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Monday Message Board (on Tuesday)

February 10th, 2009

I was travelling yesterday, so the Monday Message Board is a day late. Post comments on any topic. As usual, civilised discussion and no coarse language.

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  1. Donald Oats
    February 15th, 2009 at 22:52 | #1

    Will try to reply in some detail on Monday, Tony G #100.


  2. Ben
    February 16th, 2009 at 12:35 | #2

    Tony G – it might be philosophy, but it’s the philosophy of science.

    All science hinges on the validity of this assumption of “scientific induction”. That is, we take a small number of “observations” (i.e. facts in the scientific sense), which we then use to form “hypotheses”. We then design experiments to “falsify” these hypotheses. Once we have failed to falsify these hypotheses enough times, the hypotheses then become “theories” and then finally “laws”.

    Induction is all about using the “specific” to describe (or “predict”, if you like) the “general”, which is exactly what the scientific method does. We can both agree that induction is not foolproof, but it is the best method that we have for predicting how reality “behaves” in an objective fashion, unlike other methods of “knowing”, like folk wisdom (i.e. religion), or phenomenology.

  3. Tony G
    February 16th, 2009 at 16:24 | #3

    Great Ben;

    We are making headway to the point where we can agree on a few things.

    So to clarify “exactly what the scientific method does.”;

    1. Make Observations.
    2. Propose a Theory.
    3. Use the Theory to Predict Future Observations.

    The heart of science lies in this third step. Having your theory, use it to predict the outcome of a future observation. This is the “testing” part of science.

    An important point here is that if the prediction fails then the theory must be discarded or changed.

    These three steps are usually repeated over and over, often refining the theory after each set of new observations or experiments, with increasingly difficult testing hurdles for the theory to overcome. The most valuable theories are those which make precise and risky predictions, which could easily disprove the theory if they failed.

    Repeat the Three Steps Until Satisfied.
    If your theory passes the first falsification test, then think of another experiment to test another aspect of the theory. The idea of science is to repeat the three steps over and over until you are convinced you have a theory good enough to correctly predict the outcome of experiments in a wide variety of situations. To do this, scientists like to use “controlled” experiments when only one thing changes each time.

    So Ben, we generally agree that;

    “Once we have failed to falsify these hypotheses enough times, the hypotheses then become “theories” and then finally “laws”.”

    When Don gets back to us we will apply the above rational to his answer and see what transpires.

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