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Author Topic:   Scientific Theory For Dummies
Coyote
Member (Idle past 272 days)
Posts: 6117
Joined: 01-12-2008


Message 46 of 57 (574607)
08-16-2010 8:36 PM
Reply to: Message 44 by Tram law
08-16-2010 8:20 PM


since, anybody with enough skill can find something wrong with some part and turn it against the body of work?

For this kind of thing I am keeping in mind the general practice of Creationists who do this kind of thing.


The evidence against a theory has to be meaningful. An example often used is a rabbit in pre-Cambrian deposits. If that evidence were real, it would be meaningful and would certainly have to be explained in some manner other than the current theory of evolution.

But the objections that we have seen from creationists so far have always been scientifically meaningless. A couple of brief examples:

--Dates that contradict the young earth belief are wrong because they are based on assumptions (no evidence that the assumptions are incorrect, just the implication that "assumptions" means "wrong").

--Micro-evolution is fine but macro-evolution can't happen (no explanation given for the boundary that stops the micros from adding up to macros over time, just the edict that it can't happen).

I suspect one of the reasons creationists always come up with meaningless objections to evolution is that they don't study it, or any of the sciences upon which it is based.* As one told me on another website, "the highest form of knowledge is scripture."

* There are a few exceptions, such as the scientists who undertook the RATE project. The problem they encountered is that they let their religious beliefs override their scientific findings.


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.
This message is a reply to:
 Message 44 by Tram law, posted 08-16-2010 8:20 PM Tram law has not yet responded

  
subbie
Member
Posts: 3509
Joined: 02-26-2006


(1)
Message 47 of 57 (574617)
08-16-2010 10:00 PM
Reply to: Message 44 by Tram law
08-16-2010 8:20 PM


Because what confuses me is that it sounds like a person is supposed to do anything they can to find out if something is wrong,...

Yes, that is exactly what scientists try to do, prove a theory wrong. The reason for this is simple; there's no way to prove a theory right. No matter how much a theory explains or how powerful the predictions it makes, it might always be incorrect. There is always the possibility that more evidence will be found that invalidates a theory, or someone may come up with a better explanation for the same evidence. And the best way to find that potential contradictory evidence is to challenge theories. In addition, the more challenges a theory survives, the stronger it is considered.

...then if something is wrong then it calls the entire body of work into question.

It's actually considerably more complicated than that. The first step when seemingly contradictory evidence is found is to see if the theory can be modified to accommodate the new evidence. This happens all the time. I would venture to guess that no significant theory has ever remained completely unchanged from its first inception to the present time. There's also the possibility that the new evidence is actually incorrect. But in essence you are correct. If there is verifiable evidence that a theory cannot account for, that does call into question the entire body of work. Because a theory that cannot be reconciled with all the evidence obviously has something wrong with it.

Because if that was the way science truly work, then how can there be any progress, since, anybody with enough skill can find something wrong with some part and turn it against the body of work?

That's why an idea that has been accorded the status of a theory is very highly regarded in science. A theory is a comprehensive explanation of a broad body of evidence that nobody has been able to find anything wrong with. A scientific theory is not simply a guess that someone has made.

For this kind of thing I am keeping in mind the general practice of Creationists who do this kind of thing.

Well, with very few exceptions, the things that creationists think are problems with the Theory of Evolution are not problems at all. Often the things they say are simply factually incorrect. Most of the rest of it consists of things that creationists just don't understand, so they think they are problems.


Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus. -- Thomas Jefferson

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and non-believers. -- Barack Obama

We see monsters where science shows us windmills. -- Phat

It has always struck me as odd that fundies devote so much time and effort into trying to find a naturalistic explanation for their mythical flood, while looking for magical explanations for things that actually happened. -- Dr. Adequate


This message is a reply to:
 Message 44 by Tram law, posted 08-16-2010 8:20 PM Tram law has not yet responded

  
ringo
Member
Posts: 16637
From: frozen wasteland
Joined: 03-23-2005
Member Rating: 2.9


Message 48 of 57 (574623)
08-16-2010 10:37 PM
Reply to: Message 44 by Tram law
08-16-2010 8:20 PM


Tram law writes:

Because what confuses me is that it sounds like a person is supposed to do anything they can to find out if something is wrong, then if something is wrong then it calls the entire body of work into question.


That's pretty much how it works in the real world too. If you invent a new product, you try as hard as you can to break it. Otherwise, you can be pretty sure that one of your customers will figure out how to break it and then you will look bad.


Life is like a Hot Wheels car. Sometimes it goes behind the couch and you can't find it.
This message is a reply to:
 Message 44 by Tram law, posted 08-16-2010 8:20 PM Tram law has not yet responded

  
Taz
Member (Idle past 1457 days)
Posts: 5069
From: Zerus
Joined: 07-18-2006


Message 49 of 57 (574628)
08-16-2010 11:18 PM
Reply to: Message 44 by Tram law
08-16-2010 8:20 PM


Tram law writes:

Because what confuses me is that it sounds like a person is supposed to do anything they can to find out if something is wrong, then if something is wrong then it calls the entire body of work into question. And that kind of thing is very bothersome to me.

