# The Naked Scientists Forum

### Author Topic: Do scientists actually prove anything?  (Read 1775 times)

#### Alan McDougall

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##### Do scientists actually prove anything?
« on: 17/06/2016 12:32:45 »
Do scientists actually prove anything?

Proof if it exists can be temporary and replaced by a more accurate proof Isaac Newtons Maths held up for a few hundred years and was then proven incorrect by Albert Einstein followed by quantum theory etc?

Alan

#### IAMREALITY

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##### Re: Do scientists actually prove anything?
« Reply #1 on: 17/06/2016 14:31:03 »
Yes, they prove many things.  Just because once someone's proof turned out to be wrong doesn't mean that now all other proofs are no longer valid. Such a concept is absurd.

#### Alan McDougall

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##### Re: Do scientists actually prove anything?
« Reply #2 on: 17/06/2016 15:59:41 »
It is impossible for science to prove anything, because science is based on experiments and observations, both of which can be flawed. Often, those flaws don’t become apparent to the scientific community for quite some time. Flawed experiments and observations, of course, lead to flawed conclusions, so even the most secure scientific statements have never been proven.

Let's try it this way. I'm going to write down a pattern:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 ?

What's the next number? Did you say 13? WRONG. It's 1.

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Because the pattern I had in mind is the hours of the day, and after 12 comes 1 again.

This is a simplistic example, but it's the basic idea behind science. The universe continually throws experiments at you, all the time. And any one of them could be the one that breaks the pattern, no matter how carefully you've observed it and no matter how well your theory has held up so far.

http://futurism.com/can-science-prove-anything-2/

There are few things more annoying than grammar Nazis or people that are semantics sticklers. However, there are instances where phrasing is monumentally important.  Don’t ever say around me that science has “proven” something unless you want an ear full.

Understanding why that phrase is problematic is essential to understanding the most important tool humans have ever devised to understand reality – science.

WHEN IT’S OK TO USE THE WORD ‘PROVEN:’

There are certain contexts where the word ‘proven’ is applicable.  These are situations where there are absolutely no alternative explanations and no possibility of finding contradictory evidence.  To reiterate, no possibility.

The only time that this is true is in relation to math and logic.  Within both of those fields statements are proven by the definitions of the terms involved.  1+1=2 because that’s how we define 1 and 2.  If A is B and B is C then A is C.  It has to be.  It’s proven because that’s how we are defining the terms.  This is different from science, though.

WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER USE ‘PROVE’ WITHIN A SCIENTIFIC CONTEXT:

In short, you should never use this term in order to avoid embarrassment.  The history of science is replete with examples of people that were positive they had proven something.

Ever heard of caloric (no, not calories)?  It was thought to be a substance which flowed within material to carry heat.  As far as scientists of the 1700’s and before were concerned it was proven – just put your hand on the handle of a pot and feel as the caloric flowed into it as the pot heated up.  No.  Wrong.  What about phlogiston?  It was thought to be the substance trapped within combustible material that could produce fire.  They had proof – burn something and the phlogiston was released.

Ether is another great example.  Scientists thought that there was an atmospheric like substance that permeated the entire universe.  It was “proven” by the ripples seen in double slit experiments, which seemed to send waves through the ether like a stone cast into a pond.  Nope. Not a thing.  Photons have wave like properties.  The list of “proven” and then disproven scientific phenomena also includes humors, a flat Earth, heliocentrism, the list goes on and on.

CERTAINTY VS CONFIDENCE:

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“Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty — some most unsure, some nearly sure, but none absolutely certain.” – Richard Feynman

Quote
“I can live with doubt, and uncertainty, and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers, and possible beliefs, and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I’m not absolutely sure of anything.” – Richard Feynman

It isn’t that we can’t ever come to a conclusion.  We can.  It also isn’t that we can’t ever be confident about our conclusions.  We definitely can.  In fact, we can be  confident far beyond any reasonable doubt (if our conclusions are supported by a preponderance of evidence).

However, and this is the central point that I am trying to make, we can never be fully beyond any doubt.  We can be confident – incredibly, absolutely, positively confident – just never certain.

This is the humbling and mysterious liminal dwelling place of all scientists.

