Science As A Personal Journey
June 18, 2018 at 5:18 am #9744
Here are the opening paragraphs to an article by Chris Reeves. A link follows.
There is something you need to know about scientific controversies:
Your own personal reaction to controversial science says much about the depth of your own thinking and your own propensity to lead. When we treat controversies as an open-ended clash of worldviews where the answer is not already known, we sharpen our critical voice, we develop the habits of higher-order thinking, and we open the door to becoming effective leaders.
There is “normal” science, and then there is controversial science. Normal science is science which has largely stabilized because there’s a general absence of anomalous observations. It can be reliably treated as a body of knowledge.
But, what about science which has been contested?
When science becomes controversial, we have to prepare for the possibility that there may be a mistake in our body of knowledge. To the extent that we refuse to do so, we abandon the aspect of scientific theory which distinguishes it from other aspects of our culture — its provisional nature.
There is more, including two illustrations, at:
What say you?June 18, 2018 at 11:40 am #9745
I agree completely that if science doesn’t explain what is happening, or what it predicts is different from what is happening, there’s something wrong with the science in some way. This is an opportunity to deepen our all-round understanding of the context within which our current scientific knowledge sits.June 18, 2018 at 7:45 pm #9748
The first minute and why not let it play out……When a theory reaches consensus there is no controversy, only dissent from fringe groups. Evolution is a fact yet Creationists like Ken Ham insist it is contentious because it negates the cornerstone of their primitive beliefs. There is no controversy about alien abductions, only idiots from fringe groups or susceptible people who believe they were abducted.June 18, 2018 at 8:38 pm #9751
It’s interesting what Feynman says about a vague guess or hypothesis – it can’t be proved wrong, presumably because its predictions are vague. Perhaps in trying to prove it wrong, its vagueness shows up.June 18, 2018 at 9:15 pm #9752
That is the key value of the Scientific Method when properly applied. A good theory should be able to make predictions and allow others to reproduce the results. It should be falsifiable. When a paper is submitted for peer-review other scientists try to disprove it. They want to tear it apart and find faults with it. They set out to prove it wrong and not to prove it right. When enough of them can’t “disprove” it, they will agree that it is a valid theory. It now reaches the “Consensus” stage of the process. This does not mean it is a “fact”. It just means it is our current understanding of it. Newtons theories were the basis of our worldview for a few hundred years. Then along came Einstein and Relativity. It does not mean Newton was wrong -his theories on the motion of planets are still valid but Spacetime is more accurate…and it enlightens us to the point of giving us a more robust worldview as we get a better view of the reality of the natural world.June 20, 2018 at 5:16 am #9764
That is the key value of the Scientific Method when properly applied. A good theory should be able to make predictions and allow others to reproduce the results. It should be falsifiable. When a paper is submitted for peer-review other scientists try to disprove it. They want to tear it apart and find faults with it. They set out to prove it wrong and not to prove it right. When enough of them can’t “disprove” it, they will agree that it is a valid theory. It now reaches the “Consensus” stage of the process. This does not mean it is a “fact”. It just means it is our current understanding of it. Newtons theories were the basis of our worldview for a few hundred years. Then along came Einstein and Relativity. It does not mean Newton was wrong -his theories on the motion of planets are still valid but Spacetime is more accurate…and it enlightens us to the point of giving us a more robust worldview as we get a better view of the reality of the natural world.
Strange as it may seem, there may be many true and accurate but incompatible answers to a simple question. “Where did you park my car?” “In my apartment’s parking garage” and “Somewhere safe” may both be true and accurate but one or both may be dissatisfactory to the person asking the question.
And some seemingly simple questions have no perfectly accurate deterministic solutions. Most scientists and mathematicians will be familiar with the so-called “three body problem.” Here is Wikipedia’s explanation of it: “…the three-body problem is the problem of taking an initial set of data that specifies the positions, masses, and velocities of three bodies for some particular point in time and then determining the motions of the three bodies, in accordance with Newton’s laws of motion and of universal gravitation…” Doing this for two bodies is a cinch. Three bodies gets gnarly very quickly, and even “solutions” that are accurate enough for a specified purpose period of time will degrade into inaccuracy as time goes by.
The point, I suppose, is that science and its vaunted method, is just that: a method. Unlike Newton’s or Einstein’s or what little we know of the rules governing quantum-level events, the scientific method may use those laws, but it itself is not a law.June 20, 2018 at 7:37 am #9767
@unseen – “The point, I suppose, is that science and its vaunted method, is just that: a method.”
