Author Topic: Is Numismatics a Science?  (Read 5321 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Michael E. Marotta

  • The Romance of Commerce
  • New Member
  • *
  • Posts: 9
  • A penny saved is a penny earned.
    • Washtenaw Justice
Is Numismatics a Science?
« on: September 06, 2009, 03:00:21 AM »
    I brought this up on Rec.Collecting.Coins with not many good responses in reply, so I offer it here.

    Numismatics is the art and science that studies the forms and uses of money.  As a science, numismatics includes the objective (rational-empirical) study of the forms and uses of money.

    As a science, numismatics conforms to the scientific method.  The method can be variously described in 3, 5, 7 or other discrete steps.
    Here is a 6-Step statement.

    1.  Ask a Question
    2.  Do Background Research
    3.  Construct a Hypothesis
    4.  Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
    5.  Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
    6.  Communicate Your Results

    Perhaps the most intensive exploration and application was developed by Norman Edmund (of Edmund Scientific) as a 14-Step procedure.

    Guide to Steps or Stages of Mental Activity
    PART 1 – Observation through Hypothesis
    1. Curious Observation
    2. Is There a Problem?
    3. Goals and Planning
    4. Search, Explore, & Gather the Evidence
    5. Generate Creative & Logical Alternatives
    6. Evaluate the Evidence
    7. Make the Educated Guess
    Part II – Challenge through Suspend Judgment
    8. Challenge the Hypothesis
    9. Reach a Conclusion
    10. Suspend Judgment  Part III – Implementation or Peer Review
    11. Take Action
    Supporting Ingredients
    Part IV – Action or Applied Ingredients
    12. Creative, Non-logical, Logical & Technical Methods
    13. Procedural Principles & Theories
    14. Attributes & Thinking Skills
http://www.scientificmethod.com/

Whether dating an ancient coin or evaluating the commercial functionality of US Fractional Notes, determining the cause of a Mint Error, the scientific method is the means to establishing truth.

To be true, an assertion must be empirically observable and rationally explicable.  Truths are objective.  In other words, true statements are facts that are independent of the observer and in addition a truth is a statement that is internally consistent.  Truths are non-contradictory.

Many useful statements are valid, but not true.  In our common speech, we might call some of them "social truths."  For instance, dollar coins are unpopular.  The statement begs a question: popular with whom? "Popularity" hinges on statistical studies that rest on the selection of a population.  The statement that dollar coins are unpopular might be shown to be valid -- some people do not like them; that is a fact -- but the broad claim is neither "true" nor "false" as a million people selecting paper dollars when given a choice could not invalidate the preference of a single person singing their praises.

On the other hand, whether or not the Kremnica Mint issued a certain coin is not subject to a popularity poll.  It is a matter of scientific investigation.

Falsehoods are revealed when the evidence fails to conform to scientific test.  Such test are not only empirical.  Weight, die matches, and other sensoria are merely perceptions.  To have meaning, those empirical facts must have a non-contradictory explanation.  The best recent example comes from the Western Assay Bars.
http://www.fake-gold-bars.co.uk/
- Western Assay Bars were offered by an expert.
- Western Assay Bars were accepted by the numismatic community.
- Western Assay Bars were catalogued in The Red Book and displayed at The Smithsonian Museum.
- Western Assay Bars had characteristics that were expected and accepted.

But, they failed the scientific method because the explanations for them lacked internal consistency.  Ultimately, new empirical evidence from The Brother Jonathan provided the sensory information -- fabric, devices -- that completed the condemnation.  Lacking that empirical evidence, the internal contradictions alone (rational inconsistency), while raising significant questions, was not sufficient to condemn the body of objects.

