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Tags science , scientific method

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Is science faith-based?
The Bad Astronomer
21st February 2008

Is science faith-based?




No.


Oh, you want details? OK then.

If you read any antiscience screeds, at some point or...
  #80  
By TubbaBlubba on 24th January 2011, 07:28 PM
Originally Posted by Francois2807 View Post
I think philosophically faith is very important to science.
How?
Quote:
If you read the first section of Genesis It seems like a physics explanation of the big bang theory as would be told to someone who had no idea whatsoever about physics.
Something as abstract as the big bang could be fitted into any creation story, and the Genesis accounts (either of them) don't fit especially well.

[/quote]The printing press had its first use printing Bibles and I'm certain that was the idea that caused its creation. All science begins with a what if proposition and a certain amount of faith that something good will come of this idea.[/quote]

I have no idea what you're saying with this.
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  #81  
By eerok on 25th January 2011, 10:48 AM
Originally Posted by Francois2807 View Post
I think philosophically faith is very important to science.
Since faith is inherently subjective and science sets out to establish the objective, they are in fact at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Put another way, it's a poor faith that requires evidence, and it's a poor science that doesn't.
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  #82  
By Zeuzzz on 30th January 2011, 03:23 PM
Is faith science based?
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  #83  
By Zeuzzz on 8th February 2011, 11:55 PM
To elaborate more on that, what i mean is that if someone reads a study that having faith in a religion increases your happiness, life expectancy or general well being, and thus takes up a faith based religion to increase these aspects of their life based on the science, is this a science based faith?
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  #84  
By eerok on 11th February 2011, 08:34 AM
Originally Posted by Zeuzzz View Post
To elaborate more on that, what i mean is that if someone reads a study that having faith in a religion increases your happiness, life expectancy or general well being, and thus takes up a faith based religion to increase these aspects of their life based on the science, is this a science based faith?
Faith requires one to reject evidence that's contrary to whatever one decides to have faith in. Science is evidence-based.

Faith is arbitrary, subjective, and absolute. Science is rigorously methodological, objective, and provisional.

So they are profoundly incompatible.
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  #85  
By Northern_warrior on 19th February 2011, 01:20 PM
Science is fact based,and things like "the big bang" are hypotheses and theories..but still more logical reasoning is behind them then say "it all happened cause a magical creature got bored one day".
But many scientists are religious as well,you just have to keep them as companion pieces of sorts I think..there is no reason why the two cant coincide,unless you take the bible litteraly,in wich case ,you should reexamine your reasoning and/or mental health.
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  #86  
By immaterial on 25th February 2011, 03:50 PM
Well at least we have to have faith in our own ability to reason. For without that ability, there would be no science. And we can't really test our ability to reason, can we, for the only tool we have to create such a test with would be the very same reason we're trying to test. That would be circular reasoning, literally.
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  #87  
By eerok on 26th February 2011, 08:49 AM
Originally Posted by immaterial View Post
Well at least we have to have faith in our own ability to reason. For without that ability, there would be no science. And we can't really test our ability to reason, can we, for the only tool we have to create such a test with would be the very same reason we're trying to test. That would be circular reasoning, literally.
A better tern for what you're describing is "expectation." It appears that we can reason, and we expect that we'll continue to be able to do so. "Faith" connotes strong, persistent belief despite absent or contrary objective evidence, which is the opposite of what science requires.

One only needs to provisionally accept a few basic things about reality in order to practice science, and none of these requires faith.
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  #88  
By kenkoskinen on 5th March 2011, 11:29 AM
Science is based on the idea that things in the end will fall to reason. This amazed and inspired early figures such as Galileo, Kepler and Newton. Events fell to the predictions of their formulae. However as time proceeded the rules broadened and changed. Events in quantum mechanics were not predictable according to the older causality but to the broader principles of probability. However the computer I write on is based on quantum mechanics and it works.

All of the evidence or data is rarely available. We have also ceded to the new standards of "due to the preponderance of the evidence" & "beyond a reasonable doubt." One can say this must be based on a faith of sorts but it is not without any evidence such as is common in religious phenomena; such as: Moses talked to god and received the law on Mount Sinai, Mary was a virgin, Jesus was god incarnate, Mohammed ascended into heaven etc etc. We should be grateful that we have modern science even if it contains a weak form of faith.
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  #89  
By eerok on 5th March 2011, 03:40 PM
Originally Posted by kenkoskinen View Post
Science is based on the idea that things in the end will fall to reason.
Nope. Science is based on the idea that reality is consistent enough to be tested. People love larding in a lot of other ideas, but it all amounts to hot air and wishful thinking.

Science uses all available means to establish objective knowledge about the observable world. It's basically a methodology that tests the objectivity of observations. That's it. And science works just fine as shown by the many technologies that have flowed from it. None of this has anything at all to do with faith.
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  #90  
By kenkoskinen on 7th March 2011, 06:33 AM
The future is always an idea. The past has come and gone but we can look at historical data and compare it to those in the present. In these situations assumptions need not be required.

However there is a science-based faith and that is when we must rely on the preponderance of the evidence &/or beyond a reasonable doubt. Yes ... these standards are applied in court but even in science we rarely have all the evidence. We must extrapolate from the data to the more general case using one of the two principles. Statistics also play a role in the process of science such as in quantum mechanics were classical causality has been superseded by probability. The computer I write on is based on quantum mechanics but it works.

Any belief consists of our minds filling in the blanks between things known and unknown.
However faith in science isn't to be confused with religious faith where often there isn't any evidence to speak of and sometimes the laws of everyday physics were seemingly suspended, e.g. Jesus walked on water. In religious faith emotionalism trumps skepticism.
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  #91  
By stevea on 7th March 2011, 12:09 PM
Originally Posted by eerok View Post
Nope. Science is based on the idea that reality is consistent enough to be tested. People love larding in a lot of other ideas, but it all amounts to hot air and wishful thinking.
Agreed, that one "act of faith" is that we assume our observation (not reality) is consistent enough to test.

