COMMON SCIENCE as Sustainable Applied Empirical Theory, besides ENGINEERING, in a SOCIETY

ISSN 2567-6458, 19.Juni 2022 – 24.Juni 2022, 10:25h
Author: Gerd Doeben-Henisch

— Not yet finished !!! —


In a rather foundational paper about an idea, how one can generalize ‘systems engineering’ to the art of ‘theory engineering’ [1] a new conceptual framework has been outlined for a ‘sustainable applied empirical theory (SAET)’. Part of this new framework has been the idea that the classical recourse to groups of special experts (mostly ‘engineers’ in engineering) is too restrictive in the light of the new requirement of being sustainable: sustainability is primarily based on ‘diversity’ combined with the ‘ability to predict’ from this diversity probable future states which keep life alive. The aspect of diversity induces the challenge to see every citizen as a ‘natural expert’, because nobody can know in advance and from some non-existing absolut point of truth, which knowledge is really important. History shows that the ‘mainstream’ is usually to a large degree ‘wrong’.

With this assumption, that every citizen is a ‘natural expert’, science turns into a ‘general science’ where all citizens are ‘natural members’ of science. I will call this more general concept of science ‘sustainable citizen science (SCS)’. The important point here is that a sustainable citizens science is not necessarily an ‘arbitrary’ process. The one requirement ‘diversity’ relates to possible contents, to possible ideas, to possible experiments, and the like, but the other requirement of ‘predictability’/ of being able to make some useful ‘forecasts’, this requires the given knowledge to be in a format which allows in a transparent way the construction of some consequences, which ‘derive’ from the ‘given’ knowledge and enable some ‘new’ knowledge. This ability of forecasting is typically the business of ‘logic’ providing an ‘inference concept’ given by ‘rules of deduction’ and a ‘practical pattern (on the meta level)’, which defines how these rules have to be applied to fulfill the inference concept. Insofar as sustainable citizens science agrees to a ‘common logic’ it is not different to ‘normal science’.


Figure 1: A first view identifying the key concept of ‘common science’ as a ‘sustainable applied empirical theory’.


The words ‘science’, ‘theory’, and ‘scientific theory’ are well known passengers travelling to the times with different meanings, depending from the circumstances, from the minds of different people.[2]-[4] In modern times we have learned a lot about the nature of ‘signs’ and ‘sign-based’ communication as it happens when we are using a ‘language’. And, becoming more sensitiv about the dynamics of sign-based communication we can detect that it is exactly our human use of language which provides the key to a deeper understanding of how our brains are working, located in our bodies, where the brains are playing the roles of ‘spin doctors’ of the pictures in our heads, which are ‘showing’ our mind a ‘virtual world’ of an assumed ‘real world’ somewhere ‘out there’.

Until today we have no final explanation of how exactly this ability of human actors has developed through the times stretching to millions of years ago. And until today there exist no complete description of a living language with the involved structures, meanings, and dynamics. One reason for this ‘fundamental inability’ of describing with a language exactly this language roots in the fact, that language is not a ‘single object’ before your eyes, but a dynamic reality happening between many, many different human actors simultaneously; every brain has only some fragments of this assumed ‘whole thing’ called ‘language’, and every communicative act between humans embraces besides ‘rather stable parts’ always a lot of ‘incidental’, ‘casual’ moments of a complex dynamic situation, which constitutes — mostly unconscious — the working of language communication, possible meanings and connotations of meaning. Thus, all the known scientific endeavors until today trying to describe this phenomenon of language communication are more reminding some ‘stuttering’ than a final ‘ordered’ theory.

One lesson we can learn from this tells us, that the so-called ‘everyday language’, the ‘ordinary language’, the ‘natural language’ is the ‘basic’ pattern of language communication. But, as mentioned just before, on account of the fundamental distributed and dynamical character of everyday language, a natural language has no clear cut ‘boundaries’. Never you can tell with certainty where a language ends and where this language just in that moment ‘evolves’, ‘expands’, is ‘changing’.

