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richard moody jr

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Is the scientific method the best way to get at the "truth"?

In their preface of Broad and Wade the following paragraph sums up their findings, “Our conclusion, in brief, is that science bears little resemblance to its conventional portrait. We believe that the logical structure discernible in scientific knowledge says nothing about the process by which the structure was built or the mentality of the builders. In the acquisition of new knowledge, scientists are not guided by logic and objectivity alone, but also by such nonrational factors as rhetoric, propaganda, and personal prejudice. Scientists do not depend solely on rational thought and have no monopoly on it. Science should not be considered the guardian of rationality in society, but merely one major form of its cultural expression.”

What we learn from Babbage, Reflections of the Decline of Science in England, and Some of Its Causes that as early as the 1830 ethical problems existed in the halls of science. Babbage refers to three practices, “Trimming consists in clipping off little bits here and there from those observations which differ most in excess of the mean, and in sticking them on to those which are too small; a species of ‘equitable adjustment’ as a radical would term it, which cannot be admitted in science.”

In this section “Of Cooking. This is an art of various forms, the object of which is to give to ordinary observations the appearance and character of those of the highest degree of accuracy.” “One of its numerous processes is to make multitudes of observations, and out of these to select those which agree, or very nearly agree. If a hundred observations are made, the cook must be very unlucky if he cannot pick out fifteen or twenty which will do for serving up.” Here Babbage anticipated trials conducted or financed by drug companies where unfavorable or neutral results are shelved and only the tests giving the “right” results are published. This process is systemic in the pharmaceutical industry.

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    Dec 19 2013: Rather than assailing the obvious shortcomings of imperfect human beings, or denouncing a system that has unlocked the human genome and enabled us to explore the solar system and beyond, a more productive tack might be to offer a superior alternative, which in your case would seem not to be data derived, empirical, measurable, repeatable, falsifiable and accepting of the premise that knowledge is provisional. We await your oracular beneficence.
    • Dec 19 2013: Intuititve iteration is the alternative; it depends on the falsification of fact, not hypotheses. The basic premise is that strong models corrupt the factual record. We must elevate greatly the quality of "facts", not focus on testing hypotheses. Intuitive-driven science depends on everything you say with the proviso that logic and fact does not override intuition; they are coequal elements of thought and must be reconciled.

      My suspicions is that if we were to focus on high quality fact generation, not quantity, science would improve greatly. Surely you are not if favor of the facts created by the biomedical community where we are being told, on the one hand, to take hormone replacement therapy---no wait that might not be a good idea or that testing saccharine with 3000 times the average consumption of diet drinks has no relevance to cancer. There is a vast sea of junk science that drives policy, like the linear no theshhold model of the EPA.

      If were to eliminate all low-quality science that is "out there" fully 90% of all data, "facts" would disappear. II forces the acquision of high-quality facts; the scientific method does not as witnessed by the acceptance by many physicists of the Eclipse data from 1919, probably the lowest quality "factual" record ever attained.

      Eddington created junk science and cemented in place a strong model with it. If the fatuous members of the Royal Society and the Royal Astronomical Society would have repudiated, not endorsed the work of Dyson and Eddington, the course of history would have been different. We might see other models of the universe arise that received support from a true "factual" record.

      To show just how much the scientific method doesn't work, is that Scientific American ran a junk article by Minkle endorsing the Eclipse data of 1919. So now we see almost a Century later that low-quality data has been converted to high-quality data by the Scientific Method.

      Focus on facts, not hypotheses and this travesty ends.
    • Dec 19 2013: Here is an anecdote comparing the scientific method to II. In a complicated opening called the Wilkes-Barre, I enlisted the aid of a top Grandmaster. At his disposal two of the strongest chess playing programs in the World running on multiple processors or, as he phrased it, "Just below industrial strength".

      He provided me with what he said was "perfect" theory and that White was clearly winning. My "gut" told me that White was getting "too much" advantage and that Black could improve. After examining his analysis, I found a key improvement for Black that the GM agreed posed more problems for White, but was still winning for White.

      My "gut" told me he was wrong and I went back a third time and found another key improvement for Black, which, again, the GM said was the best try for Black.

      Anyone who is an average player who was told by a top professional relying on the strongest computers in the world that his analysis was perfect might have relied on the scientific method and agreed with his initial assessment. I relied on II and twice was able to repudiate his analysis.

      With regard to the creation of "fact". 95% of all chess theory written pre-strong chess playing programs is "junk". This same percent of "junk" facts will be mirrored in the sciences as more and more facts are created of vastly superior quality than those generated over the past 200 years.

      An illustration of the corruption of the scientific method occurred when a friend of mine conducted an review of an ethics violation by a physicist. During the course of this interview in an unrelated manner, this scientist presented two graphs. The first showed copper contamination. The second showed no copper contamination. But then my friend noticed that the background readings which are as unique as a fingerprint were the same. The scientist was confronted and agreed he had just used white-out on the peak. The physicists present indicated this was standard procedure; sometimes time constrainst forced this!

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