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What gave Science it's status/credibility?

  1. Oct 24, 2009 #1
    Was it more coming up with clever experiments, or the useful technology/applications that came about from it?

    The reason I ask is when I look at many famous experiments, no one even cared about a lot of them until many years later.

    Just curious.
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  3. Oct 24, 2009 #2


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    Are you being more abstract or are you talking about specific areas or time periods or what?

    On the abstract side of how science became credible, i'd say it's because it did what it meant to do, predict and explain phenomenon that were previously inconsistently explained or not explained at all up to that point.
  4. Oct 24, 2009 #3
    For the masses: technology and application.

    For intellectuals: the ability to explain and predict phenomena.
  5. Oct 24, 2009 #4
    One example that made me ask this, I was reading about Germ Theory, the explanation that germs cause some diseases. People used to not believe that. Check this out, Ignaz Semmelweis noticed patients who were touched by workers who touches autopsies, they were quite likely to get sick and possibly die. Then he did an experiment where had workers in the hospital wash their hands with water and lime, and then all of a sudden the deaths went down. However, "Nevertheless, he and his theories were viciously attacked by most of the Viennese medical establishment." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germ_theory#Histories That doesn't sound like logic and reasoning convincing them. I don't know if that just meant people needed more time, or something in addition?
  6. Oct 24, 2009 #5
    Another reason I ask is there's the post "How do you 'read' the flirting traffic signals women send men?" There was similar methodology to what they use in biology/medicine, however many PF members seemed to push aside the possibility that women often send men signals with body language. So from the broader perspective, that's why I was wondering if it's more the scientific method or technology/applications in gaining credibility, or maybe even mathematical equations (besides the null hypothesis which everyone uses), you know what I'm saying? What type of credibility would be required for people to entertain the possibility that women send men body language signals most of the time before men ask them on dates?

    As you know, in the Scientific Method you make observations, then formulate explanations/rules, then come up with experiments to test, and use replication/peer-review. So various researchers independently put up cameras at places where singles meet and ask on dates/socialize. They found from the cameras most of the time when a man asked a woman on a date, she sent out some subtle body language beforehand (most of the time automatic/not thinking about it). Although this wasn't all the time, it was most of the time. Most of the time when the man was rejected, she didn't send any signals. Women didn't send out too many body language signals in places not as appropriate to interact, while a lot more signals at places appropriate to mingle (for example bars were a major hotspot of body language). The women who sent out the most body language signals were the most likely to be asked on dates. Multiple researchers found this independently and put their research in academic peer-review journals; it was replicated.

    Keep in mind after observations with statistics, you've "gotta test your explanations/rules with experiments". So there have been experiments where they'd have women confederates go out into public doing some of the body language signals versus not doing them, smiling and repeated glances, and these particular body language signals caused men to approach. In addition to field work experiments, there's lab work. There was a lab experiment where they had quite a few women and men talk to each other one-on-one and the women would rate how attracted they were afterward. They had video cameras and found the women gave off body language signals that had been planned to be tested against a null hypothesis before the experiment was started. Also, "In a later study, Moore found that female courtship behavior was so striking that a trained observer could use its frequency to predict with a high degree of accuracy the outcome of interactions between men and women! In addition, the frequency of signaling appeared to be the more important factor in eliciting approaches from men, overriding such attributes as physical attractiveness."

    So in your opinion, what needs to be done to test it better? Do you think more specific postulates? A different type of experimental design? Being applied to "technology"? Specific mathematical equations beyond the null hypothesis? (The latter would be sweet)
  7. Oct 24, 2009 #6


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    Being right.
  8. Oct 24, 2009 #7


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    On an entirely speculative side, one might wonder if a different distribution of ascientific assumptions about "the real world" might make one cultural domain less receptive towards scientific ideas than another.

    For example, if there is a widespread belief in ghosts, spirits, imps and invisible pranksters, the basic (meta-physical) idea that the world is fundamentally ordered and regular (.ie, obedient to certain laws) might meet up with more initial resistance than within a culture where belief in such supernatural creatures is less prevalent.
  9. Oct 24, 2009 #8
  10. Oct 24, 2009 #9
    So from your perspective what does being right mean, internal/external validity experiments, or technology/applications?
  11. Oct 24, 2009 #10

    Chi Meson

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    I would say, all of the above.

    Science has not been "100% correct, 100% of the time." That which makes science better than any form of dogma or philosophy, is that it can change without being fundamentally overturned.

    Lots of things can change, but when a dogmatic belief changes (philosophy or religion) it turns away, or breaks apart from the previous belief. In science, when a mistake is discovered, it is fixed by adding new knowledge to the existing framework.

    In general, when this is done, it is NOT like adding on a new gizmo to an already complicated boat (Science does not sail in one direction).

    Improvement is science comes by either taking away a part that is unnecessary (e.g. the "aether") or filling in a hole (all of quantum). The end result is that scientific knowledge becomes stronger and more interconnected while the basic rules that govern everything become fewer and simpler. Meanwhile, scientific knowledge grows in all directions.