Quote:
Science uses all available means to establish objective knowledge about the observable world. It's basically a methodology that tests the objectivity of observations. That's it. And science works just fine as shown by the many technologies that have flowed from it. None of this has anything at all to do with faith.
Science merely produces a model of what we subjectively observe, and "the scientific method" is nothing more than a statement of principals for model-building. The concept of "objective knowledge" is not relevant, since all observations are subjective. We may be modeling a shared delusion.

The relative success (with notable failures and setbacks) of the scientific model is no proof that it is the only, or best means to create models from observations. There is no evidence that future observation will be predicable in any way. That's where faith in the model building scheme and the consistency of observation comes in. The scientific method has little foundation aside from the "mostly works" characteristic. So this is a reasonably successful scheme for building models that can currently predict future subjective observation, from past subjective observation. It's an error to confuse the models predictive methods with the actual mechanisms underlying the observations, or the observations with "reality".
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  #92  
By kenkoskinen on 7th March 2011, 05:51 PM
Nope. Consistency is important but the idea that things in the end will fall to reason subsumes it. In order to work, science needs a world that can be understood via reason. It is the greater of the two ideas. If the world were consistently haphazard, for example, science could not be done. A science-based faith is required when we, for example, accept statistical evidence and analysis. We also rarely have all the evidence and must rely on the two standards I cited.
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  #93  
By Halfcentaur on 7th March 2011, 07:12 PM
If science was faith based, then there is no such thing as anything that is not faith based.
Deep thoughts!
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  #94  
By kenkoskinen on 7th March 2011, 07:35 PM
Originally Posted by stevea View Post
Agreed, that one "act of faith" is that we assume our observation (not reality) is consistent enough to test.



Science merely produces a model of what we subjectively observe, and "the scientific method" is nothing more than a statement of principals for model-building. The concept of "objective knowledge" is not relevant, since all observations are subjective. We may be modeling a shared delusion.

The relative success (with notable failures and setbacks) of the scientific model is no proof that it is the only, or best means to create models from observations. There is no evidence that future observation will be predicable in any way. That's where faith in the model building scheme and the consistency of observation comes in. The scientific method has little foundation aside from the "mostly works" characteristic. So this is a reasonably successful scheme for building models that can currently predict future subjective observation, from past subjective observation. It's an error to confuse the models predictive methods with the actual mechanisms underlying the observations, or the observations with "reality".
"The relative success (with notable failures and setbacks) of the scientific model is no proof that it is the only, or best means to create models from observations."

Yes it is, at least until something better comes along. Whatever it might be, its superiority would have to be proven (did I use that word?).

"Science merely produces a model of what we subjectively observe, and "the scientific method" is nothing more than a statement of principals for model-building."

We don't subjectively observe models. Models or theories are concepts we develop via reason i.e. including mathematics and observation/detection. We then use the models to continue comparing them to observations/detections and experimental data. If it continues to be accurate, then okay. If anomalies appear ... it's time to do some checking. It might lead to amendments to the model, scrapping it and/or creating a new model.

""the scientific method" is nothing more than a statement of principals for model-building."

No so, model building in only the conceptual part of the process.

"It's an error to confuse the models predictive methods with the actual mechanisms underlying the observations, or the observations with "reality"."

True ... the detection/observation methodologies/equipment etc. are not the same as the theory. However if the theory accurately and consistently predicts/describes/explains the data it's hitting something. We call it things in the real world.

If I follow you ... you would like to delete the terms "objective" & "reality." I fail to see how the world or science would benefit from doing that. Admittedly science isn't the pursuit of perfect truth but rather is very much a process of refinement of models and observations. The goal is to make corrections along the trail to find better models/theories and observations of objective reality! Yes ... the term "objective reality" is a fine concept and the term "subjective" is not superior.
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  #95  
By kenkoskinen on 8th March 2011, 06:51 AM
Originally Posted by eerok View Post
Faith requires one to reject evidence that's contrary to whatever one decides to have faith in. Science is evidence-based.

Faith is arbitrary, subjective, and absolute. Science is rigorously methodological, objective, and provisional.

So they are profoundly incompatible.
Zeuzzz what you quoted was a scientific study comparing degrees of happiness on the religion variable. The study doesn't make the content of any religious belief scientific. eerok what you say is so but all of the data is rarely in so we do extrapolate from it to the general. We do the same thing when using statistics. Therefore science does assume and include some belief in the data and in its extrapolation. However, this doesn't make science a religion. There is a difference and as you clearly differentiated!
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  #96  
By tyciol on 19th March 2011, 09:15 PM
I think we utilize some level of faith in our fellow man, but that's more of an option than a necessity. Ultimately, when we lack faith in the science produced before us, we are encouraged to test it, to research how these beliefs were formed and re-perform the tests these beliefs are based upon.

This is how I believe it differs from the type of "blind" faith required by many religions, because ultimately the proof of the faith working apparently requires faith beforehand as an ingredient to work, therefore it's the perfect escape clause when proof is not acquired: the person lacked faith therefore they were not supplied with proof to reinforce their faith!

Science doesn't work this way. You don't need faith in an outcome to test it, you merely must perform a test. This is why it is neutral and reliable.
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  #97  
By eerok on 20th May 2011, 10:35 PM
Originally Posted by kenkoskinen View Post
eerok what you say is so but all of the data is rarely in so we do extrapolate from it to the general. We do the same thing when using statistics. Therefore science does assume and include some belief in the data and in its extrapolation. However, this doesn't make science a religion. There is a difference and as you clearly differentiated!
Sorry, but I forgot all about this little corner of discussion, and your remarks are well worth a response.

