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The Scientific Method

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It's my nature to look for the underlying causes of claims and arguments, and to reduce complex subjects to their simplest forms. People often talk past each other because they're using differently defined terms, or they don't clearly explain what they're thinking, or many other reasons. But while this can't be avoided completely, it can be improved.

One of the fundamental misunderstandings that underlie other topics (e.g. earth shape) is the issue of the scientific method. We must know the nature and boundaries of this method before we can use it as a premise in an argument. And though wikipedia is fraught with political and religious bias, the page defining the scientific method seems accurate and well-documented. Pertinent points from the "scientific method" wiki page: 

Quote

The scientific method is based on systematic observation, measurement, and experiment leading to a hypotheses. But there is only the most obscure relationship between math and reality. Eugene Wigner and others such as Gregory Chaitin, Lakoff, and Núñez, state that mathematics is the result of practitioner bias.

So we see that in order to call some approach to a problem a scientific investigation, it must be observable, repeatable, and falsifiable. The last term, falsifiable, simply means that there is some way to test the theory, to attempt to cause it to fail by experiment. And we should keep in mind that even if one theory passes the test, it does not prove anything. There might be other explanations that fit the data, which have yet to be proposed. 

We also need to understand the terms theory, fact, and law. The phenomenon we call Gravity is the observation that objects fall toward the earth's surface; this is the fact. Then there is the theory of gravity which attempts to explain how exactly this works*. Finally, there is the law of gravity, which is the mathematical formula describing gravity as it relates to two or more objects.

*(Big Bang cosmology defines gravity as a rather vaguely-defined "weak force", whereas Electric Universe cosmology defines it more as an electromagnetic phenomenon which is simply larger in scale than the ordinary observable effects of magnetic fields. Here we see two theories that describe the same observation but reach it by two very different paths.)

If these basics are not understood or agreed upon, a discussion depending on them is doomed to fail. 

Edited by Challenger
removed direct links and quotes to avoid copyright issues

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Sadly, the scientific method is now honored more in the breach than in the observance.

When a law of science has received the good housekeeping seal of approval, it becomes fact. The Establishment appoints who we must accept as Authority.

 

"Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts." Richard Feynman

Learn to love your servitude...Aldous Huxley

"Everything You Know Is Wrong," Lloyd Pye

  http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=e5qJYwfAju8   

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Yes, it has become the religion of Scientism, since observation and falsifiability have been abandoned.

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The piece they seem to have left out is anything no able to be disproved must be counted as a possibility until otherwise no matter how outlandish. ie nothing is dismissed out of hand before it is disproved. I always point that out to sceptics as it is part of the scientific method. Proper Science is required to keep an open mind not the other way around.

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5 minutes ago, Guitar Doc said:

The piece they seem to have left out is anything no able to be disproved must be counted as a possibility until otherwise no matter how outlandish. ie nothing is dismissed out of hand before it is disproved. I always point that out to sceptics as it is part of the scientific method. Proper Science is required to keep an open mind not the other way around.

Yes, exactly. Science does not mock or dismiss an idea out of hand, it demonstrates that the idea is falsified by experimentation. Of course, nobody is obligated to verify somebody else's claims or theories, as if scientists must chase every possible avenue, or they'd never get anything done. But on the other hand, dismissing some alternate theory just because it doesn't match the prevailing one is against the scientific method.

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Just now, Challenger said:

Yes, exactly. Science does not mock or dismiss an idea out of hand, it demonstrates that the idea is falsified by experimentation. Of course, nobody is obligated to verify somebody else's claims or theories, as if scientists must chase every possible avenue, or they'd never get anything done. But on the other hand, dismissing some alternate theory just because it doesn't match the prevailing one is against the scientific method.

Usually when some other activity is going on, in the process they find a conflict that leads them to believe that the information is wrong.  But that is usually a long time coming. 

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Just now, Challenger said:

Yes, exactly. Science does not mock or dismiss an idea out of hand, it demonstrates that the idea is falsified by experimentation. Of course, nobody is obligated to verify somebody else's claims or theories, as if scientists must chase every possible avenue, or they'd never get anything done. But on the other hand, dismissing some alternate theory just because it doesn't match the prevailing one is against the scientific method.

It is a discussion I have had frequently with my physicists friend. There are theories out there which currently can be tested as out "detectors" simply are not advanced enough. He says this current time is one of the most interesting to be a scientist as we are discovering thing we never knew before (hadn’t even guessed at sort of stuff) and there is 60 odd years worth of theorises which are yet to be proved right or wrong because we lack methods of testing as yet.

 

All the cutting edge science is theoretical. It isn't paper science, it is purely mental before it even gets to paper. In this phase ideas are thrown up and other try and shoot them down. If they can't be shot down they go in the box of genuine possibilities. Later they might be paper science as a "proposal" and even later tested and verified or dismissed.

Science has become a bit of a religion for some. Newton was wrong, not utterly wrong, but under less than average conditions inaccurate.

The previous theory before Plate tectonics was presided over by the Chair of the royal institute, it took for him to die for Plate tectonics was "allowed" to take the place of the previous theory, 50 years of waiting for one bossy prick to die before it could be legitimized. Bias has taken place and we know personal bias affects experiments.

My buddy said he was a beggar while studying to become a Phd, he lived off the government in that time. After becoming a Phd he said he realized he had become a sophisticated beggar where he applies for grants. He said "science has become the pursuit of money" No-one will give you are grant for research unless they are going to be able to make off it monetarily down the line. So your applications have to phrased in such terms in order to be successful, no-one is doing expensive research out of pure science. (makes you wonder about CERN and the LHC). Some scientists are doing their contracted job while secretly following their theories using gear covertly and only publish just before they retire and can NEVER let their employers know about their "other" project or the research will be seized and embargoed.

