A collation on the scientific method

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A collation on the scientific method

Post by Lily » 01 Nov 2004, 18:37

Science is both a process of gaining knowledge, and the organized body of knowledge gained by this process. The scientific process is the systematic acquisition of new knowledge about a system. This systematic acquisition is generally the scientific method, and the system is generally nature.

The scientific method has four steps

1. Observation and description of a phenomenon or group of phenomena.
2. Formulation of an hypothesis to explain the phenomena. In physics, the hypothesis often takes the form of a causal mechanism or a mathematical relation.
3. Use of the hypothesis to predict the existence of other phenomena, or to predict quantitatively the results of new observations.
4. Performance of experimental tests of the predictions by several independent experimenters and properly performed experiments.

If the experiments bear out the hypothesis it may come to be regarded as a theory or law of nature.

If the experiments do not bear out the hypothesis, it must be rejected or modified. What is key in the description of the scientific method just given is the predictive power of the hypothesis or theory, as tested by experiment. It is often said in science that theories can never be proved, only disproved. There is always the possibility that a new observation or a new experiment will conflict with a long-standing theory.

Testing hypotheses

Note that the necessity of experiment also implies that a theory must be testable. Theories which cannot be tested do not qualify as scientific theories.

If the predictions of a long-standing theory are found to be in disagreement with new experimental results, the theory may be discarded as a description of reality, but it may continue to be applicable within a limited range of measurable parameters. For example, the laws of classical mechanics (Newton's Laws) are valid only when the velocities of interest are much smaller than the speed of light. Since this is the domain of a large portion of human experience, the laws of classical mechanics are ... largely correct.

We are all familiar with theories which had to be discarded in the face of experimental evidence. In the field of astronomy, the earth-centered description of the planetary orbits was overthrown by the Copernican system, in which the sun was placed at the center of a series of concentric, circular planetary orbits.

Error in experiments have several sources. For example...., there is error intrinsic to instruments of measurement. Because this type of error has equal probability of producing a measurement higher or lower numerically than the "true" value, it is called random error.

Common Mistakes in Applying the Scientific Method

The most fundamental error is to mistake the hypothesis for an explanation of a phenomenon, without performing experimental tests. Sometimes "common sense" and "logic" tempt us into believing that no test is needed. There are numerous examples of this, dating from the Greek philosophers to the present day.

Another common mistake is to ignore or rule out data which do not support the hypothesis. Ideally, the experimenter is open to the possibility that the hypothesis is correct or incorrect.

Anecdotal evidence is often used to justify pseudoscience in a number of areas.

These include
Economics
Sociology
Psychology
Paranormal (ESP, etc)
Medicine

Some of the worst offenders are politicians, who use ridiculous anecdotal evidence to "prove" particular ideas about nations or about their policies, and proponents of alternative medicine. On the later point, I am [not I, Lily, but the author!] not saying that there is nothing to alternative medicine, only that there are those within that community who wish to abandon the scientific method and that their conclusions are worthless.

Another common mistake arises from the failure to estimate quantitatively systematic errors (and all errors). There are many examples of discoveries which were missed by experimenters whose data contained a new phenomenon, but who explained it away as a systematic background. Conversely, there are many examples of alleged "new discoveries" which later proved to be due to systematic errors not accounted for by the "discoverers."

In a field where there is active experimentation and open communication among members of the scientific community, the biases of individuals or groups may cancel out.... Over a period spanning a variety of experimental tests (usually at least several years), a consensus develops in the community as to which experimental results have stood the test of time.


Hypotheses, Models, Theories and Laws

In physics and other science disciplines, the words "hypothesis," "model," "theory" and "law" have different connotations in relation to the stage of acceptance or knowledge about a group of phenomena.

A hypothesis is a limited statement regarding cause and effect in specific situations; it also refers to our state of knowledge before experimental work has been performed.
To take an example from daily life, suppose you discover that your car will not start. You may say, "My car does not start because the battery is low." This is your first hypothesis.

