User talk:Jaymax/Scientific opinion

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Name of the article[edit]

I believe that the convention is to NOT use camel case on page names, so the proper title would be "Scientific opinion" not "Scientific Opinion". --GoRight (talk) 17:11, 21 December 2009 (UTC)

Indeed.  DoneJaymax✍ 23:14, 22 December 2009 (UTC)

Definition in the lead.[edit]

I'm not sure that I agree with this statement in the lead:

"A scientific opinion, representing the formally-agreed consensus of a scientific body or establishment, often takes the form of a published position paper citing the research producing the Scientific evidence upon which the opinion is based."

I don't believe that there is a need to have any "formally-agreed consensus" to have a scientific opinion. Even the minority views have scientific opinions. The only real requirement is that such an opinion be based on scientific evidence. A scientific opinion is nothing more that what someone believes based on an analysis of the scientific evidence and, in that regard, honorable people can hold conflicting scientific opinions due to good faith differences in interpretation of the underlying evidence.

For example, "string theorists" are of the scientific opinion that string theory is correct while at the same time there are many others or hold the scientific opinion that string theory is seriously flawed or merely inadequate. --GoRight (talk) 17:19, 21 December 2009 (UTC)

I think you missed the context by picking out only parts. "... the formally-agreed consensus of a scientific body...." --Kim D. Petersen (talk) 17:24, 21 December 2009 (UTC)
My point is, that scientific opinions do NOT depend on consensus. Certainly scientific bodies can formulate scientific opinions, and one legitimate means of identifying what that aggregate opinion should be certainly could be a consensus of the individual opinions held by the group's members. But it should be made clear that (a) scientific opinion does NOT depend on "group think" and (b) scientific opinion does NOT depend on the existence of a larger body of people. Individuals can certainly hold scientific opinions quite independent of any particular groups to which they may belong. --GoRight (talk) 18:12, 21 December 2009 (UTC)
What you are missing, GoRight, is a subtle but important difference in meaning between two terms: 'scientific opinion' and 'a scientific opinion'. Note that the latter only may be pluralised to 'scientific opinions'. Here are some examples of use to make this distinction clearer: "X has a scientific opinion that Y is false" (non-notable except for reflecting X's opinion on Y), "There are a variety of scientific opinions about Y" (Well, then Y seems to be in doubt at the moment) and "Scientific opinion is that Y is true" (That's enough to build public policy on, in a science-based democracy).
'A scientific opinion' is similar to 'a scientist's opinion' or 'the opinion of a scientist'. 'Scientific opinion' is what develops by consensus among all the major players in the scientific community and may be referred to as 'settled science' or even 'fact' in the modern world. It's true that sometimes scientific opinion has been overturned (e.g. Copernicus) but this happens very rarely per century. What usually happens is that 'no opinion' is replaced by 'scientific opinion' after a topic becomes studied and eventually settled, or existing opinion becomes more refined as theories are generalised to take account of unusual or extreme cases (e.g. Einstein's relativity only alters Newton's laws at very high speeds, quantum mechanics only alters Rutherford's atom if you try to study one of them)
Now, is this yet clear enough in the present proto-article, and how can we make it clearer? I believe it's fundamental to what the article is about. --Nigelj (talk) 20:18, 21 December 2009 (UTC)
I dispute that such a distinction exists in WP:RS, and even if you find something to back that up it will most likely be WP:UNDUE to base the entire definition articulated in this article on that. But hey, I am open minded, provide something to substantiate the distinction that you are drawing as being more that simply your own personal opinion on the topic. Thanks. --GoRight (talk) 20:30, 21 December 2009 (UTC)
I don't believe that there is a need to have any "formally-agreed consensus" to have a scientific opinion. I agree. I think there's a misunderstanding. This sentence is talking about those scientific opinions which ARE formally-agreed consensus statements (eg. almost all organisational opinions). The wording could probably be improved to make that clearer. Indeed, an individual scientist holds individual scientific opinions, and consensus (and formal, in many cases) doesn't apply there.
The wording at the top is just cut-and-paste from what's presently at Opinion - Maybe we can get a good stub here and get that live? Does anyone know if it's possible to give others ability to edit user pages (rather than user talk pages)?
I mostly agree with Kim on the usage, however, normally when it's referring to the full collective opinion, and that opinion is largely uniform, it tends to be something like 'consensus s o' or 'general s o' or 'present s o' or 'settled s o' etc. Collective scientific opinion, can also be split, and often is at the leading edge. We should be careful do discriminate between the collective scientific opinion, and scientific consensus.
Jaymax✍ 23:37, 22 December 2009 (UTC)

Divided opinion[edit]

How shall we describe situations where scientific opinion is divided on matters of scientific dispute? Does it really give "Wikipedia:Equal validity" to opposing views if we describe them without saying how much of a following each has? --Wing Nut (talk) 21:36, 24 December 2009 (UTC)

