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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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  • Dan F 50+

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    Dec 26 2013: Hi Richard, just a couple elementary comments,

    There are a couple elements I think are noteworthy about the scientific method. Its employment has a free enterprise component. Its open to all. Also it has an element of helping us better understand the world around us because - the truth, when it can be illuminated by this method, can get our attention.

    The fact is almost anything, even the scientific method is subject to the motives of those "employing it." This can be a problem because the scientific method design is idealistic and can be tainted by our cultural traditions, or our unrelated creative or self promoting side. Does anyone deny these aspects are often steeped into our humanity and reflected in universities, textbooks composers, professions, etc.

    In general the scientific method has stimulated science in the modern era and the resulting application of this knowledge is reflected in a manner that has reconfigured our world both physically and in terms of our individual internal perspectives about reality.

    Even though it may be somewhat side lined in many "colleges," or water down, etc., its most revealing employment demands the very best of us in two ways. The information fed in is factual and complete and the results are factual and complete regarding the task at study.

    Although the scientific method may not "prove" anything it has provided us with an undeniable gift best referred to as "standing knowledge" and the internet has been instrumental in helping millions of us better understanding the physical sciences and how all this knowledge came about.

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