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Method Of Science


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#1 guillxer

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 07:21 PM

Sorry if this sounds like rehash by here is my view of science:

Step by step plan...

1 Observations: Measure and record as much and as often a possible.

2 Think: What is happening? Is this similar to something else? Do some things change or stabilize under the certain conditions? Etc.

3 Model: Build a model that explains the data (and previous reputable data if required).
Types of models...
- Applied Mathematics
- Physics
- Chemistry
- Astrophysics
- Biology
- Etc.

4 Test: Test the model; What is the error? When and where does it work or not work.
Regardless, check your results many times. Publish in something either way.

5 If something works use it for now. Keep looking for better models. If necessary use the good models to make better tools for observation. Verify your tools, this is critical. Go back to step one and repeat forever.

- Notice science says nothing about the grand purpose of the universe, if there is one. We are probably far away from being able to ask this question in the proper manner.

Important Notes:
If you cannot test your model it is weak! Don't bet your house on it.

Example: Big bang. We have never seen the beginning of a universe, we have only observed a small portion of the universe over a short time. Though we can observe expansion between stars this might be cyclical or local phenomenon.

- agnostic

#2 ModusTollens

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 05:02 AM

Sorry if this sounds like rehash by here is my view of science:

Step by step plan...

1 Observations: Measure and record as much and as often a possible.

2 Think: What is happening? Is this similar to something else?  Do some things change or stabilize under the certain conditions?  Etc.

3 Model: Build a model that explains the data (and previous reputable data if required).
    Types of models...
  - Applied Mathematics
  - Physics
  - Chemistry
  - Astrophysics
  - Biology
  - Etc. 

4 Test: Test the model; What is the error? When and where does it work or not work.
  Regardless, check your results many times.  Publish in something either way.

5 If something works use it for now.  Keep looking for better models.  If necessary use the good models to make better tools for observation.  Verify your tools, this is critical.  Go back to step one and repeat forever. 

- Notice science says nothing about the grand purpose of the universe, if there is one.  We are probably far away from being able to ask this question in the proper manner. 

Important Notes:
If you cannot test your model it is weak!  Don't bet your house on it.

Example:  Big bang.  We have never seen the beginning of a universe, we have only observed a small portion  of the universe over a short time.  Though we can observe expansion between stars this might be cyclical or local phenomenon. 

- agnostic

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This is the view of the scientific method that is taught in most schools in the United States. It is the reason the U.S. is estimated to be 95% scientifically illiterate.

The basic tenet of the scientific method is the logical structure known as modus tollens. The basic gist is as follows: when faced with some problem, gather as many alternate explanations as you can. These, in the logical model, are called Explanatory Claims (though they are often also referred to as hypotheses, EC is probably the better term, really). The idea that one should generate and test only one hypothesis or EC at a time is deeply damaging to the core methodology, because of the next step of the logic.

Next, one needs to derive the Expected Observations from one's Explanatory Claims. These fall into two categories: prescriptions and proscriptions. Together, these are often referred to as predictions. However, the important point is that you are building a simplified mental/theoretical model of the universe as it would look if a given Explanatory Claim is true, explicitly stating BOTH what one would expect to see and what one would NOT expect to see. You will, then, create a model, complete with both prescriptions (what should happen) and proscriptions (what should not happen) for EACH competing hypothesis or Explanatory Claim that you have generated.

It is then time to observe the world, taking Actual Observations. Then, Actual Observations are compared to Expected Observations, and the five criteria of adequacy: testability, fruitfulness, scope, conservativism, and simplicity, can be used to evaluate the relative strengths of competing EC's.

If expected observations match actual observations, the related explanatory claim gains some support. If they don't, then it fails to gain support, and something is wrong somewhere in your chain of logic...whether it is a problem with the explanatory claim itself is harder to tell: it could be that your expected observations do not, in actuality, logically follow from your explanatory claim or that your measuring device for gathering actual observations is faulty.

Now, there are two components which are VITAL. 1) if you have only one hypothesis to test, you really can't do science in any meaningful way...and this is where most of the public understanding of science goes awry. 2) This method MUST be done collectively. Science/expertise is a collective endeavor. Science is essentially a lot like the Gauntlet of medieval times. When you publish a piece of research, the entire scientific community tries its hardest to destroy it, no matter how much they think it might be true or how much they like you. In this aspect lies the power of science: if the full attention of the best minds in the world cannot destroy an idea, it is a powerful idea, and hence science is a powerful mechanism for finding good ideas. This is why all of science's highest awards typically go to those who succeed not in discovering new ideas but in disproving old, well-entrenched beliefs. (Indeed, this is one of the reasons I do not understand modern Creationism...evolutionary biologists know A LOT about evolutionary theory, and finding holes in the theory or disproving it would immediately make one the most significant biologist of the last 500 years. We are always looking for chinks in evolution's armor, but when you look at the evidence with anything approaching enough expertise to have a clue what you're looking at, you can see how terribly futile the prospect of disproving evolution really is).