Simply put, science invites a change of opinion based on prevailing evidence. Yes, evidence in practice amounts to shifting sands, but the rejection of dogma and the emphasis on the provisional nature of what we know distinguishes the scientific approach from anything faith-based.

That's why I keep insisting here that science is antithetical to faith.
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  #98  
By Kumar on 7th June 2011, 03:04 AM
If placebo effect is scientific, there can be a relation between science & faith.
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  #99  
By SpiritMuse on 7th June 2011, 11:22 AM
This whole discussion reminds me of the immortal words of Tim Minchin:

"Science adjusts it’s beliefs based on what’s observed
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."

From his beat poem "Storm".
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  #100  
By stevea on 13th June 2011, 03:14 PM
Originally Posted by kenkoskinen View Post
"The relative success (with notable failures and setbacks) of the scientific model is no proof that it is the only, or best means to create models from observations."

Yes it is, at least until something better comes along. Whatever it might be, its superiority would have to be proven (did I use that word?).
It is trivial to construct examples where the scientific method is suboptimal. For example the "Occam's razor" feature requires that we choose the hypothesis which matches the data and has the least number of presuppositions (simplest). But obviously sometimes the simplest hypothesis is not the correct one.

Clearly "the scientific method" is not the only possible model building scheme. At least in some cases it is not the optimal model building scheme. It's almost unimaginable that it's the "best" in any meaningful sense.


Quote:
"Science merely produces a model of what we subjectively observe, and "the scientific method" is nothing more than a statement of principals for model-building."

We don't subjectively observe models. Models or theories are concepts we develop via reason i.e. including mathematics and observation/detection. We then use the models to continue comparing them to observations/detections and experimental data. If it continues to be accurate, then okay. If anomalies appear ... it's time to do some checking. It might lead to amendments to the model, scrapping it and/or creating a new model.
If you think I said that we subjectively observe models, then you have misread it entirely. We subjectively observe experiments. We collect this subjective data and using the sci-method produce a model of the subjective observations. As you describe we continue to refine and revise the model - but that doesn't change the fact that we are modeling based on subjective observations and comparing the results of the model to other subjective observations. I'll suggest read some D.Hume or other early empiricists philosophy.


Quote:
""the scientific method" is nothing more than a statement of principals for model-building."

No so, model building in only the conceptual part of the process.

"It's an error to confuse the models predictive methods with the actual mechanisms underlying the observations, or the observations with "reality"."
No - you are confusing my term "model building" with creation of a single testable hypothesis. The sci-method requires the creation of a single testable hypothesis. But once verified a hypothesis is added the the sum of (tentatively) accepted hypotheses that together form a coherent model of the physical observations.

We have one (rather fuzzy) model of physical reality that we call "science" that incorporates all tested-and-so-far-valid hypotheses.

Quote:
True ... the detection/observation methodologies/equipment etc. are not the same as the theory. However if the theory accurately and consistently predicts/describes/explains the data it's hitting something. We call it things in the real world.
We can never know "the real world" through our subjective senses. It's a pleasant and common fantasy to assume that our observations accumulate a picture of reality rather than a picture of subjective human observations.


Quote:
If I follow you ... you would like to delete the terms "objective" & "reality." I fail to see how the world or science would benefit from doing that.
I'm not interested in benefiting science at the moment - I'm interested in creating a coherent picture of exactly what science is and does. If we were to encounter some other advanced alien culture that understood how to make predictions and extrapolations about their subjective observations of the physical world - then we might find that their method of developing a model and our "science" are quite different. We might find that our monkey brains have "blind spots" that cause us to create incorrect or sub-optimal models, or perhaps there is something better than our application of probability to science.

Quote:
Admittedly science isn't the pursuit of perfect truth but rather is very much a process of refinement of models and observations. The goal is to make corrections along the trail to find better models/theories and observations of objective reality! Yes ... the term "objective reality" is a fine concept and the term "subjective" is not superior.
Sience has absolutely nothing to do with "truth". The point of science is to create a model that permits prediction and extrapolation of observations from observations. If the observations are distorted or a sham - then the sci-method may still work, but it isn't modeling "reality" or "truth"; it's modeling subjective human observations.
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  #101  
By Dave Rogers on 15th June 2011, 05:01 AM
Originally Posted by stevea View Post
It is trivial to construct examples where the scientific method is suboptimal. For example the "Occam's razor" feature requires that we choose the hypothesis which matches the data and has the least number of presuppositions (simplest). But obviously sometimes the simplest hypothesis is not the correct one.
No, that's not tenable. You're assuming that there is a "correct" hypothesis that is correct in some way over and above being one of a set of hypotheses that correctly predict all known data, but that assumption is unwarranted. If we have a hypothesis that predicts all known data, then what other properties do we require for it? If we find, on amassing further data, that there is data that our current hypothesis does not predict, then we must replace it with a new hypothesis that does predict that data in addition to all the already known data; but that, too, is in accordance with Occam's Razor and the scientific method.

So what, precisely, are the properties required of your "correct" hypothesis other than correctly matching all the data?

