Post No.: 0007
Science is not a bible of facts that become sacred, unimpeachable and solidified forever but is a process of coming up with hypotheses, devising methodologies for testing one’s hypotheses, obtaining and recording empirical data, drawing an interpretation of the conclusion of the results found, publishing all the above in a reputable academic journal in order to be peer-reviewed by the scientific community and beyond, ideally having studies independently replicated to check their results, then updating hypotheses and theories if necessary.
The evolution and hence potential improvement of knowledge is thus allowed, and therefore every piece of knowledge is only ever essentially held provisionally, never dogmatically (woof woof). Even the scientific process itself is allowed to evolve (e.g. regarding ethical standards for research). It is not about ‘absolute truth’ statements from arbitrary ‘authority figures in white coats’ (which is the antithesis of what science is about – science is about empirical evidence, not about taking anyone’s words for it – even so-called scientists!)
One or two data points are insufficient to assess a pattern/trend – hence our own personal experience(s) of (rare) events is insufficient to ascertain a pattern/trend or a theory with good confidence. Moreover, we all fall foul of many subconscious and unconscious heuristics (intuitive cognitive shortcuts that sometimes work but sometimes don’t) and biases, even though we may believe that we have ‘seen it with our very own eyes’ and that ‘seeing is believing’. But science doesn’t concern itself with what anyone believes; science takes no one’s words for anything. A primary goal of the scientific process is to try to negate conscious, subconscious and unconscious human biases as much as possible.
You may have genuinely seen something extraordinary with your own fluffy senses but put it this way – would you just believe someone else if they claimed to have seen something extraordinary but they didn’t provide you with any hard and unambiguous evidence of it? If it’s real then chances are it’ll happen again and you/they can apply the scientific process to gather hard evidence for it next time.
So because our instincts and cognitive heuristics are often fallacious (they frequently fall foul to biases and therefore false beliefs) – we use empirical scientific methods and statistical tests in order to determine the best truths and facts. If we follow intuition, faiths and hopes rather than use critical scientific tools for judgement then we will be susceptible to manipulation from others (e.g. commercial marketing or PR) or from cognitive illusions (some facts are very counterintuitive e.g. there’s a 50% chance of 2 people sharing the same birthday in a group of only 23 people, or the best exercises for burning fat from around the belly aren’t exercises that merely target the belly/abdominal area). Intuition can come up with answers rapidly and works fine most of the time in typical daily life, but at the cost of potential inaccuracies, misfires and over-sensitivity, which can lead to errors, injustices and/or being duped.
Now you don’t need to be ordained with the title of ‘scientist’ or be baptised in some way into a special group to conduct science, or wear a white coat, have wild hair or use test tubes and light flames (unless your specific experiment requires it) – just follow the process; anyone can do it! The scientific community as a whole is borderless and not centralised either – so you can be a part of it too. Anybody can question and scrutinise any study by using critical thinking techniques or by publishing their own research to be scrutinised by others. This scientific process, if carried out properly and without fraud, is the best process we know of for finding out facts, theories and laws in the most objective manner possible.
Furrywisepuppy hopes you find science fascinating too, and encourages you to do your own further study or research on anything that is written about in this blog, as well as welcomes the scrutiny, questioning and commentary of anything if done in a polite, respectful and collaborative manner. So don’t even take my words for it… except for when I say ‘don’t even take my words for it’(!) Well how much do you believe in dog?!