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Author Topic:   The Scientific Method For Beginners
Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16095
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 76 of 138 (521275)
08-26-2009 5:33 PM
Reply to: Message 73 by Percy
08-26-2009 4:02 PM


Tentativity isn't mere philosophy. It's foundational to science.

Oh, now you're just jerking me around.

When I believe that I have two legs, is that belief tentative?

tentative
Adjective
1. provisional or unconfirmed: a tentative agreement
2. hesitant, uncertain, or cautious: their rather tentative approach

Is that really the attitude I should take to the proposition that I have two legs? Except in the wildest daydreams of philosophers?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 73 by Percy, posted 08-26-2009 4:02 PM Percy has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 77 by Percy, posted 08-26-2009 7:27 PM Dr Adequate has responded

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 18478
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 2.8


Message 77 of 138 (521285)
08-26-2009 7:27 PM
Reply to: Message 76 by Dr Adequate
08-26-2009 5:33 PM


In science certainty can never reach 100%. This may feel like a philosophical nicety to you when counting legs, and if you want to claim that your observation of having two legs has 100% scientific certainty then I doubt anyone cares, but you're going to get consistent objections to claims of scientific certainty concerning creation/evolution issues from many on both sides of the debate. Even our facts are tentative.

--Percy


This message is a reply to:
 Message 76 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-26-2009 5:33 PM Dr Adequate has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 80 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-27-2009 2:15 AM Percy has responded

    
RAZD
Member
Posts: 19869
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 5.5


Message 78 of 138 (521294)
08-26-2009 8:37 PM
Reply to: Message 61 by Arphy
08-26-2009 7:11 AM


Re: Creationists Versus The Scientific Method
Hi Arphy, we are treading close to the topic/off-topic line, but perhaps this can be discussed as an example of scientific method as used by creationists.

hmm... as you can guess i disagree with this statement. An example is the prediction made by Russell Humphreys a creationist using a creation model, He predicted the strength of the magnetic fields of Uranus and Neptune. These were then proven correct by Voyager II, unlike any of the secular predictions.

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/magfields.html

quote:
I have presented these equations, because this last one is actually quite important, in light of Humphreys' chosen method for testing his theory on the magnetic field of the earth. Humphreys uses a Barnes-type exponential fit to the dipole data for the earth, and derives a characteristic decay time (T) of 2049 +/- 79 years. Setting k = 0.25 he derives an Mc for the earth of 1.41 1024 J/T. He then plugs this value of Mc, the Biblical value of t and the current value of M into the equation above, and computes a value of T = 2075 years, concluding "This value agrees with the measured value in (7) to better than two percent, well within the experimental error" [20, page 143]. However, because k is a free parameter in the equation for Mc, so is Mc a free parameter in the equation above for T. This means that Humphreys could not compute a value of T from his theory that was not very close to his 'measured' value, since he can always find a suitable arbitrary value for Mc.

It is for this reason that I am not impressed by Humphreys' confidence in his theory's ability to predict the magnetic dipole moments for Uranus and Neptune, before the Voyager spacecraft observed them. Humphreys' predictions for Uranus [20, page 146] and Neptune [20, page 147] both state that the dipole strength should be "on the order of 1024 J/T". He connects these predictions to his theory by selecting a value for k = 0.25 in both cases, computing a dipole strength at creation, and then estimating a characteristic decay time assuming a core conductivity similar to the terrestrial planets. This brings on the estimate of 1024 J/T, but remember that the dipole at creation is an entirely free parameter. A peek at Humphreys' table II [20, page 147] shows that the dipole for Jupiter is 1.6 1027, for Saturn 4.3 1025, and for Earth 7.9 1022. From these values alone, with reference to no theory at all, one can immediately see that the dipole values for Uranus and Neptune must be larger that Earth's 1022 and smaller than Saturn's 1025, so that anything in the 1023 to 1024 range is an obvious guess anyway. All Humphreys has to do is come up with a dipole at creation that is about the same as Saturn's is now, and the result is going to be very nearly right. We now know the dipole values for Uranus [3.7 1024 J/T] and Neptune [2.1 1024 J/T], which do indeed agree with Humphreys' order of magnitude predictions. But to hail this as a confirmation of his theory is not very rewarding. Indeed, it is my position that Humphreys' theory cannot be confirmed, since it predicts at once every possible observed field, and is therefore useless for predicting anything.