Dave
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  #102  
By eerok on 15th June 2011, 06:59 AM
Originally Posted by Dave Rogers View Post
If we have a hypothesis that predicts all known data, then what other properties do we require for it? If we find, on amassing further data, that there is data that our current hypothesis does not predict, then we must replace it with a new hypothesis that does predict that data in addition to all the already known data; but that, too, is in accordance with Occam's Razor and the scientific method.
Exactly. There is nothing dogmatic about science no matter what some might claim. Explanations only stick for as long as they are the best available. Everything is provisional and nothing is absolute, which is antithetical to anything faith-based.
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  #103  
By BazBear on 29th June 2011, 11:32 PM
Faith is what it is. A belief in something not provable. It is okay to have such beliefs, but if they disagree with the provable or most probable, as they fit with the science that works, you must ask why? If you think the world is roughly 6000 years old, then your faith is in the way of reason, however if you accept your deity may have created our precious sphere of rocks and water a handful of billions of years ago, I think you are on the right track. For the record I am an atheist, or at least my "God" is the universe.
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  #104  
By stevea on 15th August 2011, 11:04 PM
Originally Posted by Dave Rogers View Post
No, that's not tenable. You're assuming that there is a "correct" hypothesis that is correct in some way over and above being one of a set of hypotheses that correctly predict all known data, but that assumption is unwarranted.
I never said ONE "corrrect" hypothesis. The assumption is fully warranted and commonly observed. For any set of data we can create an infinite number of differing hypotheses that match these (and all other) observations. (Some of) these "currently accurate" hypotheses will make differing predictions under other conditions. So clearly some of the classes of 'currently accurate' hypotheses will later be verified and others falsified if/when we test.

Yes - obviously some hypotheses that match the current observations contradict each other in other domains and ranges of conditions. So selecting any one hypothesis without additional work will be certain to lead to errors. Therefore Occam's Razor often sleects a hypothesis that is later falsified. Occam's razor is intended to be a 'neutral' selection rule, however the definition of "fewer presuppositions' or "simpler" doesn't bear close scrutiny. We should at least have a schema that doesn't reject potentially accurate hypotheses, as Occam's Razor clearly does.


Quote:
If we have a hypothesis that predicts all known data, then what other properties do we require for it?
Wrong question. It's which of millions of hypotheses that "accurately predict all known data" shall we accept ? Occam'sR requires the one with the fewest presuppositions, but that means we will be choosing hypotheses that will later fail, forcing revision. Perhaps we should consider the set of ALL supported hypotheses.

Quote:
If we find, on amassing further data, that there is data that our current hypothesis does not predict, then we must replace it with a new hypothesis that does predict that data in addition to all the already known data; but that, too, is in accordance with Occam's Razor and the scientific method.
Yes - and this second 'better' hypothesis invalidates the first forcing revisions. The first hypothesis was wrong all along, and it was undoubtedly be used to make erroneous or at last imperfect extrapolations and predictions. It could be a costly blunder to accept the 'simplest' hypothesis rather than considering all supported hypotheses.

[QUOTE}So what, precisely, are the properties required of your "correct" hypothesis other than correctly matching all the data?

Dave[/quote]

You miss the point. I am NOT creating any new requirement, and I am not suggesting that I can predict the single "correct" hypothesis. Never did, so don't strawman. I am pointing out that Occam's razor selects a single hypothesis as a tentative basis and in many cases the hypothesis is later falsified. It's entirely possible that there is a better basis for scientific development than this.


For example In Newtownian mechanics kinetic energy KE = (1/2)*m*v^2
In relativistic mechanics KE = (1/2)*m*v^2 * [ 1 + [(3/4)(v/c)^2 + (5/8)*(v/c)^4) + ....]]
which are terms in the maclaurin expansion of the Lorentz factor.

Obviously work in the early 20th century falsified Newton's eqn and supported Lorentz.

So all data available to Newton would have equally supported both Newtown hypothesis and the Lorentz form and a million others. The only distinguishing feature is that Newton had no argument in favor of the "extra terms". Or obversely - Newton had no basis for rejecting the extra Lorentz terms. Why one is considered a greater presupposition than the other isn't well founded. What is clear is the Occam'sR rejected the (later) supported hypothesis in favor of the (later) falsified hypothesis. That's not a good feature.

Perhaps we should consider a new scientific method that accepts (tentatively) ALL supported hypotheses, and only eliminates the falsified ones. This would leave the open questions open, rather than fill the gaps with simplistic presuppositions.
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  #105  
By Dave Rogers on 16th August 2011, 06:30 AM
Originally Posted by stevea View Post
I never said ONE "corrrect" hypothesis. The assumption is fully warranted and commonly observed. For any set of data we can create an infinite number of differing hypotheses that match these (and all other) observations. (Some of) these "currently accurate" hypotheses will make differing predictions under other conditions. So clearly some of the classes of 'currently accurate' hypotheses will later be verified and others falsified if/when we test.
Agreed. Until the hypotheses are tested under these newer conditions, we cannot determine in advance which will fail, so at the earlier stage of knowledge we cannot select between them other than by some arbitrary criterion.

Originally Posted by stevea View Post
Yes - obviously some hypotheses that match the current observations contradict each other in other domains and ranges of conditions. So selecting any one hypothesis without additional work will be certain to lead to errors. Therefore Occam's Razor often sleects a hypothesis that is later falsified. Occam's razor is intended to be a 'neutral' selection rule, however the definition of "fewer presuppositions' or "simpler" doesn't bear close scrutiny. We should at least have a schema that doesn't reject potentially accurate hypotheses, as Occam's Razor clearly does.
The problem with that suggestion is that there must be an infinite number of potentially accurate hypotheses, and we cannot maintain all of them. If we maintain less than an infinite number, it seems a waste of effort to maintain more than one.

Originally Posted by stevea View Post
Wrong question. It's which of millions of hypotheses that "accurately predict all known data" shall we accept ?
No, it's which of an infinite set of hypotheses shall we accept? It's trivial to construct, from any hypothesis, a more complex hypothesis which explains all known data equally well, and this process may be repeated indefinitely.

