.

Of course, as you rightly point out, many real-world efforts are grey and fall a little into both categories. It is sad but true that most science is funded for the express purpose of eventually leading to usable technologies, forcing researchers to do double duty as scientists (to create a new theory and/or acquire new pure knowledge) and engineers (to apply that theory/knowledge and create a technology).

make_life_better wrote:
So does the intention / purpose make a difference? Do you have to be trying to do science for its own sake for it to really count? I don't think so.

Well, tough questions, i think. >_<

i don't think intention is a factor at all. The only* factor in determining whether you're doing science or engineering is what you produce. If you produce pure knowledge, you have done science. If you produce an applicable technology (ie, a solution to a problem), you have done engineering. If - as occasionally happens - you have produced both, you have done both.

(*There's one extra caveat. In order to be doing science, you have to use only scientific knowledge. You cannot base a scientific theory on any old random empirical knowledge. It must have a scientific basis. That's not the case for engineering - you can use any knowledge that you can stand behind professionally in your solution.)

Let me give you a real-world example based my own real-life experience. Imagine you have bunch of rods sticking out of the side of a wall (like a wall that someone had thrown a bunch of spears at). Those rods are cooling rods and you want to determine the rate at which heat gets transferred away from those rods dependent on the air temperature and wind speed and the dimensions of the rods and so on. So you set up an experiment and record your data, then analyze it. You determine things like that the heat transfer rate is proportional to the square of the wind velocity, and to the temperature difference and blah blah blah. All of that is really good pure knowledge. Up to that point, you have done science.

Now, taking that information, you put together an empirical relationship - an equation - that a heat exchanger designer can use to calculate the heat transfer rate given the air temperature, wind speed and so on. That is a useful technology for a practical purpose. It is a solution. At that point, you are doing engineering.

As you see, throughout the process of that experiment and the subsequent analysis, i did both science and engineering. i did science by generating new pure knowledge, and engineering by generating new technology (the relationship - an equation is a technology, too).

make_life_better wrote:
Maybe someone who is trying to understand cancer (science) is doing something "better" than somebody who designs mp3 players (engineering).

Ah, careful.

Someone who is trying to understand cancer is not really working on the cure. Someone who applies biology in order to find the cure is actualy doing engineering (specifically, biomedical engineering).

As far as i'm concerned, trying to justify the existence of both science and engineering by pointing to practical benefits of both is disingenious. Because if there a practical benefit to any scientific knowledge... it would have had to have been engineered. Scientific knowledge is not intrinsically practical.

But consider it this way. Anything that is a practical benefit to mankind is a result of some kind of engineering. But engineering is just applying knowledge, and (damn near) all of that knowledge comes from science. To paraphrase Einstein (who's been discussed to death recently): "science without engineering is lame, engineering without science is blind." If you're going to talk about the practical benefits, you can't separate the two. Every practical benefit is a product of both working together - science creating the background knowledge, and engineering applying it to create the benefit. If you take away the science or the engineering, the beneficial technology could not exist. You need both.
JinTenshi
mike1reynolds wrote:
Absolutely nothing in your first section makes any real distinction between science and engineering. Engineers must use the scientific method too, so describing the grammar school elementary ABC's of the scientific method says nothing at all about how engineers and scientists have to apply the scientific method in different ways that are nuanced. Your post is a throw away.

make_life_better wrote:
mike1reynolds wrote:
I assume that a BEd is an engineering degree, Bikerman?


No I don't think it is. I think you will find it's to do with education. Ever tried any?
I'm not interested in teching high school kids.

Wow, nothing meaningful to say while being obnoxious and condescending about it.

As to Bikerman, if his BEd is an education degree rather than the computer science related degree that he claimed, then well, that about says it all.


All this is very profound to me. And I have no answers to the questions asked in your first post. But I must say. Why the hell did you bring in a FLAMING THREAD?! Your first post already showed that you're directing all this at bikerman. Is there no end to your immaturity?

Stop flaming. Get a life. Please do pure discussion and stop directing everything on the person you dislike and/or hate.
make_life_better
Indi wrote:
make_life_better wrote:
That is not at all what engineering is about. Engineering is (loosely) about making things.

