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 question was first formulated by Paul Patton and Sarah Machado-Marques in 2019. The question is currently accepted as a legitimate topic for discussion by Scientonomy community. Error (Machado-Marques-Patton-2021) is currently accepted by Scientonomy community as the best available definition of the term. It is defined as: "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:
ModificationCommunityDate SuggestedSummaryVerdictVerdict RationaleDate Assessed
Sciento-2021-0003Scientonomy1 August 2021Accept 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.AcceptedIt 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.c48 October 2021

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. From our modern perspective, we might judge the geocentric Aristotelean-Ptolemaic cosmology's claim that the earth is stationary at the center of the universe as an error 1. The sense of error we are interested in here is not this absolute sense of error as judged from a future perspective. Instead, our definition takes the perspective of the historical agent and the method employed by the agent at that time. Our definition is grounded in the law of theory acceptance. When a theory is erroneously accepted, the assessing agent believes it has satisfied the requirements of their employed method when, in fact, it has not. Error may be due to an honest mistake by the epistemic agent that created the theory, or to scientific misconduct--actions which the theory-creator agent is aware violate the epistemic and moral norms of scientific inquiry accepted at the time.

Ontology

Existence

There is currently no accepted view concerning the existence of errors.

Disjointness

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


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Dynamics

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..