For people which are looking for ‘clear statements’, for ‘finite views’, for a ‘stable truth’ this situation is terrifying. It can cause ‘anxious feelings’. People who like to ‘control’ life don’t like such a ‘living dynamics’ which can not be owned by a single person alone, not even by ‘many’…

One basic property of ordinary language is it’s ‘expandability’: at every time someone can introduce new expressions embedded within new contexts following new patterns of usage. If other human actors start to follow this usage, this ‘new’ behavior is ‘spreading’ through the ‘population of language users’ and by this new growing practice the ordinary language is expanding and thereby changing.

One ‘part’ of ordinary language is called ‘logic’ [6],[7], with various different realizations through history. Another part of ordinary language is ‘mathematics’, especially what is today assumed as being the ‘kernel’ of mathematics, the ‘Theory of Sets’.(cf. [8], [9]) Because ordinary language can always be used to speak ‘about ordinary language’, it is possible to extend an ordinary language with arbitrary many new ‘artificial languages’ like a ‘logic language’ or a ‘mathematical language’.[10] After introducing a special language like a mathematical language’ by using ordinary language one can apply this special language ‘as if it is the only language’, but if you start to ‘look consciously’ to your real practice of speaking you can easily detect, that this impression ‘it is the only language’ is a fake! Cutting away the ordinary language you will be lost with your special language. The ordinary language is the ‘meta language’ to every special language. This can be used as a ‘hint’ to something really great: the mystery of the ‘self-creating’ power of the ordinary language which for most people is unknown although it happens every moment.


From the normal everyday language we know that we can talk ‘about the world’, and more, we can even ‘act’ with the language. [11] – [13] Saying “Give me the butter, please”, in that case a normal speaker would ‘hear’ the ‘sound of the statement’, he can ‘translate the sound’ into some internal meaning constructs related to the sounds of the language, which in turn will — usually — be ‘matched against’ meaning constructs ‘actually provided’ by the ‘perception’. If there happens to be a ‘sufficiently well match’ then the hearer can identify something ‘concrete’ located on the table which he can associate with the ‘activated language related meaning’ and he then ‘knows’, that this concrete something on the table seems to be an ‘instance’ of those things which are called ‘butter’. But there can exist many different ‘concrete things’ which we agree to accept as ‘instances’ of the meaning construct ‘butter’. Thus, already in very usual everyday situations we encounter the fact that our perceptions can create signals from ‘something concrete in our perceptions’ and our ‘language-mediated understanding’ can create ‘meaning structures’ which can ‘match’ nearly uncountable different concrete things. Those meaning constructs — activated by the language, but different from the language — which can match more than one concrete perception we here be called ‘abstract meaning’ or ‘abstract concept’. And ‘words’ (= expressions) of a language which can activate such abstract meanings are understood as ‘abstract words’, ‘general words’, ‘category words’ or the like.

Knowing this you will probably detect, that nearly all words of a language are ‘abstract words’ activating ‘abstract meanings’. This is in one sense ‘wonderful’, because the real empirical world consists of uncountable many concrete perceivable properties and to relate every concrete property with an individually matching word would turn the project of language into an infeasible task. Thus with only a few abstract words language users can talk about ‘nearly everything’. This makes language communication possible. The ‘dark side’ of this wonderful ability is the necessity to provide real situations, if you want to demonstrate which of all these concrete properties of a real situation you want to be understood as ‘related’ to the one used word (= language expression) with a certain abstract meaning. If you cannot provide such ‘concrete situations’ the intended meaning of your abstract words will stay ‘unclear’: they can mean ‘nothing or all’ depending from the decoding of the hearer.


