Friday, May 04, 2007

Editorial: Exploring and Building

In improving theory there are two important roles we can adopt. On one hand, we can explore new territory. This at least means, expanding the scope of existing theories, if not discovering new theories which apply in those areas. To truly explore requires equal amounts care and skepticism, after all, many frontiers are not beyond the boundaries of what exists, but found beneath what we thought we understood.

But discovering theory isn't enough. In its raw form, theory is difficult to understand and largely useless. It is equally important to build the existing theory and refine it, to make the ideas accessible and to ensure they can be and are used. Building is equally difficult to do well, involving patience, understanding, and dedication.

These two paths work best side by side, building what has been discovered, and exploring based on the inconsistencies revealed by trying to relate those discoveries. It is easy to separate them, but we must resist the urge. If you ignore building, then theory becomes incomprehensible. And if you ignore exploration, theory becomes stagnant, slavishly believed regardless of contradicting evidence.

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