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  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by FMWarner View Post
    I don't expect science to create an explanation when it doesn't know. That's bad science. Where I think we part ways is that I think without a ready explanation, scientists can dismiss something entirely.
    Scientists don't dismiss something entirely; they dismiss it on the grounds of not being science. Theories are not, in and of themselves, inherently scientific. Once someone puts in the proper research and documentation to prove that it's scientifically sound, it's accepted accordingly.
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  2. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bushranger View Post
    At one point everyone knew that stomach ulcers were caused by stress. 'Everyone' isn't as reliable as they think they are.
    There's a difference between saying "I have a serious pain in my stomache", "I have a stomache ulcer" and "stomache ulcers come from stress". In the first case, it's an observation, in the second case, it's a slight leap of thinking from some observations that a stomache pain is occuring, in the third it involves a lot more leaps of thinking from bits and pieces of information, that might not be experimentally tested, and/or just relying on anecdotes, so is much less certain than the first one. The same applies to scientists dismissin ball lightning, it's one thing to say "We don't know where these balls of light come from that a lot of people are seeing", but a much different thing to say "We don't know how to explain these balls of light, therefore they must not exist.

    In general for odd phenomena such as giant waves, ball lightning, will-o-wisps, spontaneuous human combustion, etc., something caused people to see what they saw, and unless they have a reason for lying or prone to hallucinate, there isn't any reason to assume that the observations must not exist just because there is no explanation.

  3. #33


    Quote Originally Posted by Mycroft View Post
    Scientists don't dismiss something entirely;
    I would say that it depends on the scientist and it depends on the situation. Ideally scientists are always open-minded to new explanations if there is sufficient data. In practice it doesn't always work that way, because scientists are people, and some people are simply more open-minded than others, and for other people their openness depends on the subject that is being discussed.

    It's like saying that "Justice is blind. Therefore judges cannot be bribed." Ideally this is true, but it's not necessarily true in practice.
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  4. #34
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    Science is not objective. Science is fundamentally about the uses of measurement. What does not fit the yardstick of the scientist is discarded. Scientific determinism has repeatedly excluded some data from its measurement and fudged other data.
    Sounds like the sort of thing creationists, IDiots, new-age woo peddlers and other faith afflicted morons like to say.

  5. #35
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    There are different theories of science.

    As with rationality, most people implicitly take for granted their own theory. Until the discussion is made explicit, then you'll all continue to talk past each other.
    A criticism that can be brought against everything ought not to be brought against anything.

  6. #36


    Scientists are people and science is a human endeavor. People make mistakes and people fudge data, though they shouldn't and there is pressure not to (public humiliation).

    People are also subject to prevailing winds. (*cough* String theory *cough*)

    Nothing is objective. This is the best we've got and it works pretty well. The most important thing is that science is falsifiable so if things don't work, someone will eventually come along and figure that out.

  7. #37
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    “Science can purify religion from error and superstition. Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes.” –Pope John Paul II

    Abductive reasoning - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    There are three kinds of logical reasoning, two of which are most common:

    Deduction is usually conducted in terms of mathematics. For example, in the Theory of Relativity, Einstein started with several fundamental assumptions and used geometry, algebra, and calculus to take those assumptions to their logical conclusion. The result was a mathematical model which can predict natural phenomena provided the assumptions hold. Thus, in Quantum Mechanics where his assumptions are invalid, Relativity is not predictive.

    Induction is often used in more experimental and observational sciences. If someone proposes a theory, scientists endeavor to test and retest the results. If multiple scientists are able to reproduce the same results from the same experiment, induction indicates that the theory is sound. However, it is conceivable that something could have been left out and at some time in the future the experiment may fail. Logically speaking, induction is a prediction with a margin of uncertainty.

    Abduction is the form of reasoning which is most often used by non-scientists and by many religious people. Essentially, if something looks like it provides a good explanation to something, and no other explanation exists, the theory is taken to be true. Its truth depends upon the ability to enumerate all possible theories. Since the set of all theories for a given phenomena is conceivably infinite, this type of "logic" is often a fallacy.

    Abductive logic is often used mistakenly in terms of both science and religion. In the case of science, this is what happens when people "fudge data". In the case of religion, this is what creates fallaceous dogma. Emotional types are particularly succeptible to this sort of reasoning because the logic often appears to be correct if the person presents it in a passionately rational way.

