Reg Prescott

Challenging Science - split from The Selfish Gene Theory

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Posted (edited)

SamCogar mentioned above...

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... and that is that “mainstream science” is not to be “questioned”, …….. but only to be “queried” by those such as undergraduates who are “prepping” themselves for “testing” in/of their enrolled subject matter.

... to which Phi for All responded...

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IT'S QUESTIONED ALL THE TIME. 

 

I'll probably not win any friends by saying this, but I'd say Sam is, on this point at least, largely right, and Phi largely wrong -- with no disrespect intended to any of our members.

Phi's sentiments reflect a vaguely Popperian view of science, one that is often repeated by scientists who, in many cases, quite understandably due to other commitments, are unable (or even unwilling) to keep abreast of developments in the history and philosophy of science.

Popper's view goes something like this: Science can be described as a process of "critical rationalism" or "conjectures and refutations". Scientists are highly critical of their own theories, constantly subjecting them to "severe tests", and as soon as observation conflicts with theory, the theory is deemed falsified and must be rejected.

There's a fascinating old black and white clip on Youtube of Richard Feynman teaching "the Scientific Method" in which he -- whether he knows it or not -- might as well have been reading directly from Popper.

The last fifty years or so of research in the history and philosophy of science expose this view as woefully inadequate.

Thomas Kuhn, for example, proposes a highly influential model, far more accurate than Popper's, in my view at least, under which science is bifurcated into "normal science" -- the vast majority of scientific work, and "revolutionary science" -- which, though rare, does indeed resemble the Popperian landscape.

In times of normal science, in any given discipline, the overarching theoretical framework -- the "paradigm" in Kuhn's jargon -- is, by and large, not challenged (or "questioned") at all. Rather than being subjected to severe testing, it is simply taken for granted. Normal science is extremely conservative, dogmatic even.

The word "dogma" is bound to ruffle feathers in some. For Kuhn, though, this dogmatic acceptance and defence of orthodoxy (i.e., the mainstream) is a key ingredient in what makes science so successful. It's precisely because scientists rally around the core tenets of the paradigm, discouraging dissent, that progress is made in what he terms "puzzle solving" -- reconciling recalcitrant evidence (cf. falsifying evidence) with theory.

(As opposed to philosophy, say, where everything is up for grabs, a hundred flowers bloom, arguments seemingly never end, and progress is hard to discern)

Scientists go to extreme lengths to protect their best theories from falsification. Examples illustrating this in the history of science are plentiful. What usually happens, as history attests, when observation/data/evidence appears to be at odds with theory is not abandonment of the theory (good theories are hard to come by, after all), as Popper insisted, but rather the theory is tweaked, blame is put somewhere else -- on background assumptions and so-called auxiliary hypotheses -- or else the intractable evidence is just left on the back burner as an "anomaly".

In normal science, if anything is tested/challenged at all, it's not the reigning paradigm itself, but the scientist. If the scientist fails to make puzzling data/evidence fit the theoretical framework then that's her problem; the theory is just fine, thank you very much.

(There's a marvellous clip of Richard Dawkins on Youtube where, unbeknownst to himself I guess, he says almost exactly this. Shout and I'll link).

So is it true that mainstream science is "questioned all the time"? I don't think so. This is seen most starkly in the case of evolutionary theory (ET). Richard Dawkins -- him again -- is on record for claiming that to question evolution, one must be either "ignorant, stupid, insane, or... [wait for it] wicked".

This is nonsense, of course. I could name several (non-religious) first rate thinkers who have expressed skepticism over the regnant neo-Darwinian hegemony. The reaction is invariably savage, to an almost staggering degree. The dissenter will be misrepresented (usually as a Creationist), ridiculed, and finally silenced. 

What Dawkins might have said instead is "Any ET skeptic will be portrayed as ignorant, stupid, insane, or wicked".
 