The word model is reserved for situations when it is known that the hypothesis has at least limited validity. A often-cited example of this is the Bohr model of the atom, in which, in an analogy to the solar system, the electrons are described has moving in circular orbits around the nucleus. This is not an accurate depiction of what an atom "looks like," but the model succeeds in mathematically representing ...for example.... the simplest case, the hydrogen atom.


A scientific theory or law represents an hypothesis, or a group of related hypotheses, which has been confirmed through repeated experimental tests Accepted scientific theories and laws become part of our understanding of the universe and the basis for exploring less well-understood areas of knowledge.

This is to be contrasted with the ....colloquial... invalidation implied by the expression, "It's only a theory." For example, it is unlikely that a person will step off a tall building on the assumption that they will not fall, because "Gravity is only a theory."

Physical laws, contrary to legal, or moral/ethical/religious laws are:
true. By definition, there have never been repeatable, contradicting observations.
universal. They appear to apply everywhere in the universe.
simple. They are typically expressed in terms of a single mathematical equation.
absolute. Nothing in the universe appears to affect them.
eternal. Unchanged since first discovered (although they may have been shown to be approximations of more accurate laws), they appear to be unchanged since the beginning of the universe. It is thus presumed that they will remain unchanged in the future.
omnipotent. Everything in the universe apparently must comply with them.
"omniscient" (loosely speaking). The behavior of everything in the universe is automatically and immediately "known" to the laws. **

Are there circumstances in which the Scientific Method is not applicable?

The prime example pertinent to this board would be the existence of god; another, the perception of beauty. No one would argue that beauty is not perceived, (even how, by measuring neuronal activity etc) - but because everyone perceives it differently, it can hardly be quantitated.

Everyday life, on the other hand, often makes it necessary to make a decision based on incomplete evidence, to take immediate action, or to draw conclusions in advance of the evidence.

When there exists no evidence or next to no evidence, and when the conclusion to which we may come can have no influence on the facts, then it is our duty to suspend judgement and hold no belief. ... This duty of refraining from belief is often imposed on men of science in their work, in order that they may in the long run arrive at greater certitude; it is also imposed upon them in other cases in order that they may not encourage false hopes of certitude.


Conclusion

While the method appears simple and logical in description, there is perhaps no more complex question than that of knowing how we come to know things. The scientific method distinguishes science from other forms of explanation because of its requirement of systematic experimentation.

Sources...


Adapted from http://teacher.nsrl.rochester.edu/phy_l ... ndixE.html
with additional material from
http://www.wordiq.com
http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?nod ... 20evidence
http://sankalpa.tripod.com/roots/s1phil.html


**hey - this sounds almost like God, does that make science a religion? (I tend to object!)
Last edited by Lily on 15 Aug 2006, 09:18, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Selene » 01 Nov 2004, 18:58

Vey good summation, Lily.
Lily wrote:Anecdotal evidence is often used to justify pseudoscience in a number of areas.
This reminds me of a sig line my husband often uses for his e-mails:
"The plural of anecdote is not data." — Frank Kotsonis
"I've learned so much from my mistakes...I'm thinking of making a few more."

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Post by FallingLeaves » 01 Nov 2004, 21:00

Some questions from my unscientific mind!

Can knowledge ever be complete? If this is true then isn't science always making decisions based on incomplete evidence?

Can science ever be whole without compassion and wisdom?

Is it possible for science to free itself from the observer being the observed or the analyser being the analysed?

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Post by Lily » 01 Nov 2004, 21:45

SpringArrives wrote:Can knowledge ever be complete? If this is true then isn't science always making decisions based on incomplete evidence?
Can science ever be whole without compassion and wisdom?
Is it possible for science to free itself from the observer being the observed or the analyser being the analysed?
good questions. Do I feel qualified to answer them... don't know...

1 - In absolute terms, knowledge cannot be complete, but one can use defined systems, in which you only change one parameter at a time.