– that’s very true, and it rasises the possibility of a “religious method”. If science is all about truth, and being as true as possible, the religious method would explore truth and love (the pressure to thrive, survive and reproduce). Of course, that is where religion overlaps with science.June 20, 2018 at 8:55 am #9768
No, I don’t think so Simon. I see no overlap (or NOMA). Science is not “all about truth”. Science investigates claims based upon evidence while religion makes claims without any evidence. Science does not care about the “truth” of the outcome of its investigations. It is only concerned with the validity of the idea, not the implications of it. Whether a hypothesis is shown to make valid claims about an aspect of reality or whether it disproves the claims is irrelevant to how Science works. Philosophers or anyone else, even the religious, can then deal with the implications of the theory.
When it comes to “thrive, survive, reproduce”, where do you think the religious get their knowledge about such topics? From Science of course. They are obsessed with warping it to prove their own “truth” which has been handed to them on a plate and taken “as gospel” without any unbiased thinking while producing nothing but ignorant and childish ideas of their own as “alternative theories”. Then demanding they be taught to children as if those ideas are “the truth”. All they do is vandalize the minds of those children with Dark Age piffle and prevent the growth of critical thinking skills.
Religion starts out claiming to know the truth and then deliberately misrepresents scientific discoveries to show how clever their god actually is with arguments of infinite regress. Some even misquote their own books to show that religion knew it all along (like the Earth being round). We must bear in mind that as soon as Science began making discoveries that were contrary to religious dogma that the religious condemned those scientists with accusations of heresy and murdered plenty of them in the name of their imaginary god. So much for an overlap with Science.
Science is not in battle with religion. It does not even consider it.June 20, 2018 at 12:18 pm #9769
Damn, Simon, what are you smoking?
Unlike the line from a movie…i will have what she is having…for me ….it is keep that shit Simon is smoking away from me.June 20, 2018 at 7:48 pm #9770
The point, I suppose, is that science and its vaunted method, is just that: a method. Unlike Newton’s or Einstein’s or what little we know of the rules governing quantum-level events, the scientific method may use those laws, but it itself is not a law.
I struggled with this for a while, until finally figuring out what I think is an explanation more easily acceptable to those people out there who don’t have a sufficient understanding of working scientific method, much less an acceptance of its usefulness. It goes something like the following (my own quote in a block quote here, until I perfect it for publishing a best selling book, someday):
Fruitful science may not rely on just one “scientific method” that all scientists can agree on, but is fruitful usually because of how it is communicable among the world’s scientific community. Indeed, many scientific papers are flawed, but there are scientific methods and communications that bring us all amazing things like rocket science, men on the moon, cures for diseases, smartphone technology (which are just the tip of the iceberg in useful science). Such scientific method and communications are so “universally understood” in nature, that probably, even aliens from other worlds in the universe could take those communications and understand them, if not actually use them for their own personal benefit.June 20, 2018 at 8:50 pm #9771
Years ago, I used to be quite a popular beta-tester on various computer programs. The idea was that you’d try to crash or otherwise break the new program. I beta-tested for the early google site. Programmers love good beta testers as it enables them to fine tune their work.
The same applies to new scientific theories. The proponents of the theory invite beta-testing, literally wanting other experienced professionals to ‘break’ the theory.
Its not hard to grasp, and it has bugger all to do with thriving.June 20, 2018 at 9:42 pm #9772
Pope, idk bout dat quote.
Scientific method works. Scientists sometimes deviate from it.
Even flawed science gets the same testing as good science. Therefore screw-ups continue to wear the moniker of scientist and we the nonscientists benefit from the efforts of the experimenters.June 20, 2018 at 10:07 pm #9774
There is an impression “out there” that the Scientific Method is how scientists do science. This is not the case. Scientists and non-scientists can come up with novel ideas and make observations, collect data and discover trends or patterns from that data. They can carry out their on random test and trials to see what happens. Others might just engage in thought experiments or stumble upon something completely different to what they were expecting….like the discovery of the microwave oven or even Viagra (easy to spot the control group?).
At some point a hypothesis (a testable idea) is formulated. It is here that the Scientific Method is of value. It is a good way to test the hypothesis. This is where Scientist will try to break it of falsify it. After enough research is done a consensus is reached. If it is a valid theory then it can be said that “This is our current understanding of X”. If it changes in 5 years’ time it is not because Science has “changed its mind” but rather because new evidence has emerged to change our understanding of X. If that evidence breaks the theory then so be it as it was not an “absolute truth”. If is improves our understanding of X, then our worldview is enhanced.June 20, 2018 at 10:19 pm #9775
Chris Reeve’s article says there is normal science, and there is controversial science. It says too that our reactions to controversial science reveal the depth of our thinking and our propensity to lead. (Like who wants to lead?)
Geocentrism was once normal science. Alternatives to it were so controversial that medieval churchmen declared them heretical and burned geo-noncentrists. (Geo-radicals?)
Anthropocentrism is now normal science. Is there an alternative that’s not controversial? Anthropo-radicalism?June 20, 2018 at 10:45 pm #9777
I am reminded of the Bill Nye vs Ken Ham debate when the latter kept referring to “observational science” and “historical science”.
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