Edited by Reg Prescott
typo

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Phi for all is totally right of course and reg couldn't be more wrong. The evidence supporting the fact that not only is science questioned everyday it also is in constant change as new evidence comes to light. Reg and others of that opinion need to realise that all of mainstream science was at one time also being questioned and not always in the mainstream.

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1 hour ago, beecee said:

Phi for all is totally right of course and reg couldn't be more wrong. The evidence supporting the fact that not only is science questioned everyday it also is in constant change as new evidence comes to light. Reg and others of that opinion need to realise that all of mainstream science was at one time also being questioned and not always in the mainstream.

No one denies that science changes. It clearly does. The question here pertains to the nature of this change.

An interesting parallel can be drawn between the more traditional, steady, gradualistic conception of evolutionary change vis-à-vis the punctuated equilibrium (PE) model of Gould and Eldredge.

Popper's model of scientific change -- the one you appear to be defending -- resembles the former; Kuhn's model resembles the latter.

On the Kuhnian model, as with PE, prolonged periods of stasis ("normal science") are typical. Orthodoxy, or mainstream theory, goes largely unquestioned. Challenges to mainstream doctrine (dare I say "dogma") are not welcome at all: cast aspersions on the reigning hegemony and one is liable to wind up very ill indeed.

And judging by your own claims in various places on this site, beecee, to the effect that evolutionary theory has attained virtual certainty, as well as the often vicious hostility evinced to skeptics, I say we chalk up a point for Kuhn.

But these lengthy periods of stasis in core doctrine -- on the Kuhnian account -- are punctuated by occasional bursts of crisis, sometimes resulting in massive conceptual change ("revolutionary science") when all hell breaks loose, criticism of orthodoxy flourishes, and a new orthodoxy eventually takes its place.

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Posted (edited)
51 minutes ago, Reg Prescott said:

And judging by your own claims in various places on this site, beecee, to the effect that evolutionary theory has attained virtual certainty, as well as the often vicious hostility evinced to skeptics, I say we chalk up a point for Kuhn.

Dismissing your continued rather lengthy rhetorical preaching let me say again, that yes evolution is as certain as anyone could wish for...and only a fool would deny that....sure there are areas that lack certain detail and exact methodology, but the basis of evolution is undeniable. That obviously going on the numbers of crusades we have had on this forum and others against that fact, does erk many true believers in ID and other religious fanatics. Again that evidence is here for the sorting and perusing. The problem is of course with yourself and others [I mean you have personally castigated me for attempting to force some of our religious fanatics to put up or shut up] is that most probably the reasons for such crusades are as I say, and you seem to cunningly trying to dismiss them as per "Scientists go to extreme lengths to protect their best theories from falsification." and tie the hands of your critics behind their backs, on a science forum no less, is not going to work.

 

If you have any doubt about any other area of science where you pretend that it is never questioned, than start a thread on that particular discipline. The facts are science is a discipline in eternal progress and advancement, unlike religion and the faith at all costs attitude.

I'll leave you with two thoughts...... 

Science is the record of dead religions. Oscar Wilde.

 

There is no statement so absurd that no philosopher will make it.  Cicero, Marcus Tullius (106-43 BCE) Roman statesman. 

 

 

Edited by beecee

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@ beecee

As for quotes, I suppose I could mention Newtonian mechanics, which was regarded to be true with almost unquestioned certainty for two centuries or more. Now, we know better. Or J.C. Maxwell who proclaimed, roughly, that the luminiferous aether is the most highly confirmed entity in all of science.

But instead, compare this (fairly typical) quote from the previous page...

Quote

The whole point of the scientific process is that it assumes it is always wrong (or, at least, incomplete). - Strange

... with your own assertion above that evolution "is as certain as anyone could wish for...and only a fool would deny that".

You do see the tension? "As certain as can be" seems hard -- to say the least -- to reconcile with the claim that science always assumes itself to be wrong.