2 - there are plenty of experimental settings where compassion is irrelevant. If you are indending to discuss the ethics of science however - an entirely different field. And please define wisdom. Analyzing data requires no compassion, nor wisdom, only exactitude :)

3 - I am not used to working with systems that analyse me :) so I would say in many settings it is possible.
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Post by Azrienoch » 02 Nov 2004, 01:36

I agree with Lily, and I also agree with Spring Arrives, when the questions posed are looked at as moreso statements, not to be answered.

Here is something that R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz wrote as an article for Le Theosophe on October 16, 1913.
It is interesting to note how the world, especially the scientific world, likes to believe in things stripped of all meaning, while other more meaningful and logical explainations are rejected as fantasies or hallucinations.

What intellectual occupation, more than any other, provides the best proof of what I have just said? None other than science, which ought to make use of the greatest precision in it's definitions.
Science leads all progress, fecundates every activity, nourishes all humanity; and this same science dilates upon subjects that are absolutely of the first importance. It is the feild in which it is the easiest to make mistakes-mistakes that have repercussions in every aspect of life and can retard culture for an entire century. This is a terrible responsibility since the consequences are suffered by numerous generations.

With what, then, do we reproach science? With it's conservatism. There is it's error!

The materialist conception of our age impedes all progress. The many discoveries continually being made, especially those made in the last thirty years, are no proof of the value of our age's science but-since generally speaking these discoveries are the result of factors other than those given by science-a proof that it divigates and digresses upon a constantly moving and changing wave.

Ampere would have discovered the electric motor had he had the idea of making the magnetic poles of his equipment turn, but he did not have the idea, and therefore years passed before the discovery was made.

Why didn't he have the idea? Because he did not know the force with which he was working: This is the secret that prevents science from being truly a science, i.e., "knowledge." Science today is only the embryo of a science: namely, the classification of a mass of observations. For thousands of years human beings knew perfectly well that great science compared to which today's science is in it's infancy. Naturally, however, it is more logical to believe in the hypothesis of the ether as a body more elastic than steel and less dense than the lightest gas than to believe proven and verifiable things revealed to us by our history.

We limit ourselves to the given facts, which are often not verified. These are taught and, since it is easier to find students who believe what the professor says than students who doubt, and since it is more difficult to find intuitive persons who have the soul of researchers (those who prefer to die of hunger following their path, ostracized from all intellectual classes and scientific associations) than to find young people who seek a position in life by becoming Ph.D's, etc.-that is why science has so often remained stationary.

When Franklin described his theory of the lightning conductor to the British Association, people split their sides laughing.

Stranger still, it was precisely in England that the lightning conductor had
it's first great success.

Does this prove that science, after verification, accepts all truths?
No. It only shows that science has always been too sceptical and, in the above example, it is simply conviction by a positive and tangible fact, the efficacity of the lightning conductor, that won the opinion.

Nothing has changed since then, and scientists are still in the same state of mind; only now they have invented a whole new set of hypotheses, and theory of vibrations, an electromagnetic theory- that is all the progress.
Vibrations: here is another theory that takes in everyone and that no one understands. Someone observed sound vibrations, and a dreamer, tossing pebbles into a bowl of water, found himself facinated by the circlular waves that formed there. This became the foundation of a theory that now amazes the world and serves as the foundation for all present explainations, or rather, could serve as their foundation-since, in fact, it explains nothing at all. Science will say that this is enough for the moment and what follows next will demonstrate the truth well enough-but we are perhaps allowed to doubt whether it is enough.

A materpiece is judged on the basis of it's details.
Red and green spots, forming heads, bodies, and arms, or trees, do not by themselves constitute a painting. To make a masterpiece you need the details of the method used to reproduce the object or idea and the hand of the artist, that indefinable thing. So it is too with science.

To explain the sensation of hearing, it is not enough to say that it is sound waves that strike the tympanum of the ear, since following the influence of the wave upon the auditory mechanism, the nerve transmits the sensation to the brain. His jacet lepus! Here science no longer explains anything, for the comparison of the nerve to a telegraph wire explains nothing, especially now that we know of wire-less telegraphy! Likewise with the other senses, and with all theories that follow from the theory of vibrations.

