Grand Unified Theory, pcp and "positivistic science"

Tony Downing (
Tue, 8 Nov 1994 08:44:48 +0000

A recent message contributing to this thread on Grand Unified Theory (or,
as Beverley Walker puts it, so well "Grand Unifying Theory") praised pcp,
and contrasted it with "positivistic science", for its constructive

I think pcp is great, but, in defence of the rest of psychological science,
want to point out that _all_ proper science embodies such a belief, at the
level of its own theory. The history of normal "positivistic" (though
surely nobody is a logical positivist these days?) science is the history
of ideas being put forward, tested against reality and eventually almost
all being revised or abandoned in favour of a better story that is simpler
and/or more consistent with the evidence. True, scientists generally
believe that there is some reality out there, which sooner or later, will
make itself felt whatever constructions we put upon it. As my old boss Max
Hammerton likes to say, "a fact is something you can stub your toe on", and
I think that to get anywhere with science we have to think that we are
seeking the truth about the way things are. Despite this, it's no part of
orthodox science to believe that the present story we're weaving around it
the facts as we presently believe them to be is its absolute, definitive

Tony Downing,
Dept. of Psychology, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, England.