Talk:Scientific method/Archive 1

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Cunctator and others
I edited out a lot of the older talk - we've achieved something a lot nearer a consensus now, so there doesn't seem to be the need for the raging debates of earlier. Anyone who wants to read it can press "View other revisions". - Manning Bartlett

LDC - I really like the new article. I have only made one change - I altered "misconceptions" to philosophical foundations of the scientific method. I really like the way you have re-written the axiomatic viewpoint and I think it is fine as it is. I would also really like you to write an equivalent section explaining the viewpoint that "axioms are not necessary" - this would give the balance that the article needs. I also think that the "non-axiomatic" viewpoint should go first. -- MB

As far as verbs or adjectives - I like the verbs. As long as the surrounding language is consistent then it is fine. Using both verbs and adjectives seems redundant. -- MB

Some useful references from an earlier discussion:

More recent talk...

I removed this right after Cunctator added it:

The steps are known as evidential, explanatory, predictive, verificatory, and consequential.

This adds no information that wasn't already there, and it gives the mistaken impression that there is some official consensus about the exact steps; that's just not true. Descriptions even disagree on the number of steps, or that there is any specific rigorous procedure at all; giving them official-sounding names just encourages people to memorize things and encourage teachers to put things on tests that won't help anyone understand the real concept. --LDC

I'm with LDC on this. Let's either use verbs or adjectives, but both are unnecessary. - MB

How about a discussion on experimental error and its effect? What constitutes random error and what is a contradiction that warrants further investigation? Consider, for instance, the scientist who exposed a gold foil to alpha particle bombardment (I'm not sure if he knew that alpha radiation was due to helium nuclei) and expected all of the radiation to go through. Indeed most, did, but a very small amount bounced back. From what I've heard, the amount was so small that it could have been explained away as experimental error. The scientist didn't ignore it, however, because to him it was the equivalent of, "firing a sixteen inch shell at a sheet of tissue paper and having it bounce back at you," (not sure if the quote was his). Rutherford reasoned that there must be something incredibly small and solid that the radiation was bouncing off of. Thus the nuclear model of the atom was born and the plum pudding model was refuted.

Perhaps this deserves to be in some other article about data analysis, but it does warrant mentioning somewhere.

Also, it was Earnest Rutherford, right? --BlackGriffen

experimental error and its effect deserves to be covered, but an article on the "Scientific Method" doesn't seem like the right place. - Any suggestions? MB

Debate on "an hypothesis" versus "a hypothesis" moved to talk:English language

Added reference to Thomas Kuhn. Personally I think he has a much more accurate description of what scientists do. -- Chenyu

I'm not convinced that Kuhn's ideas are contrary to the scientific method. But I'll let LDC argue that one, if he so chooses. --Stephen Gilbert

The mention of Kuhn seems fine to me. It states something that he believes, and that a lot of people take seriously (though I don't happen to be one of them). While I was here, I also removed the last occurrences of "an hypothesis...". --LDC

It is not the goal of science to answer irrelevant questions, only those which affect our lives

I think I understand what this sentence is trying to say, but it seems kinda clumsily worded. --Robert Merkel

However, neither science nor scientific method itself do not rely on faith;

Damn double negative, could you simplify this sentence ? --Taw

I cut this sentence... "Some post-modernists have gone even further and claimed that sociological mechanisms are the only content of science and thus, implicitly, science differs only in the details of its sociology from, say Druidic tree spirit beliefs as a description of reality."

Reason - it's two steps removed from the article. THe preceding sentence introduces how Kuhn said that sociological mechanisms are absent from the SM as traditionally presented. OK, that is relevant. This cut sentence then goes on to discuss the validity and significance of sociological mechanisms within science as a whole. I felt the sentence confuses the article and goes off on a tangent too unrelated to the main topic. - MMGB

Perhaps the use of the terms "falsify" "falsifiable" should be revisited. In my experience the connotations of these terms is closer to fraud or manufacturing a lie than it is to validate or invalidate.

