Exposing PseudoAstronomy

January 30, 2017

Podcast Episode 156: The Scientific Method— How We Get to What We Know

The Scientific
Method: Technique for finding
What’s true, and what’s not.

Another roughly half-hour episode based around the idea of how we know what we know … in other words, the Scientific Method. It’s an episode wrapped up in some underlying subtext — that’s all I’ll say about it. There are no real other segments in this episode.

Sorry Not Sorry Meme

Sorry Not Sorry Meme



  1. Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.

    Comment by Vincent S Artale Jr — January 30, 2017 @ 5:34 pm | Reply

  2. Great episode, but I would love to hear you exams on two topics: (1) Some branches of the sciences has to use modifications to the steps you outlined. You mentioned string theory (theories?) but I think fields such as studies of phenomenons that are both slow and in the past (black holes) requires larger amounts of indirection.

    (2) The scientific method itself has evolved over the years. What is its essence? Are we now tweaking the last decimal points, or are there big changes in the future. Are the steps as we see them today specific to humans? Would a weakly directed AI choose to use the same methods, other than to humor its humans?

    Comment by johanges — February 1, 2017 @ 6:07 pm | Reply

  3. The current assault on science from the Right is something that needs to be opposed, especially now. Unfortunately I’ve seen some pretty bad attacks on science from the other side of politics, claims that objectivity, the scientific method, etc is inherently racist/sexist because white men came up with the concepts.

    Comment by Graham — February 3, 2017 @ 3:09 am | Reply

  4. I think people are skeptical of the scientific method because it seems that scientists are always coming up with contrary results. One year eating meat is bad for you, then it is good for you. Cholesterol was supposed to be bad for you, now it is good for you. Alcohol is bad for you, then it is good for you. Etc etc. So regardless of the scientific method, if the public is told contrary results enough times, they discount science altogether.

    Another thing is paradigms. Once science establishes a paradigm, it is hard to break. So if the paradigm is that hot fusion is the way to go, then other outlier fusion methods are more likely to actively be unfunded. How about Mars life? The paradigm is to not look for life and to not re-fly an updated Viking lander test. It seems Gil Levin’s tests are actively unfunded. So does the scientific method work in those and similar cases? Not a chance.

    Then there is the politicization issue. I think you have mentioned that the Hubble constant is an example of this. Likely anthropogenic climate change is another.

    Finally, I have noted that even if you have a peer reviewed paper, the number of “peers” does not guarantee a good review. Some peer reviewers may be too busy and review the paper superficially (e.g. “it is too long” or “it is missing a section”), rather than go into the details. Anyway, you are not really getting paid to do this (is it in your job description to peer review papers?). Just as it takes alot of time to write a paper, it takes even more time to understand what an author is trying to say, review his data and essentially do all his work to provide useful feedback. Who has the time to do this or the incentive? So, shoddy reasoning creeps into the peer review papers. And if the writer of the paper is a “name” then the peer reviewers generally don’t want to step on their toes or, worse, say “well, this guy is so much smarter than I am, he likely has everything right” and give him a pass. Do you want to alienate your “peer”? Well, some people don’t care, but if you want to be in a discipline a long time, it pays not to make enemies. Especially since they might eventually be peer reviewing YOUR paper!

    It all boils down to people are people. The facts you talk about seem to be adjustable. Usually, this is due to interpretation. For instance, a paper on lunar polar illumination had what was portrayed as definitive illumination maps of the south and north pole (after all it came from REAL data). But the authors could not have been definitive (and they listed no caveats) since the camera only took images every pass, not continuously, also, sometimes the camera did not work, also, the camera did not operate the entire year, also, the authors failed to consider that the Sun coming a low or zero grazing angle would not illuminate the surface. But they were experts. I have seen this a lot in papers. The authors do not list their error bars or caveats the limitations of their data.

    Comment by J Fincannon — February 3, 2017 @ 8:25 am | Reply

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