The Scientific Method
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26-01-2014, 07:21 AM
The Scientific Method
I always wondered about the scientific method and its initial conditions. Does the predictable and reproducible products of the scientific method justify its correctness, or prove it as valid? I guess I'm asking if the end product of the scientific method validates the initial assumptions?

i.e. It works(scientific method) or has never been shown to fail, so its true...G4143
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26-01-2014, 07:30 AM
RE: The Scientific Method
(26-01-2014 07:21 AM)G4143 Wrote:  I always wondered about the scientific method and its initial conditions. Does the predictable and reproducible products of the scientific method justify its correctness, or prove it as valid? I guess I'm asking if the end product of the scientific method validates the initial assumptions?

i.e. It works(scientific method) or has never been shown to fail, so its true...G4143

Well if the experiments results are repeatable and are as predicted in the experiment's initial hypothesis, that I'm pretty sure it does validate it. Doesn't 'prove' anything cause that's kinda a no-go in science terms.

I think I'll come back later after I've had more sleep and maybe a bit of expositional clarity has been dropped around here

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26-01-2014, 07:47 AM
RE: The Scientific Method
(26-01-2014 07:30 AM)Free Thought Wrote:  
(26-01-2014 07:21 AM)G4143 Wrote:  I always wondered about the scientific method and its initial conditions. Does the predictable and reproducible products of the scientific method justify its correctness, or prove it as valid? I guess I'm asking if the end product of the scientific method validates the initial assumptions?

i.e. It works(scientific method) or has never been shown to fail, so its true...G4143

Well if the experiments results are repeatable and are as predicted in the experiment's initial hypothesis, that I'm pretty sure it does validate it. Doesn't 'prove' anything cause that's kinda a no-go in science terms.

I think I'll come back later after I've had more sleep and maybe a bit of expositional clarity has been dropped around here

I think you are applying the scientific method to a specific experiment and justifying it. I'm asking if the assumptions set up in the scientific method(The universe is consistent, measurable) are justified by the end products of applying the scientific method to experiments? Is the scientific method valid because it provides what it states it will.

I hope this makes sense...G4143
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26-01-2014, 07:59 AM
RE: The Scientific Method
(26-01-2014 07:21 AM)G4143 Wrote:  I always wondered about the scientific method and its initial conditions. Does the predictable and reproducible products of the scientific method justify its correctness, or prove it as valid? I guess I'm asking if the end product of the scientific method validates the initial assumptions?

i.e. It works(scientific method) or has never been shown to fail, so its true...G4143

Firstly your probably best of doing a course in philosophy of science.
For an audio I recommend the Great Courses series:
Philosophy of Science: Professor Jeffrey L. Kasser - Colorado State University
There are also many excellent books - but some tend to ramble on too long with philosophical jargon.

I also recommend as an intro the notion of explanatory power this David Deutsch TED talk lecture:




Good science really needs to be deeply explanatory - not just a description. An artist or photographer can describe but the key to good science is coherent rational explanation which as a bonus can lead to predictions, repeatability, aesthetic elegance and practical uses like technology.

Another intrinsic and crucial role of good science is it can be fallible - failure can be demonstrated and theories can be falsified and we learn new insights from this process. Karl Popper is famous for this insight that a good scientific theory SHOULD be falsifiable - because that's the best way to test the hypothesis by putting competition to try and disprove it - if hypothesis can withstand the test then the science may be onto something - this Is especially the case if the hypothesis is bold and takes risks with virtually infinite ways to disprove it and one explanation which withstands the critique - there are many examples of this in the history of science.
A theory that cannot be falsified "God did it" lacks explanatory power or shuts down all investigation and critique (because by definition it is immune to critique - it cannot be falsified even in principle)

Repeatability & prediction are important but by themselves may just be a description - like a photographer notices the Sun rises every morning as predicted and repeated but has no clue why - there is no explanation. This was the famous critique of David Hume that all we see are connections between events but not "the causes" and challenges a science which ONLY relies on repetition & prediction based on inductive reasoning. We owe thanks to David Hume because his critique led to a whole host of responses to try and refine the scientific methodology.