This is not related, but it does tie into the tangent that I went on at the end of the previous paragraph: philosophers have in recent years devoted a lot of thought to the amount and quality of evidence that exists for various theories of the universe. It appears that the four things we can be most certain of in the universe are 1) we are constantly (or nearly constantly) receiving some manner of stimulation of our senses. 2) the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics 3) The Theory of Gravitation, in the sense of gravity's existence and not of the precise accuracy of Newton's work over all sizes and speeds 4) The Theory of evolution by natural selection.

#3 guillxer

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 05:26 AM

Yeah I agree that multiple hypotheses should be tested. This can be done by multiple analysis of the same data. There is nothing in my post that suggested only one model should be tested at a time. Obviously one should hypothesize in the thinking stage. This is all implicit.

My main point was we are only building an approximation (a model) of the thing we are observing. The physics equation is not the actual physics happening, but is an numerical or symbolic representation of the real world action/reaction. This method might yield exact predictions of what is happening or what will happen, but it is not the same as the thing you are observing.

This wasn't clear from how the post was originally worded.

And yes the modes tollens over many variation helps avoid false positives. Peer review is a verification of the whole test/analyze method.

I agree with your above statements, but do not become too comfortable with current explanations of nature (dynamics, physics, evolution). Always question even the first principles.

#4 AFJ

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 06:28 PM

  (Indeed, this is one of the reasons I do not understand modern Creationism...evolutionary biologists know A LOT about evolutionary theory, and finding holes in the theory or disproving it would immediately make one the most significant biologist of the last 500 years.  We are always looking for chinks in evolution's armor, but when you look at the evidence with anything approaching enough expertise to have a clue what you're looking at, you can see how terribly futile the prospect of disproving evolution really is).

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So, Modus Tollens. You spoke of testability. How are you going to find a chink in evolution's armor, when you never observed it, nor can you go back and test? Yes, you are going to say "fossils." No, it's an interpretation of the fossils. You can't prove how long unmoving sediments took to get there, nor can you know if the first appearances and extinction dates are correct. You're going to say similar DNA sequences prove inheritance. No, that only proves that we are made of similar proteins as other species. The phylogenic tree is nothing but man's cherry picked sorting. With every point there is a counter point.

So how are going to find a chink when you defend things like soft tissues in fossils that are supposed to be millions of years old, or C-14 in things that should be C-14 dead, or you have never seen an RNA organism, yet are convinced that it had to be? These are things I don't understand. Yours is faith, yet you are dishonest in that you don't admit it.

#5 MarkForbes

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Posted 19 April 2011 - 02:26 AM

I believe that before one discusses science and the scientific method. One should define and explain what science is. To me science is about acquiring ontological knowledge about the real world. That said I will take a look at some points you have made.

...This is not related, but it does tie into the tangent that I went on at the end of the previous paragraph:  philosophers have in recent years devoted a lot of thought to the amount and quality of evidence that exists for various theories of the universe.  It appears that the four things we can be most certain of in the universe are
1) we are constantly (or nearly constantly) receiving some manner of stimulation of our senses.
2) the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics
3) The Theory of Gravitation, in the sense of gravity's existence and not of the precise accuracy of Newton's work over all sizes and speeds
4) The Theory of evolution by natural selection.

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Let's put this to the test for a moment (as it says a lot about science and scientific method)
Point 1 I'd agree sensation and perception can be both experienced virtually constantly. This is also repeatable.
Point 2 2nd Law of Thermodynamics the trend towards equilibrium of temperature, pressure, chemicals is measurable at least with the right equipment.
Point 3 Gravitation can be observed when it's raining and in many other daily life situations.
Point 4 How is that anyhow what it is observed. What we can observe is reproduction and the fact that one part of a population reproduces, while the other one doesn't. But we can conclude from these observation isn't Evolution, rather a stability within certain limits of species and geni.

#6 gilbo12345

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Posted 27 April 2011 - 06:18 PM

I believe that before one discusses science and the scientific method. One should define and explain what science is. To me science is about acquiring ontological knowledge about the real world. That said I will take a look at some points you have made.

Let's put this to the test for a moment (as it says a lot about science and scientific method)
Point 1 I'd agree sensation and perception can be both experienced virtually constantly. This is also repeatable.
Point 2 2nd Law of Thermodynamics the trend towards equilibrium of temperature, pressure, chemicals is measurable at least with the right equipment.
Point 3 Gravitation can be observed when it's raining and in many other daily life situations.
Point 4 How is that anyhow what it is observed. What we can observe is reproduction and the fact that one part of a population reproduces, while the other one doesn't. But we can conclude from these observation isn't Evolution, rather a stability within certain limits of species and geni.

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Whilst I agree with you I'd also like to point that that perception will always incorporate that person's bias... (Bias is not a bad thing, but it must always be considered)

Eg- an evolutionists perception of fossil evidence leads him / her to evolution, whereas someone who did not share their views may not make the same conclusion.




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