Eeeeehhhhh... close? >_< i wouldn't quite put it exactly that way because it is both too general and too specific. Not everyone who makes things is doing engineering, and not everyone who does engineering makes things.


Actually, that is exactly what I meant. But I said it in a single sentence with the word "loosely", rather than a page-long dissertation. But I don't mind anybody amplifying and clarifying...

Indi wrote:
make_life_better wrote:
Granted there is a big overlap in that many engineers use scientific knowledge and principles in their engineering, just as many scientists use engineering to help them create their experiments.

True, but i think a line - however fuzzy - can be drawn between the two


That's what I thought I was doing. And I totally agree with the distinctions that you draw in the rest of your post, up to...

Indi wrote:
make_life_better wrote:
]Maybe someone who is trying to understand cancer (science) is doing something "better" than somebody who designs mp3 players (engineering).

Ah, careful.

Someone who is trying to understand cancer is not really working on the cure. Someone who applies biology in order to find the cure is actualy doing engineering (specifically, biomedical engineering).


That's why I used the word "understand", rather than "cure". I completely agree that this is the distinction between science and engineering.

Indi wrote:
As far as i'm concerned, trying to justify the existence of both science and engineering by pointing to practical benefits of both is disingenious. Because if there a practical benefit to any scientific knowledge... it would have had to have been engineered. Scientific knowledge is not intrinsically practical.

But consider it this way. Anything that is a practical benefit to mankind is a result of some kind of engineering. But engineering is just applying knowledge, and (damn near) all of that knowledge comes from science. To paraphrase Einstein (who's been discussed to death recently): "science without engineering is lame, engineering without science is blind." If you're going to talk about the practical benefits, you can't separate the two. Every practical benefit is a product of both working together - science creating the background knowledge, and engineering applying it to create the benefit. If you take away the science or the engineering, the beneficial technology could not exist. You need both.


Again, I have to agree. Even some of the most abstract science stuff in the past has given rise to knowledge that can be used to engineer practical benefits. In my day-to-day job I routinely use stuff that would have been hard-core academic maths/computing research only 20 years ago. And that's just the software; all of us are using the benefits of amazing computing hardware. I just wish more of us would perhaps use it more fruitfully for the benefit of others rather than self-agrandizement or criticising/insulting others.
Indi
make_life_better wrote:
Actually, that is exactly what I meant. But I said it in a single sentence with the word "loosely", rather than a page-long dissertation.

That was uncalled for. You were unclear - your definition was "loose", by your own admission - so i felt that i had to clarify it.

If you would prefer that i did not try to help you clarify your points in the future, please say so now.
mike1reynolds
JinTenshi wrote:
All this is very profound to me. And I have no answers to the questions asked in your first post. But I must say. Why the hell did you bring in a FLAMING THREAD?! Your first post already showed that you're directing all this at bikerman. Is there no end to your immaturity?
So you think this is a "profound" "immature" thread? Very Happy Are you coming or going?

JinTenshi wrote:
Stop flaming. Get a life. Please do pure discussion and stop directing everything on the person you dislike and/or hate.

How dare I strike back after Bikerman's perpetual ad hominems. For the past several months I have always stuck to the argument, but when it is clear that everything your opponent says is going to, sooner or later, be turned into a vehicle for a contemptuous personal attack, one tends to have a reaction to this. At least humans do. What are you?
make_life_better
Indi wrote:
make_life_better wrote:
Actually, that is exactly what I meant. But I said it in a single sentence with the word "loosely", rather than a page-long dissertation.

That was uncalled for. You were unclear - your definition was "loose", by your own admission - so i felt that i had to clarify it.

If you would prefer that i did not try to help you clarify your points in the future, please say so now.


I was not criticising you in any way at all (at least not deliberately). I was acknowleging that I had done a brief comment as a sort of loose shorthand. The very next bit of my text (that you snipped) actually reads : "But I don't mind anybody amplifying and clarifying..." and I really do mean it. I actively seek other people's clarifications and amplifications because that's how I gain extra insights; even criticism is welcomed.