In some cases powerful deep explanation may be lacking but the hypothesis is good science nevertheless due to wide scope of explaining many separate phenomena under one umbrella eg Newton's gravitational theory - it explained phenomena as widely apart from falling balls, to orbits of planets to tidal waves however we would have to wait a few centuries for deeper explanations of Gravity provided by relativity. In this case the explanations are refined, increase in scope and depth, have extremely high prediction & repeatability, are aesthetically elegant mathematically and coherent. In the case of gravity the scientific method is far from over because there is still more explanation required for some of the toughest scientific puzzles (quantum gravity relation to relativity and search for a unified theory)

A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence -
David Hume


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26-01-2014, 08:14 AM (This post was last modified: 26-01-2014 08:18 AM by Hafnof.)
RE: The Scientific Method
First we need to understand what we are talking about when we say "the scientific method". My simple model of the scientific method is as follows:
1. Use imagination, insight, experience and data to develop guesses that make specific predictions. These predictive guesses are called "hypotheses".
2. Identify contradictory predictions that our alternative hypotheses make. Attempt to determine that whether the predictions hold or fail to hold. Predictions that fail to hold are said to be "falsified".
3. Discard or modify all hypotheses that make false predictions, on the basis that a false prediction must indicate that the hypothesis itself is false. Falsifying even a single prediction of a hypothesis is sufficient to falsify the hypothesis, however the hypothesis may be salvaged by modifying it rather than starting again from scratch.
4. Repeat as necessary.

The basic epistemological implication of the method is that we can reliably exclude false guesses about reality so long as the false guesses make predictions that we falsify reliably. This in turn implies that the resulting infinitely large set of possible hypotheses is not excluded. We can only deal with this large unfalsified set of hypotheses heuristically. We can only guess which of the unfalsified hypotheses is true and we typically do so by judging which of the hypotheses is "simplest" according to Occam's Razor or a similar device.

Therefore in order to say anything true about reality we need an additional step:
5. Treat the simplest hypothesis whose tested predictions have been unerringly true as being a "provisionally true" hypothesis that may at a later time be falsified and replaced with an alternate hypothesis or a modified version of the current provisionally true hypothesis.

This allows us to define the set of scientific knowledge as the set of simplest unerringly predictive hypotheses based on currently available data. Scientific knowledge changes over time as new hypotheses are proposed, giving us new predictions to test, inevitably falsifying some of our existing "provisionally true" hypotheses.

But none of this works without a hypothesis to bootstrap the whole thing. The foundational hypothesis of science is that an external reality exists that the scientist can meaningfully observe and interact with - that the scientist can in some sense trust his phaneron to be related to a meaningful reality in a practical way. This foundational hypothesis as with any other is provisional but seems to have held up well so far.

We can judge whether the method works based on how reliably, how accurately, and how precisely we can predict our perception of reality based on the current body of scientific knowledge. The current answer is "well enough to build space stations, Mars rovers, and spacecraft capable of leaving the solar system" or "well enough to feed the starving and heal the sick.. most of the time" etc. That is to say we are not by any means perfect by at the same time epistemologically unparalleled in all of philosophy with the possible exception of the mathematics that underpins science and engineering. The success of science seems to support our confidence in its usefulness; its "provisional trueness".

The limits of science, though, are right there in the method:
1. We may lack the imagination, insight, experience and data to make good guesses, or we may lack the ability to make useful predictions from our guesses
2. The predictions of our hypotheses may be indistinguishable from one another, leaving us without a way to falsify any of the alternative options. We may lack the attention, the capability, or the resources needed to falsify predictions where differences do exist.
3. We may be psychologically unable to dislodge false hypotheses (although the competitive and generational nature of science tends to counter this limitation)

Ultimately we can say with confidence that our scientific knowledge is unlikely to be "true" in any ultimate sense. It is likely that hypotheses that either we haven't though of or aren't the simplest available are actually the "true" ones. However, when it comes to provisional truth and knowledge that is useful for the advancement of human endeavour science is where it is at.

Give me your argument in the form of a published paper, and then we can start to talk.
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26-01-2014, 08:18 AM
RE: The Scientific Method
It's very simple.

It works because god guides it.

Silly question.

Dodgy

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26-01-2014, 08:18 AM
RE: The Scientific Method
Quote:I'm asking if the assumptions set up in the scientific method(The universe is consistent, measurable) are justified by the end products of applying the scientific method to experiments? Is the scientific method valid because it provides what it states it will.

Firstly the "scientific method" is not a "thing" or an "it" but a dynamic process applying rational observation & explanation which can include many aspects (falsification, mathematical elegance, data collection) as discussed in my previous lengthy post and Hafnof above.
One of these by itself may limit the scientific method(s) eg poor data collection will limit explanatory power. Imagine Newton didn't have tidal wave data and orbits of the planets and just said balls fall to the ground - I call that gravity and didn't have any universal equations (under normal - non relativity/quantum conditions) demonstrating this. - it would be a very poor scientific theory.
As data collection increased Newton wasn't completely disproved but his theory failed at the extremely large, tiny, fast or near super high mass objects - and Einstein's theories filled in the gaps. Newtons theory can be derived from Einstein's but Einstein's has more scope. There are still gaps to be filled in this field of science which need refining.