Coin dealer Frank Provaskek objected.  An electrical engineer by training, Frank pointed to a new book, THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD IN PRACTICE by Hugh G. Gauch, Jr. (Cambridge, 2003).  In two posts, he said:
"[Walter] Breen should be commended for filling in the missing pieces (or conflicting versions) of numismatic history with something that is reasonable and provides good continuity.  But since it doesn't involve repeatable observations of natural phenomena, the term "Scientific Method" is really not appropriate."
and
"It still fails the definition as understood by the university level. Breen used a combination of deductive reasoning, common sense and philosphy. Same thing with your CSI television shows.  Application of science doesn't equate with application of the 'Scientific Method.' "

After reading the book, I added that Gauch "... explains that in science two kinds of definition support each other: conceptual and operational.  Gauch points out that conceptually an acid produces free hydrogen ions in water.  Operationally, acids turn litmus paper red and register below 7 on a pH meter.  In numismatics, we have broad operational definitions that satisfy most cases.  THE STANDARD CATALOG
OF WORLD COINS by Krause and Mishler, and A GUIDE BOOK OF UNITED STATES COINS by Yeoman and Bressett offer cases of workable determinations, though no explicit operational defintions.  Moreover,
Krause and Brace also provide us with UNUSUAL COINS OF THE WORLD, a compendium of near examples, marginal cases, and interesting exceptions, all of which test that easy middle of the road. Numismatics has no conceptual definition of 'coin.' "

I point out here that in Peter's list of numismatic definitions, the word "coin" has a broad meaning that includes tokens.  Physically, the taxonomic definition is actually rejected by the numismatic community (at least by some publishers of magazines), which differentiates tokens and medals from coins.  I question that, in fact, as no definition offered actually integrates all the known examples while differentiating objects that are "coin-like" but not true coins, as for instance the "meer kat" is not really a feline, but a mongoose.

I also point out that there is no accepted word for "paper money" (billet; note; banknote).  We know paper money when we see it, as we do, perhaps a coin as well.  However, the lack of a basic definition points to highly problematic difficulties in accepting numismatics as a science.

On the other hand, consider sociology or criminology.  Both are accepted as sciences, though both flail about when attempting to force-fit human action to the standard of physical science.  People are not billiard balls.  The scientific study of humans in societies and cultures requires more.  Is that true of numismatics, as well?

[/list]
« Last Edit: September 06, 2009, 03:14:23 AM by Michael »
Mike M.
Michael E. Marotta
Sociologist of Numismatics

Offline Prosit

  • Moderator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4 084
Re: Is Numismatics a Science?
« Reply #1 on: September 06, 2009, 03:28:24 AM »
Research is not science, research is a tool of science.

Personally I do not consider Nusmismatics a science.

The scientific method as described in the previous post:
1.  Ask a Question
2.  Do Background Research
3.  Construct a Hypothesis
4.  Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
5.  Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
6.  Communicate Your Results
(the process of repeatability is not listed above but is vital to the scientific principle)

Very many activities can follow that without being a science, example:
1.  Ask a Question:   Are blonde headed girls willing to go out with me more readily than redheaded girls?
2.  Do Background Research: Go to the library, research blonde and red headed girls and their habits.
3.  Construct a Hypothesis:  By golly I think they will.
4.  Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment: Ask 147 blonde headed and 147 redheaded girls out
5.  Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion   146 blondes said no, 145 red headed girls said no.
6.  Communicate Your Results:  Red headed girls are more likey to go out with me more than blonde headed girls are.
No fundemental rule of the universe has been revealed here.

To me, science, to be science, must have the ability to reveal totally unknown principles or rules of reality, the universe, its workings or of its parts or of the state of being, not just increase information known about a subject.

Numismatics can increase knowledge but in my opinion, never reveal, totally unknown fundemental principles or rules of reality, the universe or its parts or of the state of being.

Dale

Offline Prosit

  • Moderator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4 084
Re: Is Numismatics a Science?
« Reply #2 on: September 06, 2009, 03:50:04 AM »
Oh btw 

Hello Michael, welcome to the group.  :)

Good to see you here, it is a nice place to hang out.

Dale

Offline Figleaf

  • Administrator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 32 175
Re: Is Numismatics a Science?
« Reply #3 on: September 06, 2009, 01:05:35 PM »
Is numismatics a science?

Answer 1: Wikipedia defines science as "science (from the Latin scientia, meaning "knowledge") refers in its broadest sense to any systematic knowledge-base or prescriptive practice that is capable of resulting in a prediction or predictable type of outcome. Knowledge base? Sure. Predicting? No. No science.