I'll let others pursue this rabbithole with a new thread, but for now I note that this is far from explaining the evidence at this point.

Rather it looks like the calculations were fudged to arrive at values consistent for the Earth and Saturn, and then those fudged values were used to predict values for Uranus and Neptune, giving results accurate enough to be in the ball park. I don't call that success, I call it good fudging from known empirical information.

Engineers fit curves to known data all the time in order to "predict" other values for design, but such curve-fitting is not an explanation of why the curve exists in the data.

Yip, true (although depends on how you define evolve, but you know my position on that already).

Curiously, the only way to define "evolve" is the way it is used in biological evolution or you are talking about something else and pretending to debate in good faith. It's called the fallacy of equivocation. If you want to see how it is defined within the science you can look at:

http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/IIntro.shtml
http://www.globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange1/current/lectures/selection/selection.html
and
http://www.globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange1/current/lectures/speciation/speciation.html

These universities teach evolutionary biology, so you can be sure the definitions are ones used in the science. Both are good reading for basic information on evolution as it is studied today.

Absolutly True. Same goes for any other person on earth whether creationist, evolutionist, or ...ist.
...
No evidence doesn't lie. Yes to testing the validity of an argument by how completly it explains all the evidence.

Agreed, so then, rather than rely on any opinions on the matter, we should look for conclusions and hypothesis that are logically deducted directly from the known evidence, and use those to predict new findings that will validate or invalidate the hypothesis. Curiously, this is how the scientific method works: it doesn't matter what concept you start with, what matters is that you can test concepts against evidence and discard concepts that are invalidated by evidence - no matter what the concept is.

quote:
if you want to pursue this topic see Age Correlations and An Old Earth, Version 2 No 1.
Thanks, I'll go have a look.

See you there. Note that the issue is not dates per se but the correlations between them from all the different sources.

Enjoy.

Edited by RAZD, : and Saturn


we are limited in our ability to understand
by our ability to understand
Rebel American Zen Deist
... to learn ... to think ... to live ... to laugh ...
to share.


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This message is a reply to:
 Message 61 by Arphy, posted 08-26-2009 7:11 AM Arphy has not yet responded

  
kbertsche
Member (Idle past 295 days)
Posts: 1427
From: San Jose, CA, USA
Joined: 05-10-2007


Message 79 of 138 (521304)
08-26-2009 10:07 PM
Reply to: Message 75 by Dr Adequate
08-26-2009 5:26 PM


This is the third time I have asked:
Can you point to any well-known philosophers of science who use your terminology? Or any subfields of science where your terminology is standard?

If you can't, that's OK; simply admit it.

And this is the second time I've asked:

What field of science are you active in or trained in, BTW?

By this question, I'm trying to understand your background to provide a context for your wording. (BTW, I am trained and working as a physicist.)

quote:
And will any of them [physicists] really claim that I cannot prove that I have two legs? Except in the special philosophical sense in which this is true?

Your are confusing categories. That you have two legs is an observational fact not a scientific theory. Most physicists would simply call this an observation or a fact, it would be unusual for them to use the word proven in this context.

Getting back to scientific theories such as gravity, electromagnetism, standard model, Big Bang--I know of no physicist who would call these theories "proven," not even in colloquial speech. They would use words like "verified" or "validated."

quote:
And your mother is a whore.

What, did you find that insulting?



You are being intentionally and unnecessarily offensive. Am I to infer that you have run out of data or logic to support your claims, and are left to ad hominem?

quote:
Well, I am equally insulted by you telling me that I'm "disingenous".

I did not intend to offend or insult you personally, and I apologize that it came across that way. But perhaps you need to re-read my post. I labeled your proposal not you, as disingenuous. And I explained why: the proposal is tantamount to regarding something as true which is really false.

Perhaps "disingenuous" was not the best choice of words. Maybe "deceptive" or "delusive" or "wrong" would be better, or some other adjective which captures the sense of "a proposal to regard something as true which is really false."


This message is a reply to:
 Message 75 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-26-2009 5:26 PM Dr Adequate has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 81 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-27-2009 2:38 AM kbertsche has responded

    
Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16095
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 80 of 138 (521329)
08-27-2009 2:15 AM
Reply to: Message 77 by Percy
08-26-2009 7:27 PM


In science certainty can never reach 100%. This may feel like a philosophical nicety to you when counting legs, and if you want to claim that your observation of having two legs has 100% scientific certainty then ...