Talking about ‘butter’ on ‘tables’ during a ‘breakfast’ will usually stimulate lots of ‘imaginations’ in the head of the hearer of such utterances. Because an abstract word can trigger many different ‘concrete things’ these individual imaginations can vary a lot. If different hearers would start to ‘paint’ those imaginations on some paper it could happen, that nearly no two paintings would be ‘match’ with all details. The ‘space of possible meanings’ of an abstract word (‘butter’, ‘table’, ‘breakfast’, ‘kitchen’, …) is in principle ‘infinite’. And the manifested ‘diversity’ of the details reveals a kind of ‘fuzziness’ which at a first glance seems to be ‘infeasible’ in the practice of language communication.

This appearing diversity, fuzziness in the examples points to some ‘internal mechanism’ in our brains which work in complete ‘silence’, always ‘automatically’, completely ‘unconscious’, which ‘arrange’ the many different perceptions in a way, which selects some finite set of properties out of the many perceived properties and makes such a ‘selection’ to a kind of ‘signature’, ‘address’, which starts to play the ‘role’ of an individual representation for all those possible sets of perceived properties in the future, which are ‘sufficiently well’ ‘similar’ to those ‘signature properties’. The ‘boundaries’ are not sharp; the boundaries can vary; there can grow large ‘clusters of different property sets’ intersecting with this ‘signature set’ but are different otherwise. This there exists a growing meaning structure in our brains which creates a ‘meaning space’, whose elements can be associated in arbitrary many ways.

If my friend Bill starts talking with me by asking whether there already is some butter on the table, than his utterance — a question — will trigger in me a subset of possible meanings of butter which are in my memory available. Then, when I am looking to the table in the kitchen I will ‘scan’ the table whether there is something concrete which will ‘match’ these activated internal meanings. Either there happens a direct match or there is something, which looks like something, which feeds back through my perception and urging my memory to ‘look for something alike’. If this happens, then there will be a match too. Thus if such an internal match between ‘perceived properties’ and ‘remembered properties’ will happen then I would shout to Bill “Yes, there is already some butter on the table”. If no such match would happen, then I would shout back “No, there is not yet butter in the table”. In the first case we are used to classify a statement as ‘true’, if the abstract meaning matches a concrete perception sufficiently well; otherwise not. We would not say that the statement is true. If Mary which is near the table would have said before “No, there is no butter on the table” while Jeremy has stated that there is some butter, then these two statements would ‘contradict’ each other. If Jeremy and Mary can come to a common opinion by observable evidence that there is some butter on the table or not, they would be able to ‘agree’ to the positive, affirmative statement that there is some butter on the table, otherwise not.

This everyday situation offers some more variants. If for instance Bill is asking Jeremy whether there is some butter on the table it could happen either that Jeremy says ‘no’ because his ‘understanding’ of the word ‘butter’ consist of kinds of meaning which are not matching that concrete thing on the table, which Bill would understand as ‘butter’. Such a ‘misunderstanding’ can happen easily if people from different cultures are coming together. Thus, having some observable evidence does not guarantee the right classification within a certain language if the language users having learned ‘different meanings in their memory’. In the other case if Mary has a bad visual perception on account of some ‘visual handicap’ but has in principle the same meaning space like Bill then it can happen too that she would deny that there is some butter on the table because her visual perceptions are ‘disturbed by their visual handicap’ in a way that the perceptional key to her memory is not in that format which has to match their remembered language induced meaning.

Thus, in this simple account of a ‘true’ statement there are already several ‘factors’ needed to make a ‘true statement’: (i) a perception which works ‘normal’; (ii) a language meaning which is ‘sufficiently common’; (iii) a ‘successful match’ between an actual observation and the triggered memory based meaning. Every factor (i) – (iii) is not simple, can vary a lot. And there exists even more factors which can influence the final classification of being ‘true’ or not; in cases of ‘contradicting statements’ all these different factors can be involved.

