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'[OT]: Doing Science (was Re: [OT]: ENOUGH'
2001\06\06@232303 by Russell McMahon

picon face
> What I'm seeing here is a misunderstanding of the scientific
> method and the difference between hypothesis and theory.

Where, where ? :-)
Are you referring to my comment on the evolution theory?
If so I'm puzzled as I don't think I suggested I was antiscience in any way
at all.
If not I've missed the point (not unknown).
I'm pretty sure I understand the scientific method and what "doing science"
does (should) involve.
BIMBW.

> _AM_ a scientist.  What science is about is objectivity.  It
> is a systematic and objective way of looking at stuff.  It
> involves observation and testing to sort stuff-that-works
> from stuff-that-doesnt-work.

I'm an engineer, but use "science" as a tool as required.
I like the tool.

> Just don't disparage tools you've never used.

Indeed.
Although one can comment on SOME unused tools from one's experience with
others.

{Quote hidden}

I don't think I suggested you shouldn't use what works for you.
I also didn't say it was hard solid immutable fact - as some do.
I didn't mention startigraphy or plate tectonics but have no trouble with
people establishing models of what appears to have happend in the past based
on observations. Withoutv this process we would not now HAVE the undoubtedly
useful theory / model of Plate Tectonics.

I didn't say the theory of evolution was wrong.
I didn't need to - ALL scientific theories of complex real world systems are
wrong by definition.
As a model for what happened it has a certain degree of success and a
certain degree of failure. If the model is useful by all means use it while
keeping your eye out for the flaws tht suggest another round of hypothesis,
experiment and erefinement are in order. Thta is what the punctuated
equilbrium & hopeful monsters people are doing (although the various
branches of evolutionary thought will largely not agree with each other that
each others proposals are reasonable additions to the model).

Plate tectonics had a very troubled birth with all the then experts
rubbishing the theory for literally decades.
They all look prettty stupid now (as they ought to).
Still doesn't mean the model is perfect but it does SEEM to be going in the
right direction.
However, one can be lulled into immensely false security by extrapolating
such sucess into certainty.
As the pre-plate-tectonicsists were.
And many evolutionists are now.

I understand (very very much as a non expert) that fossil and startigraphic
dating often go hand in glove with one proving the age of the other and vice
versa. If this works for your practical applications then why not use it. I
understand also that there are areas of anomalies that are so inexlicable as
to sound a cautionary note in all cases.

I have no problems with isotropic (or other) dating schemes being used for
practical applications but I'm sure you are aware that these can be utterly
flawed for all sorts of reasons in some cases. We have rocks here from
volcanic flows which occurred well within living memory which have been
assessed by several independent competent labs as being milions of years
old.

Carbon dating make some very strong assumptions about the constancy of
atmospheric isotope ratios and these are questionable at best.
Samples from living plants have been carbon dated as having large ages.

I'm not saying thees tools are not useful (the users should know whether the
results at least some of the time warrant the trust) - just that they have
known flaws and probably have unknown flasws and knowing we don't know is
very important.

If a tool is used to produce a result that can be used as a measure of the
tools competence then well and good. BUT if a tool is used to produce
knowledge about another tool which is then used to produce knowledge about
the first tool but there is no external independent reference to check the
results by then there is a severe risk of ending up in cloud cuckoo land
(where-ever that is).

If your tools help you find buried river beds then the model must have SOME
vailidity. By all means use it, but carefully.

> Just for the record, the scientific method isnt about proving
> anything beyond a shadow of a doubt.  Its just a tool to get
> at knowledge.


Agree
Note that I said -

       An unfair test as the scientific method seeks only to
       disprove anything.

ie the SM proposes models, builds hypotheses based on the models and then
proposes tests to attemp to FALSIFY the model.
Too many of our scientists, especially in the "soft" sciences,  seem to have
lost sight of this.




regards



           Russell "all models are wrong, some models are useful" McMahon

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2001\06\07@005311 by Dan Michaels

flavicon
face
Russell McMahon wrote:
.........
>
>        An unfair test as the scientific method seeks only to
>        disprove anything.
>
>ie the SM proposes models, builds hypotheses based on the models and then
>proposes tests to attemp to FALSIFY the model.