A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence -
David Hume


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26-01-2014, 08:36 AM
RE: The Scientific Method
(26-01-2014 08:14 AM)Hafnof Wrote:  First we need to understand what we are talking about when we say "the scientific method". My simple model of the scientific method is as follows:
1. Use imagination, insight, experience and data to develop guesses that make specific predictions. These predictive guesses are called "hypotheses".
2. Identify contradictory predictions that our alternative hypotheses make. Attempt to determine that whether the predictions hold or fail to hold. Predictions that fail to hold are said to be "falsified".
3. Discard or modify all hypotheses that make false predictions, on the basis that a false prediction must indicate that the hypothesis itself is false. Falsifying even a single prediction of a hypothesis is sufficient to falsify the hypothesis, however the hypothesis may be salvaged by modifying it rather than starting again from scratch.
4. Repeat as necessary.

The basic epistemological implication of the method is that we can reliably exclude false guesses about reality so long as the false guesses make predictions that we falsify reliably. This in turn implies that the resulting infinitely large set of possible hypotheses is not excluded. We can only deal with this large unfalsified set of hypotheses heuristically. We can only guess which of the unfalsified hypotheses is true and we typically do so by judging which of the hypotheses is "simplest" according to Occam's Razor or a similar device.

Therefore in order to say anything true about reality we need an additional step:
5. Treat the simplest hypothesis whose tested predictions have been unerringly true as being a "provisionally true" hypothesis that may at a later time be falsified and replaced with an alternate hypothesis or a modified version of the current provisionally true hypothesis.

This allows us to define the set of scientific knowledge as the set of simplest unerringly predictive hypotheses based on currently available data. Scientific knowledge changes over time as new hypotheses are proposed, giving us new predictions to test, inevitably falsifying some of our existing "provisionally true" hypotheses.

But none of this works without a hypothesis to bootstrap the whole thing. The foundational hypothesis of science is that an external reality exists that the scientist can meaningfully observe and interact with - that the scientist can in some sense trust his phaneron to be related to a meaningful reality in a practical way. This foundational hypothesis as with any other is provisional but seems to have held up well so far.

We can judge whether the method works based on how reliably, how accurately, and how precisely we can predict our perception of reality based on the current body of scientific knowledge. The current answer is "well enough to build space stations, Mars rovers, and spacecraft capable of leaving the solar system" or "well enough to feed the starving and heal the sick.. most of the time" etc. That is to say we are not by any means perfect by at the same time epistemologically unparalleled in all of philosophy with the possible exception of the mathematics that underpins science and engineering. The success of science seems to support our confidence in its usefulness; its "provisional trueness".

The limits of science, though, are right there in the method:
1. We may lack the imagination, insight, experience and data to make good guesses, or we may lack the ability to make useful predictions from our guesses
2. The predictions of our hypotheses may be indistinguishable from one another, leaving us without a way to falsify any of the alternative options. We may lack the attention, the capability, or the resources needed to falsify predictions where differences do exist.
3. We may be psychologically unable to dislodge false hypotheses (although the competitive and generational nature of science tends to counter this limitation)

Ultimately we can say with confidence that our scientific knowledge is unlikely to be "true" in any ultimate sense. It is likely that hypotheses that either we haven't though of or aren't the simplest available are actually the "true" ones. However, when it comes to provisional truth and knowledge that is useful for the advancement of human endeavour science is where it is at.

Whilst I support your above post wholeheartedly and personally think falsification is crucial and myself influenced by Karl Popper I think there are limitations to the pragmatic approach "well its worked so far, look at the technology" but its "provisionally true"

An example would be the explanatory power behind the periodic table of elements in terms of utterly spell bound scope & coherence both within and to multiple other areas of science (basically from physics to all of chemistry and hence biology), predictive power, mathematical elegance & practical pragmatic uses justifying "something must be right because it works".

I agree with your ultimate foundational hypothesis that "an external reality must exist" to even get started - otherwise a god can just decide one day to give uranium the same properties as Hydrogen even with radically different atomic structure and just play a video game simulation with us. To combat such arguments we move from science to philosophy.

A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence -
David Hume


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26-01-2014, 10:16 AM
RE: The Scientific Method



Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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