This tension, I'd suggest, arises from a conflict between the following two intuitions:

(1) Science is a fallible business. Everyone concedes this. Given the history of science, and its graveyard of abandoned theories, it is simply not plausible nowadays to claim that we, in this day and age, somehow occupy a privileged position; that our own most cherished theories will not one day also come crumbling down. And

(2) When we forget about the larger picture sketched above in (1), and zoom in on any particular deeply-entrenched theory, evolutionary theory, say, it does appear that the evidence is "overwhelming" -- as it is typically described. How could it possibly be wrong? Only a fool would doubt it!

 

Everyone admits to the fallibility of science; few are willing to concede that their own pet theory may be deeply flawed. It seems the fallibility always lies with someone else's theory. "Try the folks down the hall. My theory is just fine, thank you very much".

 

"If there is one thing we can learn from the history of science, it is that the scientific theorizing of one day is looked on by that of the next as flawed and deficient. The clearest induction from the history of science is that science is always mistaken - that at every stage of its development, its practitioners, looking backward with the wisdom of hindsight, will view the work of their predecessors as seriously deficient and their theories as fundamentally mistaken. And if we adopt (as in candor we must) the modest view that we ourselves and our contemporaries do not occupy a privileged position in this respect, then we have no reasonable alternative but to suppose that much or all of what we ourselves vaunt as "scientific knowledge" is itself presumably wrong." -- Nicholas Rescher

 

"The ephemeral nature of scientific theories takes by surprise the man of the world. Their brief period of prosperity ended, he sees them abandoned one after the other; he sees ruins piled upon ruins; he predicts that the theories in fashion today will in a short time succumb in their turn, and he concludes that they are absolutely in vain. This is what he calls the bankrupcy of science." -- Henri Poincare

 

(Note: None of this is meant as a criticism of science. It is, rather, a criticism of what I see as your misrepresentation of science).

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47 minutes ago, Reg Prescott said:

@ beecee

As for quotes, I suppose I could mention Newtonian mechanics, which was regarded to be true with almost unquestioned certainty for two centuries or more. Now, we know better. Or J.C. Maxwell who proclaimed, roughly, that the luminiferous aether is the most highly confirmed entity in all of science.

Most people do come to science forums to learn. Apparently you are one of the exceptions. Let me straighten you out once again, no Newtonian was never deemed to be true, and as you have been told before, the truth or reality is not the object of the scientific discipline. Newtonian was though correct within its zone of applicability. GR of course gave us a wider more encompassing zone of applicability, and gave the same answers as Newtonian albeit with far more accuracy.

Quote

(Note: None of this is meant as a criticism of science. It is, rather, a criticism of what I see as your misrepresentation of science).

It's your own misrepresention that is in question and your misinterpretation of what science is all about and the scientific method. Again the theory of the evolution of life is as close to certainty as we could hope> If of course you have any evidence to the contrary, I suggest you table it. But you won't and you havn't.

"Philosophy consists very largely of one philosopher arguing that all others are jackasses. He usually proves it, and I should add that he also usually proves that he is one himself".

Henry Louis Mencken. (1880-1956).

 

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Posted (edited)
23 minutes ago, beecee said:

Most people do come to science forums to learn. Apparently you are one of the exceptions. Let me straighten you out once again, no Newtonian was never deemed to be true, and as you have been told before, the truth or reality is not the object of the scientific discipline. Newtonian was though correct within its zone of applicability. GR of course gave us a wider more encompassing zone of applicability, and gave the same answers as Newtonian albeit with far more accuracy.

 

Oh gosh!

Would you like to bet that

(1) No one ever took Newtonian mechanics to be true? (I'll just need one counterexample, right?), and

(2) No scientist has ever claimed that truth/reality is the object of scientific inquiry? (again, one counterexample should suffice, right?)

 

Money for nothin' and yer chicks for free!! What do you wanna bet: how about everything you own?