Originally Posted by stevea View Post
Occam'sR requires the one with the fewest presuppositions, but that means we will be choosing hypotheses that will later fail, forcing revision. Perhaps we should consider the set of ALL supported hypotheses.
As will any other criterion that isn't based on knowledge that we do not have. So we can't consider the set of all supported hypotheses, because it's a task of infinite complexity.

Originally Posted by stevea View Post
Yes - and this second 'better' hypothesis invalidates the first forcing revisions. The first hypothesis was wrong all along, and it was undoubtedly be used to make erroneous or at last imperfect extrapolations and predictions. It could be a costly blunder to accept the 'simplest' hypothesis rather than considering all supported hypotheses.
OK, let's talk about cost. It may, indeed, be a costly blunder to accept the simplest hypothesis rather than considering all supported hypotheses. However, it must inevitably be a costly blunder to consider all supported hypotheses, for two reasons: firstly, some of them will at a later time be falsified, leading to your retrospective conclusion that any use of them was a blunder even if it didn't lead to any significantly inaccurate predictions of phenomena; and secondly, without the choice imposed by Occam's Razor, every phenomenon requires not a single, but an infinite set of explanations, and every calculation an infinite set of iterations. Without some selection criterion, no progress will ever be possible, because no calculation can ever be completed.

Originally Posted by stevea View Post
You miss the point. I am NOT creating any new requirement, and I am not suggesting that I can predict the single "correct" hypothesis. Never did, so don't strawman. I am pointing out that Occam's razor selects a single hypothesis as a tentative basis and in many cases the hypothesis is later falsified. It's entirely possible that there is a better basis for scientific development than this.
Yes, it's possible. Do you have any better suggestions than using the theory that combines being the simplest to use with being always correct as far as we know?


Originally Posted by stevea View Post
[...] So all data available to Newton would have equally supported both Newtown hypothesis and the Lorentz form and a million others. The only distinguishing feature is that Newton had no argument in favor of the "extra terms". Or obversely - Newton had no basis for rejecting the extra Lorentz terms. Why one is considered a greater presupposition than the other isn't well founded.
It really doesn't matter whether one is considered a greater presupposition than the other. What matters is that, if calculations of motion had been carried out using the full Lorentz form, enormous amounts of extra work would have been required, resulting in no benefit whatsoever. We are trying to reduce the complexity of tasks, not enhance it.

Originally Posted by stevea View Post
Perhaps we should consider a new scientific method that accepts (tentatively) ALL supported hypotheses, and only eliminates the falsified ones. This would leave the open questions open, rather than fill the gaps with simplistic presuppositions.
Perhaps, alternatively, we should carry on doing what we do at the moment, which is to take note of more complex hypotheses that explain phenomena correctly, to put them aside until their applicability can be determined in the light of new data, and in the meantime to use the simplest hypothesis that accurately predicts all the existing data. That way, we make our lives easier, rather than gratuitously, and potentially infinitely, more difficult, while retaining the potential benefit of more complex hypotheses as and when they're needed.

Dave
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  #106  
By stevea on 22nd August 2011, 12:24 AM
Originally Posted by Dave Rogers View Post
Agreed. Until the hypotheses are tested under these newer conditions, we cannot determine in advance which will fail, so at the earlier stage of knowledge we cannot select between them other than by some arbitrary criterion.
That statement is not supportable. Just because we haven't demonstrated any improved basis for selection among hypotheses does not mean that such a selection criteria does not exist. It also ignores my objection that Occam's Razor(OR) criteria is not easy to define in practice.

Quote:
The problem with that suggestion is that there must be an infinite number of potentially accurate hypotheses, and we cannot maintain all of them. If we maintain less than an infinite number, it seems a waste of effort to maintain more than one.
Yes there are an infinite number, but I disagree that we can't maintain them all. Isn't this exactly what we do when we keep an open mind where evidence hasn't accrued ? Since this method avoids selection of a single likely-falsifiable hypothesis then it is not a waste of effort - it's potentially a great savings.

Quote:
As will any other criterion that isn't based on knowledge that we do not have. So we can't consider the set of all supported hypotheses, because it's a task of infinite complexity.
No, it's not an infinite task. It's just a matter of directly representing our lack of knowledge within the scientific model rather than making a presumptive guess about the OR hypothesis.

Quote:
OK, let's talk about cost. It may, indeed, be a costly blunder to accept the simplest hypothesis rather than considering all supported hypotheses. However, it must inevitably be a costly blunder to consider all supported hypotheses, for two reasons: firstly, some of them will at a later time be falsified, leading to your retrospective conclusion that any use of them was a blunder even if it didn't lead to any significantly inaccurate predictions of phenomena; and secondly, without the choice imposed by Occam's Razor, every phenomenon requires not a single, but an infinite set of explanations, and every calculation an infinite set of iterations. Without some selection criterion, no progress will ever be possible, because no calculation can ever be completed.
You are viewing my suggestion incorrectly. I did not say that we should should tentatively accept each individual hypothesis that matches current knowledge. I suggested that we tentatively accept the entire class as a whole. That we embrace and quantify the lack of knowledge. So there is no "costly blunder" coming down the road.

Occam's Razor does select a single simple hypothesis among the set, and therefore it typically selects a falsifiable (wrong) hypothesis. Any explanation based on this may be wrong as a result. You are assuming that an arbitrary simple guess at a hypothesis has more explanatory power then considering the full set of possibilities and the factual limitations of the observations..

Quote:
Yes, it's possible. Do you have any better suggestions than using the theory that combines being the simplest to use with being always correct as far as we know?
My point is not to present some new scientific method full-blown, and it's not reasonable for you to (repeatedly now) demand that.. I am primarily arguing that the single hypothesis, Occam's Razor(OR) selection criteria is a very weak point in the 'standard model' and that there may well be better ways to represent observational knowledge.

