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Author Topic:   The Scientific Method For Beginners
Straggler
Member (Idle past 179 days)
Posts: 10333
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 119 of 138 (521790)
08-29-2009 7:26 AM
Reply to: Message 80 by Dr Adequate
08-27-2009 2:15 AM


Distraction
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?
Not your belief that you have two legs. No.
But in philosophy of science terms it is not proven, and never can be, that you actually have two legs. You could be an example of that philosophers favourite a "brain in a jar" with no legs at all.
How relevant this particular philosophical consideration is to this topic is debatable. I would suggest it is a distration from the main aim of your topic. But if you refuse to even make a quick concilatory nod to such philosophical considerations then I feel that you are destined to spend most of the rest of this thread defending that position.
Anyway I'll leave it at that. Feel free to ignore this particular distraction.
Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.

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

Replies to this message:
 Message 120 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-29-2009 8:57 AM Straggler has replied
 Message 126 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-29-2009 12:20 PM Straggler has replied

  
Straggler
Member (Idle past 179 days)
Posts: 10333
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 121 of 138 (521796)
08-29-2009 9:04 AM
Reply to: Message 120 by Dr Adequate
08-29-2009 8:57 AM


Re: Distraction
Very well. If the proposition that I have two legs was carefully examined by anyone who could a) examine me b) count c) define the word "leg", would their conclusion be "tentative"?
Technically - Yes. In any practical sense worth actually worrying about - No.
The place that this particular consideration has in the philosophy of science is that it is obligate on every philosopher of science to explain why we should in practice ignore it.
Then ignore away.
But don't be surprised if you get continually harassed by people making these same trivial, irrelevant and annoying points everytime you use the term "proven".
Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 120 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-29-2009 8:57 AM Dr Adequate has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 122 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-29-2009 9:33 AM Straggler has replied

  
Straggler
Member (Idle past 179 days)
Posts: 10333
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 123 of 138 (521804)
08-29-2009 9:46 AM
Reply to: Message 122 by Dr Adequate
08-29-2009 9:33 AM


Re: Distraction
You, on the other hand, if you insist on using your "technical" language, may possibly run into derision rather more often.
If I start questioning the number of legs football players actually have the next time I am watching a match in the pub - Then you would certainly be right. And such derision would be quite justified.
However if I were to be discussing the scientific method or, more generally, the philosophy of science then such considerations are arguably less justifiably dismissed with mere derision.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 122 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-29-2009 9:33 AM Dr Adequate has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 124 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-29-2009 10:51 AM Straggler has replied

  
Straggler
Member (Idle past 179 days)
Posts: 10333
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 125 of 138 (521815)
08-29-2009 11:23 AM
Reply to: Message 124 by Dr Adequate
08-29-2009 10:51 AM


Tentativity
The reason that tentativity is important in science is because it is an acknowledgement of the fact that we can never knowingly have ALL of the relevant evidence. It is an acknowledgement of the very practical limitations imposed on knowledge and certainty. It is an acknowledgement of the possibility that new evidence can turn up that will completely blow away much of what we think we know.
As applied to the number of legs you have (or other such examples) the whole things is fairly academic as the only way such conclusions could be wrong is if you are a "brain in a jar", dweller in a matrix or some other equally pointlessly irrefutable philosophical consideration.
However tentativity as an acknowledgement of the very practical fact that we can never knowingly have all of the relevant evidence is a rather key aspect of any discourse that seeks to consider how confident we can be in our evidence or the conclusions that we derive from our evidence. This remains true no matter how many legs you may or may not have.
Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 124 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-29-2009 10:51 AM Dr Adequate has not replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 127 by kbertsche, posted 08-29-2009 12:21 PM Straggler has not replied
 Message 128 by Modulous, posted 08-29-2009 2:15 PM Straggler has replied

  
Straggler
Member (Idle past 179 days)
Posts: 10333
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 129 of 138 (521838)
08-29-2009 2:45 PM
Reply to: Message 128 by Modulous
08-29-2009 2:15 PM


Re: Tentativity
Modulus writes:
So really, I think Dr A is talking about the practical, real-world, as practiced scientific method. As opposed to the 'ideal scientific method' which nobody geniunely follows all the time because it would interfere with getting on with the business of having a life.
Indeed. Which is why I wrote the following in Message 119.
Straggler writes:
How relevant this particular philosophical consideration is to this topic is debatable. I would suggest it is a distration from the main aim of your topic. But if you refuse to even make a quick concilatory nod to such philosophical considerations then I feel that you are destined to spend most of the rest of this thread defending that position.
Anyway I'll leave it at that. Feel free to ignore this particular distraction.
But Dr A did not ignore the "distraction" and I, rightly or wrongly, felt compelled to respond in turn.
Anyway: All of this is a distraction from what I think you, I and Dr A would all very probably agree (minor quibbles aside) is the main point of this thread. Ultimately all three of us are on the same "side" in this. So I will now shut-up.
Unless of course I get another response that I feel compelled to rise to

This message is a reply to:
 Message 128 by Modulous, posted 08-29-2009 2:15 PM Modulous has seen this message but not replied

  
Straggler
Member (Idle past 179 days)
Posts: 10333
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 131 of 138 (521840)
08-29-2009 3:12 PM
Reply to: Message 126 by Dr Adequate
08-29-2009 12:20 PM


Re: Scientific Doubt Versus Philosophical Doubt
What should we write in our science books? --- for example, that humans have one heart, or three, or none? According to our normal ideas, we are obliged to say one. And according to the principle of philosophical doubt, we can't say one way or the other.
We should write what we find to be true.
As long as we acknowledge the very practical fact that no scientific conclusion can ever be based on knowingly having 100% of the relevant evidence then a degree of tentativity is an inevitable byproduct. The admission that we are drawing conclusions on incomplete evidence is what logically leads to the other components of the scientific method you mention even being necessary.
We wouldn't need to hypothesise or test conclusions if we had complete evidence available. Thus the principle of tentativity is inherent and innate within the scientific method even as you have described it. Sometimes this actually matters in practise. Much of the time, as you so eagerly point out, it doesn't.
But given that in this context you have called it "irrelevant" and I have called this a "distraction" there is little point distracting this thread down this line any further. As I said to Mod above I will now stop. But I hope that I have managed to explain why I, and I think others, are giving this whole "tentativity thing" more airtime than you would wish despite essentially agreeing with you as to it's irrelevance in the more practical context you are exploring.
Feel free to have the last word on this should you so wish.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 126 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-29-2009 12:20 PM Dr Adequate has not replied

  
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