You can "straighten me out" any time you like, pal. This sure beats work :D

Edited by Reg Prescott

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9 minutes ago, Reg Prescott said:

Oh gosh!

Would you like to bet that

(1) No one ever took Newtonian mechanics to be true? (I'll just need one counterexample, right?), and

(2) No scientist has ever claimed that truth/reality is the object of scientific inquiry? (again, one counterexample should suffice, right?)

 

Money for nothin' and yer chicks for free!! What do you wanna bet: how about everything you own?

You can "straighten me out" any time you like, pal. This sure beats work :D

I suggest you stop being so overly pretentious and obtuse. Again scientific theories are never meant to find any supposed truth or reality that keeps bugging you. And that includes Newtonian. Again Newtonian is a correct [not true] theory when applied with its zones of applicability.....the same with the more accurate GR This has all been explained to you by more knowledgable people then either you or I.

Now I suggest you stop playing games and come up with whatever alternative to the theory of evolution you have faith in....It certainly will not be a scientific theory, I will bet on that!

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2 minutes ago, beecee said:

So? Being obtuse again? We know what gravity does, but do we know the actual reason, the truth, the reality you are pretending to hide behind. Let me attempt to educate you again. We have Newtonian and GR.....one more accurate then the other, or if you like one less wrong then the other, or if you prefer, one more correct then the other, or possibly, one closer to the truth then the other...take your pick reggy old chum!

Oh, I can agree with you that Dawkins is talking bollocks (re the gravity quote). I'm not an admirer at all.

But let me remind you of your claim: "Again scientific theories are never meant to find any supposed truth or reality"

Dawkins clearly is not of the same mind as yourself on this.

And Weinberg. And a thousand others. (Please, oh please, don't make me compose a list, kind sir)

10 minutes ago, DrP said:

The God Delusion  -  get that one. So far nothing in it has been adequately challenged by anyone of any understanding.

Cough splutter!!! Get "The Devil's Delusion" by David Berlinski -- written precisely to combat the absurdities of Dawkins/Harris/Dennett et al.

That Berlinski fellah is sharp as a knife, I tell ya. Very funny too, like the aforementioned David Stove.

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13 minutes ago, Reg Prescott said:

Oh, I can agree with you that Dawkins is talking bollocks (re the gravity quote). I'm not an admirer at all.

It is your misinterpretation and general posting that is full of bollocks.

Quote

 

But let me remind you of your claim: "Again scientific theories are never meant to find any supposed truth or reality"

Dawkins clearly is not of the same mind as yourself on this.

 

I've invalidated most of your faith based claims so far and this is another. Again scientific theories are not meant to search for any truth or reality, rather give working models of what we observe...if we should happen to hit upon any truth or reality, if it at all exists, all well and good. And no Dawkins does not disagree with me. 

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And Weinberg. And a thousand others. (Please, oh please, don't make me compose a list, kind sir)

You please yourself what you want to come up with. I have invalidated many of your faith based claims and obvious agenda driven misinterpretations, I'm always up for a few more.

 

 

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13 hours ago, Reg Prescott said:

I'll probably not win any friends by saying this, but I'd say Sam is, on this point at least, largely right, and Phi largely wrong -- with no disrespect intended to any of our members.

 

8 hours ago, Reg Prescott said:

No one denies that science changes. It clearly does. The question here pertains to the nature of this change.

An interesting parallel can be drawn between the more traditional, steady, gradualistic conception of evolutionary change vis-à-vis the punctuated equilibrium (PE) model of Gould and Eldredge.

Popper's model of scientific change -- the one you appear to be defending -- resembles the former; Kuhn's model resembles the latter.

On the Kuhnian model, as with PE, prolonged periods of stasis ("normal science") are typical. Orthodoxy, or mainstream theory, goes largely unquestioned. Challenges to mainstream doctrine (dare I say "dogma") are not welcome at all: cast aspersions on the reigning hegemony and one is liable to wind up very ill indeed.