What I am suggesting is that in addition to accumulating the simplest OR hypothesis that we also incorporate the limitations of the observations and conclusions directly in the model. We want the error bounds and we want the limited experimental conditions reflected in the model.

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It really doesn't matter whether one is considered a greater presupposition than the other.

Perhaps you didn't recognize the language, but OR, and the parsimony principle is said to select the hypothesis with the least number of presuppositions. So yes it matters greatly wrt to the the 'scientific method' which hypothesis has the least presuppositions, since that determines which hypothesis is selected for inclusion.

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What matters is that, if calculations of motion had been carried out using the full Lorentz form, enormous amounts of extra work would have been required, resulting in no benefit whatsoever. We are trying to reduce the complexity of tasks, not enhance it.
Aside: So Lorentz eqn has no benefit whatsoever over the Newtonian model ? That's not a statement I can support.

You are making another strawman argument against my suggestions. I never said that we should carry out calculations on the entire infinite class of hypotheses. Further the series expansion in this case has a closed form and is not hard to calculate.

You seem obsessed with the amount of computation involved, or with the theoretical complexity involved in considering a class of hypotheses but that is not really a great issue in practice. What I am suggesting is that there is no reason to promote one OR compliant hypothesis and exclude others in the model. There is no reason to allow extrapolation without a clear disclaimer. We can instead tentatively accept all compliant hypotheses.

Newton might study kinetic energy vs velocity & mass under a restricted range of velocities and mass and with some limited accuracy, and after some polynomial fitting might still conclude that KE = (1/2)*m*v^2 ,but ... A: under the range of the experiment, B: within some calculated error bounds, and C: other higher velocity terms are zero to within the accuracy of the experimental method. This form of hypothesis would incorporate the limitations of the hypothesis within the model. This form of conclusion does not contradict the relativistic calculation of KE. All this does is explicitly include the limitations in the model.

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Perhaps, alternatively, we should carry on doing what we do at the moment, which is to take note of more complex hypotheses that explain phenomena correctly, to put them aside until their applicability can be determined in the light of new data, and in the meantime to use the simplest hypothesis that accurately predicts all the existing data. That way, we make our lives easier, rather than gratuitously, and potentially infinitely, more difficult, while retaining the potential benefit of more complex hypotheses as and when they're needed.

Dave
No - we should always try to improve over the status quo - even at the cost of some complexity.

Instead of tentatively accepted a single simple and likely wrong OR hypothesis we can incorporate the limitations of that conclusion directly into a model system. This prevents exclusion of other compatible hypotheses. It does not prevent any theorist from creating unjustifiable assumptions and extrapolations. The calculations are still the same except you must acknowledge the error bounds, the extrapolations and non-compliant conditions.

It's a little surprising that we haven't already created a formal model system for the scientific method. Modern computation is up to the task. I recall reading papers related to this as early as the late 1970s.
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  #107  
By Dave Rogers on 22nd August 2011, 04:18 AM
Originally Posted by stevea View Post
That statement is not supportable. Just because we haven't demonstrated any improved basis for selection among hypotheses does not mean that such a selection criteria does not exist. It also ignores my objection that Occam's Razor(OR) criteria is not easy to define in practice.
I'm not arguing that there is no possible criterion superior to OR, simply that we have none at present. If someone suggests a better one, then it's worh considering; until then, we're simply discussing meaningless hypotheticals.

Originally Posted by stevea View Post
Yes there are an infinite number, but I disagree that we can't maintain them all. Isn't this exactly what we do when we keep an open mind where evidence hasn't accrued ? Since this method avoids selection of a single likely-falsifiable hypothesis then it is not a waste of effort - it's potentially a great savings.
There's no need to reject unfalsified theories of greater complexity or requiring more unverified assumptions as possible future hypotheses, and nobody is suggesting that there should be. It's simply more economical of effort to choose a single current working hypothesis. If it isn't obvious why it's less effort to base our predictions on a single theory, rather than to have to perform them several times based on different theories that are known in advance to present the same result, it's a bit difficult to explain.

Originally Posted by stevea View Post
No, it's not an infinite task. It's just a matter of directly representing our lack of knowledge within the scientific model rather than making a presumptive guess about the OR hypothesis.
Occam's Razor explicitly represents that lack of knowledge, by virtue of being an arbitrary but well-defined means of choosing the theory of current usefulness. The fact that we employ it in the first place is a recognition that there are multiple theories of equal merit.

Originally Posted by stevea View Post
You are viewing my suggestion incorrectly. I did not say that we should should tentatively accept each individual hypothesis that matches current knowledge. I suggested that we tentatively accept the entire class as a whole. That we embrace and quantify the lack of knowledge. So there is no "costly blunder" coming down the road.
If we accept the entire class as a whole, then we take on an infinite task. If we select among the class in order to define a finite task, then we risk a "costly blunder" if the selection criterion excludes all theories that are required to explain new data. So, given that we risk a "costly blunder" in order to be able to make any predictions at all, we might as well do so in as efficient a fashion, by selecting a single workable theory.

Originally Posted by stevea View Post
Occam's Razor does select a single simple hypothesis among the set, and therefore it typically selects a falsifiable (wrong) hypothesis.
"Falisifable" =/= "Wrong". And any selected hypothesis or group of hypotheses must be falsifiable in order to be useful.

Originally Posted by stevea View Post
Any explanation based on this may be wrong as a result. You are assuming that an arbitrary simple guess at a hypothesis has more explanatory power then considering the full set of possibilities and the factual limitations of the observations.
No, I'm arguing that it is a practical impossibility to consider the infinite set of possible theories, therefore an arbitrary choice among them must be made in order for science to produce any useful results. The only argument to be had is over the set of criteria used for this arbitrary choice, and at present OR is the best one we know.