... then I would be made entirely out of straw.

Now let us consider the position of a real person who actually exists, namely you. Would you really describe my belief that I have two legs as tentative?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 77 by Percy, posted 08-26-2009 7:27 PM Percy has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 83 by Percy, posted 08-27-2009 9:25 AM Dr Adequate has responded
 Message 119 by Straggler, posted 08-29-2009 7:26 AM Dr Adequate has responded

  
Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16095
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 81 of 138 (521332)
08-27-2009 2:38 AM
Reply to: Message 79 by kbertsche
08-26-2009 10:07 PM


If you can't, that's OK; simply admit it.

I've read Popper, Kuhn, Feyerabend and Nagel. I will wager that that's four more writers on the philosophy of science than you've ever read. Oh, would you count Wittgenstein and Hume? How about Kant? None of them contradicts what I actually wrote, which is that we are obliged to regard certain propositions as proven.

Now, I too have asked you a question, namely whether there's anyone in the world who, philosophical quibbling aside, would deny that I can prove that I have two legs.

If you can't introduce me to such a person, that's OK. Simply admit it.

And this is the second time I've asked:

What field of science are you active in or trained in, BTW?

I didn't notice you asking that before. I am a mathematician. That is, I am active in the very field to which strict Popperians would reserve the word "proof".

Thanks for asking.

Your are confusing categories.

No, I am not.

Your assertion against mine, who will win?

You are being intentionally and unnecessarily offensive.

Yes, I am. I'm glad you noticed, otherwise I'd have been wasting my time there.

Am I to infer that you have run out of data or logic to support your claims, and are left to ad hominem?

No, you are to infer that when you call my arguments "disingenuous", that is different only in degree from if I say that your mother's a whore. It is an insult without warrant.

I did not intend to offend or insult you personally, and I apologize that it came across that way.

Apology accepted.

Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 79 by kbertsche, posted 08-26-2009 10:07 PM kbertsche has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 92 by kbertsche, posted 08-28-2009 12:36 PM Dr Adequate has not yet responded

  
Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16095
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 82 of 138 (521351)
08-27-2009 6:40 AM
Reply to: Message 74 by kbertsche
08-26-2009 4:36 PM


Trial By Jury
You: So, Dr Adequate, you claim that you have two legs?

Me: Yes.

You: You are absolutely certain that you have two legs?

Me: Yes.

You: Can you prove that before this court?

Me: Yes. If the court will allow it, I will now remove my pants.

Judge: In the interests of justice, I'm going to allow that.

Me: See, this is me with my pants off. I have two legs. Count 'em.

You: So you claim to have proved that you have two legs?

Me: Well, actually, I'm kind of interested in epistemological philosophy. So it might be a more accurate statement of my position to say that we are obliged to regard it as proven.

You: I invite the jury to observe the shifty demeanor of the witness. Also that he's ugly. But let me ask you again, Dr Adequate --- if that is your real name --- have you or have you not just proved that you have two legs?

Me: Well, you know, when we start using the term "proof", it all depends what we ...

You: If it please the court, I should like the court reporter to read back the questions put to the witness, and the answers given by the witness.

Judge: I shall allow that.

Court reporter: "So, Dr Adequate, you claim that you have two legs?" "Yes." "You are absolutely certain that you have two legs?" "Yes." "Can you prove that before this court?" "Yes. If the court will allow it, I will now remove my ..."

You: That's enough. So, Dr Adequate --- if that is your real pseudonym --- you testified under oath that you could prove that you have two legs.

Me: I guess.

You: You guess? Shall I get the court reporter to read your testimony to you again?

Me: OK, OK, I admit it! I really can prove that I have two legs.

You: And you claim to have proven this remarkable claim before this court?

Me: Yes, dammit. I'm standing here wearing no pants.

You: And yet, Dr Adequate, I put it to you that hypothetically there might exist some supernatural being ...

My lawyer: Objection, Your Honor! If it please the court, this line of questioning has no relevance.

Judge: Over-ruled. Apart from anything else, I really want to see where this is going.

You: Thank you, Your Honor. So, Dr Adequate, I put it to you that a magical invisible being possessing supernatural powers could fool us all into thinking that you have two legs, when in fact you have five tentacles, or seven pseudopodia.

Me: Well ... in principle ... I guess so.