And judging by your own claims in various places on this site, beecee, to the effect that evolutionary theory has attained virtual certainty, as well as the often vicious hostility evinced to skeptics, I say we chalk up a point for Kuhn.

But these lengthy periods of stasis in core doctrine -- on the Kuhnian account -- are punctuated by occasional bursts of crisis, sometimes resulting in massive conceptual change ("revolutionary science") when all hell breaks loose, criticism of orthodoxy flourishes, and a new orthodoxy eventually takes its place.

So in what way does this not agree with Phi's response, that current science is questioned all the time?

That the answer is often "yes, current science is consistent with what we know" does not mean that it is not being questioned. We only occasionally find answers that require adjusting the current paradigm.

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Posted (edited)

Well, the original quote (from SamCogar), that Phi responded to, pertained to mainstream science, not science per se. Of course, questions are being asked in science all the time. Where I'd object is to the claim that the mainstream, i.e., the overarching theoretical framework, or paradigm, is subject to constant questioning or challenge.

Let me post that Dawkins video I mentioned as an illustration...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSU81p8fyhU

See around 15 - 16 mins, as Dawkins discusses the evolution of the feather : "If you can't think of one [i.e. an adequate account for the evolution of the feather], that's your problem, not natural selection's problem."

Now, supposing it's the case that no one has been able to come up with an adequate account for the evolution of such-and-such a trait, (i.e. observation/data/evidence is at odds with theory), then on a naive falsificationist account, the theory is falsified and must be rejected. The theory has been challenged/questioned and found wanting. Clearly, this does not happen.

What we see instead is, it does not even enter Dawkins' mind that ET/natural selection theory might be in peril; the failure, rather, lies with the scientist ("that's your problem"), not the theory. The paradigm is not in doubt. It is not "questioned".

Compare with what I said in the opening post (rehearsing Kuhn's ideas): "In normal science, if anything is tested/challenged at all, it's not the reigning paradigm itself, but the scientist. If the scientist fails to make puzzling data/evidence fit the theoretical framework then that's her problem; the theory is just fine, thank you very much."

Now, Dawkins is just one man, and this is just one example, but I'd say this is fairly typical. The history of science is replete with similar cases. I'll provide more if you want.

Edited by Reg Prescott
typo

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1 hour ago, Reg Prescott said:

Well, the original quote (from SamCogar), that Phi responded to, pertained to mainstream science, not science per se.

I don't see the distinction you are drawing, but yes, Phi answered the question that was asked.

Quote

Of course, questions are being asked in science all the time. Where I'd object is to the claim that the mainstream, i.e., the overarching theoretical framework, or paradigm, is subject to constant questioning or challenge.

So you are bringing up a different topic, and yet claim that Phi gave an incorrect answer.  

Quote

Let me post that Dawkins video I mentioned as an illustration...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSU81p8fyhU

See around 15 - 16 mins, as Dawkins discusses the evolution of the feather : "If you can't think of one [i.e. an adequate account for the evolution of the feather], that's your problem, not natural selection's problem."

Now, supposing it's the case that no one has been able to come up with an adequate account for the evolution of such-and-such a trait, (i.e. observation/data/evidence is at odds with theory), then on a naive falsificationist account, the theory is falsified and must be rejected. The theory has been challenged/questioned and found wanting. Clearly, this does not happen.

The best you can say is that it is an unanswered question.  There is no guarantee that you will be able to collect data for any arbitrary set of conditions, but that is not required. It doesn't stop some people from demanding it, of course, but they often have an agenda (in my experience)

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What we see instead is, it does not even enter Dawkins' mind that ET/natural selection theory might be in peril; the failure, rather, lies with the scientist ("that's your problem"), not the theory. The paradigm is not in doubt. It is not "questioned".

