Theory of Knowledge

Popper [17], in an essay titled "Conjectural Knowledge," states, "From a rational point of view, we should not rely on any theory, for no theory has been shown true, nor can be shown to be true." This point, agreed upon by most philosophers and scientists, does not reflect the understanding of the common man, who is prone to accept a single instance that conforms to a theory as evidence that the theory is right. Popper goes on to state,

In other words, there is no "absolute reliance"; but since we have to choose, it will be "rational" to choose the best tested theory. This will be "rational" in the most obvious sense of the word known to me: the best tested theory is the one which, in the light of our critical discussion, appears to be the best so far, and I do not know of anything more "rational" than a well-conducted critical discussion.

He also suggests that an objective criterion to prefer a new theory "is that the new theory, although it has to explain what the old theory explained, corrects the old theory, so that it actually contradicts the old theory: it contains the old theory, but only as an approximation."

Figure 2.6 illustrates the scientific method. The method operates based on effect^cause^effect. Scientists start by defining a problem: hypothesizing the cause for an observed effect. All new theories have some confirming evidence; that is why scientists propose them. The prediction of a previously unseen effect that differentiates the new theory from the old tests the theory. Existence of the predicted effect provides evidence to prefer the new theory to the old. Lack of the effect fails to provide evidence to prefer the new theory. A theory is usable until disproved. A successful experiment does not mean that it is correct (true), and it does not mean that it will work into the future. A successful experiment just means that it worked over the domain so far experienced.

Newton's laws of motion and gravitation are commonly used as examples of the scientific method. Before Newton, mankind gathered much data on the positions of the sun and planets. They developed correlations to accurately predict the motion of the heavens. There was a fundamental flaw, of course, in that they had the earth at the center of the solar system. Nevertheless, the predictions worked.

Figure 2.6 The scientific method checks the validity of a theory by experiment. No theory is ever proven. It is accepted as good enough to use until rejected by a single experiment or replaced by a theory that better predicts reality.

Newton's laws worked better than his predecessors did because they extended beyond observation. Newton's laws allowed prediction beyond the realm of the observed and have enabled us to put men on the moon and send spacecraft to Jupiter. This would have been impossible using the correlation of planetary movement.

Then, along came Einstein. His equations proved that Newton's equations are wrong. (Newton knew this also; he proposed them as "good enough.") Einstein's equations reduce to Newton's equations where speeds are modest compared to the speed of light and where gravity is not too large. Inclusion of the previous theory as a special case fits Popper's model of a better theory. Einstein spent his later life trying to prove his own theory wrong by developing a unified theory. So far, no theory better than Einstein's theory has been found. Therefore, scientists continue to use Einstein's theory. This is a theory of knowledge at work.

Understanding the theory of knowledge enables you to better test the CCPM theory compared to the critical-path theory or another theory of project management you are currently using. You now know you can never prove a theory true, but you have working tools (test and critical discussion) to choose between competing theories. The theory of knowledge will also help you make decisions necessary to plan a specific project and to operate the project system you choose.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment