What qualifies as science?

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by Jozen-Bo, Apr 25, 2017.

  1. Michael 345 Valued Senior Member

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    It might stop you being food

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  3. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    Not a whole lot given the context of your remark. That's why I wondered what you wanted to communicate.

    It seems to be another observed example of the phenotypic makeup of biological populations changing quite rapidly over time in response to environmental conditions, not unlike the development of drug resistance in bacteria.

    Natural selection may indeed help explain what was being observed in these examples, but it isn't something that's being directly observed. It's the application of an explanatory construct (a theoretical mechanism) to observed events in hopes of better understanding why those events were happening.
     
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  5. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    Doubtful. The tastiest things always seem to have the "best" adapations. Hot peppers is only one example.
     
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  7. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    Now you're getting it. That's what we're here for.
     
  8. Michael 345 Valued Senior Member

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    Evolution in action

    The trees got darker because of polution

    The lighter moths got eaten more so than the darker ones

    The darker moths had more offspring

    As polution became less the evolved dark colour evolved back to lighter

    If you have another explanation (other than evolution)

    please bring it forward

    I can think of a long shot reason why the colour change

    god got bored with the light version and made them darker along with the tree bark but decided the light colour was best after all

    Like moving the furniture around but deciding it looked better before

    But that's a long shot explanation

    Feel free to explain away any other ideas

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  9. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    The explanation is an inference from the observed facts. That does not make it, itself, a fact. There have been countless examples of inferences that have later been shown to be wrong. Not that it is remotely likely in the case you describe, but there remains a difference in principle between the observed facts themselves and inferences drawn from them. That is the point that Yazata and I have been making here.
     
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  10. Michael 345 Valued Senior Member

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    Understood

    And I have requested that if you have other explanations please advise what they are

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  11. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    I saw that. If you re-read the opening phrase of my 4th sentence (the bit up to the first comma), you will understand why I have not offered any.

    But there could be, if for example new facts were to come to light. Suppose it were discovered that the moths caught a virus that changed their colour and that this virus epidemic happened to run its course during the time of smoke pollution. (This sort of thing happens all the time in other fields. Just think of the theories of dietary health we have all read: epidemiology supporting one model, which is later contested when new variables are considered.)

    If that were to happen, people claiming the moths story showed evolution to be a "fact" would look bloody silly.

    Same goes for Newtonian mechanics. If you call that a "fact", you look a bit silly when someone points out that at speeds approaching that of light none of it gives the right answer.
     
  12. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    Yes. I do understand this.

    If you don't mind my asking, do either of you (exchemist or Yazata) moke cigarettes? This would make sense to Michael 345 and I if you both did.

    "Correlation is not causation" is a sticky widget.
     
  13. Michael 345 Valued Senior Member

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    Got it thanks

    Please excuse my dumbness

    Put it down to it being 2am in the morning when I last posted

    It's 10 to 4am now

    I am only awake because I don't like water beds

    If I didn't get up I would be sleeping in one

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    The dietary health rang a bell with the cause of ulcers being put down to diet and stress until some smart bottom Ozzy won a Nobel for discovering bacterium was the cause

    I wish he had found the cause a few years earlier

    When I first started nursing in the RAAF we had a ward full of ulcer patients most of them Sargent's who resented being feed slops (treatment was bread and milk) and made their own arrangements for hamburgers with the base cooks

    I guess also I was expecting a god did it answer which is why I put that in my post as a preemptive strike

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    Cheers

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  14. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    I certainly never have: rowers generally don't.

    But if you find the making of this distinction between fact and theory disconcerting, then I am surprised. The history of the theory of relativity, which you spend so much time on, seems to be a good illustration of the need to separate facts from theory.
     
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  15. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    It's rarely if ever possible to logically deduce our explanatory theories from the observed facts. That's why I'm interested in the 'inference to the best explanation' problem. Logically speaking, what's happening there? There seems to be something else going on that isn't deductive inference, something more akin to inductive inference perhaps. Charles Peirce called it 'abduction' and thought that it was a third kind of logic alongside deduction and induction. I'm not sure that I'd go that far, but it's part of why I think that there's a creative side to science. (Nobody can say that Darwin and Wallace's natural selection wasn't an elegant solution to the problem of evolution's mechanism or that Einstein's relativity wasn't a creative and elegant departure on 19th century physics. And there's Kekule's first imagining benzene's ring structure in a day-dream.)
     
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  16. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    I'm with you all the way. I do not believe people generally deduce theories from observation. Induction and creativity are far more important, usually. Though it is interesting to think how Einstein came up with special relativity for instance. He does seem to have said, well if the speed of light is independent of velocity of source and receiver, however absurd that seems, what would that imply? - and hence come up with the ideas that distance and time must alter, to preserve constancy of distance/time = speed. That seems to me a deductive step.