Gravity is not questioned, either. You reach a point where the weight of evidence is sufficient that it's a waste of time and effort to confirm the basic theory. You then move on to more advanced topics — but that doesn't mean that you have stopped testing the theory. It just means you have moved on to indirect tests, i.e. where the experiment would fail if the underlying paradigm were wrong, and will only succeed if the new idea (based on that paradigm) is correct.

We see this all the time in physics. You don't need to confirm e.g. time dilation with every experiment, but can run experiments that would fail if relativity were wrong. 

Quote

Compare with what I said in the opening post (rehearsing Kuhn's ideas): "In normal science, if anything is tested/challenged at all, it's not the reigning paradigm itself, but the scientist. If the scientist fails to make puzzling data/evidence fit the theoretical framework then that's her problem; the theory is just fine, thank you very much."

Now, Dawkins is just one man, and this is just one example, but I'd say this is fairly typical. The history of science is replete with similar cases. I'll provide more if you want.

It's a matter prioritizing your limited resources. The smart money is on a well-tested theory being right. You don't abandon that theory based on one outlier of a data point. We didn't chuck relativity in the trash when the Gran Sasso experiment indicated superluminal neutrinos, because we had over 100 years of experiments, combined with a solid theoretical framework, telling us that relativity is correct. By the time we'd gotten there, a contradictory result became an extraordinary claim. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and a single experiment isn't that.

Nevertheless, relativity was being tested with that experiment, even if the purpose of the experiment was something other than testing relativity.

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1 hour ago, Reg Prescott said:

Well, the original quote (from SamCogar), that Phi responded to, pertained to mainstream science, not science per se. Of course, questions are being asked in science all the time. Where I'd object is to the claim that the mainstream, i.e., the overarching theoretical framework, or paradigm, is subject to constant questioning or challenge.

I think you make a mistake in ignoring the staggering amount of methodically recorded evidence for mainstream theories, each piece of which was an attempt to challenge those theories. It makes your arguments look like you're trying to judge the scientific merits by bouncing them in either hand.

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As we are still seeing fairly regular headlines such as “GR passes another test” (almost a century after the first experiment) I find it hard to understand how anyone could imagine science isn’t constantly being tested. (GR is just an example, there are similar tests of pretty much every area every day - at every level: we had a great science teacher at school who encouraged the students to think of new ways of testing what they had been taught)

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15 minutes ago, Strange said:

As we are still seeing fairly regular headlines such as “GR passes another test” (almost a century after the first experiment) I find it hard to understand how anyone could imagine science isn’t constantly being tested. (GR is just an example, there are similar tests of pretty much every area every day - at every level: we had a great science teacher at school who encouraged the students to think of new ways of testing what they had been taught)

And those headlines are just for direct tests. What of the thousands of science papers published every year? Or just the workings in a lab that fall short of being publishable?

The clocks I work on wouldn't function as advertised without QM and relativity working. We get people here claiming relativity is wrong and there is an aether, and yet I know that's not possible because I can do something simple like align a laser into a single-mode optical fiber and have it stay aligned all day, something that would fail if we were moving through an aether. 

To claim otherwise is to ignore they ways that science is interconnected and how it rests upon its foundations.

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Posted (edited)

By aiming only at the really big discoveries of Science you are deceiving yourself as to the nature and activities of Science and scientists.

There are only  a handful of such really big discoveries a century, the rest of Science is prosaic and mundane.

Perhaps what has been said this gives you the idea that (we think or you think) that all scientists are sitting at their desks doing nothing but challenging what they already know.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I have made a few very small discoveries/innovations, but have never had the need or opportunity to challenge the basis from which I was working.

Can you tell me what happens to  a new brick, fresh from the kiln?

Well I spent some time researching this question because the answer is of interest in the building industry.

By far the most of Science and scientific activity is of this nature.

So it is against this background that you should be discussing your question.

Edited by studiot

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, swansont said:

To claim otherwise is to ignore they ways that science is interconnected and how it rests upon its foundations.

