A paper on the Bacon's New Organon, Book Two, and science...

“Now, my directions for the interpretation of nature embrace two generic divisions: the one how to educe and form axioms from experience: the other how to deduce and derive new experiments from axioms.”
-Bacon, The New Organon, Book Two, Aphorism 10

 The groundwork has been set. In previous class discussions and papers, I have discovered that a healthy balance of inductive and deductive reasoning is required when one wishes to participate in scientific endeavors. It is now necessary to test the boundaries of these two forms of reasoning.
 
 For the sake of my own inexperience in “doing science”, and also for the sake of selecting a case which will be easily recognizable to most readers, I have chosen to illustrate Bacon’s statement in Book Two using Ivan Pavlov’s dog experiment:
 
 The experiment itself is rather easy to understand. In 1923, Pavlov was studying the digestion habits of dogs. He noticed that when he placed food on their mouths, they salivated. Over time, he began to notice that the dogs would salivate in his presence, even when no food was visible. Curious, he wondered if the dogs were being conditioned to associate his presence with food. He then began to ring a bell before each feeding. Over numerous trials, he discovered that the bell alone was enough to make the dogs salivate (paraphrased from [riri.essortment.com/pavlovdogs_oif.htm](http://riri.essortment.com/pavlovdogs_oif.htm)).
 
 …A simple experiment, but one that fulfills all of the requirements for examination. Pavlov began with a hypothesis, that perhaps the dogs could associate other stimuli with food, and acted on his hypothesis with repeated experimentation. The deductive reasoning took place when Pavlov began to notice the salivation without food, and wondered if mental conditioning was taking place. The inductive studies were completed when he actually performed the experiment and made observations.
 
 Did the “Idols” in Bacon’s New Organon interfere with the purity of Pavlov’s scientific pursuit? The Idols of the Cave do not apply here because Pavlov did not make his deduction from books, or from someone whom he “esteemed or admired.” The Idols of the Marketplace did not likely affect Pavlov, as he was the primary caretaker of the dogs, and did not credit his hypothesis to anyone else. The Idols of the Theater are also an inadequate ground for dismissing the experiment, as this was a seemingly original way of viewing conditioning. The primary Idol that Pavlov could have fallen to would be the Idols of the Tribe. Perhaps man, in his [assumed] dominion over nature, only wishes to acknowledge instances in which he is “controlling” the subject. However, this is a weak argument at best. Pavlov would definitely concede that if a machine could have somehow rang the bell that the dogs would have salivated, as well.
 
 This is one illustration of an experiment that was as untainted by the Idols as possible. By accepting it as a valid discovery of unbiased scientific investigation, one must credit Bacon’s method in moving us closer to “the truth.”
 
 However, not all experiments and observations are as cut and dry. We turn our attention to the realm of anthropology. In 1925, a young anthropologist by the name of Margaret Mead, in her early 20’s, traveled to the island of Samoa to study the adolescent and sexual development of young girls. Upon arrival she learned the native language and began to discuss with the Samoan girls their sexual habits. Her book, Coming of Age in Samoa, follows several girls’ stories. The general tone was that of a society of sexual freedom; a place where boys would go out “tomcatting” without any disapproval from the elders, and where young couples could run off under a tree and make love without any prior interaction. Mead even boldly claimed that the menstrual cycles of young girls living in sexual freedom was more bearable than the cycles of western girls.
 
 In 1983, a bold Australian anthropologist named Derek Freeman wrote a book denouncing Mead’s claims, stating that Mead did not adequately learn the native language, did not make accurate assessments of the “freedom” of the girls, and downplayed the consequences suffered by sexual offenders. He stated that Mead went into the experiment with a bias, and only took notes of the instances that supported her claim that sexual freedom was a more “stress-free” way for a society to operate. Freeman claimed to have found a much more conservative Samoan society than Mead had described, in which the preservation of a girl’s purity was highly valued. He then stated that perhaps Mead had done the “experiment” to rationalize her own promiscuous lifestyle (Samoa Lost: Margaret Mead, Cultural Relativism, and the Guilty Imagination; Michael Jones, all information taken from Chapter 1).
 
 If Freeman’s ascertains were correct, then it would mean that Mead had fallen to the Idols of the Cave and the Idols of the Theater; having constructed an experiment to fit her own desires and any philosophies on sexual freedom to which she subscribed.
 
 In science, The Idols of the Cave will be the most difficult to overcome. It is surely a blow to one’s pride to formulate a hypothesis only to find it was incorrect. Pride then, is a vice which must be overcome. However, it is our responsibility to respect those who undergo trial and error to discover the truth. A person who postulates incorrectly has still discovered a truth IF he admits his idea was wrong. Offering a hypothesis and finding it to be wrong does not make one a bad scientist. A bad scientist is one who knows his hypothesis is incorrect and attempts to pass it off anyway, for he has committed an act of fraudulence.
 
 The examples of Pavlov and Mead/Freeman illustrate that Bacon’s methods can lead us to the truth, but can also be derailed by material wants and psychological tendencies. If one is to “do science” well, it would be to his benefit to study the Baconian method, and to take firm grasp of the concepts of the Idols. Though a scientist may still falter due to human imperfection, knowledge of the Idols (and ways to guard against them) is the purest road to scientific discovery. A scientist abiding by Bacon’s warnings would constantly be checking to make sure he was not falling into a trap, and would surely discover at least some truth.

A bit of a sidenote, one who has not read Bacon’s New Organon up to Book Two may have difficulty understanding the “Idols.”

It’s very late and I just finished this paper. I’ll post something up about them tomorrow. If someone knows about them and would like to do it for me, knock yourself out. I’m off to bed.

Thanks for the continued reading and support. You guys have assisted the growth of my thought process and paper writing quite a bit.