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  #21  
Old 06-25-2009, 07:48 AM
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To be honest, one has to point out that sometimes empirical evidence does not exist or is not clearly interpretable. In these cases, the 'battle of schools of thoughts' is fought on mainly theoretical grounds. I guess that this happens more often in social than in natural sciences (correct me if I am wrong on this; if memory serves you mentioned once that you have studied history).

To provide an example, the big question we had to ask at the beginning of the year was how much bang for the buck, how effective is deficit spending? As empirical studies yield unclear results, academics discuss it on more theoretical terms and this can easily be mistaken as dogma by the public. Which is pure irony, as the political adaptation of, in this example heading down the Keynesian road or not, is much more dogmatic than the academic discussion itself:

"The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. [...]. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back." - Keynes, General Theory
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  #22  
Old 06-25-2009, 07:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Botany Bay View Post
Theories need facts to back them up. Once a hypothesis has become a theory it is widely accepted and people get nobel prizes for it. If some schmock comes around and rejects the theory, then that means he rejects all the facts and proofs for that according theory. So, of course science then asks for the reasons of rejecting the accepted theory. And if the according scientist has no good reasons for his doubts, then yes, people will think he is a little strange.

In science you have to make the case. If you cant, then you are not a good scientist.

Theories are not oppinions.

PS: And regarding the "slow" progress of technology...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAUqA...e=channel_page

No Botany Bay.
That's what I'm talking about.
Widely accepted is just accreditation. Popularism. It doesn't equal proven. Infact it means nothing. If some Schmock comes around and rejects the theory. He's not rejecting the facts, he's rejecting the theory that is supported by the facts.

A Theory isn't concrete it's Hypothetical and Supported. Supported not Proven, not Fact in of it's self. That means there are problems proving said theory, if problems exist anyone can attempt a better explanation.

Science has been reduced to reason by popularity.
I'm very careful about filtering bias on these types of issues, I wish science was just as cautious.
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  #23  
Old 06-25-2009, 08:05 AM
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Widely accepted is just accreditation. Popularism. It doesn't equal proven. Infact it means nothing. If some Schmock comes around and rejects the theory. He's not rejecting the facts, he's rejecting the theory that the facts are based on.

A Theory isn't concrete it's Hypothetical and Supported. Supported not Proven, not Fact in of it's self. That means there are problems proving said theory, if problems exist anyone can attempt a better explanation.
Facts are not based on theory. Its the other way around: Theories are based on facts.

If someone has a better theory, than that means, he has a different set of facts, new findings, additional data not explained by the common theory.

If the Schmock does not have an additional set of data, or simply ignores certain facts, then he is not a scientist.

If the Schmock does have a new set of data AND a theory that explains that data in a way the common theory cant then science gives him a nobel prize.

A hypothesis, thats what you are talking about. A hypothesis is to speculate that certain things could exist. A hypothesis is formulated to find those thing. When they are found, then they become facts and the hypothesis becomes a proven theory.

And no, I am not nitpicking on terminology here. Thats the scientific method.
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  #24  
Old 06-25-2009, 08:17 AM
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My error. "he's rejecting the theory that is supported by the facts."

If someone thinks they have a better theory it does not necessarily follow there is any additional data or a different set of facts. That's not a logical syllogistic statement. One set of facts can Spawn many different theories and they have.

Scientist is a label of acredition. Anyone can be a scientist. A scientist, in the broadest sense, refers to any person that engages in a systematic activity to acquire knowledge.
Schmok is allowed to theorize on the unknown even if Schmock doesn't have credentials to do so. That's how it started and that's how they're made.
It is the logical premise of science.
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  #25  
Old 06-25-2009, 08:27 AM
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If someone thinks they have a better theory it does not necessarily follow there is any additional data or a different set of facts. That's not a logical syllogistic statement. One set of facts can Spawn many different theories and they have.
No, not really. One set of facts can spawn different theories, that all explain the data and are thus not contradicting eachother. Means the different theories would be rather simmilar and differ merely in formulation or less important details.

If the different theories would contradict eachother, then they would not be theories but hypotheses. In that case additional data must be gained to find out which hypothesis is the correct one.

However, in common language the term hypothesis and theory are often used interchangebly. Thats where the confusion comes from and thats why journalists often call things a theory that is actually just a hypothesis.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Saquist View Post
Scientist is a label of acredition. Anyone can be a scientist. A scientist, in the broadest sense, refers to any person that engages in a systematic activity to acquire knowledge.
Schmok is allowed to theorize on the unknown even if Schmock doesn't have credentials to do so. That's how it started and that's how they're made.
It is the logical premise of science.
Yes, thats right. Anyone can be a scientist. As soon as someone uses the scientific method he is doing science. If he does not use the scientific method, then he is not a scientist.