    Whereas philosophical dogma builds on the "dialectic" where an "antithesis," or counter argument, rejects the previous belief. Then the "synthesis" follows folding bits of the two formerly adverse beliefs into a new worldview. In this manner, the dominant philosophical beliefs of the day are fundamentally different every 50 years or so. (Hey guess who took Philosophy in college 20 years ago?).

    Science has not fundamentally shifted in its methods since the days of Galileo. When you read this on your computer monitor, you MUST realize that it is not like the invention of the wheel or the discovery of fire. No one noticed a computer in their cave 10,000 years ago and started to investigate it to figure out how to make their own. Everything that modern technology has given us (and not just the destructive stuff) came about because our understanding of everything down to the fundamental particles was correct.

    Lasers work. MRIs work. Microwave ovens work. Superfluids have been observed. These are things that do not exist in nature, but are the result of manipulating the rules of nature that we have discovered. If we were not correct, none of these things would exist.

    And that is a very short sample from a long list.
  12. Oct 24, 2009 #11


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    I agree with Chi and Russ.

    It's the methods of science and being right which leads to discoveries and successful applications.
  13. Oct 24, 2009 #12


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    Both, but more the first than the second. A theory and experiment that tests it need not lead directly to a practical application to contribute to the knowledgebase of humanity or to raise the stature/reputation of science.
    Define "no one". Certainly scientists recognize how profound a new theory/discovery is to the body of human knowledge. Whether the general public does then or ever make that recognition really is an irrelevancy.

    For example: the vast majority of GPS users know essentially nothing about most of the underlying science of how GPS works. They don't know, nor do they care about it - they just care that the GPS works. The engineers who designed it trust the science it is based on, of course - they have to! But neither the scientists who came up with the underlying science (most of whom are dead anyway) nor the engineers who packaged it into a device care whether the GPS device raises the user's trust of science/engineering. The engineers are in it for the money and pride. The scientists more for the pride.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2009
  14. Oct 24, 2009 #13
    there's not nearly as much money nor pride in engineering as you seem to think. you must be thinking about business. real engineers enjoy making things work. and you can't trust the science, not one damn bit. that's why you test everything. it's all about results.
  15. Oct 24, 2009 #14


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    I'm an engineer, Proton Soup. I know there isn't as much money in it as in business. But I think there is more money in it than in science.

    I like engineering, but a job is a job: I have a job in order to collect a paycheck. I get the impression that many scientists would want to be researchers whether they got paid for it or not. One of my mom's cousins is a retired professor and he spends his time at a cyclotron at UPenn. When I retire, it's golf, cruises and astronomy for me.
  16. Oct 24, 2009 #15
    I would say that russ is right... I'm pretty sure an engineer makes about double the annual salary of a scientist on average... I feel scientist do the work because they really love what they do. Engineers may like their job but as russ pointed out it's a method to earn money... I've talked to my friends in engineering and they agree with russ's comments.

    I.e. When they retire they won't be 'continuing' their job. Maybe now and then doing random things for fun but nothing extreme.
  17. Oct 24, 2009 #16
    So what I'm trying to figure out, if it's mostly internal/external validity experiments rather than technology/applications, why was PhysicsForums not so open to the peer-review studies on "How do you 'read' the flirting traffic signals women send men", about women sending men non-verbal flirting signals without thinking about it and men often not making a move if they don't "feel it"? Do you just think it is because many of us members are more trained to look at experiments in Physics instead of other fields?
  18. Oct 25, 2009 #17

    Chi Meson

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    Social and psychological experiments are notoriously "soft." Data is very difficult to quantify, and the "formulas" are almost entirely subject to personal, subjective opinions and biases.

    Social "signals" have been studied for decades, if not centuries. It is highly doubtful that any recent studies have "cracked the code." Some signals are clearly learned through chit chat with friends and are therefore invented and subject to change over time.

    In physics and other "hard sciences" we can get immediately verifying (or falsifying) data. Things will work, or they don't. In sociology, we are continuously "looking into it."

    I usually am not interested in sociology experiments, and in male/female signals I really have no interest at all (way past that point in life). If you are personally intrigued, then this suggests an area that you might want to consider for your own further education.
  19. Oct 26, 2009 #18
    Okay, I think this is important as to why I'm curious about internal/external validity experiments vs. technology/applications.

    Although I absolutely agree that physics is quite more objective/systematic compared to psychological research, biology, meteorology, etc, can you really say these psychological sciences are not falsifiable/systematic with their "actual physical data"? Have you actually looked at original psychological peer-review journals and how they conduct methodologies/null hypothesis testing plus the peer-review process? If something uses a method to measure data and it's statistically significant, then what's the chance systematic variance (observable data) is due to chance? To put things into perspective as far as models changing over time, consider, in Physics didn't they first say "Newtonian Physics", then many changed with "Einstein's Relativity", then many said "Quantum Theory"? Now there are many many theories on what gravitation, etc is (string theory, etc). Isn't the only thing consistent in Physics are the physical observations being replicated, while the models/explanation/laws change to fit new incoming evidence?

