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Author Topic:   The Scientific Method For Beginners
subbie
Member (Idle past 1368 days)
Posts: 3509
Joined: 02-26-2006


Message 3 of 138 (514122)
07-03-2009 10:25 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Dr Adequate
07-03-2009 9:45 PM


I have a number of small quibbles with your description, mostly related to terminology. However, there is one big exception I take that I will begin with.
Even if our hypothesis does not completely agree with reality, that is seldom a reason to completely dispose of it and start over. I'd venture to guess that very few, if any, hypotheses correspond exactly with reality. Certainly, a hypothesis of any sophistication that attempts to tie many different observations together into a comprehensive theory is very unlikely to be 100% accurate in its first incarnation.
Instead, if a hypothesis has flaws, the first step is to see if the flaws can be corrected while keeping the major premises of the hypothesis intact. Thus, I would add another step, or perhaps modify step (4), to allow for modification of the hypothesis, if possible, to account for discrepancies between the hypothesis and observations made in the testing step.

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

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Dr Adequate, posted 07-03-2009 9:45 PM Dr Adequate has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 4 by Dr Adequate, posted 07-03-2009 10:35 PM subbie has replied

  
subbie
Member (Idle past 1368 days)
Posts: 3509
Joined: 02-26-2006


Message 5 of 138 (514127)
07-03-2009 10:43 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by Dr Adequate
07-03-2009 10:35 PM


I understand that what you are doing to trying to build a bare bones description of the process to establish a starting position for discussion. That's why I'm content to disregard most of the quibbles I mentioned. But I think the idea of modifying a flawed hypothesis needs to be made explicit in even the simplest description.
One common arrow in a cdesign proponentists's quiver is bringing forward some perceived flaw in the the ToE, or some perceived contradictory bit of evidence, as if it will bring the entire edifice tumbling to the ground. Almost invariably, the perceived problem is nonexistent, but I think it's very important to make clear that even if a genuine problem is discovered, no one single straw can break the back of the camel that is the ToE.

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

This message is a reply to:
 Message 4 by Dr Adequate, posted 07-03-2009 10:35 PM Dr Adequate has not replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 6 by Coyote, posted 07-03-2009 11:36 PM subbie has not replied
 Message 9 by CosmicChimp, posted 07-04-2009 8:26 PM subbie has replied

  
subbie
Member (Idle past 1368 days)
Posts: 3509
Joined: 02-26-2006


Message 27 of 138 (514908)
07-13-2009 9:58 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by CosmicChimp
07-04-2009 8:26 PM


If you want to include modifying a hypothesis into step 1, sort of a feedback loop, I wouldn't argue against that. I still think that that bit should be made explicit.
However, I disagree strongly with your claim that a tiny incongruence might bring down the entire body of the ToE. Incongruences are measured against the whole of the evidence in support of a theory. A theory as well-supported as the ToE cannot fall to any single incongruence. While I agree with you that tiny incongruences are the meat of trying to find out where a theory is flawed, and are important in tweaking the details of a theory, that's not responsive to the point that I made. Any theory that is as strongly supported as the ToE will survive not only a single tiny incongruence, but even a fusillade of significant incongruences.

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

This message is a reply to:
 Message 9 by CosmicChimp, posted 07-04-2009 8:26 PM CosmicChimp has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 28 by CosmicChimp, posted 07-13-2009 10:42 PM subbie has replied

  
subbie
Member (Idle past 1368 days)
Posts: 3509
Joined: 02-26-2006


Message 29 of 138 (514920)
07-13-2009 11:35 PM
Reply to: Message 28 by CosmicChimp
07-13-2009 10:42 PM


I didn't necessarily mean to limit my comments to a specific theory. Anytime one is determining whether to abandon a theory based on incongruencies, the decision is based on the strength of the theory, the supporting evidence, and the weight of the conflicting facts. I did use the ToE as an example of a very strongly supported theory, but never meant my comments to apply only to the ToE.
I do not think my suggestion is either superfluous or distracting. Instead, I consider it to be a vital part of the scientific method. Your earlier point was that tiny incongruences can mean the end of a theory. However, they don't, until efforts to revise the theory are exhausted. For a stronger theory, more effort will be expended to save it from an apparent conflict. But the process of modifying a theory to account for incongruences can take a significant percentage of the time and effort spent in developing the original hypothesis. To not mention this process at all, or to subsume it within the step of the initial hypothesis without making it an explicit part would, in my opinion, amount to a serious omission that would leave the reader with a faulty understanding of the process as a whole.

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

This message is a reply to:
 Message 28 by CosmicChimp, posted 07-13-2009 10:42 PM CosmicChimp has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 30 by CosmicChimp, posted 07-14-2009 12:17 AM subbie has not replied

  
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