    I don't think one can generalise. Science is creative: of that I am firmly convinced.
     
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  17. river Valued Senior Member

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    Nobody is creative persay .

    Through deduction and induction one DISCOVERS the Nature of the Universe . You don't create any thing ; we just understand it better .
     
  18. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    Yes. Popper believed this as well. To his credit, he believed that the theory of evolution was a better model of how science should work than something like relativity or quantum physics, which is to say, internally self-consistent and complete, all by itself.

    Most other scientific theories aren't perfect either. If they were both more complete and more consistent, disparate theories would unify into a single concept. Except for what I have proposed, this will never happen (a joke).

    But a valid criticism of the theory of evolution is that it is by necessity vague. No specific direction is provided for evolution, and no design of nature's (or anyone else's) is ever perfection. Fully four and a half billion years in progress, evolution is an unfinished work, just as science will always be.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2017
  19. river Valued Senior Member

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    True

    But doctrine is the norm nowadays
     
  20. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

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    NOTE: The Sciforums limit of 1,000 characters forces me to break this up into two parts. Ergo, depending upon the frequency of other posts or how many typos or BBcode errors I never caught in a preview (having to add more intervening time from editing) the second half may not immediately follow this.

    You're the one who keeps introducing this "falsifying scientific method" and "evolution" stuff, as if you're discussing something with an alter-ego but using replies to my posts as a facade to conduct that inner wrangling with yourself. I couldn't care less about it -- it's certainly not what I was responding to upon entering this thread. But if you want more attention than the (?????) which I feel when gazing at the text, then I'll toss ten cents in and be done with it. However, first this stage of dropping the pretense about SM before returning to the recreational indulgence of going along with the crowd (i.e., catering to the fable / "fitting in").

    Reference to "scientific method" in the non-plural and global way is a lingering prop to humor folk who refuse to give up on that particular belief.[*] The current content filling that idea of a "globally applicable SM that is not a toolkit of many specialized and contingent techniques" can very well be modified or replaced by any future generation of textbook writers (still doggedly catering to that earlier fable) that has a reason to do so. Whether it's a claimed reason that it "improves science" or whatever other platitude would soothe the members of the sensitive / prickly congregation or fellowship of SM believers.

    It's not as if whatever fashionable mask the impotent SM prop is wearing today or tomorrow would amount to a hill of beans to a working science community that ignores the publicly cherished fable to begin with (i.e., back to the perspectives of Percy Bridgman and Peter Medawar with respect to the latter).

    [*] (footnote) Though also for occasional pragmatic reasons, rather than riding on the momentum of blind custom / tradition alone. A few examples in the Anderson / Hepburn quote further down.
    • William F. McComas: MYTH 4: A GENERAL AND UNIVERSAL SCIENTIFIC METHOD EXISTS

      The notion that a common series of steps is followed by all research scientists must be among the most pervasive myths of science given the appearance of such a list in 5 the introductory chapters of many precollege science texts.

      The steps listed for the scientific method vary somewhat from text to text but usually include [...] The universal scientific method is one of science educations’ most pervasive “creeping fox terriers.”

      The multi-step list seems to have started innocently enough when Keeslar (1945a b) prepared a list of a number of characteristics associated with scientific research [...] This list was refined into a questionnaire and submitted to research scientists for validation. [...] Textbook writers quickly adopted this list as the description of how science is done. In time the list was reduced from ten items to those mentioned above, but in the hands of generations of textbook writers, a simple list of characteristics associated with scientific research became a description of how all scientists work.

      Another reason for the widespread belief in a general scientific method may be the way in which results are presented for publication in research journals. The standardized style makes it appear that scientists follow a standard research plan. Medawar reacted to the common style exhibited by research papers by calling the scientific paper a fraud since the final journal report rarely outlines the actual way in which the problem was investigated. Those who study scientists at work have shown that no research method is applied universally.

      The notion of a single scientific method is so pervasive that many students must be disappointed when they discover that scientists do not have a framed copy of the steps of the scientific method posted above each laboratory workbench. Close inspection will reveal that scientists approach and solve problems with imagination, creativity, prior knowledge and perseverance. These, of course, are the same methods used by all effective problem-solvers. The lesson to be learned is that science is no different from other human endeavors when puzzles are investigated. Fortunately, this is one myth that may eventually be displaced since many newer texts are abandoning or augmenting the list in favor of discussions of methods of science. --(PDF) THE PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS OF THE NATURE OF SCIENCE: DISPELLING THE MYTHS


      - - - -

      Rhett Allain: What's Wrong With The Scientific Method?