The classification of observations which (as stated above) has been the task to which science has limited itself until now is certainly useful, but it is by no means sufficient.

Observations, such as those provided by the Crooks tube, which emits rays called cathodic; radioactivity, which makes the ambiant air conductive; emanations designated by the letters Alpha Beta Gamma-all this explains nothing to a human being who asks concerning the "Why?" of these phenomena. Science only replies, like that scientist who last year replied when asked the question by a journelist, "Why was this year so rainy?" "Because it rained a lot!"

Generally speaking, we do not consider the importance of science sufficiently and the importance of the reply to this question, "Why?"
The individual who calculates the speed, size, distance, weight, etc. of a star is easily thought to be unbalanced, and the learned misanthropist in the depths of a laboratory seeking the analysis or synthesis of a body in chemical reactions seems a madman.

Let us not forget that the ink with which these lines are traced and the paper upon which these thoughts are printed are the result of science, and that the misanthropist who dimly sought reactions discovered the color that tints the feather of your hat, madame!

Such are the results of the "infant science" of our time, and now you can see the practical results that the answer to this eternal "Why?" could give.
Science is the soul of our existence, the generative impulse of humanity. If it were not for the slow progress of science, we would be but primitive beings clad in animal skins.

This is one of the reasons why, in order to give humanity the means to facilitate it's evolution, we must consecrate ourselves to the search for the ONE truth that is the answer to the question "Why?"
Yet our science must not be exclusive.

We must guide our researches with the means that the sages have given to us.

We must not deny the intervention of beings superior to us mortals, since such intervention is proven.

We must enter deeply into the truth, but not in order to use the results for our own personal well-being or our own interests or to satisfy our passions.
Druids who are skeptical, philosophical, and scientific have a distinct advantage over this "infant science" and it's scientists in that we do not have to completely dismiss the grey areas of the universe.

By the way, Lily, I just watched Princess Mononoke last night, and I finally get your avatar...

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Post by Lily » 02 Nov 2004, 08:36

Here is something that R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz wrote as an article for Le Theosophe on October 16, 1913.
Note that this thext was written roughly a hundred years ago (and ... by a theosophist :hop: )!
It is interesting to note how the world, especially the scientific world, likes to believe in things stripped of all meaning, while other more meaningful and logical explainations are rejected as fantasies or hallucinations.


It is the author who assigns "more meaning/logic" to unscientific explanations. This may work for philosophical topics such as god. if science does not find evidence for the existence of god, but you believe in deity/ies, then the alternative explanation is more meaningful. If you think it is more meaningful or logical to assume the world was created 5000 years ago by god, that may be fine for you, but the evidence is against you.
I do not think that science strips things of meaning; well, what is the meaning of a battery? on the other hand, there is meaning in an evolutionary explanation of some human/animal behaviors such as altruism, and it is still scientific.

Science leads all progress, fecundates every activity, nourishes all humanity; and this same science dilates upon subjects that are absolutely of the first importance. It is the field in which it is the easiest to make mistakes. This is a terrible responsibility since the consequences are suffered by numerous generations.


Interestingly this passage could be applied to the field of nuclear science that came quite some years after this essay was written. But are the developments of nuclear physics inherently bad? IMHO, you cannot prevent human curiosity to dig at the boundaries of knowledge. There are some hot debates going on about, for example, research on human embryonic cells, but is the pursuit of knowledge inherently bad?

The materialist conception of our age impedes all progress. The many discoveries ....in the last thirty years, are no proof of the value of our age's science but-since generally speaking these discoveries are the result of factors other than those given by science-a proof that it divigates and digresses upon a constantly moving and changing wave.

I frankly don't know what he is talking about

Ampere would have discovered the electric motor had he had the idea of making the magnetic poles of his equipment turn, but he did not have the idea, and therefore years passed before the discovery was made.