Re use of the word "FLASIFY", twould appear they teach SM slightly
differently in other places:

teacher.nsrl.rochester.edu/phy_labs/AppendixE/AppendixE.html#Heading3
phyun5.ucr.edu/~wudka/Physics7/Notes_www/node6.html#SECTION0212100000
0000000000
pc65.frontier.osrhe.edu/hs/science/hsimeth.htm
http://home.xnet.com/~blatura/skep_1.html
http://www.isd77.k12.mn.us/resources/cf/SciProjInter.html

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2001\06\07@031521 by Russell McMahon

picon face
> Russell McMahon wrote:
> .........
> >
> >        An unfair test as the scientific method seeks only to
> >        disprove anything.
> >
> >ie the SM proposes models, builds hypotheses based on the models and then
> >proposes tests to attemp to FALSIFY the model.
>
>
> Re use of the word "FALSIFY", twould appear they teach SM slightly
> differently in other places:
>
>
http://teacher.nsrl.rochester.edu/phy_labs/AppendixE/AppendixE.html#Heading3
>
phyun5.ucr.edu/~wudka/Physics7/Notes_www/node6.html#SECTION0212100000
> 0000000000
> pc65.frontier.osrhe.edu/hs/science/hsimeth.htm
> http://home.xnet.com/~blatura/skep_1.html
> http://www.isd77.k12.mn.us/resources/cf/SciProjInter.html



I'll have a look, but I'll stick my neck out now and say that, if their
method does not correspond generally with what I was saying then

       - It aint the Scientific Method (regardless of what they may say)

       - This is what you'd expect  :-)


       Russell



PS - I just know this is going to end up badly ......................... :-)

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2001\06\07@105234 by Dan Michaels

flavicon
face
{Quote hidden}

Point is, the initial steps in the SM involve trying to find data
to "support" the model, rather than falsify it.

Later, once ego takes over, then one tries to find data to
falsify your competitor's models.

Imagine teaching SM to a school student: "..... next formulate
a model, and then try to find data which falsifies that which you
just formulated ...." - and small wonder teenagers might think
that their elders are so dumb.

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2001\06\07@113559 by Mark Skeels

picon face
(snip)


> >> >ie the SM proposes models, builds hypotheses based on the models and
then
> >> >proposes tests to attemp to FALSIFY the model.
> >>


(snip)

> Imagine teaching SM to a school student: "..... next formulate
> a model, and then try to find data which falsifies that which you
> just formulated ...." - and small wonder teenagers might think
> that their elders are so dumb.
>

Of course, any truth seeker is looking for _both_ kinds of information. Then
he/she follows wherever it leads, refining the hypothesis as they go along,
or if facts require it, jettisoning the hypothesis altogether......

The factors that adversely affect this process may include, but are not
limited to...

1. Ignorance
2. Disposition (do I _want_ to accept this information, do I hold any
presuppositions/biases)
3. Circumstances outside of our control.

MES

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2001\06\07@124820 by Dan Michaels

flavicon
face
Mark Skeels wrote:

>> >> >ie the SM proposes models, builds hypotheses based on the models and
>then
>> >> >proposes tests to attemp to FALSIFY the model.
>> >>
>(snip)
>
>> Imagine teaching SM to a school student: "..... next formulate
>> a model, and then try to find data which falsifies that which you
>> just formulated ...." - and small wonder teenagers might think
>> that their elders are so dumb.
>>
>
>Of course, any truth seeker is looking for _both_ kinds of information. Then
>he/she follows wherever it leads, refining the hypothesis as they go along,
>or if facts require it, jettisoning the hypothesis altogether......
>

Well, yes. If you actually read the SM procedure as normally
formulated, that is exactly what it says to do. The only argument
about this seems to be on piclist.

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2001\06\07@130113 by Mark Skeels

picon face
>
> Well, yes. If you actually read the SM procedure as normally
> formulated, that is exactly what it says to do. The only argument
> about this seems to be on piclist.
>

But my point is that the process is corrupted by ignorance, disposition,
Circumstance, and perhaps other factors.

I doubt that anyone would actually say that they _want_ to be in error.

