Two common errors in explaining biological and psychological phenomena

Philosophy of Science 49 (December):549-574 (1982)
Abstract
One way in which philosophy of science can perform a valuable normative function for science is by showing characteristic errors made in scientific research programs and proposing ways in which such errors can be avoided or corrected. This paper examines two errors that have commonly plagued research in biology and psychology: 1) functional localization errors that arise when parts of a complex system are assigned functions which these parts are not themselves able to perform, and 2) vacuous functional explanations in which one provides an analysis that does account for the inputs and outputs of a system but does not employ the same set of functions to produce this output as does the natural system. These two kinds of error usually arise when researchers limit their investigation to one type of evidence. Historically, correction of these errors has awaited researchers who have employed the opposite type of evidence. This paper explores the tendency to commit these errors by examining examples from historical and contemporary science and proposes a dialectical process through which researchers can avoid or correct such errors in the future
Keywords Dialectic  Error  Functional Completeness  Research  Science
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