Answer 2: who cares? By the definition above history is not a science either. Does that diminish or aggrandize history? Numismatics contributes to welfare (in the sense of well-being) by doing such things as preserving culture, stimulating research and supporting other fields of research, stimulating arts and supporting education. It is no coincidence that Wikipedia is full of pictures of coins in lemmas that have little to do with numismatics, such as Roman emperors. Also, I find it just plain fun.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Prosit

  • Moderator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4 084
Re: Is Numismatics a Science?
« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2009, 04:13:51 PM »
After re-reading what I said and then reading Figleaf's answer, I think I much prefer Figleaf's Answer #2.

Dale

Offline Michael E. Marotta

  • The Romance of Commerce
  • New Member
  • *
  • Posts: 9
  • A penny saved is a penny earned.
    • Washtenaw Justice
Re: Is Numismatics a Science?
« Reply #5 on: September 07, 2009, 04:10:39 AM »
Research is not science, research is a tool of science.
Personally I do not consider Nusmismatics a science.

To me, science, to be science, must have the ability to reveal totally unknown principles or rules of reality, the universe, its workings or of its parts or of the state of being, not just increase information known about a subject.

Numismatics can increase knowledge but in my opinion, never reveal, totally unknown fundemental principles or rules of reality, the universe or its parts or of the state of being.
Dale

That depends on your view of human action.  If people are some special set-aside, then studies of humanity cannot be science.  But, if the words rational, sapient, sentient, volitional, conceptual, self-conscious and self-aware have meaning then "money" is a universal attribute of such creatures.

Would genetics not be a science because we only know of life on Earth?

Consider social science.  We consider it a fact that stratification is a consequence of economic production.  Hunter-gatherers are egalitarian.  Agricultural societies have castes and classes because sedantary life allowed the accumulation of things.  Industrial society seems to have intensified the class divisions, but has post-industrial? 
Perhaps debatable.  What will a space-faring culture look like? Will it mimic agriculture or will it be echoic of hunting?  Or something else?  Can you explain how such a society would work without money?  I can easily predict that a space-faring culture will have commodity money.  I can also predict that such would be of minor importance compared to something else, "virtual" money for lack of a better word, but evolved one step beyond our computerized imaginings.

Meanwhile, here on Earth, we know that (nominally) isolated from the Europeans, the Aztecs used cacao beans for money.  We can predict that grade made a difference in value.  Compare and contast the development and evolution of wampum with that of coins.  The only way to sort that out is by a science of money that identifies, integrates and differentiates observations -- and based on that, makes predictions.

Mike M.
Michael E. Marotta
Sociologist of Numismatics

Offline Michael E. Marotta

  • The Romance of Commerce
  • New Member
  • *
  • Posts: 9
  • A penny saved is a penny earned.
    • Washtenaw Justice
Re: Is Numismatics a Science?
« Reply #6 on: September 07, 2009, 04:17:12 AM »
Answer 1: Wikipedia defines science as ...  Knowledge base? Sure. Predicting? No. No science.

I can predict that an object of no objective ("intrinsic") value, no artistic merit, no statement of value and no issuing authority will not be accepted as money.

I can predict that albeit lacking a statement of value, the British Soveriegn coin and the US Eagle coin were alike accepted as money.

I can predict that lacking artistic merit, the Churchill Crown was nonetheless money.

Mike M.
Michael E. Marotta
Sociologist of Numismatics

Offline Prosit

  • Moderator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4 084
Re: Is Numismatics a Science?
« Reply #7 on: September 07, 2009, 05:57:23 AM »
... If people are some special set-aside, then studies of humanity cannot be science. ...
...Would genetics not be a science because we only know of life on Earth?


I gave my own personal definition of what I think it takes to be a science.  I feel no compulsion to force that
definition on you or anyone else.