Our times of ‘growing fake news’ demonstrates, that the agreement between different human persons about the ‘truth’ of a statement can in practice be very difficult or even seems to appear impossible. This points to one more factor which is finally decisive: whatever we perceive and remember, these processes are ’embedded’ in some larger ‘conceptual frameworks’, which are further ’embedded’ in a system of preferences’ which can be ‘decisive’ for the ‘handling’ of our opinions. Human persons having certain ‘convictions’ related to political or religious or ethical opinions can be ‘driven’ by these convictions in a way, which ‘override’ empirical evidences because their ‘conceptual frameworks’ ‘interpret’ these perceptions in a different way. Modern scientific observations are mostly in a format, which only experts can interpret adequately related to a ‘theoretical conceptual framework’. If a non-expert does this scientific interpretation ‘not belief’ he can ‘switch’ to his conceptual framework which he is believing, which contradicts the scientific framework, and thus he can assume ‘facts’ which are contradicting those ‘facts’ classified as scientific. Scientists can classify these other facts as ‘fake news’, but this will have no effect on the believer of the fake news. The fake-news believer thinks he is ‘right’ because it matches his individual framework shared by others in social groups.

From this follows that the classification of a statement as being ‘true’ is a complex matter depending from many factors which have to be ‘synchronized’ to come to an agreement. Especially it reveals that ’empirical (observational) evidence’ is not necessarily an automatism: it presupposes appropriate meaning spaces as well as sets of preferences, which are ‘observation friendly’.

citizen science

Figure 2: A second view pointing to ‘science’ and ‘engineering’ in parallel embedded in a human ‘society’, which in turn is part of the ‘biosphere’ hosted on the ‘planet earth’.

— Will be continued !!! —


wkp-en := Englisch Wikipedia

/* Often people argue against the usage of the wikipedia encyclopedia as not ‘scientific’ because the ‘content’ of an entry in this encyclopedia can ‘change’. This presupposes the ‘classical view’ of scientific texts to be ‘stable’, which presupposes further, that such a ‘stable text’ describes some ‘stable subject matter’. But this is view of ‘steadiness’ as the major property of ‘true descriptions’ is in no correspondence with real scientific texts! The reality of empirical science — even as in some special disciplines like ‘physics’ — is ‘change’. Looking to Aristotle’s view of nature, to Galileo Galilei, to Newton, to Einstein and many others, you will not find a ‘single steady picture’ of nature and science, and physics is only a very simple strand of science compared to the live-sciences and many others. Thus wikipedia is a real scientific encyclopedia give you the breath of world knowledge with all its strengths and limits at once. */

[1] Gerd Doeben-Henisch, 2022, From SYSTEMS Engineering to THEORY Engineering, see: At the time of citation this post was not yet finished, because there are other posts ‘corresponding’ with that post, which are too not finished. Knowledge is a dynamic network of interwoven views …).

[2] Science, see e.g. wkp-en:

[3] Theory, see wkp-en:,or%20no%20discipline%20at%20all.

[4] Scientific theory, see: wkp-en:

[5] Gerd Doeben-Henisch, 2022, see: Is Mathematics a Fake? No! Discussing N.Bourbaki, Theory of Sets (1968) – Introduction,

[6] Logic, see wkp-en:

[7] W. C. Kneale, The Development of Logic, Oxford University Press (1962)

[8] Set theory, in wkp-en:

[9] N.Bourbaki, Theory of Sets , 1968, with a chapter about structures, see:

[10] Gerd Doeben-Henisch, “Is Mathematics a Fake? No! Discussing N.Bourbaki, Theory of Sets (1968) – Introduction”, 2022,

[11] Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein ( 1889 – 1951):

[12] Ludwig Wittgenstein, 1953: Philosophische Untersuchungen [PU], 1953: Philosophical Investigations [PI], translated by G. E. M. Anscombe /* For more details see: */

[13] Wikipedia EN, Speech acts:

[-] Sarah West, Rachel Pateman, 2017, “How could citizen science support the Sustainable Development Goals?“, SEI Stockholm Environment Institut , 2017, see:

[-] Yen-Chia Hsu, Illah Nourbakhsh, “When Human-Computer Interaction Meets Community Citizen Science“,Communications of the ACM, February 2020, Vol. 63 No. 2, Pages 31-34, 10.1145/3376892,