The lengthy article falsifiable seems to imply that someone thinks it is technical term in use in scientific circles. Perhaps the phrases using the term could be rewritten using other terms such as validate, verify, etc. while leaving the link to falsifiable for readers interested in more detail. To me, falsifiable implies that it is possible to successfully lie about the results ... clearly not the intended concept which I assume to be more along the lines of "possible to validate or invalidate via known published methods". - user:Mirwin

Mirwin, in scientific terminology that's precisely what falsifiable means. Academic psychologists commonly use the term (or actually the inverse "unfalsifiable") to describe Freud's theories, for instance. I would argue that introducing a fairly basic piece of jargon here (and linking to the definition) is preferable to using less precise terms. --Robert Merkel
Excellent point. I agree with you. I was unaware that falsifiable is a term in use as precise technical term. Thanks for the edification. user:mirwin

I prefer to proceed with the utmost caution through this article. To me there is a distinction between the concepts of scientific method as a topic of debate among philosophers, and scientific method as a practical tool-kit for the study and evaluation of a theory on any subject. The philosophers like this term "falsifiable", and with a little effort I like to believe that I can grasp what that doctrine denotes. Nevertheless, I distinguish between denotations which follow directly from a definition, and connotations which depend as much upon the readers experience with the word. Please believe me when I say that the word "falsifiable" carries a lot of uncontrollable baggage in the mind of the reader. Although the philosophers suggest that a hypothesis is in valid if it is not falsifiable, those who object to the practices of parapsychology seem to suggest exactly the opposite.

I think most if not all scientists understand that "falsifiable" means that a hypothesis may be proven false, and that this is a crucial feature of any useful hypothesis. I have added a parenthetical in the article clarifying this.
Please do not confuse "falsified" with "falsifiable." They are indeed similar words but are used in different ways. This by the way is common, at least in English. For example, I don't think any one would say the word "sanction" should be avoided in articles on diplomacy and international relations.
the issue here is not what we mean by "falsifiable" but what we mean by "hypothesis." Testimony in a court, or other evidence, may be "falsified" in the sense of fraud. But a hypothesis does not make the same claims that court testimony or evidence does, and is not used to the same ends. Thus, the significance of the possibility that something is "false" is very different as well. slrubenstein

Upon reflection, I changed the numbered list near the start of the article to plain bullets. I think numbers make it sound to formal/official/rigid, when that's not really the case at all. --LDC

[moved from subject page]

Some other things that belong in here:

The scientific method is often confused with technology. Technology is an application of science. While science has proven its usefulness through application to develop technology, from semiconductors to putting a man on the moon, the scientific method in itself is just a simple and robust technique for developing understanding.

The scientific method never proves anything. It is simply a technique for rejecting hypotheses which are not useful.

It's easy to spot things that aren't science. They usually have science in their name.

   * Christian Science
   * Scientology
   * Computer Science (which is an art, not a science)


The unreasonable application of purely theoretical structures to actual physical reality (for example, mathematical group theory with regard to particle energy transitions) is a long-standing concern and is as yet unexplained.

I removed this because all mathematics is "purely theoretical", so I don't see what the particular concern about applying this is any more than making predictions using Newtonian physics. --Robert Merkel 06:41 Oct 10, 2002 (UTC)

Why does this extremely accurate synopsis keep getting deleted?

Various fringe groups, including radical literary deconstructionists, Marxists and religious fundamentalists, sometimes claim that the scientific method is not a way to acquire knowledge, and that it really is only a procedure for validating knowledge already gathered. However, scientists note that no other process has ever produced confirmable results, and that even critics of science in practice defer to the scientific method by using its results. There is a widespread consensus that the scientific method provides the only testable and confirmable method to learn about the natural world and the rules by which it operates, and that it is the only way to improve existing or proposed knowledge. It is widely held as the only impartial method to avoid religious and cultural biases. RK

