How does science work?

How does science work? And what's all this about quantum mechanics?

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uwot
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How does science work?

Post by uwot » Mon Apr 30, 2018 2:38 pm

Partly inspired by my ongoing, but largely futile efforts to convince members of this forum that I'm not a complete idiot, I have decided to write another article to submit for publication in the magazine. (That's Philosophy Now, for anyone who doesn't realise that we on this forum are guests of that organ.) You can read my original effort here: https://philosophynow.org/issues/104/Ph ... d_Branches or in my blog: https://willijbouwman.blogspot.co.uk It was a while ago, but I've been busy doing an MSc in History and Philosophy, getting divorced, moving house (twice), going doolally and a bunch of other craziness.

Anyway, the idea is to write 4500 words by the end of May, exploring and developing issues that have presented themselves in discussions on this forum. The starting point is taking up from the Roots and branches article, that theoretical science generally has three sides to it: The phenomenon. The mathematical analysis. The philosophical model. Then there's the practical applications.
For now, the working framework is something I've cut and pasted from another thread involving Philosophy Explorer among others:

1. There can be any number of theories to explain the same phenomenon.
See the list of alternative theories for gravity below, for example.
2. The maths gives pretty much the same results.
All the theories below are consistent with the observed data. In other words, any one of them could be true.
3. The different theories are based on different philosophical models.
For example: General relativity is based on the idea that gravity is caused by the 'curvature of spacetime'. Whereas: "In string theory, one of the many vibrational states of the string corresponds to the graviton, a quantum mechanical particle that carries gravitational force. Thus string theory is a theory of quantum gravity."
4. The philosophical models are psychological tools.
These help physicists to conceptualise the thing they are studying, which makes it much easier to come up with new ideas to research than ploughing through a mountain of tricky maths.

Of course there is no guarantee that it will get published, and if it does it would be next year at the earliest, but I will be referring to this forum and this thread in particular. So please do comment and contribute, but bear in mind there is a potential readership of thousands on top of the usual crew.

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QuantumT
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Re: How does science work?

Post by QuantumT » Tue May 01, 2018 5:17 pm

Besides from your headline, there does not seem to be any questions raised in this presentation. Or, did I miss them? :shock:

uwot
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Re: How does science work?

Post by uwot » Wed May 02, 2018 10:06 am

QuantumT wrote:
Tue May 01, 2018 5:17 pm
Besides from your headline, there does not seem to be any questions raised in this presentation. Or, did I miss them? :shock:
Questions, eh? Well, the questions are right at the end, so by all means skip this bit. The working premise is that philosophers, scientists and in fact everyone else can be very loosely divided into two groups. There are those that believe that there are objective rules and those that think we make them up. So for instance, in politics there are those that think there is just right and wrong. In ethics, there are those who think there are absolute moral values. In aesthetics there are those who think there are specific qualities a work of art must have to be regarded as beautiful. There are those who believe that the answers to everything are written down in a 'holy' book. And in science there are those that think the laws we discover are somehow written into the fabric of the universe, and the job of a scientist is to discover those rules. This view came under attack in the second half of the 20th century, much of it inspired by the publication of Kuhn's 'The Structure of Scientific Revolutions' in 1962. He pointed out that science is more complicated than the model of gradual and inexorable accumulation of 'scientific truth'. The sociologist Robert K. Merton had made a similar point, but assumed the 'accumulation' model of science, claiming that scientific ideas are held by communities of scientists (phrenology, phlogiston and whatnot), but that such theories are proven wrong and the whole community drops them. David Bloor, however, argued that there are other motivations which affect our acceptance of theories; the Lysenko affair being a notorious example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysenkoism
Long story short, arguments between 'realists' and social constructivists/post modernists came to a head in the 'Science Wars' of the 1990's.
Anyway questions.
How could you tell if a scientific theory was 'true'?
Does science discover 'rules', or does it just invent them to account for observed behaviour?

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Re: How does science work?

Post by Impenitent » Wed May 02, 2018 11:59 pm

to claim the future will repeat as the past did, because of past events...

-Imp

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QuantumT
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Re: How does science work?

Post by QuantumT » Thu May 03, 2018 6:26 pm

uwot wrote:
Wed May 02, 2018 10:06 am
How could you tell if a scientific theory was 'true'?
Does science discover 'rules', or does it just invent them to account for observed behaviour?
In my opinion rules are an anthropological necessity, and not a scientific necessity.
But we drag anthropology into everything we do, and thereby polarising everything.
In science, if you step outside the consensus, your work is labelled as "pseudoscience". You are then stigmatised and ignored. Professionally dead.

I truly hate that aspect of todays scientific community.

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Re: How does science work?

Post by -1- » Thu May 03, 2018 8:14 pm

Re: How does science work?
I think that a better question is "how much does it make an hour?"
QuantumT wrote:
Thu May 03, 2018 6:26 pm


In science, if you step outside the consensus, your work is labelled as "pseudoscience". You are then stigmatized and ignored. Professionally dead.

I truly hate that aspect of today's scientific community.
Ah. In the philosophy community -- so I hear -- the current trend is being a feminist female. If you are not that, you are toast. And not just any femme fatale... a rabid one at that.

==============

And in the creative writing community if you haven't got some creative writing degree, you are toast.

I think here the emphasis is that there are so many hopeful writers, and they are all so fucking bad and awful to read, that they had to come down with some sort of rule of thumb who can and who can't win creative writing competitions. There are those who have paid their dues -- literally, in hard currency, in the form of tuition fees -- and if they can prove it, they get published. Otherwise you are toast.