Yet, certain factors are more important to us or may have a larger influence
on us at times than desire of discovering of truth.

We only _tell_ ourselves that this is not so.

MES

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2001\06\07@135137 by Dan Michaels

flavicon
face
Mark Skeels wrote:
>>
>> Well, yes. If you actually read the SM procedure as normally
>> formulated, that is exactly what it says to do. The only argument
>> about this seems to be on piclist.
>>
>
>But my point is that the process is corrupted by ignorance, disposition,
>Circumstance, and perhaps other factors.
>
>I doubt that anyone would actually say that they _want_ to be in error.
>
>Yet, certain factors are more important to us or may have a larger influence
>on us at times than desire of discovering of truth.
>
>We only _tell_ ourselves that this is not so.
>


Well, humans are hoomans, after all. However, the good scientists
try to emulate the process as closely as possible, base their theories
upon the best data available, and then go to conferences to present
their ideas. This is what separates the pure pipe dreams from the
good stuff. Checks and balances, not just emotion.

Peer review and peers checking others results are the most important
things that keep people honest, and help weed out the scientists from
the fiction writers. None of this is perfect, but is the best we have
so far. Until a superbeing arrives [from another planet] to tell us
all of it is wrong.

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2001\06\18@032356 by Russell McMahon

picon face
Here's a friends take re my comments on what is and isn't Science.

Suffice it to saythat not eveyone agrees with us either on this list or on
net or elesewhere. But, many do.

There seem to be two views of what Science is

1.    A rigorous formalised framework of investigation, forming theories,
predicting outcomes, testing the theory against reality to find it's flaws,
forming (hopefully) improved theories and then repeating the whole process
ad infinitum to extend the frontiers of knowledge.

OR

2.    Looking at things and performing experiments that seem appropriate to
allow the formation of a good theory, without any formalised procedure to
drive the investigations.

You may be able to determine from the above description which opinion I hold
:-)

Interestingly, people who conceptually feel they prefer one or other model
may well find that theui actial methodilogy is less (or more) pure in
practice.

What sort of Science do YOU do ?




regards

           Russell McMahon
_______________________________________________________


Russell,

I agree virtually 100% with your perspective.

Science is a bit like a piniata (excuse my poor command of Spanish  - if
that's even the correct language)   - you build a model and then try to
smash it to pieces so you can find its inconsistencies with observed reality
and then based on that try to build a better one.

I occasionally have an on-goimg (for 20+ years) discussion with a
"scientist" friend.  His view is that  engineers do not do science but
rather apply the models which scientists have developed.  I don't entirely
agree but there is an element of truth in what he says.  I know that as a
practicing engineer involved in R&D I use both the "scietific method" and
the intuition/modelling-predictive approach  - whichever gets the job done
most efficiently.  In this sense I (as I think are most R&D engineers).
Scientists (who are also human) also seem to be prone to this, however I
believe that new science (in the sense that it expands total knowledege and
is not just an application of existing knowledge) advances most rapidly when
the scientific method applied in a rigorous fashion.

Its probably a subject best avoided, but I also feel that I need to make the
point that (as in all disciplines) some scientists manage to attain a higher
level of performance than others.  In my experience there are many mediocre
scientists (as there are many mediocre engineers, doctors, teachers,
panelbeaters, etc.).

Also note that it is important to distinguish between expanding one's own
knowledge (which does not necessarily expand absolute knowledge in the sense
that what you are learning may already be know by others) and expanding
total knowledge.  In my opinion, relatively few scientists are involved in
the latter.

Incidentally, you mentioned that Rutherford was a Kiwi (as indeed he was
even if most of the work he is remembered for was actually done in the UK),
but failed to note that we have some claim to Karl Popper as well.  He
taught at Canterbury University from 1937 to 1945 (and from then until his
death in 1994 lived in the UK.  His seminal paper (The Logic of Scientific
Discovery) was first published in 1934.  It should be required reading for
all scientists (not to mention engineers, doctors, motor mechanics, etc.).
I was first exposed to it by my science teacher (Bernie Grice at South
Wellington Intermediate School) in form one at the tender age of 11.
Perhaps this explains my perspective.

Regards,

   Ken Mardle

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