You: And if you admit this possibility, then you cannot prove that you have two legs?

Me: I guess not.

You: Your Honor, if it please the court, this witness has perjured himself. He claimed that he could prove that he had two legs, and now he admits that this is impossible to prove.

Judge: Why, you silly twit. You silly, silly twit.

Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 74 by kbertsche, posted 08-26-2009 4:36 PM kbertsche has acknowledged this reply

Replies to this message:
 Message 84 by Percy, posted 08-27-2009 9:35 AM Dr Adequate has responded

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 18478
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 2.8


Message 83 of 138 (521377)
08-27-2009 9:25 AM
Reply to: Message 80 by Dr Adequate
08-27-2009 2:15 AM


Hi Dr Adequate,

I don't think I can add anything to what I've already said, and Kbertshe has been pretty clear on the matter, too. You can't claim proof of things that are only tentatively true. Even visual observations, such as of canals on Mars or N-Rays, are tentative. Science doesn't consider things proven until disproven. It tentatively accepts things to varying degrees according to the evidence as measured by a consensus within the relevant scientific subcommunity.

--Percy


This message is a reply to:
 Message 80 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-27-2009 2:15 AM Dr Adequate has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 85 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-27-2009 11:40 AM Percy has acknowledged this reply

    
Percy
Member
Posts: 18478
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 2.8


Message 84 of 138 (521378)
08-27-2009 9:35 AM
Reply to: Message 82 by Dr Adequate
08-27-2009 6:40 AM


Re: Trial By Jury
Dr Adequate writes:

Me: Well, actually, I'm kind of interested in epistemological philosophy. So it might be a more accurate statement of my position to say that we are obliged to regard it as proven.

People accept that you have two legs because of the supporting evidence, and in an informal sense we might say that you have proven you have two legs. But in a scientific sense we can only say that we provisionally accept that you have two legs.

Your choice of terminology is a problem. You're attempting to incorporate the principle of tentativity by saying that we're only "obliged to regard it as proven," but science regards nothing as proven. "Provisionally proven" is a scientific oxymoron.

--Percy


This message is a reply to:
 Message 82 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-27-2009 6:40 AM Dr Adequate has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 87 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-27-2009 11:56 AM Percy has acknowledged this reply

    
Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16095
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 85 of 138 (521410)
08-27-2009 11:40 AM
Reply to: Message 83 by Percy
08-27-2009 9:25 AM


I don't think I can add anything to what I've already said, and Kbertshe has been pretty clear on the matter, too. You can't claim proof of things that are only tentatively true. Even visual observations, such as of canals on Mars or N-Rays, are tentative.

And my claim to have two legs? How "tentative" is that?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 83 by Percy, posted 08-27-2009 9:25 AM Percy has acknowledged this reply

Replies to this message:
 Message 86 by Rahvin, posted 08-27-2009 11:47 AM Dr Adequate has responded

  
Rahvin
Member (Idle past 1350 days)
Posts: 3964
Joined: 07-01-2005


Message 86 of 138 (521414)
08-27-2009 11:47 AM
Reply to: Message 85 by Dr Adequate
08-27-2009 11:40 AM


And my claim to have two legs? How "tentative" is that?

Not very. But there is a small possibility that your legs are a hallucination, that you are really a disembodied brain hooked into the Matrix.

Tentativity looks like an asymptote; you can never actually be completely 100% certain that even what you directly observe is true. New evidence could always trump even the most solid theory.

Of course, at a certain point certitude is so close to 100% that you may as well consider it to be completely verified for all practicalconcerns. That's why we tend not to get caught up wondering whether we're figments of someone else's imagination, or simulations of the Matrix, or whatever.

That's why "proofs" exist only in mathematics, not science.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 85 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-27-2009 11:40 AM Dr Adequate has responded

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 Message 88 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-27-2009 12:28 PM Rahvin has not yet responded

  
Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16095
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 87 of 138 (521418)
08-27-2009 11:56 AM
Reply to: Message 84 by Percy
08-27-2009 9:35 AM


Re: Trial By Jury
People accept that you have two legs because of the supporting evidence, and in an informal sense we might say that you have proven you have two legs. But in a scientific sense we can only say that we provisionally accept that you have two legs.