      - - - -

      Hanne Andersen; Brian Hepburn: Often, reference to scientific method is used in ways that convey either the legend of a single, universal method characteristic of all science, or grants to a particular method or set of methods privilege as a special ‘gold standard’, often with reference to particular philosophers to vindicate the claims. Discourse on scientific method also typically arises when there is a need to distinguish between science and other activities, or for justifying the special status conveyed to science. In these areas, the philosophical attempts at identifying a set of methods characteristic for scientific endeavors are closely related to the philosophy of science’s classical problem of demarcation and to the philosophical analysis of the social dimension of scientific knowledge and the role of science in democratic society. [...] Also within mainstream science, reference to the scientific method is used in arguments regarding the internal hierarchy of disciplines and domains. [That's addressed in the William F. McComas excerpt above.] https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/scientific-method/#DisSciMet

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    Last edited: Jun 3, 2017
  21. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

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    Now back to that tossing in ten cents and I'm done with this (?????) stuff / detour.

    There is a desire for a "model" for SM, as if it's not already something abstract? It's not a non-artificial concrete object or dynamic situation to be explained, predicted, or controlled. It's already either a general guideline for the practice of science or a general description of the practice. SM is already an empty conceptual slot / abstract placeholder that you plug something with more specific characteristics into (like the supposed, current popular choice for a universal SM outed as legend above).

    Regardless, one might approach a determination this way:

    Hanne Andersen; Brian Hepburn: "Scientific method should be distinguished from the aims and products of science, such as knowledge, predictions, or control. Methods are the means by which those goals are achieved." --Scientific Method, SEP

    So a matter of "Does not follow" or "Not even wrong" in suggesting evolution? I mean that seems along the line suggested by the identity or definitional boundaries of SM, where "evolution" would be classified as a product (discovery, formulation, etc) of science.

    Prototype ideas of evolution (lacking Darwin's specifics) were introduced in ancient times (pre-Socratic philosophers and later Lucretius), but the current incarnation fell out of science as conducted the last 2-3 centuries. Which is to say, natural selection is not ineffable, and there certainly wasn't a formulated description of such tangibly slapping hunter-gatherers in the face 50,000 years ago. It wasn't "out there" and available without reasoning like a giant, rotating marble statue of a young boy urinating so obviously all over the place that nomadic tribes blundered into it like a pecan tree. It required later (MUCH LATER) human intellectual activity and conceptual tools / planning of the science enterprise to interrogatively abstract that theory from the surrounding phenomenal circumstances and past record of life. It is not a brute intuition or a perceptual "given" which even village dolts would stumble upon eventually without the activity of intellect and devising experiments or procedures for garnering data / evidence.

    But why stop with just SM when it comes to jumping on this bandwagon joyriding down Grease Slope? In "Darwin's Dangerous Idea", Daniel Dennett advocated natural selection being fundamental in every area, including cosmological origins.

    Has a vague resemblance to reverting back to the "___ is responsible for all" template (wherein "God or gods" once filled the slot in earlier times). Now replaced by cliques construing the vast non-artificial and mind-less part of "nature" as delivering ready-made commandments / prescriptions to them. "Oh, golly gosh. We discovered / found rather than invented these rules and guidelines for operation." One doesn't know whether to be amused or frightened by secular-oriented cliques themselves craving yet another overarching Dictator. Receiving their daily dosage via "old mama spike in the mainline" (directly acknowledging to themselves the atavistic need) or the suppository entryway (subliminal).

    Or if this thought orientation of "evolution" being omnipresent did dominate us, the potential consequences have a vague resemblance to referring to everything homogeneously as Marklar (the monotonous linguistic inclination of those space aliens in the South Park episode). That is, associating evolution with the "scientific method" or anything else would become trivial, like pointing to a squirrel and remarking "Oh, look, they breath air or have dependence upon oxygen absorption". Via such an all-consuming victory, it would ironically sabotage its own grand, proclaimed self-importance by afterwards being demoted to a banal status.

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    Last edited: Jun 3, 2017
  22. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

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    Deleted repeat post here.
     
  23. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Usually I can't understand a word you say, but I gather that you are sceptical of this thing called the "Scientific Method".

    So am I. I managed to get a degree in physical science, at a good UK university, without this concept cropping up once. Nobody I know talks about it. Since joining this forum I have had to look up on the internet what it is. Frankly I see little worthwhile in it, save the basic principles that (reproducible) observational evidence is king and that all theory needs to be tested against it. Well, hallelujah.

    Is it possible that this is part of the way science is taught in particular countries, e.g. the USA?
     
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