- Paperback: 207 pages
- Publisher: University of Chicago Press; Reprint edition (June 15, 1992)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226113760
- ISBN-13: 978-0226113760
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,721,308 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Changing Order: Replication and Induction in Scientific Practice Reprint Edition
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From the Back Cover
This work in the sociology of science explores the way scientists conduct, and draw conclusions from, their experiments. The book is organized around three case studied: replication of the TEA-laser, detecting gravitational radiation, and experiments in the paranormal. Through detailed descriptions of these projects, Collins shows what it is like to try to reproduce results in a laboratory.
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Collins is right to point out that there is no generic algorithm to replicate experiments, and he does a good job showing that when there is controversy, non-scientific prejudices and opinions can sometimes drive research, e.g. the case of gravitational wave detection. But it's merely a matter of time allocation and says little about how debates are settled after carrying out all the necessary experiments.
Collins thinks otherwise. Page 127, "Chapters Four and Five show why and how the test of replication fails to work efficiently in disputed areas."
I don't think it failed for the examples given in chapters 4 and 5. Outcomes of Weber's experiment could not be replicated by anyone else. Thus gravitational waves haven't been detected with enough certainty. End of story.
I would be interested to see how debates are settled when experiments can be replicated by more experimenters. Would scientists come to a conclusion via a complex social process, despite the controversy? This is not addressed by the book. Actually, I expect the debates to not be settled until the overwhelming majority of scientists agree. I believe it qualifies as "efficient test." and can be run by an algorithm, granted it is given access to some "social" data such as h-indices. A well-defined algorithm nonetheless.
Another faux-pas is the claim that tacit knowledge is all over the place in the replication process. Collin's examples fall into three categories:
- the experiment purposely withheld important information. Not tacit knowledge.
- the experimenter didn't explain some details of his/her experiment but ends up providing them when being requested to. It can be explained in plain English, so it is not tacit knowledge.
- the experimenter doesn't know what parts of the procedure make the apparatus work. Knowing how to ride a bicycle is tacit knowledge all right, but *not* knowing that the bicycle is moving thanks to its user is arguably not knowledge, be it explicit or tacit.