Paths To Knowledge (dot Science)

What is actually real in Objective Reality? How do you know? Now, prove it's real!

What is science? What is it to be a reasonable scientist?

Posted by pwl on February 22, 2009

Originally posted by pwl on Sat Feb 14, 2009 1:31 am

Hi,

Today [actually about a week ago on Sat Feb 14th, 2009] I spent a considerable amount of time and energy interacting with a group of people I had respect for as scientists, or at least what I had perceived to be a group committed to comprehending objective reality, over here: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/02/i_marvel_every_time_at_a_presi.php. After the discussion my notions about them and respect for them suffered and adapted downwards, in some cases significantly.

What surprises me the most isn’t that they have a really solid point of view that their are right about human caused global warming (AWG), it’s the manner in which I was treated as someone who was asking questions and being up front with them that I don’t know what to believe about AWG. I am asking questions and reading all points of view on the topic. The immediate and rapid labeling of me as a “denier”, “skeptic”, “put up or publish”, “liar”, and more was a powerfully potent drum beat of a coordinated offensive in their debating style that left no room for even the most basic questions or notions of auditing. I am very shocked by their manners considering that they (a few of them anyhow) are supposed to be educated scientists pursuing science.

Now I don’t need any supportive comments to confirm what I already know through the experience of interacting with them I am deeply curious about the reaction to what should be a basic aspect in the approach to science using the scientific method and a rational scientific process. I gather that I was deeply and profoundly mistaken that scientists are committed to actually questioning their processes of thought and methodology and their hypothesis, data, and their conclusions.

I am a systems scientist with a deep background in writing software systems of all kinds including systems that have built in auditing, engineering systems, of the program execution context and ongoing process. I apply both intuitive processes as well as the hardest evidence based development processes that any other hard science uses when they need it. So while I’m not a climate scientist – as I freely admited before entering the discussion – and I’m not a physicist or a chemist I do have the skills and tools of the hard evidence based approaches of computer science in my skill set and experience in my career.

What I’m interested in knowing from working scientists is what you consider science to be, what your teachers taught you, what you’ve learned from them and on your own, how you approach science and the scientific method – rationally and intuitively – and the process of vetting your thought processes and the steps of validating your hypotheses and assuming the data confirms your hypotheses how you go about testing your theories and validating OR invalidating them with falsifications. How do you falsify your own hypotheses? How do you design your experiments?

As of now I don’t know enough about climate science to properly debate the substantive issues. One of the issues is that it’s very challenging to know what to believe without being able to test the claims being made from the various people making claims. This is a serious issue, and not just in climate science. How can someone test the claims of climate science on one’s own?

Just about anyone can test Newton’s theories and equations of gravity, f=ma for example, using high school physics.

How can someone test the claims of climate science on one’s own?

What is science?

What is a scientist?

What is a fair “attitude” that a scientist could take when being questioned by others who don’t know their subject or whom disagree with their conclusions?

What does it really mean to be fair and open to criticism in science? What is not fair play?

If, for example, you are a chemistry teacher and have a student who asks you to “prove that atoms exist” what do you say or do to the student or even to a stranger who asks you while you are busy going about your day? Do you call them a “denier” of the existence of “atoms”? Do you teach them the atomic theory? (Which atomic theory or level of it do you teach?) Do you teach the student how to prove the existence of atoms on their own so that they might teach others the same? Do you tell them that it’s not possible to prove that atoms exist and that you must take it on faith or because that is the way it is or do you take it on authority? When and how and in what situations can the student learn the knowledge in a manner that empowers with knowledge and skill rather than endarkens with belief? When and how do you leave someone empowered with an insight into objective reality that actually enables them to think critically for themselves? Or do you even try?

What is the process of science? When do you give up one idea and adopt another? Have you been through that process? If so please expand upon the details of what you experienced with highlights of what was gained and lost in the process, or other details you feel were/are relevant?

Have you ever falsified your own hypotheses, and if so how did you do it? If not, why not and how did you avoid or disprove the falsification (if that makes sense in your case)?

What should a person committed to science stand their ground and not back down to the challenges? How do you know that you are on the right track with that? How do you know you’re not pursuing a blind alley? How is evidence on your side and when can you tell it isn’t? How do you reconcile the different views of the various parties in a conversation of science? Do you trust people or do you test the hell out of what they say? Does that piss them off? How do you know you’ve gone too far? Is it possible to go to far? If so how do you know?

Obviously there are many strategies and styles for doing science that the many scientists – educated or not – follow in arriving at their answers. Ultimately objective reality is the final judge as that is the play ground within which we exist for real. Ultimately our perceptual “views” that we think are “real” ultimately aren’t. How do you really know that what you perceive is actually real or not?

I don’t necessarily expect answers to any or all of these questions. I’m more posting to focus my thoughts and open a dialog with any that are interested in the process of science and your experience thereof in a challenging field, climate science or whatever field you are in. How do you know you are connected to reality and not a set of belief stricken dreams of grandeur? How do you slice and dice your dreams with critical though and the testing of evidence to arrive at a rational view of existence?

Also your comments on the known and proven facts of climate science might be a good place to start with home testability of claims?

I thank you in advance for your kind attention and for your time and cognitive process thinking about these and any other questions or criticisms you might offer.

All the best,

pwl

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