While you quoted me and asked questions, your post neither denies or supports or imo directly addresses
anything I said whatsoever

Dale

Offline Michael E. Marotta

  • The Romance of Commerce
  • New Member
  • *
  • Posts: 9
  • A penny saved is a penny earned.
    • Washtenaw Justice
Re: Is Numismatics a Science?
« Reply #8 on: September 07, 2009, 10:48:14 AM »
Quote from: icetorch
When you say "scientific", I usually think of the natural sciences. If numismatics were a science, it'd be a social science. However, I don't even think it's that. ... 
Some say they never circulated because  ...  Again, I do not know whether this is true. It's not always possible to know all the facts about a coin, but a scientific approach surely helps.

A "scientific approach" is not the same thing as a "science."  Like you, my cultural expectation of "science" starts with the physical studies.  Whether as a social science numismatics fits the definition is the question at hand. 

Quote from: dalehall
I gave my own personal definition of what I think it takes to be a science.  I feel no compulsion to force that definition on you or anyone else.

While you quoted me and asked questions, your post neither denies or supports or imo directly addresses anything I said whatsoever.  Dale

If you want to have "personal" definitions that is your business.  This is a discussion.  I asked something.  You replied.  Your reply gave me pause to think of more to say. 

Quote from: figleaf
Answer 2: who cares? By the definition above history is not a science either.

You do not need to care.  I am interested in the problem, so I posed the question. 

Actually, I had a history professor not two years ago, a venerable Labourite researcher who said that history is a science.  I had never considered it such, but her point was made and I understood immediately her Marxist assumptions.  By comparison, if I were to assert that the entire Cold War was caused by a difference in aesthetic principles between Romantic Classicism and Social Realism, I would have to go a ways to prove that.  Having made an assertion, and hopefully offered facts in support, verification or falsification would depend on predictions about how this explains other problems.  Having published my repeatable observations, others could then ask if this theory explains still other events -- if this theory has predictive power.

Perhaps it is only a matter of intention.  In this week's E-Sylum, Ray Williams asked rhetorically why more coin collectors do not buy (and, I assume, read) books.  The easy answer is that they are not scholars.  Rather, they are collectors. Their interest does not extend beyond the object itself.  Clearly, one can practice numismatic scholarship without considering it a science.  Many numismatists accumulate facts and assertions (did it circulate? was it NCLT?) without practicing rational empirical inquiry and discovery.

Unfortunately, many practice social sciences with the same disregard. Post-modernism is destroying the social sciences.

For other reasons, the physical science suffer as well, apparently.  Can anyone here cite an example from astronomy that satisifes icetorch and dalehall? I don't mean from the 16th century... I mean, has astronomy not been a science these last how many decades and centuries since the last discovery of a principle or basic truth? 

I can agree that just "doing things scientifically" is not science.  But then, what is?

Perhaps, it is indeed that "doing things scientifically" is indeed science.

The fact remains that I approach numismatics as a science.  I practice it as such.  Not everything I have written meets all the standards.  (In the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, for instance, are certain handy aids to laboratory practice.  Not everything written by and for scientists is science.)   But in the main, I observe phenomena, form hypotheses, seek validation or falsification, and publish my results.
« Last Edit: September 07, 2009, 11:14:08 AM by Michael E. Marotta »
Mike M.
Michael E. Marotta
Sociologist of Numismatics

Offline Prosit

  • Moderator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4 084
Re: Is Numismatics a Science?
« Reply #9 on: September 07, 2009, 12:14:00 PM »
If you want to have "personal" definitions that is your business.  This is a discussion.  I asked something.  You replied.  Your reply gave me pause to think of more to say. 

Any definition accepted by anyone, anywhere, anytime is a personal definition, weather it agrees with some "standard" or not.  By most definitions of scientist, by training and education, I am one. I think my "personal" definition of science will include almost all that is normally accepted as science.   I would certainly exclude numismatics and history.  I also exclude math.  Social science while many times fuzzy, is an area I accept as science.

Dale

Offline Figleaf

  • Administrator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 32 175
Re: Is Numismatics a Science?
« Reply #10 on: September 07, 2009, 01:01:42 PM »
I can predict that an object of no objective ("intrinsic") value, no artistic merit, no statement of value and no issuing authority will not be accepted as money.

Have a look on the board "other tokens used for payments".