Originally Posted by stevea View Post
My point is not to present some new scientific method full-blown, and it's not reasonable for you to (repeatedly now) demand that.
Yes, in fact, it is perfectly reasonable. You're suggesting we abandon the foundation of the science and technology that makes our entire civilisation possible. It's perfectly reasonable to ask what you propose to use instead. And, if you haven't specific to offer, it's equally reasonable to ask you to get back to me when you have.

Originally Posted by stevea View Post
I am primarily arguing that the single hypothesis, Occam's Razor(OR) selection criteria is a very weak point in the 'standard model' and that there may well be better ways to represent observational knowledge.

What I am suggesting is that in addition to accumulating the simplest OR hypothesis that we also incorporate the limitations of the observations and conclusions directly in the model. We want the error bounds and we want the limited experimental conditions reflected in the model.
What makes you think we don't do that already? It's commonplace in science to recognise that the theories we have are valid only for the observational range over which they have been verified, and that observations outside that range may require new theories to describe them. Beyond that, how exactly are we supposed to incorporate knowledge we don't have yet into corrent theories?


Originally Posted by stevea View Post
Perhaps you didn't recognize the language, but OR, and the parsimony principle is said to select the hypothesis with the least number of presuppositions. So yes it matters greatly wrt to the the 'scientific method' which hypothesis has the least presuppositions, since that determines which hypothesis is selected for inclusion.



Aside: So Lorentz eqn has no benefit whatsoever over the Newtonian model ? That's not a statement I can support.
Please don't accuse me of making strawman arguments in the course of making your own. My point is that it's irrelevant to your specific example which is a greater presupposition, and that the Lorentz equation has no benefit over the Newtonian model for predictions in a regime where the differences are negligible. As, indeed, is still the case; most mechanics problems are still solved using the Newtonian model, because the insignificant corrections applied by using the Lorentz model confer no benefit whatsoever.

Originally Posted by stevea View Post
You are making another strawman argument against my suggestions. I never said that we should carry out calculations on the entire infinite class of hypotheses.
You can't have it both ways. Either we use an infinite set of hypotheses, which is a practical impossibility, or we select a subset of hypotheses on purely arbitrary criteria. If the latter, then OR is the best we know.

Originally Posted by stevea View Post
You seem obsessed with the amount of computation involved, or with the theoretical complexity involved in considering a class of hypotheses but that is not really a great issue in practice.
If you honestly think that it's no more difficult to simultaneously maintain a large set of models than to focus on a single one, then I wonder what reality you're inhabiting. It's a very serious issue if we're required to carry out every theroetical analysis several times over instead of just once.

Originally Posted by stevea View Post
Newton might study kinetic energy vs velocity & mass under a restricted range of velocities and mass and with some limited accuracy, and after some polynomial fitting might still conclude that KE = (1/2)*m*v^2 ,but ... A: under the range of the experiment, B: within some calculated error bounds, and C: other higher velocity terms are zero to within the accuracy of the experimental method. This form of hypothesis would incorporate the limitations of the hypothesis within the model. This form of conclusion does not contradict the relativistic calculation of KE. All this does is explicitly include the limitations in the model.
Fine, but that's implicitly understood by every scientist in every discipline. What exactly is it that you want us to do differently? If we have to "consider a class of hypothesis", do we just have to add disclaimers saying "This model may turn out to be wrong in the light of future discoveries"? If not, what? Other than maintain multiple parallel theories - a monstrous waste of time, given that all of them may well turn out to be incorrect - how are we supposed to do things, if not the way we do them now?

It's easy enough to make handwaving complaints that science doesn't live up to your own personal standards, but extremely difficult to make practical suggestions as to how it should. You're not offering any other than vague suggestions that we should somehow consider multiple hypotheses without actually having to do the extra work required to consider multiple hypotheses. Until you have something more concrete and less self-contradictory, I think we'll stick with a method that works well enough.

Dave
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  #108  
By Frank Merton on 8th September 2011, 12:49 AM
Originally Posted by iiwo View Post
Good sentiment, I would alter it only slightly. "There can be absolutely no mistakes" left unaccounted for or uncorrected.

There will always be mistakes--one of the many goals of science is to make new experiments work based on previous ones, and previous ones better based on newer ones and/or newer materials, ideas, and equipment.
I think that, maybe, a difference between science and non-science is just that--that science accepts that there will be mistakes, that no issue is ever finally and completely settled. Scientific theories are interpretations of the data, and the data can always be incorrect or incomplete and the interpretations can always be more or less adequate.

In fact, I don't see how any kind of credible truth claim of any sort can be otherwise--we are all subject to error, so our understanding of anything, even God's revelations, are subject to our human understanding, our prejudices, our cultural and even biological limitations. I suppose it's conceivable that God protects His revelations and somehow protects us from misunderstanding Him. No. I can think of all sorts of worse problems that notion creates.
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  #109  
By Frank Merton on 8th September 2011, 01:08 AM
Originally Posted by BazBear View Post
Faith is what it is. A belief in something not provable. It is okay to have such beliefs, but if they disagree with the provable or most probable, as they fit with the science that works, you must ask why? If you think the world is roughly 6000 years old, then your faith is in the way of reason, however if you accept your deity may have created our precious sphere of rocks and water a handful of billions of years ago, I think you are on the right track. For the record I am an atheist, or at least my "God" is the universe.
I have never seen why religious assertions should be any more or less "provable" than anything else.

I can be said to have "faith" that Pluto is a planet, but then again maybe it isn't. That being understood, is Jupiter a "planet?" Isn't the assertion that it is at least in part an assertion of faith? How else can I know except by trusting what others tell me, and if not others, except by trusting my senses?

