Defending Science Against Ongoing Threats: Why the Scientific Method Matters

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Sabine Hossenfelder, who is also not so close to philosophy of science, also see what i am seeing as the main problem of today's physics - and it is not just that "they are not even good at that").In summary, the conversation discusses the current state of physics and the potential shift towards prioritizing elegant equations over accurately describing the real world. Some scientists argue that this trend is hindering progress and may not even be true science. Albert Einstein is mentioned as an example of someone who chose to believe in equations over conventional reality, leading to significant breakthroughs.
  • #1
Aufbauwerk 2045
A recent thread, which was quickly shut down, provided looking at the user agreement for PF as the final answer. The attitude is people who don't like PF and want to discuss their free energy solution or whatever can go elsewhere. Very true. I understand why people here may not want to spend time defending science against ongoing threats. Why belabor the obvious?

Of course there is currently no shortage of people who want to "improve" PF in a way that would turn it into another junk forum. Obviously I agree with the user agreement, or I would not be here.

I'm as busy as anyone, but I do want to take some time to mention a few points in defense of science against various threats. Unfortunately, these threats still exist, even in the USA and other developed nations of the free world.

One defense was already pointed out by another user. "They laughed at Galileo. They also laughed at the Three Stooges." That is a good response to the following fallacy. "They laughed at Galileo, and he was right. They laughed at my pet theory. Therefore, I am right." People who don't see the fallacy in this argument should learn some basic logic before they discuss science. At least find out about syllogisms and what constitutes a valid syllogism.

What is wrong with comparing Galileo's situation to that of certain pseudo-scientists today? Galileo was not a lone scientist going against the scientific mainstream. He was a scientist among non-scientists. He lived in an age when scientists who dared to follow the scientific method ran the risk of imprisonment, torture, and death, at the hands of religious authorities who also had political power. Galileo, in spite of recanting under threat of torture, was sentenced to house arrest. For years he could not even travel to see a physician to help with his medical problems. Of course he was no longer allowed to publish.

Today we have what some would call "establishment" theories which are based on the scientific method. We know this method works. Slowly but surely over the centuries, out knowledge has been increasing. Now we are in an age when that knowledge is increasing faster than ever before. If you want to challenge a generally accepted theory, go right ahead. You have that freedom in what we call the "free world." Unfortunately, not every nation is free. It's not only about religion. Think of Lysenko in the USSR and the persecution of biologists.

But the fact remains that in a free country you won't be hauled before an inquisition and threated with torture if you do not accept the Standard Model. On the other hand, if you want to challenge the Standard Model, you need to base your challenge on the scientific method. Otherwise, you are just wasting everyone's time. No one is going to take you seriously, and rightly so.

It would actually be going against science to allow someone to promote their opinions in a science forum when those opinions are based on violations of the scientific method. We don't want to turn the clock back to an age when science had to fight against ignorance. We don't want to accept any form of mysticism. So please leave us alone and go to some junk forum to spout your nonsense. Or better yet, if you really want to know the truth, learn physics and understand where the theories come from.

If you do become an expert and can in fact prove that a widely accepted theory is wrong, and you can present this in a way that shows you actually know what you are talking about, then you won't be thrown in a dungeon. On the contrary, you will become known all over the world as a great scientist.

P.S. I forgot something very important. Part of the scientific method is to publish your work in peer-reviewed journals. Even great scientists make mistakes. Publication in a good journal is necessary so the work can be reviewed by experts. This is why PF has its "gold standard" policy regarding journals.
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Aufbauwerk 2045 said:
Part of the scientific method is to publish your work in peer-reviewed journals. Even great scientists make mistakes. Publication in a good journal is necessary so the work can be reviewed by experts. This is why PF has its "gold standard" policy regarding journals.

Competent scientists will do that - but that is not what makes it science. You are confusing the various institutions etc that have grown up around professional science with science itself.

Science is exactly as Feynman said - no more - no less:

Don't over complicate it. Kuhn did that and confused many who now think its a social enterprise rather than a search for truth:

Note we discuss conventional science here which means we require participation in some of those practices - but that is so we have high quality productive discussions. But it is not necessary to science itself.

  • #3
Why some scientists say physics has gone off the rails
Has the love of "elegant" equations overtaken the desire to describe the real world?
by Dan Falk / Jun.02.2018 / 5:13 PM ET
"People can believe in the multiverse all they want — but it's not science."
"Theoretical physicists used to explain what was observed.
Now they try to explain why they can't explain what was not observed.
And they're not even good at that."
/ Sabine Hossenfelder, /
  • #4
sadovnik said:
Has the love of "elegant" equations overtaken the desire to describe the real world?
Way back some guy called 'Einstein' just chose to believe in equations against the conventional 'reality'. You know the result of that, right?
  • #5
Yeah, i know:
equations of SRT and GRT were right,
but philosophical debates about them still not closed.
  • #6
Even more than just that: the fundamental equations of SRT were known before the SRT were born. What Einstein did was not the invention of these equations.
He decided to put those equations in front.