Tough luck for Ampere, but not a fault of the scientific method. It took Watson and Crick a little nudge from Wilkins (?), telling them something in their model was wrong, so they could finally finish the double helix model.

Why didn't he have the idea? Because he did not know the force with which he was working: This is the secret that prevents science from being truly a science, i.e., "knowledge." Science today is only the embryo of a science: namely, the classification of a mass of observations. For thousands of years human beings knew perfectly well that great science compared to which today's science is in it's infancy.* Naturally, however, it is more logical to believe in the hypothesis of the ether as a body more elastic than steel and less dense than the lightest gas than to believe proven and verifiable things revealed to us by our history.


*I have a feeling he is relating to the theosophical concepts relating to lost civilisation... atlantis and such... furthermore... the ETHER?? what the heck is he talking about? This goes to show that 100 years ago, not everything was perfect...

Contrary to his statement the 4-step method as outlined above, in 1913, very much existed and was in action. Science is NOT simply a mass of observations, as the meaningful applications of its discoveries have shown.

We limit ourselves to the given facts, which are often not verified. These are taught and, since it is easier to find students who believe what the professor says than students who doubt,....


The first statement is simply wrong. Actually no, people in general often avoid verifying the facts. But if someone claims an experiment is working, and it isn't, you bet his colleagues will be p***ed off and let him, and the editors of any journals that published it , know quickly. Remember Jacques Benveniste or cold fusion.

To explain the sensation of hearing, it is not enough to say that it is sound waves that strike the tympanum of the ear, since following the influence of the wave upon the auditory mechanism, the nerve transmits the sensation to the brain. His jacet lepus! Here science no longer explains anything, for the comparison of the nerve to a telegraph wire explains nothing, especially now that we know of wire-less telegraphy! Likewise with the other senses, and with all theories that follow from the theory of vibrations.


blah. I don't know about the actual state of the art in 1913, but today we certainly do not have a problem explainnig neuronal activity, and it does not clash with wireless transmission :)

Observations .... all this explains nothing to a human being who asks concerning the "Why?" of these phenomena.


That is true in many cases. Science is not all-encompassing, and it's good that there are still philosphers and ethicists around.

Science is the soul of our existence, the generative impulse of humanity.


So what exactly is his problem then...?

This is one of the reasons why, in order to give humanity the means to facilitate its evolution, we must consecrate ourselves to the search for the ONE truth that is the answer to the question "Why?"


hmm. I think ONE truth is an illusion; and I doubt, however much we achieve in answering the why questions, that it will lead to a universal advance of humanity. I think there are more pressing problems such as poverty and inequality, that cannot be addressed by either science or philosophy....

We must not deny the intervention of beings superior to us mortals, since such intervention is proven.


uhmmm.... evidence, please?

Azrienoch wrote:Druids who are skeptical, philosophical, and scientific have a distinct advantage over this "infant science" and it's scientists in that we do not have to completely dismiss the grey areas of the universe.


That I agree with - there will always be room for philosophy and science side by side. But the "infant" science this author relates to, in my most humble of opinions, was better than that even in 1913: Think Darwin, Mendel, Marie Curie, Einstein - already hard at work. Hereis a timeline for 1866 to 1925....
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Post by Azrienoch » 02 Nov 2004, 16:14

Don't worry, Lily. I posted (actually, I typed out the whole thing...let that be appreciated) this because it has some pro's and con's for both sides.
Evidence or none, the author's message of not discarding something because it is currently improvable is something for any Druid skeptic to remember.

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Post by Lily » 02 Nov 2004, 16:24

Azrienoch wrote:Evidence or none, the author's message of not discarding something because it is currently improvable is something for any Druid skeptic to remember.
aye to that, and a pat on your back for the typing!

so are there aliens or not (just for something improvable.....)

:eek:
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Post by Azrienoch » 02 Nov 2004, 16:32

lol, oh Lily! You silly girl. Of course there are aliens! I've had first hand experience, and therefore it must be so!