I think that your reading of my response might not have been what I intended. I will try to make myself clearer in future. It's terribly easy to write things with one interpretation in mind, only to find others reading it differently. And then we end up with long and detailed posts that some people take to be rambling and don't bother to read. It's a difficult thing to get right all the time.
mike1reynolds
Indi, it is mind boggling how cogent and insightful you are the moment the subject of God is dropped, in contrast to the way you sound like the mirror image of a purely emotive and totally irrational fundamentalist Christian when the subject is God. What is up with you and God? One moment you have incredible powers of insight, but then in the next moment when God is brought up it is like placing a chicken down on a straight line on the side walk. Their brain goes *bzzt* as they just lay there in a trance state until waking up in a panic after a few minutes. It is like bringing up the subject of God brings out your ugly schizto counter-personality, but I am certainly glad to have Dr. Jekyll back, at least for a little while.

Indi wrote:
A scientist uses scientific knowledge, and only scientific knowledge, to increase scientific knowledge. The product of his efforts is pure (scientific) knowledge, not any practical, useful technology.

This is the only statement you made that I have any disagreement with. Letís use chemistry vs. chemical engineering as a specific example. I donít think chemistry is limited to non-practical findings at all. I agree there is a distinction, but I donít think it is any kind of hard and fast rule, but rather more of a general tendency.

I still think that zoom in vs. zoom out is the must fundamental distinction between engineering and science. Engineers do not try to solve universal problems, nor do they try to take problems at hand and attempt to find the universal problem that their problem is a subset of.
Gagnar The Unruly
[quote="mike1reynolds"]

Indi wrote:
A scientist uses scientific knowledge, and only scientific knowledge, to increase scientific knowledge. The product of his efforts is pure (scientific) knowledge, not any practical, useful technology.

This is the only statement you made that I have any disagreement with.

I also disagree. I think you're trying to force the real world into the terminology a little bit. Science and engineering can definitely overlap. I think you're hanging up on a difference between applied science, pure science, and engineering. I also think that all three can be going on simultaneously in a single research project. In my own field there is a good mixture of applied and pure science, and engineering can be so subtly integrated into some research projects that it usually isn't even identified. I know that I've done all three simultaneously.
JinTenshi
mike1reynolds wrote:
So you think this is a "profound" "immature" thread? Very Happy Are you coming or going?

I'll stay and read what's the difference for I find this thread nice and educational. But regarding the final part where you directed it at BM, I thought that unnecessary and immature and your part. Profound doesn't mean immature. Sorry if what I typed was a bit hard to read. Or perhaps your comprehension abilities are sightly lower. Whichever way, take no offense. It's only the final part that I find immature, whereas the rest of the contents are nice and profound and very educational.

mike1reynolds wrote:
How dare I strike back after Bikerman's perpetual ad hominems. For the past several months I have always stuck to the argument, but when it is clear that everything your opponent says is going to, sooner or later, be turned into a vehicle for a contemptuous personal attack, one tends to have a reaction to this. At least humans do. What are you?

I am a higher class human who ignores personal attacks an insults. Take everything within rational thinking and resolve it without retaliation. =) Or perhaps I'm not a human but a higher being. Enough crap. On with the topic. I wanna read more please.
mike1reynolds
JinTenshi wrote:
Or perhaps your comprehension abilities are sightly lower. Whichever way, take no offense.

I think you are kind of out of it too, no offense. Laughing
Indi
make_life_better wrote:
I was not criticising you in any way at all (at least not deliberately). I was acknowleging that I had done a brief comment as a sort of loose shorthand. The very next bit of my text (that you snipped) actually reads : "But I don't mind anybody amplifying and clarifying..." and I really do mean it. I actively seek other people's clarifications and amplifications because that's how I gain extra insights; even criticism is welcomed.

I think that your reading of my response might not have been what I intended. I will try to make myself clearer in future. It's terribly easy to write things with one interpretation in mind, only to find others reading it differently. And then we end up with long and detailed posts that some people take to be rambling and don't bother to read. It's a difficult thing to get right all the time.

If your response was not a criticism of me, then i misinterpreted it, in which case i am at fault and i apologize.