Some people seem to think it is a house of cards (“if I can just prove this one detail wrong, the whole thing collapses”) whereas it is more like a complex structure of mutually supporting pillars and beams. Change one thing and a few other bits might need to be adjusted, but the whole structure is stable. 

Edited by Strange

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, Phi for All said:

I think you make a mistake in ignoring the staggering amount of methodically recorded evidence for mainstream theories, each piece of which was an attempt to challenge those theories. It makes your arguments look like you're trying to judge the scientific merits by bouncing them in either hand.

Again, I have to respectfully disagree. Did you watch (the relevant one minute of) the Dawkins video I posted? Dawkins does not sound at all to me like a man hell bent on challenging natural selection theory. (Does he strike you that way?). Quite the opposite. In fact, if you continue watching, you'll hear him describe it as a "matter of faith" on his part.

Now, I'm not here trying to overemphasize his use of the word faith. What I am suggesting, rather, is that the theory is simply taken for granted. There is not the slightest whiff that the theory is being questioned or challenged, contrary to your earlier remark that mainstream theories are "questioned all the time" Not this time apparently.

Another example: Let's go back to the 19th century. The planet Uranus is misbehaving. Its movements are at variance with what Newtonian mechanics predicts. Once again, we have a situation where observation clashes with theory. On a naive falsificationist account, we should say that the theory has been falsified and must be jettisoned. On your account, we should say that mainstream Newtonian mechanics was being "questioned all the time".

To my knowledge, it was never even suggested that Newtonian mechanics might be in dire straits. It was not "questioned" -- as you claim happens all the time. Rather, it was, once again, simply taken for granted. Instead, the anomalous orbit of Uranus was regarded as a puzzle or an anomaly, something that had to be reconciled with the paradigm -- exactly as Kuhn would have, and Popper would not have, predicted.

(In this particular case the scientists were right. Mathematicians did some number-crunching, astronomers pointed their telescopes as directed, and hey presto! -- Neptune was discovered. Chalk up another one for the good guys.)

Examples such as these could be adduced pretty much ad infinitum. It is simply not true that mainstream theories are being "questioned all the time", in my opinion.

8 hours ago, swansont said:

Gravity is not questioned, either. You reach a point where the weight of evidence is sufficient that it's a waste of time and effort to confirm the basic theory. You then move on to more advanced topics — but that doesn't mean that you have stopped testing the theory. It just means you have moved on to indirect tests, i.e. where the experiment would fail if the underlying paradigm were wrong, and will only succeed if the new idea (based on that paradigm) is correct.

If what you say (in bold) is true, then Phi's claim that mainstream science is being "questioned all the time" is false.

Edited by Reg Prescott
typo

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33 minutes ago, Reg Prescott said:

It is simply not true that mainstream theories are being "questioned all the time", in my opinion.

I'm so sorry I can't do more to help you understand the nature of scientific methodology, and how theories are always challenged by experimentation, even when they support them. I think there must be something hindering your critical thinking in this regard. Perhaps it's your fixation on mistakes, trying again to bounce them in one hand while ignoring the mountain of trustworthy success in the other.

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Just now, Phi for All said:

I'm so sorry I can't do more to help you understand the nature of scientific methodology, and how theories are always challenged by experimentation, even when they support them. I think there must be something hindering your critical thinking in this regard. Perhaps it's your fixation on mistakes, and again trying to bounce them in one hand while ignoring the mountain of trustworthy success in the other.

Rather than condescend, why not just refute my argument?

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2 minutes ago, Reg Prescott said:

Rather than condescend, why not just refute my argument?

Haven't you realized it's not an argument but a misunderstanding? It's been explained to you, but you're being (purposely?) obtuse about it, and keep preaching instead of listening.

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If there is no evidence that existing science based understandings could be wrong there is not a lot to question. When such evidence arises it tends to get addressed - and such evidence does get noticed when it arises; scientific careers can be made out of it. Is the evidence valid and significant enough to overturn existing understandings? How do you know? When scientific understandings are widely applied the opportunities to notice things that don't fit are increased, not decreased; it isn't a matter of constant, deliberate searching for things that don't fit - they are an inevitable outcome of using theories that are wrong.

