Today, I'll be speaking on the subject of Empiricsm. Despite the fact that I see and hear it all the time on the internet, it seems as though very few people are actually aware of what Empiricism actually is. Be prepared for alot of big words...
Empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge arises from experience. Or so says wikipedia. Effectively that means what you sense through any of your five senses is empirical knowledge. By applying simple reasoning, we can draw conclusions about the world using this knowledge. These conclusions, or hypotheses, can then be tested through the experimental method. The experimental method is the systematic manipulation of variables in an experiment designed to disprove a hypothesis. *Phew* That's a mouthful. It means that scientists control as much of the experiment as they can. Such things as temperature, humidity, salinity (saltiness) or any number of other things. They do this to understand how certain things react in certain situations.
I believe an example is suitable here. Scientists discover life on another planet. As you might expect, they are very excited. The first thing they do is examine it's environment, taking samples and testing them in their natural state. After doing this, they have a fairly good idea of how this new species lives. They come up with a hypothesis about it's life cycle. Having a new hypothesis, they design an experiment. They take a sample of the life form, and put it into an artificial enivronment where they can control the climate, and food supply. They then set about trying to disprove thier hypothesis.
That's right, I said disprove. All well designed experiments are created to destroy a hypothesis. It's when the hypothesis survives the rigors of multiple experiments that we consider it worthy of being part of a Theory. Anyway... back to the example. After testing the life form six was from sunday, they have a strong concept of it's entire life. By thoroughly checking the place it was found, they find even more life. While they experiment on this new life form, they then start to form hypotheses on the ecosystem of the planet. The more information that can be determined without experimenting, the more hypotheses need to be tested, and the more knowledge about the planet is gained.
This is but one example of empirical and experimental evidence working together to add to the wealth of knowledge humans already have. So there you have it, a VERY brief explaination of empiricism. Hopefully now there'll be fewer mistakes flying about the internet.
Until next time:
Fui fides tantum in testimonium.