I am writing a paper about educational research and specifically research on the use of robotics in education. I welcome people's comments on the following position.
Education is usually thought of as a "soft science". Within education research their are two basic positions: positivistic and nominalist. The first of these insist that the only valid research comes from experiments with control groups and ends up with some numbers. One practitioner says:
I think the positivistic approach has a lot to offer, but Einstein had a sign on the wall of his study which pronounced:
I think there are other "harder sciences" that are not predominantly mathematical. Is this correct? Palaeontology? Biology? Geology? Archaeology - is this a science? I am not suggesting that these sciences do not include mathematics (which as far as I am concerned includes statistics). However, it is not as fundamental to it them as it is to physics. Can we can consider mathematics as a specialised language used for describing patterns. Sometimes the mathematics is not available to describe the pattern we see. Then we rely on description. The ability to describe patterns, particularly repeatable patterns, seems to me to be a basic characteristic of science. The key element of this seems to be able to make predictions. I remember seeing a TV programme on palaenontology where the guy had a particular theory. It predicted a "missing link". The proof was not an experiment, but a discovery of the link (which he did discover in South America).
I would welcome any comments on these ideas.