However, i strongly disagree with your implication here: "And then we end up with long and detailed posts that some people take to be rambling and don't bother to read." Philosophy is a literate man's pursuit. In order for ideas to be shared, they must be exchanged clearly and correctly. Being brief is good, but being clear is necessary. A long post to make a clear point is infinitely better than a short one that doesn't.

If someone just can't be bothered to read a long post, then they're a lousy philosopher and are really not worth the bother of worrying about. Philosophy is not taught in picture books.

Gagnar The Unruly wrote:
Indi wrote:
A scientist uses scientific knowledge, and only scientific knowledge, to increase scientific knowledge. The product of his efforts is pure (scientific) knowledge, not any practical, useful technology.

This is the only statement you made that I have any disagreement with.

I also disagree. I think you're trying to force the real world into the terminology a little bit. Science and engineering can definitely overlap. I think you're hanging up on a difference between applied science, pure science, and engineering. I also think that all three can be going on simultaneously in a single research project. In my own field there is a good mixture of applied and pure science, and engineering can be so subtly integrated into some research projects that it usually isn't even identified. I know that I've done all three simultaneously.

Whatever you are objecting to, it's nothing i wrote.

"I think you're hanging up on a difference between applied science, pure science, and engineering." Incorrect. i defined engineering as applied science. They are the same. Engineering/applied science is the application of (mostly) scientific knowledge to create technologies. Science is the acquisition of scientific knowledge. Those are the definitions i used.

"I also think that all three can be going on simultaneously in a single research project. In my own field there is a good mixture of applied and pure science, and engineering can be so subtly integrated into some research projects that it usually isn't even identified. I know that I've done all three simultaneously." That is what i said. In fact, the example i gave shows that - i did both science and engineering in my engineering experiment. In fact, if you want to get really technical, i did both at more than one point - i had to engineer a solution for a test apparatus in order to acquire the scientific knowledge to apply for the ultimate engineering solution.

Just because science and engineering usually exist in tandem does not imply that it is impossible to separate the two. Take for example, theoretical physics - there is no useful technology generated there, therefore it is pure science, no engineering. On the other hand, consider product development - there is no new knowledge acquired there, therefore it is pure engineering, no science.
Gagnar The Unruly
Well, um, now I'm not sure what exactly I was writing about! In my defense, I was pretty out-of-it yesterday afternoon. So, consider my statements officially retracted!
Bikerman
Gagnar The Unruly wrote:

Indi wrote:
A scientist uses scientific knowledge, and only scientific knowledge, to increase scientific knowledge. The product of his efforts is pure (scientific) knowledge, not any practical, useful technology.
I also disagree. I think you're trying to force the real world into the terminology a little bit. Science and engineering can definitely overlap. I think you're hanging up on a difference between applied science, pure science, and engineering. I also think that all three can be going on simultaneously in a single research project. In my own field there is a good mixture of applied and pure science, and engineering can be so subtly integrated into some research projects that it usually isn't even identified. I know that I've done all three simultaneously.

I think the definitions you give shed light on this, secifically "Applied science".
Applied science is the application of science, it is therefore, by definition, not in itself science. Applied science is just another phrase meaning a type of engineering.
Indi already covers this in his earlier response but I think it is an important point and worth highlighting.

PS - I don't mean to ungenerously criticise something you have already retracted so please do not take this as such - just an attempt to highlight a particularly important element of the general debate
Gagnar The Unruly
Here's another definition of applied science, from wikipedia:

wikipedia - applied science wrote:
Applied science is the exact science of applying knowledge from one or more natural scientific fields to practical problems. Many applied sciences can be considered forms of engineering. Applied science is important for technology development. Its use in industrial settings is usually referred to as research and development (R&D).


It's a semantic debate, really, but I think applied science is science when it specifically involves application of not just scientific knowledge but also scientific methods.

Just a thought: the degree to which a person sees pure science, applied science, and engineering as disparate may depend on that persons scientific background. I can imagine that in the "hardest" sciences that deal with very discreet phenomena, the processes of gaining "pure" knowledge, investigating the application of that knowledge, and then engineering a new technology would be pretty distinct and use different methodologies.

