Error

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What is error? How should it be defined?

Scientists, historians, and philosophers customarily speak of scientific errors. When doing so, they may be referring to error in an absolute sense as judged by the standards of our current knowledge. For example, the claim that the earth is stationary at the center of the universe is now regarded as an error.1 However, they may also be referring to some criterion of error related to the historical agent at the time. It is therefore important to have a proper definition of the term, and the meaning intended.

In the scientonomic context, this term was first used by Paul Patton and Sarah Machado-Marques in 2019. The term is currently accepted by Scientonomy community.

In Scientonomy, the accepted definition of the term is:

  • An epistemic agent is said to commit an error if the agent accepts a theory that should not have been accepted given that agent’s employed method.

Scientonomic History

Acceptance Record

Here is the complete acceptance record of this term (it includes all the instances when the term was accepted as a part of a community's taxonomy):
CommunityAccepted FromAcceptance IndicatorsStill AcceptedAccepted UntilRejection Indicators
Scientonomy1 August 2021This is when Machado-Marques and Patton's Scientific Error and Error Handling that offered a definition of the term was published. This is a good indication that the question of how the term is to be defined is considered legitimate by the community.Yes

All Theories

The following definitions of the term have been suggested:
TheoryFormulationFormulated In
Error (Machado-Marques-Patton-2021)An epistemic agent is said to commit an error if the agent accepts a theory that should not have been accepted given that agent’s employed method.2021
If a definition of this term is missing, please click here to add it.

Accepted Theories

The following definitions of the term have been accepted:
CommunityTheoryAccepted FromAccepted Until
ScientonomyError (Machado-Marques-Patton-2021)8 October 2021

Suggested Modifications

Here is a list of modifications concerning this term:
Modification Community Date Suggested Summary Date Assessed Verdict Verdict Rationale
Sciento-2021-0003 Scientonomy 1 August 2021 Accept the definition of error, stating that an epistemic agent is said to commit an error if the agent accepts a theory that should not have been accepted given that agent’s employed method. 8 October 2021 Accepted It was agreed that the definition "succeeds in capturing the gist of the notion by explicitly stating that an error is always relative to an epistemic agent and to that agent's employed method".c1 c2 The importance of the concept of error for the Tree of Knowledge project was also noted. Specifically, it was argued that "we must be able to differentiate between those theories which were accepted in accordance with an agent’s employed method and those which were not" so that we can better understand the reasoning underlying individual transitions.c3 Finally, it was suggested that a further distinction between “instances of honest error and misconduct” might be worth pursuing.c4

Current Definition

In Scientonomy, the accepted definition of the term is Error (Machado-Marques-Patton-2021).

Error (Machado-Marques-Patton-2021) states: "An epistemic agent is said to commit an error if the agent accepts a theory that should not have been accepted given that agent’s employed method."

Error (Machado-Marques-Patton-2021).png

There are several different senses in which one might take the concept of scientific error. One is the absolute sense where some epsitmeic stances of actions of epistemic agents are are evaluated as erroneous from the present-day perspective. For instance, from our present perspective, we might judge the claim that the earth is stationary at the center of the universe as an error.1 However, as Machado-Marques and Patton argue, the sense of error that scientonomy should be interested in is not this absolute sense of error, but instead the local sense. Their definition takes the perspective of historical epistemic agents and qualifies an instance of theory acceptance as erroneous if the acceptance shouldn't have taken place given the agent's employed method.2 In this local sense, when a theory is erroneously accepted, the agent believes that it has satisfied the requirements of their employed method when, in fact, it has not. Such errors may be due to honest mistakes by the epistemic agent, or due to misconduct.2

Ontology

Existence

In Scientonomy, it is currently accepted that "There is such a thing as an error."

Subtypes

No classes are currently accepted as subtypes of an error.

Supertypes

No classes are currently accepted as supertypes of an error.

Associations

No associations of an error are currently accepted.

Disjointness

In Scientonomy, no classes are currently accepted as disjoint with Error.

If a question concerning the ontology of an error is missing, please add it here.

Dynamics

Mechanism of Error Rejection

In Scientonomy, the accepted answer to the question is:

  • The handling of instances of scientific error is consistent with the theory rejection theorem; it involves a replacement of an erroneously accepted theory either with a first- or second-order proposition.


If a question concerning the dynamics of an error is missing, please add it here.


Related Topics

This term is also related to the following topic(s):

References

  1. a b  Allchin, Douglas. (2001) The Epistemology of error. unpublished manuscript. Retrieved from http://douglasallchin.net/papers/epist'of.pdf..
  2. a b  Machado-Marques, Sarah and Patton, Paul. (2021) Scientific Error and Error Handling. Scientonomy 4, 21-39. Retrieved from https://scientojournal.com/index.php/scientonomy/article/view/37121.