-------------------

In the prostitution field it's the same. And also the break-and-enter field, the bodily assault causing bodily harm field, and in the resisting arrest field. I know. Been there, done that.

-------------------

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Re: How does science work?

Post by -1- » Thu May 03, 2018 8:27 pm

uwot wrote:
Wed May 02, 2018 10:06 am
Anyway questions.
How could you tell if a scientific theory was 'true'?
Does science discover 'rules', or does it just invent them to account for observed behaviour?
As an armchair-philosopher, my views or answers are as follow:

1. We can't know if a scientific theory is true. We can only know if it is untrue.
2. Science discovers rules or invents them? Science notices some regular behavior under similar or same conditions. This is discovery. To put it in a form of predictability, I mean, to describe the behavior in terms of repeatable prediction, it invents rules.

Science does NOT explain anything. The opposite of this is the most basic misunderstanding about science. It describes things, and turns them into human-understandable form, but that is not explaining. It ought not to explain, and it does not. You can explain a scientific process, fact, or discovery, but in turn those: the fact, process or discovery, do not explain anything.

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Re: How does science work?

Post by -1- » Thu May 03, 2018 8:39 pm

Before y'all folks jump all over me: I meant to say that science never explains the "why". It explains the "how".

That's what I meant by saying "science does not explain anything."

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QuantumT
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Re: How does science work?

Post by QuantumT » Thu May 03, 2018 8:46 pm

-1- wrote:
Thu May 03, 2018 8:39 pm
Before y'all folks jump all over me: I meant to say that science never explains the "why". It explains the "how".

That's what I meant by saying "science does not explain anything."
True dat!

But the community is still snobbish when someone goes outside consensus.

thedoc
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Re: How does science work?

Post by thedoc » Fri May 04, 2018 2:30 am

uwot wrote:
Mon Apr 30, 2018 2:38 pm
Partly inspired by my ongoing, but largely futile efforts to convince members of this forum that I'm not a complete idiot.
Believe me your efforts are not completely futile.

BTW I really enjoyed your book.

uwot
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Re: How does science work?

Post by uwot » Fri May 04, 2018 8:19 am

QuantumT wrote:
Thu May 03, 2018 6:26 pm
In science, if you step outside the consensus, your work is labelled as "pseudoscience". You are then stigmatised and ignored. Professionally dead.

I truly hate that aspect of todays scientific community.
One of the points I am making in this proposed article is that there are always disagreements amongst scientists. Imre Lakatos, for instance, referred to 'research programmes'. You can see this in the rivalry between Loop Quantum and String theorists. In the meantime, you might be interested in this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academic_freedom

uwot
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Re: How does science work?

Post by uwot » Fri May 04, 2018 8:27 am

-1- wrote:
Thu May 03, 2018 8:39 pm
Before y'all folks jump all over me: I meant to say that science never explains the "why". It explains the "how".

That's what I meant by saying "science does not explain anything."
Well, "why" is ultimately philosophy. Here's a paragraph from a draft of the article:

Some physicists take a very dim view of philosophy. According to the late Stephen Hawking, philosophy is dead, because “Philosophers have not kept up with modern developments in science. Particularly physics.” But what of physicists doing philosophy? Steven Weinberg wrote in Dreams of a final theory a chapter called Against philosophy, part of the thrust of which is that the only service philosophers can provide physicists is to point out how useless other philosophers are. Even so, he concedes that: “Physicists do of course carry around with them a working philosophy. For most of us, it is a rough-and-ready realism, a belief in the objective reality of the ingredients of our scientific theories.”

So scientists do generally have an idea of 'why', but it doesn't make any difference to the mathematical models, which are the ones that count, because you can do things with them.

uwot
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Re: How does science work?

Post by uwot » Fri May 04, 2018 8:28 am

thedoc wrote:
Fri May 04, 2018 2:30 am
uwot wrote:
Mon Apr 30, 2018 2:38 pm
Partly inspired by my ongoing, but largely futile efforts to convince members of this forum that I'm not a complete idiot.
Believe me your efforts are not completely futile.

BTW I really enjoyed your book.
That's really good of you to say so. Thank you.

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Re: How does science work?

Post by -1- » Fri May 04, 2018 1:03 pm

uwot wrote:
Mon Apr 30, 2018 2:38 pm
Partly inspired by my ongoing, but largely futile efforts to convince members of this forum that I'm not a complete idiot.
Idiotism is a relative concept.

There are two types of idiotisms: ranking, and mutual.

In ranking idiotism, you can convince some that you are not an idiot, but since idiotism is ranked, and the border between "idiots" and "not idiots" is hugely arbitrary, only the smartest and wisest person on the planet can claim he or she is not an idiot.

However, the trouble thickens when you consider that the smartest may not be the wisest and vice versa.

===========

In mutual idiotism, two parties consider each other idiots. The more they (party A) try to convince the other party (party B) that they are not idiots, but the other one is, the more idiotic they become in the eye of the opposing party.

This type of idiot pairings, which I call mutual idiotism, is rampant on these forums.

------------------

I am proud to be the biggest idiot on the forums in the second sense as above.

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Re: How does science work?

Post by thedoc » Sat May 05, 2018 12:21 am

-1- wrote:
Fri May 04, 2018 1:03 pm
I am proud to be the biggest idiot on the forums in the second sense as above.
May your pride be ever greater in the future.

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