Because if that was the way science truly work, then how can there be any progress, since, anybody with enough skill can find something wrong with some part and turn it against the body of work?


Let me ask you something. Let say that you write an essay to be read by by someone else to your entire school. Would you rather you and some people you trust catch all the grammatical errors before the paper is read to your entire school or would you rather your paper be read with all the errors?

In the real world, a good company is a company that scrutinizes its products to find out if there is anything majorly wrong with it before the products go into the market. A defective product could mean the end of the company.

This is why I am currently very annoyed with all the fake products like the ipods and touchphones coming from China. The Chinese philosophy seems to be to make the crappiest, cheapest product possible and through a combination of scamming and false advertising try to make the most amount of money out of the product as possible.

That's what creationism boils down to essentially. This is why those of us who have worked in academia can smell pseudo-science from a mile away.

In real science, we try as hard as we can to "break" our own work just so we don't look like a fool when someone else break our work. Those couple of researchers who "discovered" cold fusion back in the 70's couldn't even sell used cars afterwards.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 44 by Tram law, posted 08-16-2010 8:20 PM Tram law has not yet responded

  
Tram law
Member (Idle past 2870 days)
Posts: 283
From: Weed, California, USA
Joined: 08-15-2010


Message 50 of 57 (574721)
08-17-2010 12:52 PM


Well, here's the kind of thing I mean:

Lets say you want to test the phrase Ivory Soap floats.

So you take that as a hypothesis and design an experiment. You get a tank and fill it with water and put the bar of Ivory Soap in the water. Then, let's say you do this experiment 1000 times. It floats for 998 times, but for two times it does not float.

Now, wouldn't the overwhelming evidence be that Ivory Soap floats? And wouldn't that also make it a theory?

Because, if we take the philosophy that in order to see if something is wrong with the experiment, that is to say there is any kind of mistake what so ever, then somebody can point to those two times that Ivory Soap didn't float that it would call into question the entire experiment so that people can say things like "it's impossible for Ivory Soap top float".

That's what is confusing me about what you mean by falsification.


Replies to this message:
 Message 51 by subbie, posted 08-17-2010 1:04 PM Tram law has not yet responded
 Message 56 by Coyote, posted 08-17-2010 1:59 PM Tram law has not yet responded

  
subbie
Member
Posts: 3509
Joined: 02-26-2006


Message 51 of 57 (574723)
08-17-2010 1:04 PM
Reply to: Message 50 by Tram law
08-17-2010 12:52 PM


Okay, the first problem with your hypothetical is that what you have constructed isn't really a theory, at least not in scientific terms. As I described upthread, a theory is a comprehensive explanation of a broad body of evidence that nobody has been able to find anything wrong with.

What you have stated is more properly described as a hypothesis. Your hypothesis could be broadened into a theory if you expanded it to a more general statement describing how and under what conditions different things float.

Now, if we were to look at the results of your experiments, we'd try to find out the reason the two bars didn't float. Were they not in fact Ivory Soap but an imposter? Were they made by the Ivory Soap company, but using a different formula or manufacturing process? Was there a change in the environmental conditions that would account for the different outcome? Were the two non-floating bars tampered with by inserting a lump of lead?

Most scientists would conclude from the results you describe that there was something different to explain the different outcome and look for that difference. Depending on what they found, that difference could be used to flesh out the hypothesis into something broader that might become a theory.

But certainly, if 998 times out of a thousand the results showed that Ivory Soap floats, you'd have to be a creationist to conclude that it's impossible for Ivory Soap to float just because it sank twice. That's simply irrational.


Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus. -- Thomas Jefferson

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and non-believers. -- Barack Obama

We see monsters where science shows us windmills. -- Phat

It has always struck me as odd that fundies devote so much time and effort into trying to find a naturalistic explanation for their mythical flood, while looking for magical explanations for things that actually happened. -- Dr. Adequate


This message is a reply to:
 Message 50 by Tram law, posted 08-17-2010 12:52 PM Tram law has not yet responded

  
Tram law
Member (Idle past 2870 days)
Posts: 283
From: Weed, California, USA
Joined: 08-15-2010


Message 52 of 57 (574724)
08-17-2010 1:08 PM


quote:

What you have stated is more properly described as a hypothesis. Your hypothesis could be broadened into a theory if you expanded it to a more general statement describing how and under what conditions different things float.


So a theory has to have more than one result from an experiment?

But yeah, with the two bars that didn't float I would also investigate what materials they were made of to see why they didn't float.


