1. ## Problems with science.

One of the major problems with science, despite it's considerable merits, is that it is very hard to eliminate all variables. Thus while two variables are observed, or studied, without having all of the other variables in context, it is hard to discover the true nature of what is going on.

For example, we may see a comet arrive (or pass by), while the moon shifts. As is disappears, and we may conclude that it was because of the moon, however without all of the other variables to go by, little can be known.

2. But we have ways to observe other variables today. What you say happened before the advent of good scientific studies. Those were the days when religion ruled and science took the back seat. Nowadays we have many tools to use to see things in many different ways. So your statement isn't that true today whatsoever.

3. Thats why you control experiments, for all known variables. If something unexpected happens then perhaps you are missing a variable or two. Woo Hoo great - maybe you just made a discovery. Hypothesize, predict for the next time, do your predictions come true? refine and retest.

4. This is where the written word comes in handy. The number of variables is so vast, and the number of things which are effected by more than one item at a time is also so vast that no one person can refine their area of study in their lifetime. so writing down "I checked for x,y,z,zz,xx,xy,yx,yz,zx,and yy" alsos for someone to later finish up the alphebet with out having to re-discover the wheel.

I think eventually, we'll be able to predict with a fair amount of certainty, chaotic systems like the weather. We just have to start taking into account multiple causal factors more often in our hypothosies.

But you are right; "Controlled Experiment" is nearly an oxymoron.

5. Science could be wrong simply because it is science. It describes a tendency of nature, but most scientists are on the look out for an objective absolute, which has never been found. People only assume they know a constant depending on the era they live in.

6. Originally posted by SwedishFish
but that's why a single study is worth a bag of beans. make it grow and you get gold.
Do many others pertaining to the same subject and you get a empirical evidence tree. Two is better than one ehh Swedishfish

7. Mucker,

You have described a common mistake in critical thinking, which is confusing correlation with causation. Just because two things happen in close proximity with each other doesn't mean that one thing caused the other.

As far as eliminating variables as possible causes go, it is always a matter of taking into account all the things you think might be important. That never guarantees that you haven't missed something, though, which is why careful documentation of research is important. It is also why the replication of important findings under different conditions of the "unimportant" variables is valuable.

8. I think that Mucker is quite correct in his assumption that there are too many variables at any given point in time. And yes, scientists do try to eliminate variables, but in the end it is always questionable if we are really elimating variables, or if we are simply reinterpretating data in a particular subjective way. And with that are we then just collecting variables that 'feel' good, or fit the dogma.

Is the question therefore not rather if there can be an objective elimination of variables and does the set of variables that is left over still retain the essence of the 'truth'.

maybe...

9. Those were the days when religion ruled and science took the back seat.
Though I'm not usually one to defend the church, the Vatican was an accepted scientific authority for many centuries. The fact that they were a reactionary and authoritarian scientific authority doesn't mean that they didn't know anything.

As such it's a little unfair to divide science and religion from each other throughout all of history. Religion in the form of the Catholic church helped to preserve a lot of knowledge from the past that might otherwise have been lost. Their falling out with Galileo was an unfortunate admixture of science and politics, which is (if you've noticed) something that still happens today.

The main problem with religion as a scientific force comes when people convince themselves that the force of their beliefs is a better representation of "the truth" than their observations of the physical world... this is a problem with most mainstream religion these days, I agree.

10. Sometimes you don't want to have only one variable. I was talking on a forum about the G5 vs. P4, and I argued that they should have used the best compiler for the P4 (after all, it was a comparison of speed between the two processors). One jerk said that the compilers should be the same to eliminate that variable. That just doesn't make any sense: these processors have different amounts of transistors, have different architectures, use different amounts of power, are implemented into different computers... and so on. In that case, the only important thing to me is the constant that they are both processors that could be considered in direct competition for the title of fastest processor.

So, a blanket statement about experiments needing only one variable couldn't be true. It just depends on the situation.

11. ## Re: Problems with science.

Originally posted by Mucker
For example, we may see a comet arrive (or pass by), while the moon shifts. As is disappears, and we may conclude that it was because of the moon, however without all of the other variables to go by, little can be known.
This is the entire point of doing experiments with control groups.

12. I think the problem with science, or rather, the problem with many people understanding science, is that there exists no scientifical Truth.

Anything that is held proved and true in science is only so on a provisional basis. At any time, new information might arrive that requires a revision of things we have so far considered true.

Hans

13. That's very true Hans. One of the criticisms often levelled at science by the religious types is that science cannot offer the kind of "truth" that most religions claim as their stock in trade.

Unfortunately the truth offered by religions is only considered true by popular assent, and most rigidly deny any necessity for proof other than the belief of their adherents, which is not much of a criterion for truth.

Conversely, science is a house built in a swamp; we need to examine it constantly for problems and replace the problematic parts, and if it turns out that the foundation is rotten then the whole house has to be rebuilt.

BUT. This is as honest as it gets in a world where our perception of reality is necessarily incomplete. That's as much truth as one can really have.

(Some people find this prospect depressing. I prefer to look to the words of <a href="http://www.sfheart.com/desiderata.html">Max Ehrmann</a>, because, even if they are not provably true, they are true enough. We live all our lives without absolute truth, so we must learn to rely on the things that we are pretty sure about.)

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