In molecular biology, it's can be less clearly defined. From my own experience, I investigated the genetic cause of a certain disease in dogs with the intention of gaining knowledge about the disease, using dogs as a model organism for studying an analagous disease in humans, as well as developing a commercially available test for the disease. The research was simultaneously pure and applied, and the engineering process was a critical part of my "pure" research approach, because I could not scan for mutations without first engineering a method of scanning for the mutations. In our case, we still don't know if our marker is actually a disease-causing mutation, or is simply in very tight linkage with the disease-causing mutation. So, though the engineering may be finished, more pure research is needed. Of course, designing and developing new drugs is an applied science and an engineering effort that seems pretty seperate from academic research (in my opinion).

To use another example: the development of invasive species biocontrols. In this case, the engineering of a biological control system (a legtimate technology) is an applied science. However, even the implementation of the control organism is a scientific process that requires an experimental approach, and each a control organism is introduced into a new system, new (applied) research is needed that also creates opportunities for "pure" research questions that are often present in the same paper as the applied research questions. In fact, most ecological research needs to be fairly "applied" to even be fundable.

I think because of my ecology background, I tend to think of applied science vs. pure science as being points on a continuum. Of course, this is a semantic argument, and I'm prepared to accept that my understanding of these terms may be idiosyncratic!
Bikerman
Gagnar The Unruly wrote:
It's a semantic debate, really, but I think applied science is science when it specifically involves application of not just scientific knowledge but also scientific methods.

But surely scientific method can be used in all sorts of disciplines. You could use it in politics, economics etc etc. We would not wish to classify such disciplines as science though.
Quote:

Just a thought: the degree to which a person sees pure science, applied science, and engineering as disparate may depend on that persons scientific background. I can imagine that in the "hardest" sciences that deal with very discreet phenomena, the processes of gaining "pure" knowledge, investigating the application of that knowledge, and then engineering a new technology would be pretty distinct and use different methodologies.
Perhaps. In my own case I'm not a scientist at all so I can absolve myself of having a personal bias Smile
Quote:

In molecular biology, it's can be less clearly defined. From my own experience, I investigated the genetic cause of a certain disease in dogs with the intention of gaining knowledge about the disease, using dogs as a model organism for studying an analagous disease in humans, as well as developing a commercially available test for the disease. The research was simultaneously pure and applied, and the engineering process was a critical part of my "pure" research approach, because I could not scan for mutations without first engineering a method of scanning for the mutations. In our case, we still don't know if our marker is actually a disease-causing mutation, or is simply in very tight linkage with the disease-causing mutation. So, though the engineering may be finished, more pure research is needed. Of course, designing and developing new drugs is an applied science and an engineering effort that seems pretty separate from academic research (in my opinion).
I see what you are getting at but I still disagree. It is perfectly possible (and probably common) for a person to do both engineering and science in the same task, but I would still maintain they were separate 'things'.
Quote:
To use another example: the development of invasive species biocontrols. In this case, the engineering of a biological control system (a legtimate technology) is an applied science. However, even the implementation of the control organism is a scientific process that requires an experimental approach, and each a control organism is introduced into a new system, new (applied) research is needed that also creates opportunities for "pure" research questions that are often present in the same paper as the applied research questions. In fact, most ecological research needs to be fairly "applied" to even be fundable.
I would say the implementation of the control organism would be science only if it was somehow defining some new knowledge about the organism or the species being controlled. Otherwise it would be engineering using scientific method.
Quote:

I think because of my ecology background, I tend to think of applied science vs. pure science as being points on a continuum. Of course, this is a semantic argument, and I'm prepared to accept that my understanding of these terms may be idiosyncratic!
I think it's probably a matter of semantics but maybe not. I need to give this some more thought...The problem I have with it instinctively is that to define applied science as a separate entity would require a demarcation between that and other fields of study which use scientific method sometimes, but do not qualify (I believe) as science. An example would be (IMHO) behavioural psychology.
make_life_better
Indi wrote:
However, i strongly disagree with your implication here: "And then we end up with long and detailed posts that some people take to be rambling and don't bother to read." Philosophy is a literate man's pursuit. In order for ideas to be shared, they must be exchanged clearly and correctly. Being brief is good, but being clear is necessary. A long post to make a clear point is infinitely better than a short one that doesn't.