    To respond to the OP, science is objective only insomuch as it is conducted with deduction. Induction is succeptible to insufficient inquiry, and thus peoples beliefs determine how soon they will stop testing/searching for the correct solution. Abduction is almost entirely subjective in its approach.

    However, as for discarding data. I don't think real scientists ever discard data. They simply set it aside until we have the ability to measure what we need.

  8. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mycroft View Post
    Scientists don't dismiss something entirely; they dismiss it on the grounds of not being science. Theories are not, in and of themselves, inherently scientific. Once someone puts in the proper research and documentation to prove that it's scientifically sound, it's accepted accordingly.
    Mmm hmmm. That's the problem with things like ID -- it's not actually science (i.e., does not derive from the scientific method). It is more a process of abduction described above... There is no ability to validate the ID concept.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mycroft View Post
    I've... read this over numerous times, and I don't understand your logic. Male interior decorators are more likely than the general populace to be gay, but that doesn't mean the act of decorating the inside of a home is inherently homosexual.
    It's okay, you know -- you're with friends here, so you can let the little gay window dresser in you come out.

    (btw, I agree with your point.)
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  9. #39


    Science is not objective.
    Science is a human endeavor, and is so limited to human perspectives, and human failings--like any other human endeavor.

    But science is systematic, and aims to expose, and counter the biases of individual researchers.

    Science is fundamentally about the uses of measurement.
    No it is not. This is a marginalization. Science is a methodical pursuit of truth. It makes use of measurement. It makes use of mathematics. It makes uses of philosophy. It makes use of experimental design. It make use of whatever is available and appropriate.

    What does not fit the yardstick of the scientist is discarded.
    If this means that a lot notions become untenable under scientific scrutiny, then its true. So what?

    Scientific determinism has repeatedly excluded some data from its measurement and fudged other data.
    There are examples in the past of reputed scientist having fudged data. It happens in all fields. I think fraud with intent to defraud is rare. Still, I don't think fraud itself is rare.

    Incompetence is a large source. Sometimes, graduate students do good work. Other times they just publish something to complete their degree. Sometimes people are so enamored w/ some statistical tool or another that they find it hard to see how it is inappropriate the technique is. Sometimes the users of stats have little understanding of the assumptions behind the stats (esp. significance testing and the null hypothesis).

    Strong debates w/ good points on both sides still continue in scientific circles. Even if something is a minority opinion, it may not stay that way forever.

    Finding out what drives the processes, systems, etc. that science studies is still an art. There are some formulaic attempts to get at the answers that science seeks, but there is often clinical judgment in throwing out data (imagine subjects that are biased by past testing, subjects purposely fudging data due to being "encouraged" by the prof. to participate in a study, subjects answering all c's or b's just to finish the task, "professional" subjects who have been part of so many trials for money that they kind of know how to make it "successful", ....).

    I think holding a skeptical attitude is a healthy one for consumers of science. There are incompetent and fraudulent scientists just as there are incompetent and fraudulent people in all fields.

    However, if you are going to hold this attitude, IMO you will need to become much better versed in techniques that scientists use and look for particular missing pieces of info.

    Unfortunately, the public gets very misleading characterizations of science. They have every right to be skeptical of science "news".

    Cargo Cult Science

    We have learned a lot from experience about how to handle some of the ways we fool ourselves. One example: Millikan measured the charge on an electron by an experiment with falling oil drops, and got an answer which we now know not to be quite right. It's a little bit off because he had the incorrect value for the viscosity of air. It's interesting to look at the history of measurements of the charge of an electron, after Millikan. If you plot them as a function of time, you find that one is a little bit bigger than Millikan's, and the next one's a little bit bigger than that, and the next one's a little bit bigger than that, until finally they settle down to a number which is higher.

    Why didn't they discover the new number was higher right away? It's a thing that scientists are ashamed of -- this history -- because it's apparent that people did things like this: when they got a number that was too high above Millikan's, they thought something must be wrong -- and they would look for and find a reason why something might be wrong. When they got a number close to Millikan's value they didn't look so hard. And so they eliminated the numbers that were too far off, and did other things like that. We've learned those tricks nowadays, and now we don't have that kind of a disease.

    But this long history of learning how to not fool ourselves -- of having utter scientific integrity -- is, I'm sorry to say, something that we haven't specifically included in any particular course that I know of. We just hope you've caught on by osmosis

    The first principle is that you must not fool yourself -- and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you've not fooled yourself, it's easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.
    Last edited by ygolo; 10-08-2007 at 07:42 PM. Reason: Damn Quotes.

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