    As far as objectivity, here's something that you may want to consider, in biology/medicine they'll do field work using the null hypothesis, then others will follow up using lab experiments to control for variables. So after those independent researchers in field studies used hidden cameras at singles events to see how womens' body language is when being asked out vs. not, other researchers decided to follow up with lab experiments to control for some other variables. In one peer-review lab experiment listed below and web link to abstract, they used random selection of guys/girls from classes and told them they would be participating in an experiment. Then they would have a pair, a male and female stranger, wait in a room for 10 minutes together while the researcher supposedly was away answering a phone call. What they didn't know was a hidden camera on the other side of a one way mirror was video taping their body language the whole time. Then afterward the researchers had the woman rate how attracted she felt to the man, both physical attractiveness and how likely she would give him her number or go to the cinema with him on a number scale. If they answered they suspected they were being videotaped, they were excluded from the results (only one pair out of the 46).

    As far as Spearman correlation, the Coy Smile correlated 0.34 with professed interest and Primping 0.35 both at statistical significance of p<0.05 two tailed, while legs open was not statistically significant. Don't you think that is an objective/systematic way of reporting empirical data? Then if it's in a peer-review journal that can be reviewed by other experts? Although those correlations would be weak for Physics, some of them were strong for social science standards and how is that not systematic/objective way of reporting data in hypothesis testing?

    Grammer, K., Kruck, K., Juette, A. & Fink, B. (2000) Non-verbal behaviour as courtship signals: the role of control and choice in selecting partners. Evolution and Human Behaviour, 21, 371-390.
    Abstract at http://www.sciencedirect.com/scienc...d=464852&md5=0c5b15d1f03b840a798d69b1f4ce2b23

    Then there are other studies to control for other variables, where they would have female confederates try non-verbal behaviors in public without knowing knowing exactly what's going on, and using the null to see if there was a statistically significant chance they would be approached by men.

    That's why I wonder if it's because for flirting signals they need more specific principles with mathematical equations like they have in Physics, or more applied technology instead? Remember, there are many equations in various physical sciences that don't necessarily say "This will happen exactly this way each time", but rather "(whatever) percent chance this will happen within this range" which can be made falsifiable (meteorology, many parts of biology and geology, etc). Some food for thought, I was thinking what if they do that for flirting non-verbal behavior?
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2009
  20. Oct 26, 2009 #19
    Okay, maybe not "no one", but rather most rejected. For example post 4 with Ignaz Semmelweis and his very famous experiment which contributed to scientists believing germs causing disease. Although his experiment sounded clever, "Nevertheless, he and his theories were viciously attacked by most of the Viennese medical establishment." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germ_theory#Histories That doesn't sound like logic and reasoning convincing them. I don't know if that just meant people needed technology, more time, or something in addition?
  21. Oct 26, 2009 #20
    Generaly any new idea will scare a person. So the newer the idea probably the more scary it is. I think this because some of the time I challenge myself to come up with new ideas and almost every time I do they scare me... It is only after some time after Iv had the new idea am I actualy able to process it.
  22. Oct 26, 2009 #21

    Chi Meson

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    hey, 27k, you are just going to have to accept the fact that this subject interests you far more than it interests anyone else here.
  23. Oct 26, 2009 #22
    Only for the fact that we are often, and we acknowledge, wrong.

    If it weren't for wrong but established scientific laws being discredited, how would there be any scientific advancement?
  24. Oct 26, 2009 #23
    I agree. That's the strength of Science. They have peer-review, hypothesis testing, falsification, etc. Although critics of Popper say that you can't falsify for sure, that most theories have had their failed experiments, and you go with the explanation that fits the evidence the best, it's still true that it's easier to disprove laws/explanations than prove. Falsification means "the logical possibility to disprove", not "will be disproved" or even in reality will be disproved. Allowing the logical possibility I would think allows the advancement of Science.
  25. Oct 27, 2009 #24

    From what I have read, before World War 2 the US as a nation didn't really invest that much in science as most people thought it was useless, and if you look at the list of nobel prize winners for chemistry from 1901 to 1939, all but 3 were European, for physics during the same time period it was all but 6 were European. American attitudes about science only seemed to change after the atomic bomb made it clear what science was capable of doing, and after that the US become the dominant force in the science world.
  26. Oct 27, 2009 #25


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    "American attitudes about science only seemed to change after the atomic bomb made it clear what science was capable of doing, and after that the US become the dominant force in the science world. "

    A mere change in "attitude" would not have mattered much; what REALLY mattered was the implementation of a deliberate policy to attract to the US the top scientists from around the world.

    The US initiated a highly succesful "brain gain" game.
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