When you work for these private research companies they own your research, they might not ever make it public or only make a small portion of it public and you sign contracts with massive penalties if you disclose what you were doing. All you get is a salary. He worked for the Australian defence force doing a "termite study" but could be more specific than that and his PHd is in "The physics of the acoustic guitar"  Termites can determine the volume of a tree by "reading the vibrations coming back off it by scraping it with their teeth. That is all he could say legally, I leave you mind to put two and two together and deduce why any military would be interested in that.

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Good comments, GD. I've seen many documentaries on various scientific topics, where the scientists only tell after many years the way theories were accepted or rejected, and it was all about popularity, power, and prestige. Re. the guitar acoustics, yes, the military would definitely be interested in deciphering conversations embedded in the vibration patterns of various objects. 

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Personal bias affecting experiments has been demonstrated. This is something else to consider and a true scientist takes no side. I have theories I pursue and "believe in" but I am always prepared to be wrong and change my beliefs based on that.

 

Psychic researchers proved the personal bias theory. A study in which people would draw pictures in a sealed room and other people would try and "read" them produced two wildly different results consistently between to top researchers. One only got 30% results (the sceptical one) and the other produced results above 70% (the believer). The sceptic thought the other must have been fudging her results. She suggested his scepticism was what was influencing his results.(disrupting the ability of those trying to do the "read")

They prosed to do the experiments in the same lab on the same day. The candidates were randomly selected by a third party. Once again he only got a 30% result where she got a 70% result. He was happy, because the theory have been "proved" to him and he could accept that.

 

I suggest there are some things which cannot be fully investigated unless you invest a portion of your belief in them (use of psychic abilities for one. You will not be able to engage your psychic abilities if you don't believe you can). Sceptics are hamstringing themselves needlessly and they are not following true scientific method.

This passes on to the field of "Conspiracy Theory" Where we often suggest theories which cannot be tested at the current time or we are barred from knowledge which would allow the testing or knowledge of the specific elements (ie covered up). Sceptics often attack us unscientifically trying to dismiss out of hand the theories without genuine testing, which is replicable anywhere, in order to drive home their personal bias (James Randi and crew do this).

 

I have nothing against the Uber rationalist (actually I do) who chose not to believe any second hand information or anything which they haven't witnessed nor haven't been able to demonstrate by their own hand. It is a "perfect" position mentally to take in which "they are never wrong" (a classic mental illness ). Their journey in mental life is slow progress from start to end but they have the have the mental comfort of "never being wrong". Those who are prepared to take leaps of faith and are always prepared to be wrong and change their minds as a result are like jets in their journey (and after all you learn more from being wrong than you do from being right as you expose more elements you previously were unaware of) compared to the mental Turtle of the Uber Rationalist.

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A good scientist will try and debunk there theory at every turn.thay DOESNT happen anymore!

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More excellent thoughts, GD. Yes, there's two extremes: nothing I cannot personally observe is true, or nothing needs to be observed to be true. But because the rational yet open-minded view is somewhat arbitrary, bias is a danger there as well. But we have no choice; we must compromise at some point. Thus all knowledge is at best a probability rather than a pure proof. But by the process you mentioned, where people rub elbows with those of contrary opinions, we can reach a pretty good probability.

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21 minutes ago, Challenger said:

More excellent thoughts, GD. Yes, there's two extremes: nothing I cannot personally observe is true, or nothing needs to be observed to be true. But because the rational yet open-minded view is somewhat arbitrary, bias is a danger there as well. But we have no choice; we must compromise at some point. Thus all knowledge is at best a probability rather than a pure proof. But by the process you mentioned, where people rub elbows with those of contrary opinions, we can reach a pretty good probability.

It was the method taught to us by Philosophy (all the cutting edge theories come from philosophy, the science of using logic and reason to explore reality around us). We throw up a theory and see if it can be eliminated on pure logic alone. If it can't it doesn't mean it is true or correct, it just means it has to be seriously considered until otherwise.

 

In philosophy you are often made to take positions you personally don't back to teach you to free your mind. My buddy said at Victoria University in NZ the first philosophy lecture went something like his "If you don't smoke weed you won't understand this course". and then the lecturer left the building (presumably to smoke a joint)

I thought that was a little disingenuous. He should have said "you need to engage lateral mental function in order to be good at this and understand the implications, there are substances which open up the ability of lateral thinking" (LSD for one).

 

In philosophy it becomes apparent very quickly changing mental perspectives changes apparent logic systems. If a tree falls in the forest and no-one is there to hear it does it make a sound? Your logical answer depends of your perspective and that is all that is asked in philosophy, that you justify your answers logically.

There are some things which remain the same no matter what perspective is applied to them. We call those "truths" if we can ever find them (*grin*)

It is considered in Philosophy this is the hardest question to answer *Chuckle* "If you are a dedicated vegetarian and someone tells you they will kill this live chicken in front of you if you don't eat this cooked chicken what will you do?"

The world can be more twisted than some suspect. I can see why the Greeks considered it an entertaining pastime.

 

Some things are not physical and can never be tested by physical science, instead they must be explored using logic, reason and critical thinking. There is a mental world around us as well as a physical world, the world of ideas and concepts from which the physical world is built from. Everything we see around us that human beings have created came from an idea. Ideas are very powerful and they come out of "nowhere". Quite some ability we have to pluck ideas out of nothing.

Edited by Guitar Doc

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