A user friendly single example where scientific opinion really is divided, but the issue is non-contentious in the public arena. How about Geomagnetic_reversal#Causes? ‒ Jaymax✍ 07:29, 25 December 2009 (UTC)
That may be a good example to use. However, reading that section of that article I don't get what the two positions are. One position is that the flipping is an inherent results of the magnetic field being part of a chaotic system. The other position is... ? Yaris678 (talk) 09:18, 25 December 2009 (UTC)
"external events which directly disrupt the flow in the Earth's core" - directly below... ‒ Jaymax✍ 09:26, 25 December 2009 (UTC)
D'oh!
Having said that, I think I made that mistake because the section lacked an introductory paragraph. I have just added one. Yaris678 (talk) 09:45, 25 December 2009 (UTC)
Back to the subject... I think that would be a good example to use. Yaris678 (talk) 09:47, 25 December 2009 (UTC)

Two types of usage[edit]

Scientific opinion can be used as either a count noun or as a mass noun with subtly, but importantly, different meanings.

For the sake of the debate, I suggest we refer to 'scientific opinion' count noun as specific, or type one, and 'scientific opinion' mass noun as colective or type two.

We also need to find a reference that describes this, but so far, finding refs that discuss scientific opinion has been much more successful than finding refs that define it.

Jaymax✍ 23:41, 22 December 2009 (UTC)

What is relvant to me, are the parallels between, opinion and subjectivity, first in philosophical principles and perhaps in etymology (usage). BTW, great start on the article Jayman. This topic is very interesting to my interest in solidarity also know as "unity of purpose". Regards Zulu Papa 5 ☆ (talk) 18:58, 23 December 2009 (UTC)

I am dubious about making the distinction between usage as count noun an mass noun. That would seem more like the sort of information that would go in a Wiktionary article. On the other hand there seems to be the suggestion on this talk page that there is such a thing as "scientific opinion", which is very close to "established fact" and more definite than "a scientific opinion". I'm not convinced by the distinction. However, if we do make the distinction, I think the reference to mass and count should be made in passing, rather than an up front statement. i.e something like "A distinction can be dawn between scientific opinion and a scientific opinion. Scientific opinion is a mass noun referring to...." Yaris678 (talk) 02:01, 25 December 2009 (UTC)
I suspect there may be methods to produce a quantifiable range of discourse for "opinions' which varies from subject to subject. As this range becomes narrowed, then some arbitrary consensus emerges that a threshold has been reached, which may transform opinion into fact. Things may stay this may way until some overlooked detail, that was excluded as obvious (and boring), becomes very relevant to bring a greater context. So, perhap this article may benfit from a section describing how scientific opinions are formed? I have a great IPCC case study to share. Zulu Papa 5 ☆ (talk) 07:08, 25 December 2009 (UTC)
(e/c)
I think the distinction needs to be somewhere, because it a source of confusion. But perhaps not up front. Use of the mass noun does not automatically mean there is consensus, or something approaching "established fact" - eg via google search: "Whilst scientific opinion is split as to the costs and benefits of GMOs"; "Scientific opinion is split as to whether such a wormhole would be stable enough to serve as a means of time transportation"; "On this point scientific opinion is divided into two main groups-one"; "Scientific opinion is divided on what the asteroid belt represents"; etc... When an adjective like 'settled', 'consensus', 'current', 'prevailing', 'mainstream' etc, it normally means something analogous to scientific consensus or perhaps even scientific fact (a term I dislike). ‒ Jaymax✍ 07:24, 25 December 2009 (UTC)
Jaymax, I suggest defining a convention in the text or talk FAQ where singular "opinion" is a mass noun and plural "opinions" is a count noun. This would help illustrate that "opinions" can be scientificaly quantified and studied over a countable range. This clarification may of course may present a title issue with existing article title applications. Zulu Papa 5 ☆ (talk) 04:29, 28 December 2009 (UTC)
Hmmm... I'd like to modify, rather than withdraw, what I said. "Scientific opinion is X" is close to "X is an established fact" but "Scientific opinion is split/divided" means there is more room for debate.
You could say that if there is more than one scientific opinion (count noun) then scientific opinion (mass noun) is divided; if the is only one scientific opinion (count noun), on a subject that has got the attention of many scientists, then that scientific opinion (count noun) is scientific opinion (mass noun).
Yaris678 (talk) 10:02, 25 December 2009 (UTC)

Editing the article[edit]

Please feel free to edit the article userpage directly, providing the edit is to add, not remove material, and providing the edit is likely to be non-contentious. Please adhere to 1RR. I'd like to get the article to 'stub' quality and move it into the main namespace. Please list aspects you think the stub article should cover to User talk:Jaymax/Scientific opinion#Article_should_maybe_cover. ‒ Jaymax✍ 07:44, 25 December 2009 (UTC)