Re: Experiments With Human Subjects

Eugene Leitl (
Fri, 27 Sep 1996 15:04:16 +0200 (MET DST)

On Tue, 24 Sep 1996, Robin Hanson wrote:

> Eugene Leitl writes:
> >> If there is any sensible distinction between observation and
> >> experiment, it is in one's degree of control over a system. Observers
> >
> >I think there is none. Observation is part of the experiment. Afaik there
> >is nothing in the definition of the experimental setup requiring it to be
> >created by human experimentators. It has just to be well defined. ...
> >In social sciences experiments are usually impossible. Even observations
> >of system's behavious, are difficult, since isolated systems either do
> >not exist or the entire range of relevant parameters is impossible to
> >obtain and/or to interprete.
> Huh? There is no distinction between observation and experiment, and

Observation is _part_ of the experiment. No observation, no experiment.

> yet social science experiments are impossible while observations are

They might be not together impossible, but certainly very difficult.
(Also, sometimes unethical).

> difficult? Is there a distinction or isn't there?

Aw, come on. Stop harping upon things syntactical. Observation alone is
no experiment, it needs recording and interpretation. Experiment without
observation is no experiment, you could as well invent your data.

> Also, there is *no* field of inquiry where completely isolated systems
> exist or the entire range of relevant parameters is known to have been
> obtained.

Yes, but there is a bandwidth. Physics and social sciences lie at the
opposite side of the spectrum, obviously.

It is very difficult to obtain sensible results on extremely complex,
ergodic systems. That's the reason why social science is a very difficult


> Robin D. Hanson

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