Replies to this message:
 Message 53 by subbie, posted 08-17-2010 1:19 PM Tram law has not yet responded
 Message 54 by jar, posted 08-17-2010 1:22 PM Tram law has not yet responded
 Message 57 by misha, posted 08-17-2010 3:05 PM Tram law has not yet responded

  
subbie
Member
Posts: 3509
Joined: 02-26-2006


(1)
Message 53 of 57 (574725)
08-17-2010 1:19 PM
Reply to: Message 52 by Tram law
08-17-2010 1:08 PM


So a theory has to have more than one result from an experiment?

Yes, and it normally describes a broader range of facts than can be investigated in one single experiment.

But yeah, with the two bars that didn't float I would also investigate what materials they were made of to see why they didn't float.

And that's why scientists don't simply discard a theory, or even a hypothesis, because of one negative result. There isn't really any hard and fast rule about how many negative results are enough to sink a theory or hypothesis, it really depends on how strong the theory is and how strong the evidence against it is.

Also, one posting tip. When you're replying to a message, it's a good idea to use the reply button that you see near the bottom of that message. That helps others see who you are replying to, and also sends an email message to the poster of that message to tell them that someone has replied. It helps keep things a bit more organized.


Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus. -- Thomas Jefferson

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and non-believers. -- Barack Obama

We see monsters where science shows us windmills. -- Phat

It has always struck me as odd that fundies devote so much time and effort into trying to find a naturalistic explanation for their mythical flood, while looking for magical explanations for things that actually happened. -- Dr. Adequate


This message is a reply to:
 Message 52 by Tram law, posted 08-17-2010 1:08 PM Tram law has not yet responded

  
jar
Member
Posts: 30985
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004
Member Rating: 4.5


Message 54 of 57 (574727)
08-17-2010 1:22 PM
Reply to: Message 52 by Tram law
08-17-2010 1:08 PM


You also need to understand falsification.

For example, in your example the hypothesis that "Ivory soap always floats in water" is refuted by just those two examples (or even one example) that sinks.


Anyone so limited that they can only spell a word one way is severely handicapped!
This message is a reply to:
 Message 52 by Tram law, posted 08-17-2010 1:08 PM Tram law has not yet responded

  
Tram law
Member (Idle past 2870 days)
Posts: 283
From: Weed, California, USA
Joined: 08-15-2010


Message 55 of 57 (574731)
08-17-2010 1:42 PM


quote:

You also need to understand falsification.


I never stated I did understand it fully. That's why I'm asking about it.

quote:

Also, one posting tip.

Thank you for the tip.


  
Coyote
Member (Idle past 272 days)
Posts: 6117
Joined: 01-12-2008


Message 56 of 57 (574735)
08-17-2010 1:59 PM
Reply to: Message 50 by Tram law
08-17-2010 12:52 PM


Ivory soap
I would look at that experiment as demonstrating a fact, rather than constituting a theory. A general explanation of why Ivory soap and similar objects float might be a theory.

Theory: a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world; an organized system of accepted knowledge that applies in a variety of circumstances to explain a specific set of phenomena; theories can incorporate facts and laws and tested hypotheses. Theories do not grow up to be laws. Theories explain laws.

Theory: A scientifically testable general principle or body of principles offered to explain observed phenomena. In scientific usage, a theory is distinct from a hypothesis (or conjecture) that is proposed to explain previously observed phenomena. For a hypothesis to rise to the level of theory, it must predict the existence of new phenomena that are subsequently observed. A theory can be overturned if new phenomena are observed that directly contradict the theory. [Source]

Fact: when an observation is confirmed repeatedly and by many independent and competent observers, it can become a fact.


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.
This message is a reply to:
 Message 50 by Tram law, posted 08-17-2010 12:52 PM Tram law has not yet responded

  
misha
Member (Idle past 2794 days)
Posts: 69
From: Atlanta
Joined: 02-04-2010


Message 57 of 57 (574746)
08-17-2010 3:05 PM
Reply to: Message 52 by Tram law
08-17-2010 1:08 PM


Tram Law writes:

So a theory has to have more than one result from an experiment?

Yes, the result of a single experiment is usually just a fact. There is almost always a theory in place that describes why that result occurred along with numerous other facts.

coyote writes:

I would look at that experiment as demonstrating a fact, rather than constituting a theory. A general explanation of why Ivory soap and similar objects float might be a theory.

And in fact, the "floating of Ivory Soap" may be best covered by The Theory of Gravity. Whereby we replace "floating" with bouyant force and describe its opposition to the gravitational force in relation to the total mass of water displaced by the submerged portion of the Ivory Soap bar in comparison to its own mass.

So this Theory of Ivory Soap is not at all a theory but a fact that can be explained by a current theory. There are an unfathomable number of facts. In relation there are very few things that get the status of Theory.

Tram, you are asking good questions. Keep it up.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 52 by Tram law, posted 08-17-2010 1:08 PM Tram law has not yet responded

  
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