In common language though additional to using the scientific method our Schmock would need a degree in science. Without a degree journalists and graduated scientists would refer to him as a researcher.

Last edited by Botany Bay : 06-25-2009 at 08:41 AM.
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  #26  
Old 06-25-2009, 08:27 AM
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The problem is still manifested in science's method of credential bias.
It happens far too often in the areas of the unknown and we only find out when undeniable proof is revealed.
One of my professors still remembered the days of the whole debate about plate tectonics. Talk about nerd rage. Debates between scientists at conferences turning into fist fights wasn't unheard of. Scientists in academics can indeed be quite brutal to each other. In some cases to the point of destroying a person's career and personal life. Fortunately it doesn't seem to be terribly common, at least not that I've noticed.
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  #27  
Old 06-25-2009, 08:30 AM
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One of my professors still remembered the days of the whole debate about plate tectonics. Talk about nerd rage. Debates between scientists at conferences turning into fist fights wasn't unheard of. Scientists in academics can indeed be quite brutal to each other. In some cases to the point of destroying a person's career and personal life. Fortunately it doesn't seem to be terribly common, at least not that I've noticed.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=majaPLfQMzk
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  #28  
Old 06-25-2009, 08:42 AM
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A few centuries ago, a genius like DaVinci could be a scientist. But today, due to secularization (which caused scientific progress) as well as social and economic progress (which made things like a telescope cheaper), you need to have technical expertise plus an infrastructure (expensive hardware in natural sciences and at least decent software plus access to scientific networks in social sciences) if you wanna be a scientist. And this technical expertise is taught at universities.
Of course anyone is free to try on his or her own, unpaid, in one's freetime (like Einstein, but he had formal training) ... but that is unlikely to yield any paper worth publishing, not to mention something which could win the Nobel prize.
Furthermore, many people have already worked on a topic before. Only professional reasearchers have access to previous publications (and the time to read them!) and the skill to understand the respective papers. Non-PhD John Doe, even if he is super-smart and writes a good paper, most likely produces something redundant.

I have to emphasize again that science is not the search for some holy truth but creative destruction: bulding the house of knowledge by tearing down the wooden foundaments and substituting them with stone, which will be teared down by the next generation who builds with steal and so on. Obviously destruction is not always nice, it can be dirty and painful.

Last edited by horatio : 06-25-2009 at 08:51 AM. Reason: Damnit Indy, in English the prize you win is written with a z!
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  #29  
Old 06-25-2009, 09:02 AM
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Originally Posted by horatio View Post
A few centuries ago, a genius like DaVinci could be a scientist. But today, due to secularization (which caused scientific progress) as well as social and economic progress (which made things like a telescope cheaper), you need to have technical expertise plus an infrastructure (expensive hardware in natural sciences and at least decent software plus access to scientific networks in social sciences) if you wanna be a scientist. And this technical expertise is taught at universities.
Of course anyone is free to try on his or her own, unpaid, in one's freetime (like Einstein, but he had formal training) ... but that is unlikely to yield any paper worth publishing, not to mention something which could win the Nobel prize.
Furthermore, many people have already worked on a topic before. Only professional reasearchers have access to previous publications (and the time to read them!) and the skill to understand the respective papers. Non-PhD John Doe, even if he is super-smart and writes a good paper, most likely produces something redundant.

I have to emphasize again that science is not the search for some holy truth but creative destruction: bulding the house of knowledge by tearing down the wooden foundaments and substituting them with stone, which will be teared down by the next generation who builds with steal and so on. Obviously destruction is not always nice, it can be dirty and painful.
On top of that, science is empirical. If you don't have any actual measurements that can be shown to have some logical connection to the hypothesis, then the hypothesis is going to remain just that.

Unfortunately you do get cases like one that was brought up in my archeology classes where one acheologist uncovered some ruins in South America. Can't remember all the details, but I think it had something to do with when humans migrated from from North America down toward the south. I think the ruins were much older than what was accepted as the time that humans had arrived in the region. He didn't even hypothesis that humans arrived in the region earlier, he just found the site and gathered the data. As soon as the data was published he was just dogged by accusations of fraud and tampering with evidence and what not. Pretty much destroyed his career and family. Now the data is accepted as genuine, but that's probably little consolation for him. But I think you'd agree with me that this kind of lynching, so to speak, is not part of science but rather just the result of a mob mentality that refused to follow scientific method.
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  #30  
Old 06-25-2009, 09:16 AM
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A sad example, but as you correctly pointed out, it has more to do with destructive competition which occurs everywhere in working life than with science per se.

Just an ordinary human weakness, we need competition to make progress and sometimes it becomes excessive and counter-productive.

But this example also shows that the scientific principle works. It took some time but finally the new evidence and its implications have been accepted.
It took much longer for certain folks to accept that the Earth is not flat, not the the center of the universe and that it does spin around the sun.
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