With the GRT it is even more disturbing (in relations with that linked article). Based on the math he decided to put the elegance of that math in front! And with that, he won.

To start that article with Einstein... Well, kind of funny.
  • #7
Rive said:
Based on the math he decided to put the elegance of that math in front! And with that, he won.

When mathematics is going in front of physics
then many surprised things can suddenly appears.
” Mathematician may say all that he wants,
but physicist must maintain at least some spark of common sense “
/ Josiah Willard Gibbs /
And Feynman had the same opinion:
” Since the mathematical physicists have taken over, theoretical
physics has gone to pot. The bizarre concepts generated out of
the over use and misinterpretation of mathematics would be funny
if it were not for the tragedy of the waste in time, manpower, money,
and the resulting misdirection”
  • #8
I see people mentioning Einstein. Regarding Einstein, IMO he was trying to understand the real world, as established by observation and experiment, and defend true science against the conservative and fuzzy-minded followers of the theory of the aether. They were wedded to the concept of the aether, because they could not liberate themselves from the idea that an electromagnetic wave must travel in some physical medium.

Einstein, on the other hand, saw no point in trying to defend the theory of the aether, when the experimental evidence went against it. Contrast this with Lorentz, who, in his attempt to defend the aether theory in spite of the null result of the Michelson and Morley experiments, supported the idea of Fitzgerald that physical bodies experience a slight contraction when moving through the aether. See Lorentz, "Electromagnetic Phenomena in a System Moving With Any Velocity Less Than That of Light." (1904).

Here is a truly great and bold statement by Einstein which shows how advanced a thinker he was in comparison to some of his scientific colleagues. Actually he was great and bold because he followed the scientific method against conservatism, fuzzy thinking, and too great a belief in mental constructs based on our everyday experience.

"The introduction of a 'luminiferous ether' will prove to be superfluous inasmuch as the view here to be developed will not require an 'absolutely stationary space' provided with special properties, nor assign a velocity-vector to a point of the empty space in which electromagnetic processes take place." "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies" (1905).

BTW I suggest that anyone representing the views of Einstein or his contemporaries refer to, and when practical give exact quotations from, their original papers.
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  • #9
@bhobba - FWIW, I don't think Kuhn 'over-complicated' things. Admittedly, reading (and digesting) Kuhn is sometimes pretty rough sailing... first time out, he left me a bit bewildered... and he does (perhaps necessarily) invent some of his own lingo... now hopelessly bastardized and reinterpreted by the popular press. I start hollering at the television set every time some inane ad invokes the phrase 'paradigm shift'.

Kuhn is not for quick answers to simple questions. He deals with necessarily complex responses to very involved and multi-layered research programs and traditions. One can like him or not, agree with him or not, but I think a quick offhanded dismissal does him and the reading audience a disservice.

  • #10
I've found great joy in diving into alternative theories to explain natural phenomena, to truly dig into competing perspectives. When coupled with a strong scientific literacy, it is fascinating to watch the different ways that these theories fall apart. After seeing their foundations collapse you begin to understand why they are defended the way they are (generally by pointing at an underwhelming fault in a real theory and dismissing the entire field). It's unfortunate there isn't a subsection for alternate theories because it would be a guilty pleasure to watch them get dismantled by the veterans on this site. I suppose I understand exactly why it doesn't exist and I'm sure the mods' stress levels are thankful.

Your best weapon is to develop your understanding of the scientific method with respect to the major scientific theories out there, to see their motivations and implications. This will arm you with the ability to ask devastating questions towards people who peddle anti-scientific views. It will also give you more things to laugh at like those facebook videos your friends post of people testing the pH of different bottled water and claiming the strips that turn red indicate that the water is bad for you. These things in life are to be appreciated.

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Related to Defending Science Against Ongoing Threats: Why the Scientific Method Matters

What is the difference between science and antiscience?

Science is a systematic and evidence-based approach to understanding the natural world and making predictions about it. It relies on the scientific method, which involves formulating hypotheses, conducting experiments, and analyzing data. Antiscience, on the other hand, is the rejection of scientific evidence and the promotion of beliefs or ideas that are not supported by scientific research.

Why is science important in our society?

Science plays a crucial role in our society as it helps us understand the world around us and make informed decisions. It has led to advancements in technology, medicine, and agriculture, improving our quality of life. Science also helps us address global challenges such as climate change and disease outbreaks.

What are some examples of antiscience beliefs or movements?

Some examples of antiscience beliefs or movements include climate change denial, the anti-vaccination movement, and the belief in creationism or intelligent design over evolution. These beliefs often reject established scientific evidence and can have harmful consequences for both individuals and society.

How can we combat antiscience beliefs?

One way to combat antiscience beliefs is through education. By promoting critical thinking and scientific literacy, individuals can better evaluate the validity of scientific information. It is also important to communicate scientific findings in a clear and accessible manner to the general public.

Can science and religion coexist?

Many scientists and religious individuals believe that science and religion can coexist. Science seeks to answer questions about the natural world, while religion addresses questions about the meaning and purpose of life. As long as each respects the domain of the other, there can be harmony between the two.

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