Why is there all this anti-Science bias? Why are a tiny number of radical extremists given equal weight to mainstream views? In an NPOV article, we are bound to note when two viewpoints both seem to have equal support, or when one viewpoint is mainstream, and the other viewpoint is a radical view held by a tiny minority. In this case the article isn't evem close to NPOV. It gives equal weight to a tiny number of radicals, and it doesn't even allow the reader to know who holds such views. The test I added puts the information in perspective, by allowing readers to know what groups put forth the radical views. Why is this critical information continually deleted? Why the vehemently anti-science viewpoint? RK

Eclecticology writes: What do Marxists and religious fundamentalists have to do with this?

Uh, they are examples of people who are making the claims against the validity of science? One of the parts of of being NPOV is to attribute who holds a given belief. This is especially important when a belief is considered to be on the radical fringe.
The concept of a "Marxist science" had more to do with the purpose and use of science than with challenging scientific method. That fundamentalists would use the term "creation science" doesn't automatically turn that into a science. I agree that attribution is a part of the NPOV process. If that's what you believe, do it instead of referring to vague fringe groups. How can I apply the scientific method to your hypotheses? I have no way of verifying that your "fringe group" even said what you say it said. -Ec

Eclecticology writes: "Scientists note" statement is a vague generality that identifies neither the scientists nor the critics. Scientists can be critics of science too. Using the scientific method is not a matter of deferring to it.

Uh, no. Scientists do not criticise the validity of the scientific method. That's a myth propagated by anti-Science zealots. Of course, scientists do criticise each other within the scientific method itself. The scientific method itself demands that people critically examine each other's assumptions, each other's experimental set-ups and controls, and critically examine each other's data. They do not, however, criticise the very idea that the scientific method is a method tohelp us learn about the physical world in which we live. RK
The scientific method itself is subject to its own rules. Even if scientists don't criticize the validity of the scientific method, they are by no means unanimous in their views of what it means. I suspect there are probably more pro-science zealots than anti-science zealots. Zealots are often so enamoured of they're own unique view of truth, that they drive the opposing point of view into credibility. -Ec

There is no "widespread consensus" to misunderstand the scientific method to way RK does. Where does the scientific method make this claim to exclusivity?

You really should avoid making claims about subjects which you have not done enough reading on. As a scientist myself, I sadly am far too familiar with the anti-Science literature which I have described. Its out there, there is a lot of it, and it does make such claims. :( RK
These statements are typical of a self-proclaimed scientist. This kind of sophistry says that since you believe it's out there, everybody else must know just what specific claims you have in mind. -Ec

You don't avoid religious and cultural bias by dragging in Marxism and fundamentalism as straw men to be disproved.

Honestly, I have no idea what you are talking about. The fact that I mentioned religious fundamentalists has nothing to do with whether or not a scientist follows the scientific method or not. Anyone who does follow this method can avoid religious bias. For instance, both an atheist and a fundamentalist Christian will 'always get the same results about the acceleration of gravity at the surface of the Earth. But if one abandons the scientific method, and uses another method to answer this questiom, such as radical feminist literary deconstuction, or Protestant Chrisitan Bible readings, then every person will get a different (and wrong!) answer. RK
Of course, the fundamentalist fails to apply the scientific method. Applying the scient6ific method and their belief in God are mutually exclusive. There's too many of these fundamentalists around for them to be a fringe group. The leap from fundamentalism to the acceleration of gravity is a non sequitur. As for "literary deconstruction", feminist or otherwise, who ever claimed that the analysis of novels and poetry is scientific in the first place? -Ec

"Anti-Science bias", "radical extremists": what is RK trying to accomplish with these rhetorical questions?

First off, leave my name out of it. Stop using ad homenim remarks, and deal with issues.
Both expressions were direct quotes from RK. There's nothing ad hominem about that. -Ec

RK seems to want to reduce NPOV to some kind of popularity contest. Who are the radicals? Popper? Kuhn? This is hotly debated stuff. It's important to keep in mind that this article is about the scientific method itself. It is not about any specific network of facts to which it may be applied. It is neither about a specific science or specific pseudoscience.

