scientific method and truth ...

by soft+gentle 66 Replies latest jw friends

  • soft+gentle

    what is the relationship between the two?

  • NewChapter

    Perhaps you are comparing apples and oranges?

    Why don't you explain what you think the scientific method is, and how you would use this to define truths?

  • slimboyfat

    I believe scientific method helps create useful conceptualisations of the world rather than makes discoveries concerning the truth about the world as such.

  • talesin

    I think that scientific method is supposed to be conducted with complete transparency, and that's where truth comes in. Scientists are not supposed to manipulate said method to reach a predetermined conclusion (think of the scientists who worked for tobacco companies, and covered up the results, or the scientists who work for pharma, who skew results intentionally to get drug approval).

    Truth is a part of the scientific method when it is applied in an ethical fashion. Aside from that, research can prove or disprove assumptions and theories; this could be seen as seeking truth.

    Was that as clear as mud?

  • bohm

    The scientific method is simply a way to investigate phenomena in the world as to aquire knowledge about them. The main feature is that it is based on systematic emperical investigation. Feynman gave the following 3-step definition I think is superior to anything else i have read:

    • Get an idea
    • Derive predictions from the idea
    • Test the idea and either reject, keep or rewise it based on how the experiment agree with the prediction.

    I see the scientific method as common-sence amplified: suppose for instance you want to figure out what happends to people if you give them a certain drug. There are plenty of ways to get an idea about what might happend, for instance you could seek out a revelation from God about what happends, you could sit down and think very carefull, you could ask the oldest person you know, you could take a vote or you could turn to astrology or tealeaf-reading -- but according to the scientific method, the best way to figure it out is the way a 5-year old would figure it out namely by making someone eat the pill and see what happends.

    Experience with drugs might lead us to think drugs does not work the same for all people (again subject to scientific investigation), so we might think it would be better to give the drug to (say) 50 people and see what happends on average compared to 50 people who does not get the drug (again i think this is common sence) and so on.

    What we hope to get out of applying the scientific method is what is true -- ie what *actually* happend to people you give the drug (which is what i will call "truth" in this respect).

    Ofcourse there is no guarantee that actually happends, for instance you might give the drug to 50 people (and not give it to 50 other people) and by extreme unfortune the 50 first people die the next day of unrelated reasons and your conclusions are properly going to be wrong; but other people who do the same experiment might be less unfortunate and you can eventually hope to reduce the effect of chance.

    Many people will make claims such as: "But the scientific method is not the only way to find truth", usually citing a lot of instances where the scientific method failed.

    Typically one of two things are meant: Either they refer to a particular definition of truth which ultimately have to do with their feelings about the universe (and you wonder why they thought the scientific method would help them sort those out to begin with), or alternatively, that there are other ways of aquering knowledge about the world than the scientific method.

    When the later case is implied i allways ask for what other method of aquiering knowledge they propose? Take the case of the drug, which alternative ways of finding out what happends when you take a drug is there than actually testing what happends? The only serious alternative i can think off is a theoretical prediction, but those again rest on lots of scientific work to discover the biochemistry and not an "other way".

    A side note, be aware that "truth" is a very torny concept to define philosophically without getting circular.

  • DarioKehl

    Scientific method is totally transparent. It's publicly available after extensive research, analysis and peer review. "Truth" is a philosophical concept. I could say it is "true" that every rock will fall to the ground after I toss it over my head. But a scientist would never make a blanket statement like that because to confirm that claim, he or she would have to toss every rock on planet earth over their head to see if they all fell to the ground. That's an impossible test to perform, so, based on all the observable data, what we know about Newtonian Physics and the extremely small probability of a single rock not returning to the ground after a gentle toss over the head, science can only make a prediction of the enormous likelihood that every rock would fall back to the ground.

    Philosophy attempts to answer "why" questions.

    Science explains the answers to "what" and "how" questions.

  • bohm

    Philosophy attempts to answer "why" questions.

    Science explains the answers to "what" and "how" questions.

    Actually i am not so happy about this distinction, for instance I think a scientist will give better answers than a philosopher to why-questions such as: "why is the sky blue", "why does water become hard when it freeze".

  • DarioKehl


    I've just always felt that "why" is more open-ended and subject to various ideas than "how" and "what." I guess they all have the same degree of legitimacy in making inquiry. Little kids seem to ask "why" a lot more and adults seem more concerned with the mechanical "how" and "why" solutions. Just my observation.

  • DarioKehl

    "Why" could easily be answered with misleading or unsatisfactory replies like, "Because I said so," or "Because God made it that way."

    "How" and "what" require more detailed explainations and filter out a lot of bullshittery.

  • bohm

    Dario: how-questions can be answered the same way presuming it is the same question being asked.

    How-questions typically require some domain knowledge to be asked, for instance compare:

    "Why is the sky blue" compared to

    "how does electromagnetic radiation in the visible spectrum interact with gas"

    And i think this extra jargon often make the later feel more "scientific". But the original question --why is the sky blue-- is really the more fundamental and perfectly valid. Said in another way, it is in trying to answer this (and related) questions we figured out which how-questions should be asked.

    Consider for instance the big questions today such as: "Why are we conscious?", "Why is the laws of the universe the way they are?", "why is there something rather than nothing?", i think these are perfectly naturally asked as why-questions and taking the later as an example, i think it is hard to formulate naturally as a how-question without presupposing a lot of stuff (ofcourse you can ask 'how come' ;-)). For instance consider: "how did the universe come into existence", I think you are then coming close to presupposing some things like the universe came into existence (that is, there was a time of non-existence).

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