I wasn't implying either that I have a problem with long and clear posts, because sometimes it is obviously necessary to be explicit in ways that can't be done in very compact textual form. I too favour clarity over brevity. But sometimes there just isn't time to write a pageful, and we sometimes take shortcuts. Maybe that is not acceptable to you, but its the best I can manage sometimes. If that's not good enough, I'll just b*****r off somewhere where the participants aren't quite so demanding. I'm not used to this level of pickyness on these sorts of issues here... Wink
Indi
make_life_better wrote:
I wasn't implying either that I have a problem with long and clear posts, because sometimes it is obviously necessary to be explicit in ways that can't be done in very compact textual form. I too favour clarity over brevity. But sometimes there just isn't time to write a pageful, and we sometimes take shortcuts. Maybe that is not acceptable to you, but its the best I can manage sometimes. If that's not good enough, I'll just b*****r off somewhere where the participants aren't quite so demanding. I'm not used to this level of pickyness on these sorts of issues here... Wink

That's what philosophy is: picky.

Frankly, there's no real reason why you should care what is acceptible to me. i mean, does my opinion really matter to you? i wouldn't imagine so. If you can't find the time to write a long a detailed post, then don't worry about it. Try your best to get your point across in the time and space you can, and it should be fine.

Certainly i have no problem with you being brief. i'm not going to tell you what to do. If i feel that your brevity makes the point unclear, i will attempt to clarify... just like i did... but i won't chastize you for being brief. What i do have a problem with is you criticizing other people's posts for being too long (calling them "page-long dissertation"s and so on), unless they really are rambling and ridiculously verbose. If more words are needed for clarity (as was the case above), then more words should be given. If you can't do it - fine, no problem - but don't criticize someone who finally comes along and does do it.
make_life_better
Indi wrote:
...What i do have a problem with is you criticizing other people's posts for being too long (calling them "page-long dissertation"s and so on), unless they really are rambling and ridiculously verbose. If more words are needed for clarity (as was the case above), then more words should be given. If you can't do it - fine, no problem - but don't criticize someone who finally comes along and does do it.


Again I think we actually agreeing here. What's wrong with calling something a "page-long dissertation" - can't I use exactly those words to praise a post? As I have said repeatedly I am very happy for people to post long posts, and absolutely delighted if somebody has taken the care and effort to take my thin comments and add to them or amplify them or clarify the thinking. More than happy.

I think that the problem here has been my use of the term "page-long dissertations" in a context where it could be construed as derogatory, when that was not what I meant at all. I am just a bit surprised that despite my repeated clarifications on this point that you still seem to think I am against long postings. I am most clearly not against it, unless as you already pointed out it is unnecessarily verbose or rambling to the extent that the language used obscures rather than clarifies the points that the author is trying to make; or if people are just going to cut and paste huge quantities of text from other sources when a clear reference to the original source would be better.

And, by the way, I do understand that philosophy has to be picky - the last line of my previous post has a sort of smily in it as a clue that I was not being completely serious and deeply offended about others being picky around here - I am afraid that some people (NOT referring to you Indi in particular, individually or collectively) are sometimes a little oversensitive to what they percieve to be a criticism, and react in haste or in anger and without sufficient thought about how others may read what they have written, and that is what leads to some of the heated exchanges we have seen, particularly recently.

Some recent exchanges in particular are more in the line of playground squabbles and name-calling: "I've got a bigger better qualification than yours so yah boo to you..." sort of insults and other crazy behaviour.
mike1reynolds
I think make_life_better has a serious point here: obfuscation. My basic point was a restatement of Thomas Kuhnís notion of the difference between Revolutionary Science vs. Normal Science, as expressed in his ground breaking work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

Pages and pages later, this has been utterly and completely lost. No one has meaningfully addressed the topic of the thread. No one here seems to understand science well enough to have any notion of what the difference is between these powerful terms that Kuhn introduced a half century ago.

Ironically, Kuhnís terms have been embraced much more pervasively by the business community than by scientists! You are far more likely to hear a marketing exec talk about paradigms shifts than any wannabe scientists, and yet anyone who is unfamiliar with this most basic understanding of what true scientific discovery is, is not a scientist at all, but simply a geek with a college degree.
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