Actually, I disagree with my above statement. Firstly, I've not had an alien encounter...not even illegal aliens. Secondly, even if I did, my first hand experience does not automatically mean that it's true...much less scientific.

In the essay I wrote entitled, "The Reality of Our Reality," I used the concept of Schrodinger's cat-in-the-box as a metaphor for our minds. Everything outside of our minds is in a state of all-possibilities.
Since alien beings are an unverifiable concept, it is in a state of all-possibilities. Therefore, aliens both exist and don't exist.
To tie that in with the above statement you quoted, we should not discard the idea until it is verified...and even then, that conclusion is subject to change.

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Post by frank » 02 Nov 2004, 16:36

I'm going to write something slightly off topic while I digest that screed, as Lily did.

It's from the beginning:
Anecdotal evidence is often used to justify pseudoscience in a number of areas.

These include
Economics
Sociology
Psychology
Paranormal (ESP, etc)
Medicine
Okay, I'll buy the paranormal, but where does this jack*** get off on the others? Is he some sort of cloistered physicist? Or does he just have an attitude problem.

The reason I'm annoyed about this is because I'm an ecologist, and I use a LOT of statistical tests. You know who develops the tests I use? Sociologists, economists, psychologists, doctors, and political scientists!

You ever thought about how a poll gets analyzed? The math is quite complicated, and much of it turns out to be useful in studying plant and animal communities. The interesting thing is that one of the "hot new methods" in ecology (structural equation modelling) was first developed in the 1940s, and really flowered as the statistical method behind the SAT (an american college aptitude exam, if you didn't know). Now, it's somewhat antiquated for sociological use, but ecologists are just starting to use it.

The problem is that we're dealing with non-humans, and generally, we have less funding than many of the others. These two levels of difficulty mean that we don't spend a lot of time developing new math tools. Often, we adapt things that have been used in other fields.

Anyway, this "scientific method" is (IMHO) fundamentally correct, but it's also biased severely by the arrogance of whoever wrote it, and that detracts from its value.

End of rant. Thanks for letting me vent!

Frank

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Post by Lily » 02 Nov 2004, 17:09

frank wrote:Okay, I'll buy the paranormal, but where does this jack*** get off on the others? Is he some sort of cloistered physicist? Or does he just have an attitude problem.

The reason I'm annoyed about this is because I'm an ecologist, and I use a LOT of statistical tests. You know who develops the tests I use? Sociologists, economists, psychologists, doctors, and political scientists!
I do not think the author meant ALL politicians, economists, and such, just some. hey I have just read a real good book...
How Mumbo-jumbo Conquered the World
Synopsis
Francis Wheen, winner of the George Orwell prize, evokes the key personalities of the post-political era -- including Princess Diana and Deepak Chopra, Osama Bin-Laden and Nancy Reagan's astrologer -- while charting the extraordinary rise in superstition, relativism and emotional hysteria over the past quarter of a century. From UFO scares to dotcom mania, his hilarious and gloriously impassioned polemic describes a period in the world's history when everything began to stop making sense.
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Post by frank » 02 Nov 2004, 20:10

Hi Lily,

I'm glad you're charitable. Personally, I think the author is ignorant, mostly because I had a similar attitude at one point. Then I was lucky enough to be straightened out by people who knew better. Yes that does make me an ignorant jackass, but that should have been obvious... :)

One real issue is that there are ideas of hierarchy that either linger or are current in the sciences. One of them is that physics is the queen of sciences, and everything else is lesser (Lord Kelvin's "Science is either physics or stamp collecting" remark is in this tradition). A similar idea is that freshman chemistry should be a weeder class that determines whether students belong in any science, whether or not they will ever use chemistry again. And so on.

So far as "Mumbo-Jumbo goes, without reading the book, I could ask the question about whether the ideal of rationality, especially following World War II, was in fact an aberration, and what we're seeing now is a return to business as usual? In other words, is his idea backwords?

