Scientific Method

Iterative process of experimentation to improve a Model.

Peter Norvig on warning signs in experiment design.

Simulations show that for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true. Moreover, for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias. Hmm, what does that mean for Climate Change?

Aug'2011: Venkatesh Rao prefers the phrase Scientific Sensibility... The sensibility that informs reliable processes of discovery has a characteristic feature: it is unsentimental... The scientific method is a sensibility crammed into the mold of a system. It is a an attempt to externalize something subtle and internal into something legible (Legibility) and external. The only reason to do this is to scale it into an industrial mode of knowledge production, which can be powered by participants who actually lack the sensibility entirely... To be unsentimental is to be Self Aware... To have a perfectly unsentimental sensibility is to be free to look at reality without expectations about what you will see... To be unsentimental is not about suppressing your humanity, it is about making your humanity irrelevant so you are reduced to the pure act of seeing... The only way to get there is by making a sacrifice: you must give up the pleasures of a sentimental engagement with life. The unsentimental eye, once opened, cannot be closed. The adoption of the scientific sensibility is an irreversible step. Your experience of love, friendship and fun will change. Expect your passions to be tragic passions. If you are religious, expect a troubled existence. The scientific method is not incompatible with religion, but the scientific sensibility is, because religion presupposes a sentimental engagement of life. There is one consolation though. The scientific sensibility makes humor and irony your constant companions for life.

  • related David Brin response to George Lakoff's latest dismissal of reason as a tool of Enlightenment Decision Making... the Anglo-American wing long ago demoted reason to second-tier status. It is still important, as an ideal to be yearned-for. But primary position was given - by Locke, Smith, Franklin, and Madison to something else: Reciprocal Accountability. Knowing how good human beings are delusion and at rationalization, the sages of the Enlightenment's pragmatic wing chose to emphasize adversarial processes, in markets, democracy, justice and science (Accountability Arena). Competitive criticism and reward systems, based on actual outcomes and repeatable tests were supposed to overcome the biases that the Founders knew to be inherent in human nature. Let me elaborate: while reason has clearly been revealed as faulty, in guiding us to useful conclusions, it still serves science crucially well, as a hypothesis generator! As a fertile source - like manure - of the assertions and wagers (Idea Futures) that then make the basis for subsequent science.
  • Aug'2012: Rao (again) on the Varieties of Scientific Experience. Discourses grounded in experiences of science different from your own can really grate on the nerves. It takes serious effort to develop the patience to engage those who experience science differently.

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