I can predict that albeit lacking a statement of value, the British Soveriegn coin and the US Eagle coin were alike accepted as money.

Not a prediction, more a description of what happened. You might as well predict that cigarettes were accepted as money in the past. Also not universally true since these coins were sometimes accepted as money, sometimes accepted as bullion and today they are only accepted in barter by those who are interested in barter.

I can predict that lacking artistic merit, the Churchill Crown was nonetheless money.

Not a prediction, but a description of fact after it happened.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Prosit

  • Moderator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4 084
Re: Is Numismatics a Science?
« Reply #11 on: September 07, 2009, 01:34:29 PM »
For other reasons, the physical science suffer as well, apparently.  Can anyone here cite an example from astronomy that satisifes icetorch and dalehall? I don't mean from the 16th century... I mean, has astronomy not been a science these last how many decades and centuries since the last discovery of a principle or basic truth? 

For what it is worth, my definition does not state that science has to continuously reveal new basic truths but "must have the ability...".  Astronomy has revealed basic principles; therefore it has the "ability" to do so.

Recently it has been proven that most (majority) galaxies have a black hole at the center and that it played a major role in the formation of the galaxy to start with.  I would say that is pretty basic stuff.  This has been suspected for a long time, but only recently proven that the black hole occurs in a majority of galaxies.

I define astronomy as the topmost category and all other related (astro-physics for example) as sub categories.
One of the more recent theories has to do with time near the edge of the universe.  It has been suggested that time may not flow at the exact same rate, therefore the calculations
that show the universe to be expanding, might be in question.

Pretty astounding, but not well accepted.    ;D
Dale


translateltd

  • Guest
Re: Is Numismatics a Science?
« Reply #12 on: September 07, 2009, 08:35:03 PM »
While I have used the term "science" myself without giving it a second thought, to me Numismatics is a branch of history (does that make it a social science?), but one that, at the same time, has major overlaps with linguistics, politics, art, economics and probably countless other disciplines that I can't think of right now.  When I was a kid I would repeatedly borrow and read all of the coin books from our local library, partly because I couldn't afford many coins, but partly, I guess, because I simply enjoyed reading about the subject and everything that I could learn through its good offices.  Thirty-five years later, my pockets are deeper but I have almost come full circle - I don't buy that many coins for myself any more but keep a well-stocked numismatic library, and there would be no disputing that I look at my coin books more often than I look at the coins themselves.

I've said it elsewhere on the forum in different words, that if we consider a "University" to be a purveyor of a "universe" of knowledge, then to me, Numismatics is more of a "university" than our large campuses with their ever-narrower focuses, and I certainly gained a broader wealth of knowledge from the study of coins and their attendant circumstances than I did in any formal educational institution. 


translateltd

  • Guest
Re: Is Numismatics a Science?
« Reply #13 on: September 07, 2009, 11:16:01 PM »

I can predict that lacking artistic merit, the Churchill Crown was nonetheless money.


It has become something of a commonplace to decry the Churchill Crown as having no artistic merit, and while Michael's view may well be the result of careful personal consideration, I suspect a lot of critics just repeat other critics and no longer examine the actual coin up close.  "Artistic merit" will of course always have a subjective element, and for my own taste, I think it's a masterful piece of understated statuary, a carving emerging from the surface of the coin, not totally dissimilar to the concept of Mt Rushmore in micro-scale!

At least it's in 3-D, and from that aspect alone it certainly beats much of the almost 2-D NCLT material appearing on the market these days - the British "calligraphy crown" that was illustrated a few days ago has no relief elements at all among its lettering and the line-drawing effigy of the Queen (i.e. the raised bits are all on the same plane), and much of New Zealand's recent NCLT output has been diagnosed by one of our other members - I suspect accurately - as having been created by stamp designers, who have transferred their "flat" designs onto a metallic surface without considering the added dimension of actual relief that a coin offers.

Look at Churchill again, against the "calligraphy crown", or NZ's "tuatara" $5, for instance.  While Oscar Nemon's Churchill might have been something of a shocker in its day, it has much to redeem it in today's context.