“How can we demonstrate or exemplify the quality of good science ?” Elizabeth had asked, elsewhere, but I felt it needed promotion to a separate discussion.
- Good scientists: Archimedes, Gallileo, Newton, Darwin, Andy Wakefield
- Moderate scientists: Mendel, Watson &Crick
- Poor scientists: I’ll fill this one demain as I’ve cut too many logs today and must go sleep!
Elizabeth: How do you measure the relative virtue of the scientists ?
Carlos: Two questions: 1) Is the person’s knowledge and understanding of the nature of things reliable? 2) Can the person be relied upon to always do things in close cooperation with the nature of things?
Me: Hi, there’s three good questions:
1 – Elizabeth – Virtuous scientists, en mon avis, do not shy from truth although it may be unpopular and present matters as they actually are. So Mendel, although he’s the father of genetical theory, cooked his data to demonstrate his theories – very bad habit. Watson and Crick, first showed us structure to DNA but stole crucial data from Rosalind Franklin.
2 – Carlos – I feel their manner of approach says a lot about their reliability. Gallileo was fiercely attacked by the Catholic Inquisition to recant his science, but stuck to his support of Copernicus’ heliocentricity theories. Andy Wakefield has recently received similar treatment for criticising the current medical hierarchy – and was cast out by the GMC “Star Chamber”
3- CM – If they are 1 & 2 then I would expect a “Yes” here.
Then came Dogmatix:
Julia: Science is the application of a method. Of induction. Good science means nothing more than the application of induction to questions that are truly inductive. Bad science results from applying induction to questions that are not inductive. Pseudo-science is the application of fallacious logic to questions that are inductive.
To use the term ‘good’ as in virtue – does not mean ‘method’ – it means “what are the practical consequences” of an proven inference. That needs to be framed “what good does science do?” not “is this good science”. The linguistic context is everything.
Just to make a point about that and about ‘definition’
“All men are mortal.” is not a definition. “Socrates is a man.” is not a definition, it’s a description. Therefore the suggestion that I cannot conclude “Ergo Socrates is mortal” from premises that are not definitions is absurd.
Even from the logico-linguistic point of view – definitions have no baring on sense. It is linguist context that changes or give the sense to the terms of a statement. Even terms that are synonyms can become antonyms simply by changing the linguistic context. e.g. Vision and sight are synonyms. They can also define the sam thing. But there is a difference between saying “Barbra your a vision.” and “Barbra your a sight.” – the synonyms have become antonyms in this linguistic context.
Me: Julia, I much prefer deduction. Induction is what I do with copper coils.
Julia: As bad science must…
Sigh, how stupid is she? Does she take that as a logical or even humorous comment?
Me: Perhaps you never have but I imagine the principle is the same. Deduction is drawing out whereas induction is putting in, bringing to being, surely.
Julia: Not in logic
RE: The problem of induction:
OK, when given such a reference I will look at it, and so I did just that. It was a Stanford University philosopher, giving a rundown/intro to induction and deduction before going into reams of obscure calculations, pure mathematics and other banal, impenetrable sophistry. Of course it shows my analogy with copper wire is useful. Given this situation, they say what should occur. Take copper wire into magnetic field and electric current will be generated. This magnet or that magnet, this field or that field etc. From this they generalize to provide “Laws”.
Me: The point about science is not to predict your results but to deduce from what you have seen any rules or techniques that may be applied in other situations. So you examine an emerald, do its chemistry, its physics and write it up. Future gems can be compared with your data and decisions be made as to whether they fall within your criteria, whether these should be altered and, indeed, whether this new gem is an emerald.
Or, as Stanford says:
“There can be no deductive justification for induction. Any inductive justification of induction would, on the other hand, be circular.”
That’ll do for me!
Elizabeth: Baconian induction is the method used by modern science.
Julia: I can only infer that if you use the following “There can be no deductive justification for induction. Any inductive justification of induction would, on the other hand, be circular.” to as a definition of scientific method – you have not understood the statement.
Que, Julia, que??
It means there is deduction that one can make to justify the inferences of the type you describe. Nor is there any inductive inference one can make for those kinds of inferences.
Que, encore, he bilingually interjects.
If you say “That’ll do for me.” then you deny that you can make the kinds of inferences you use as examples – since to examine is to apply general principles. General principles are inductive inferences. “The problem of induction” means there is no deduction to justify such principles.
You statement is self-condradictory.
My quotes were directly from the Stanford text and after reading them well. I was, of course, making a debating point, Julia sadly had only one thought method – tremendously inflexible and straightjacketed. But it shows a major problem arising from present educational didactism. You learn this because this is how it is.
Julia: Elizabeth said: “I am not limiting my thinking to whether they perform their experiments logically, accurately, honestly or well, but I am thinking of the role which science plays in society and how we can evaluate or quantify the qualititive aspect and impact”
I already pointed out that is not ‘good science’ it’s ‘what good does science do?” – your statements are invalid if it is about ‘good science’ – Good science is about the logic of method – if you do not confront the ‘problem of induction’ your talking nonsense.
More utter inflexibility. Here she wants “Good” to have a specific definition pertaining to it’s following a prescribed thought process. So the rubbish in, rubbish out is totally OK to her, so long as it’s followed this logical system. Dangerous indeed, as I’ve shown elsewhere.
I then answered Liz’ contribution which I’ve lost, but the gist is there:
Me: Thanks, that’s cool, but I call that Bacon bit “reasoning”!
The morals of science are another place for evolution. My dad (again!) was a research zoologist/immunologist and so I grew up with visits to “The Animal House”. Example to kids has unintended consequences and, in me, there was no wish to copy, as it seemed sadly inappropriate. So my science had to be different, holistic and systems oriented not brutally reductionist.
So your last paragraph is as with my unease, too. From Einstein came the atomic bomb and, indirectly, Chernobyl and Fukoshima and there are so many similar, scenarios but now commerce drives, eg GM seed, governed by little other than seeking monopoly capitalistic dominance. Simple moral considerations are so squashed. Then the horrible question – do good scientists work for Monsanto?
Elizabeth: Chris I was saddened to learn from a bright graduate friend that when he began to look for work he found that all the ‘good’ science graduates had only the opportunity to work for the ‘big guys’.
Since he could not accept the (im)moral aspect of the work he was offered he has joined the (growing) ranks of the unemployed graduates.
Me: Yes, that’s where we are. There is a fantastic amount of regenerative, systems sustainability work crying out to be undertaken but cold economics will not allow it. To me it seems, however corny it sounds, that we’re on the cusp of a new age of enlightenment, Renaissance style. Certainly that’s whence my energies are channelled.
Tell your friend to hang on in there, eh?
Pleased I kept this – it’s exactly as I titled it but shows a certain upbringing and background and, if it helps me understand the GMC “Evidence based medicine” system, then so much the better.