Then "the scientific sense" is not the English language, and if you want to use the word "proof" in your way, you should notify people when you do so. For example, every time you use the word "proof", you should say: "Oh, and so as not to mislead you, I am using the word "proof" in such a strange way that, according to my use of the word "proof", it would be actually impossible for you to prove, even to yourself, that you have two legs."

Your choice of terminology is a problem. You're attempting to incorporate the principle of tentativity by saying that we're only "obliged to regard it as proven," but science regards nothing as proven. "Provisionally proven" is a scientific oxymoron.

But we are obliged to regard some things as true.

To quote Hume:

Whether your scepticism be as absolute and sincere as you pretend, we shall learn by and by, when the company breaks up: we shall then see, whether you go out at the door or the window; and whether you really doubt if your body has gravity, or can be injured by its fall; according to popular opinion, derived from our fallacious senses, and more fallacious experience.

Well, are you going to leave by the door or the window? Right, the door. Because although you may in a philosophical debate deny that the law of gravity is proven, yet you will always act as though it was. You'd be crazy not to.

Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.


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 Message 84 by Percy, posted 08-27-2009 9:35 AM Percy has acknowledged this reply

Replies to this message:
 Message 91 by Modulous, posted 08-28-2009 12:26 PM Dr Adequate has not yet responded

  
Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16095
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 88 of 138 (521428)
08-27-2009 12:28 PM
Reply to: Message 86 by Rahvin
08-27-2009 11:47 AM


Not very. But there is a small possibility that your legs are a hallucination, that you are really a disembodied brain hooked into the Matrix.

Sure. That's what I said. And yet I'm still obliged to behave as though the world is real, because if I have what some philosopher might suggest was merely the illusion of dropping an illusory brick on my illusory foot, then I will still have the illusion that it hurts every bit as though it was real.

Tentativity looks like an asymptote ...

No it doesn't --- once you introduce the idea that we might be living in the Matrix. Once you go into this epistemological nightmare, then the accumulation of data cannot make you more and more certain of your hypothesis. You might not be approaching truth --- you might just be becoming more and more deeply duped by the illusion being fed to you.

And if you're arguing with me, aren't you meant to be sticking up for Popper? It is my view that I can legitimately become better and better convinced of a hypothesis. This is totally in opposition to his (flawed) concept of "falsification".

Of course, at a certain point certitude is so close to 100% that you may as well consider it to be completely verified for all practical concerns.

Not just "may" --- must.

That's why "proofs" exist only in mathematics, not science.

They do? Whoopee. I shall now tell all my fellow-mathematicians that although scientists can make mistakes about science, they can never make mistakes about math. Perhaps some Cartesian demon is fooling the minds of scientists into thinking that the world is not flat, but it would be impossible for a similar demon to fool the minds of mathematicians into thinking that the angles in a triangle sum to 180. For some reason.

This epistemological exception to human fallibility is a burden as well as a privilege. I hope we won't get too swanky about it.


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
 Message 89 by cavediver, posted 08-27-2009 12:48 PM Dr Adequate has responded

  
cavediver
Member (Idle past 1807 days)
Posts: 4129
From: UK
Joined: 06-16-2005


Message 89 of 138 (521430)
08-27-2009 12:48 PM
Reply to: Message 88 by Dr Adequate
08-27-2009 12:28 PM


Once you go into this epistemological nightmare, then the accumulation of data cannot make you more and more certain of your hypothesis. You might not be approaching truth --- you might just be becoming more and more deeply duped by the illusion being fed to you.

This is my own concern. We are forced into not only treating the conclusion as tentative, but every step, sub-step, and micro-step along the 10,000 year long path from "rocks fall when dropped" to "Hubble mirror can be corrected by use of X". If at each micro-step we have a finite probability of error, then the accumulated error by the final conclusion could well be material... is it?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 88 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-27-2009 12:28 PM Dr Adequate has responded

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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16095
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 90 of 138 (521587)
08-28-2009 6:20 AM
Reply to: Message 89 by cavediver
08-27-2009 12:48 PM


This is my own concern. We are forced into not only treating the conclusion as tentative, but every step, sub-step, and micro-step along the 10,000 year long path from "rocks fall when dropped" to "Hubble mirror can be corrected by use of X". If at each micro-step we have a finite probability of error, then the accumulated error by the final conclusion could well be material... is it?

Apparently not, because scientists were right about how to fix the Hubble telescope.


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 Message 89 by cavediver, posted 08-27-2009 12:48 PM cavediver has not yet responded

  
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