This is a flat-out dishonest claim. I am merely asking people to stop falsely representing a radical anti-science fringe as the mainstream. That is not NPOV. Popularity contests have nothing to do with anything. And your last two sentences here are arguing against statements that no one is making! RK
RK did credibly clarify the meaning of pathological science, perhaps out of a wish to apply such methods here. The two sentences in question aren't arguing against anything, but about keeping the discussion of "Scientific method" focused on just that rather than on lunatic fringes. Almost all questions considered by the application of scientific method remain necesarily open, including the ones whose answers are undisputed. If a particular hypothesis diverges from mainstream thought the burden of proof that must be borne by its proponents is a much heavier one. Scientific method does give these ideas the opportunity to be proven; that's a question of open mindedness. I prefer to see what science says rather than what scientist say. If you make a claim purporting to represent scientists, I want at least that some opportunity to check the facts is available. Ec.

The truth in any specific circumstance has nothing to do with who the proponents of a particular POV may be. Reference to authority is a logical fallacy. Eclecticology 02:54 Dec 16, 2002 (UTC)

HUh? Who are you arguing with, and what are you talking about? Why do you keep attacking statements I never made, and beliefs that I do not have? Please try to stay focused. RK
See logical fallacy Eclecticology 09:29 Dec 16, 2002 (UTC)
Is this the newsgroup ?? BF

Eclecticology writes "If a particular hypothesis diverges from mainstream thought the burden of proof that must be borne by its proponents is a much heavier one. Scientific method does give these ideas the opportunity to be proven; that's a question of open mindedness. I prefer to see what science says rather than what scientist say. If you make a claim purporting to represent scientists, I want at least that some opportunity to check the facts is available. Ec."

Who are you arguing with? This is precisely what I have been saying all along. I don't understand your latest comments, because now you seem to be arguing my position. So what precisely do you find so wrong about the clarification in the article? We all agree that most people accept that the scientific method is valid, and actually tells us about how the world works. You seem to be disagreeing with my claim that many people, who I term radical,s reject the validity of the scientific method. But many such people do exist, I tonight I would be more than happy to provide a partial bibliography of such radical positions. You keep saying that only a tiny number of people are so extreme. Well, that is precisely what the new section in the article says. I agree with you that only a very tiny number of people hold this way, and that is why I don't think that they should be presented as being an equally reasonable or large group. RK

The shorter current version ("Other viewpoints hold & etc.) is better. By avoiding the marginalising term "fringe groups" and the slightly strident tone of the longer version, it carries more weight, and being easier to read, is a better argument for the scientific method. Sometimes simple is best. Tannin 15:28 Dec 16, 2002 (UTC)

--- This article needs more work dont ya think? "In recent years..." Kuhn published that seminal work 40 odd years ago. There is a huge gap between what scientists think they are doing and what they are actually doing. Everytime philosophers understand things it takes a while for that knowledge to diffuse especially if one has to wait for the entrenched to die off. Also it does seem to me that the scientific method is " a collection of techniques" if we compare the differing methods of different disciplines. Two16 05:28 Jan 9, 2003 (UTC)

--- There is so much that has be done on the scientific method since Kuhn that it staggers the mind to read this article. The scientific method is done no justice by this article. Even when sceintists use the scientific method they can end up with entirely differing world veiws (ex.Bohr and Einstein and their respective camps). Science is not a monolith and it should never be accorded the same status as a dogmatic religon. When clear logical thinking shows the limitations of a world veiw, a scientific mind adjusts to accommodate. This article starts off on a wrong foot and does not get any better (could it be because the source refernces of the external links are so dated - 50s 60s and mass market popular science from the 90s). The instruction I received in junior high was substantially better at presenting a simplified scientific method for childern. Any truth is better than make believe. 16:21 Jan 9, 2003 (UTC)


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