If you make your own personal judgement the basis for accepting a theory as valid - and make your not understanding (or remaining unconvinced) the basis for your rejecting it then you are on very shaky ground. Appeals to authority may be a genuine logical fallacy, but presuming you know better than the experts is a fallacy too and it is the fallacy of the fallacy to think appeals to experts make the experts wrong.

What sources have you looked to? Do you have competency in the skills needed to make sense of complex arguments? Do you expect random people on internet forums to convince you and do you claim a widely accepted theory is false if they can't? Perhaps their comprehension is lacking, or perhaps yours. Perhaps they are not very good at explaining. Perhaps they are not able to penetrate a fierce determination to admit no mistake or any lack of comprehension or deviate from an existing belief.

Perhaps you need to have the skillset that comes with years of undergraduate study followed by years of post-graduate research.

 

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58 minutes ago, Reg Prescott said:

Another example: Let's go back to the 19th century. The planet Uranus is misbehaving. Its movements are at variance with what Newtonian mechanics predicts. Once again, we have a situation where observation clashes with theory. On a naive falsificationist account, we should say that the theory has been falsified and must be jettisoned. On your account, we should say that mainstream Newtonian mechanics was being "questioned all the time".

To my knowledge, it was never even suggested that Newtonian mechanics might be in dire straits. It was not "questioned" -- as you claim happens all the time. Rather, it was, once again, simply taken for granted. Instead, the anomalous orbit of Uranus was regarded as a puzzle or an anomaly, something that had to be reconciled with the paradigm -- exactly as Kuhn would have, and Popper would not have, predicted.

Once again, all this shows is your apparent ignorance and then misinterpretation of science and history. Again the apparent abnormal orbit of Uranus according to Newtonian mechanics predicted another planet further out. Bingo! That planet was found and named Neptune. In fact Neptune was mathematically pin pointed by Newtonian mechanics before it was observed. In other words observation did not clash with theory, rather observation aligned with the principals of the theory!... Not bad for a approximate theory!!

 

Edited by beecee

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29 minutes ago, Reg Prescott said:

As with my response to swansont (bottom of previous page), if what you say here is true, then Phi's claim that mainstream science is being "questioned all the time" is false.

I think that is a matter of interpretation - although it is quite possible my views on this do not align with Swansont's; that does not mean you have shown that significant mistakes are being perpetuated within "science" or are being concealed or go unaddressed when they become known. This a forum, not a science institution; I'm offering my opinions, as is Swansont. You do not win this argument because Swansont and I don't agree - (The Fallacy of the Fallacy).

Working scientists operate within codes of conduct, with expectations that standards for professionalism - including honesty, accurate record keeping and logical consistency - are adhered to; careers can be ruined by failures in these areas.

My main point is that science that gets used all the time gets questioned all the time - not only by scientists questioning their assumptions and attempting to find mistakes in their own work (if only to avoid having them pointed out by others) but by the consistency or lack thereof with existing theories within their results. This kind of questioning does not have to be emphasised or even mentioned within published results to have taken place.

You can find areas of science which don't get used widely and the extent to which they are subjected to critique can be limited by their obscurity and the small numbers of scientists engaged with them. Or find subject matter where fundamental questions remain unanswered and competing schools of thought exist. Such levels of uncertainty do not usually go unacknowledged or unquestioned - more often the first thing they will say is they don't know.

I would note that the examples of science getting things seriously wrong and scientists getting stubborn about it have mostly not occurred in recent times. They are almost all examples of better grounded understandings ultimately displacing those erroneous positions, ie of science asking questions and working. It is not only the body of knowledge that is science's product that has grown and improved; the systems and practices science is conducted within have grown and improved too.

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