Frank

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Post by Azrienoch » 02 Nov 2004, 20:30

I guess we'll never know, Frank. The only reason I posted this was for the statement I made above...not an attack on anyone in specific.

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Re: A collation on the scientific method

Post by Druidfluid » 19 Mar 2008, 15:33

Science is a tool, a very very important tool, but a tool nonetheless. It is neither good nor evil, but has the potential to be good or evil depending on how we use it. The pursuit of knowledge does have intrinsic value, and therefore the practice of science can be seen as exercising the right of academic freedom.

As for the question of epistemology, this is something I struggle with too. On balance I think the Enlightenment made humans better off; still the subject-object relationship in science is disturbing although I'm not sure I would trust the data being collected through Phenomenology. As hard as objectivity is to attain I'm not sure it is something we should stop striving for just because it is impossible. It's like democracy. None of us live in a true democracy, they are more like pluracracies (or rule by interest group). That doesn't mean we should give up on democracy.

In case some of you have not heard of phenomenology, "it is the study and description of phenomena in terms of their essential and particular qualities, as these reveal themselves through authentic human experiencing. It approaches reality through qualitative data assembled and described via experiential modes of explanation: as opposed to the stress positivism places on quantitative information, amassed and assessed in accrodance with preexisting laws and theories" (Peter Hay, 2002). Hay, by the way, is not a phenomenologist. He just died a taxidermy of western environmental thought and the topic came up. Phenomenological approaches attempt to maintain ties of meaning between researcher and phenomenon. Generalization arises from descriptive accounts, not beforehand. It emphasizes holism. There is no isolated self surveying a world, for the person is part of the world.

Very much a rejection of Cartesian principles. This is certainly not mainstream epistemology, but there have been a few nobel laureates and others who've hopped on board.

I'm very much divided on this issue. And I can be; I'm just a political scientist, not a real one (although, I daresay, we expect our research to adhere to the scientific method as well. We will never get the same probabilities scientists do, but that doesn't mean we stop aiming for higher standards). I'd be interesting in knowing where others fall in this debate.
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Re: A collation on the scientific method

Post by Auroch » 27 May 2008, 09:20

The problem with the modern scientific method is it requires you to decontextualize something in order to prove it. If the phenomena in place are all fairly replaceable or the conditions replicable (chemicals, currents, human bodies), this works just fine. However, if the phenomena in place are in any way unique, the ability to establish a "ceteras parabus" situation for experimentation is impossible. This creates problems in every science besides physics. Economics is reliant on "natural experiments" because the characteristics of of nations aren't easily replicated and theorists just have to wait until a situation occurs which might resolve a dispute. Modern Psychology, as well, is overly reliant on chemicals because their effects can be replicated in a lab setting, whereas replicating the effects of child abuse would be morally reprehensible (not to say it wasn't ever done, every psych major knows about the kid who was scared of Santa).

The flaw with this method, as it is popularly applied, is that it can posit things as nonexistent, when in reality they merely require context. For people who rely on the scientific method to define for them what is real and what isn't, this is a problem.

Personally I believe the only measure of reality is experience, and the two are the same. Sometimes two people's varying experiences can be reconciled, sometimes not. I live by the old adage "I'll believe it when I see it," and I just happen to see quite a bit.

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Re: A collation on the scientific method

Post by cursuswalker » 03 Jun 2008, 23:11

Auroch wrote:The problem with the modern scientific method is it requires you to decontextualize something in order to prove it. If the phenomena in place are all fairly replaceable or the conditions replicable (chemicals, currents, human bodies), this works just fine. However, if the phenomena in place are in any way unique, the ability to establish a "ceteras parabus" situation for experimentation is impossible. This creates problems in every science besides physics. Economics is reliant on "natural experiments" because the characteristics of of nations aren't easily replicated and theorists just have to wait until a situation occurs which might resolve a dispute. Modern Psychology, as well, is overly reliant on chemicals because their effects can be replicated in a lab setting, whereas replicating the effects of child abuse would be morally reprehensible (not to say it wasn't ever done, every psych major knows about the kid who was scared of Santa).