If the bush burns but is not consumed, I have reasonable "proof" that something interesting is happening. My interpretation of it as a miracle is my theory, perhaps supported by a voice I hear coming from the bush, but this only in the context of a world-view that says that fires consume and that miracles happen and there aren't any charlatans around who know how to make a bush appear to burn.
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  #110  
By MNBrant on 9th September 2011, 06:56 AM
Yes, Science depends on machines to give them the answers. It also depends on the brain to interpret the answers and develop the questions. So you really got to be sure that your brain and the machine you are depending on are giving you the right answers to your questions.
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  #111  
By SKEPTICALSHAM on 17th September 2011, 05:15 PM
Science is the most reliable faith. Any other endangers society and yourself.
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  #112  
By Robrob on 18th September 2011, 10:41 PM
Faith based means assumptions based on faith (duh). Faith being the "evidence of things not seen" etc... Science is the opposite of faith. Faith can't be disproven. Science can be (and is) disproven.
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  #113  
By kowalskil on 26th September 2011, 07:23 AM
Originally Posted by Robrob View Post
Faith based means assumptions based on faith (duh). Faith being the "evidence of things not seen" etc... Science is the opposite of faith. Faith can't be disproven. Science can be (and is) disproven.
1) The word "faith" means different things to different people. To some it refers to belief in God, to other it is more general, for example, "I believe they will approve my decision."
.
2) Yes, mathematics is "assumption based," but not science. In science claims are based on verifiable experimental data.
.
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  #114  
By LSSBB on 10th October 2011, 12:06 PM
Starting from Websters, there are different meanings of Faith, so I believe the answer to the OP is Yes and No:

1a : allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty b (1) : fidelity to one's promises (2) : sincerity of intentions
2a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust
3: something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs e.g. "the Protestant faith"

Per definition 1b (2) there could be an argument that the ethical underpinnings of scientific organizations depend on a certain sincerity of intentions.

Definition 3 is where I believe many Creationists tend to accuse "Science" of being based in faith, in that there is frequently belief based on strong conviction among scientists, however they often blur that definition with the other two in making the accusation.
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  #115  
By kowalskil on 17th October 2011, 05:04 AM
Originally Posted by LSSBB View Post
Starting from Websters, there are different meanings of Faith, so I believe the answer to the OP is Yes and No:

1a : allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty b (1) : fidelity to one's promises (2) : sincerity of intentions
2a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust
3: something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs e.g. "the Protestant faith"

Per definition 1b (2) there could be an argument that the ethical underpinnings of scientific organizations depend on a certain sincerity of intentions.

Definition 3 is where I believe many Creationists tend to accuse "Science" of being based in faith, in that there is frequently belief based on strong conviction among scientists, however they often blur that definition with the other two in making the accusation.
An individual scientist cannot personally validate all claims, even in the area in which s/he is a specialist. Believing in what is stated by recognized authorities is very common in sciences. This is unavoidable. Is this is harmful? I do not think so.
.
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  #116  
By Robrob on 10th November 2011, 12:22 PM
Originally Posted by kowalskil View Post
1) The word "faith" means different things to different people. To some it refers to belief in God, to other it is more general, for example, "I believe they will approve my decision."
.
2) Yes, mathematics is "assumption based," but not science. In science claims are based on verifiable experimental data.
.
Well to be fair, the OP is actually using it here in the religious sense.
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  #117  
By madfoot on 15th December 2011, 03:07 AM
At a certain point, science has to be faith-based. True Skepticism is Solipsism, and I've never seen a rational rebuttal to Solipsism. It's usually just rejected out of hand as an unworkable philosophy.
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  #118  
By eerok on 18th December 2011, 03:14 AM
Originally Posted by madfoot View Post
At a certain point, science has to be faith-based.
To practice science, one need only provisionally accept that objective reality is consistent enough to be testable. Where would your "certain point" come from?

Originally Posted by madfoot View Post
True Skepticism is Solipsism, and I've never seen a rational rebuttal to Solipsism. It's usually just rejected out of hand as an unworkable philosophy.
Solipsism has nothing at all to do with science. Neither does faith.
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  #119  
By Big Al on 26th March 2012, 03:31 PM
Science is not a doctrine, but a means of obtaining confirmatory or falsifying evidence to confirm or contra-indicate a hypothesis. The body of scientific knowledge morphs and alters over time as this evidence is amassed and analysed.

Religion is a one-size-fits-all ready-made set of beliefs that remains unaltered over centuries in the face of growing contra-evidence and must be accepted by its adherents wholesale. It cannot ever be confirmed or falsified because of this total disregard for evidence.

No, I don't read every scientific paper that comes out, and I wouldn't understand a lot of them if I did. Nonetheless, I am satisfied that the peer-review process means that somebody with a suitable educational background has read and understood how the evidence presented bears upon the hypothesis under consideration. I am therefore happy that a scientific theory (a hypothesis that has had confirmatory evidence accepted by peer-review) has been vetted and reviewed by a sensible process that I do understand.

This can in no wise be considered faith. If it is, it is the faith you have that the pilot of the aircraft in which you are flying has been through some kind of approved training. (I wouldn't board any plane if I thought that wasn't the case). But the pilot training programme is not pilotage.

Flying is to a pilot training programme what the body of scientifically-derived knowledge is to the scientific method. Science is not a set of beliefs at all, but a method for gathering knowledge. I am confident that that knowledge will change as new evidence is gathered, and the desire for discovering something new and previously unimagined is what gets many scientists up in the morning.

Religion says all the knowledge you need is already right here and no proof is necessary or indeed desirable. That's faith, and it's definitely not for me.
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