The flaw with this method, as it is popularly applied, is that it can posit things as nonexistent, when in reality they merely require context. For people who rely on the scientific method to define for them what is real and what isn't, this is a problem.

Personally I believe the only measure of reality is experience, and the two are the same. Sometimes two people's varying experiences can be reconciled, sometimes not. I live by the old adage "I'll believe it when I see it," and I just happen to see quite a bit.
But Science is more reliable than what you see (or think you see) precisely because it allows for the fact that our oh so-precious human senses can get it SO wrong. An example. If you look at this:

Image

...the lines WILL appear to not be parallel. How will you determine whether they actually are? Not with sight, that's for sure. The only way to verify their being parallel is to take sight out of the equation and measure the gaps between each line at three or more points.

However the method you have outlined above is the same one that concluded that maggots form directly from moulding food. They APPEAR to.
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Re: A collation on the scientific method

Post by Auroch » 24 Sep 2008, 17:58

cursuswalker wrote: But Science is more reliable than what you see (or think you see) precisely because it allows for the fact that our oh so-precious human senses can get it SO wrong. An example. If you look at this:

Image

...the lines WILL appear to not be parallel. How will you determine whether they actually are? Not with sight, that's for sure. The only way to verify their being parallel is to take sight out of the equation and measure the gaps between each line at three or more points.

However the method you have outlined above is the same one that concluded that maggots form directly from moulding food. They APPEAR to.
To restate: If the phenomena in place are all fairly replaceable or the conditions replicable (chemicals, currents, human bodies), [the scientific method] works just fine.

Both of the examples you gave allow for measurement. If measurement isn't possible, or is simply too expensive, then the only truth is our experience. I am not claiming that we should always go with how things appear to be, but not everything has a nature beyond appearance. Some phenomena are just subjective. This does not mean they are any less real.

To give a more pertinent example: Love, Conscience, and everything else in the emotional world has no measurement. This may be inherent to emotions, or it may be a function of our limited technology. Current neuroscience is attempting to measure pleasure, but the complexity of the emotional spectrum is still a far ways off from being explained by science. That's why people like to use poetry or art to describe how they feel. People use a subjective method to explain a subjective process. Science, since it is an objective method, can only explain an objective process.

I think it's admirable for science to try to overcome all subjectivity, but I don't find it particularly practical, even if everything does have an objective nature (which I don't believe you could ever prove). All I'm saying is that science, in practice, has a limit.

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Re: A collation on the scientific method

Post by Corvin » 08 Nov 2008, 00:14

Thank you for the posts. We can befit from considering such positions. Science is not all bad all the time.

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Re: A collation on the scientific method

Post by cursuswalker » 08 Nov 2008, 00:37

Auroch wrote: I think it's admirable for science to try to overcome all subjectivity, but I don't find it particularly practical, even if everything does have an objective nature (which I don't believe you could ever prove). All I'm saying is that science, in practice, has a limit.
I missed this one.

By saying that science has a limit you seem to imply that scientists are not aware of that, which is simply not true. This is a classic Straw Man.

The examples that you give are of things that Science can, indeed, not objectively measure.....yet. But to make the leap from that to assuming that viable explanations can be found in the world of the Supernatural is unwarranted. It is perfectly adequate to say "I do not know how love etc. works", rather than to say it is a product of some non-physical element of mind that can also survive death, which is the implication that many many people with religious beliefs seem to infer.

There are many things that neither you or I know the answers to. It is okay not to insist on trying to fill gaps in knowledge that have no evidence. Until you actually have some that is.
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Re: A collation on the scientific method

Post by Aelfarh » 13 Nov 2008, 19:13

Theories are meant to fill the gaps of what we don't know for certain, it's human nature try to explain it's surroundings, and actually, the emergence of that hypothesis are fundamental part of society in both philosophical and scientific way. As with the promising materialism, that fill the gaps with the "but in the future will be possible" statements.
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