The fact is, no matter how certain you are, you (and I!) could be wrong.  And that’s ok.  Life, reality, and the world will go on.  Besides, it’s fun living with a little mystery.  There’s an air of excitement that our universe could surprise us at any moment with a new and unexpected side of itself.  As scientists, may we all be open to surprises, humble enough to admit when we’re wrong, and curious enough to keep digging for the truth.  Science on, friends.
« Last Edit: 17/06/2016 16:14:40 by Alan McDougall »

#### IAMREALITY

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##### Re: Do scientists actually prove anything?
« Reply #3 on: 17/06/2016 17:21:09 »
It is impossible for science to prove anything, because science is based on experiments and observations, both of which can be flawed.

Can be <> Always

Quote
Often, those flaws don’t become apparent to the scientific community for quite some time. Flawed experiments and observations, of course, lead to flawed conclusions,

Often <> Always

Quote
so even the most secure scientific statements have never been proven.

Absurd conclusion.  You're saying that because sometimes something happens that means it must then always happen.  Just totally warped logic there...

Quote

Let's try it this way. I'm going to write down a pattern:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 ?

What's the next number? Did you say 13? WRONG. It's 1.

Because the pattern I had in mind is the hours of the day, and after 12 comes 1 again.

This is a simplistic example, but it's the basic idea behind science. The universe continually throws experiments at you, all the time. And any one of them could be the one that breaks the pattern, no matter how carefully you've observed it and no matter how well your theory has held up so far.

Actually you're wrong, I actually said 1.  Cause I knew exactly what you were trying to do.  But regardless, it was a nonsensical exercise that you think was actually profound but was anything but.  In your 'example' above the observer didn't know what they were looking for (though I did, cause it was so transparent). So they are at a high likelihood to get it wrong.  But in reality, when scientists set out to prove something, they have a general idea of what it is they're actually trying to prove.  In this case, they would've already known that what they were trying to come up with was the number that would come after 12 based on hours of the day, not on what number comes after 12 in a base 10 numerical system.  So your example, insofar as it's logical analogous properties are concerned, is tragically flawed.

Quote
There are few things more annoying than grammar Nazis or people that are semantics sticklers. However, there are instances where phrasing is monumentally important.  Don’t ever say around me that science has “proven” something unless you want an ear full.

Oh who cares if you'd give an earful.  It's a ridiculous and absurd sentiment to hold.  Pretty sure we'll all choose to tell you science has proven a multitude of things anyway...  Cause facts matter.

Quote
Understanding why that phrase is problematic is essential to understanding the most important tool humans have ever devised to understand reality – science.

WHEN IT’S OK TO USE THE WORD ‘PROVEN:’

There are certain contexts where the word ‘proven’ is applicable.  These are situations where there are absolutely no alternative explanations and no possibility of finding contradictory evidence.  To reiterate, no possibility.

You just love to give definitions of obvious concepts.  It's as if you think that everybody but you has trouble understanding the definitions of common words.  With all due respect, it comes off as kinda arrogant I must say...

Quote
The only time that this is true is in relation to math and logic.  Within both of those fields statements are proven by the definitions of the terms involved.  1+1=2 because that’s how we define 1 and 2.  If A is B and B is C then A is C.  It has to be.  It’s proven because that’s how we are defining the terms.  This is different from science, though.

Since Science uses both math and logic to prove things, this is kind of a totally absurd statement.

Quote
WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER USE ‘PROVE’ WITHIN A SCIENTIFIC CONTEXT:

In short, you should never use this term in order to avoid embarrassment.  The history of science is replete with examples of people that were positive they had proven something.

Ever heard of caloric (no, not calories)?  It was thought to be a substance which flowed within material to carry heat.  As far as scientists of the 1700’s and before were concerned it was proven – just put your hand on the handle of a pot and feel as the caloric flowed into it as the pot heated up.  No.  Wrong.  What about phlogiston?  It was thought to be the substance trapped within combustible material that could produce fire.  They had proof – burn something and the phlogiston was released.

Ether is another great example.  Scientists thought that there was an atmospheric like substance that permeated the entire universe.  It was “proven” by the ripples seen in double slit experiments, which seemed to send waves through the ether like a stone cast into a pond.  Nope. Not a thing.  Photons have wave like properties.  The list of “proven” and then disproven scientific phenomena also includes humors, a flat Earth, heliocentrism, the list goes on and on.

Yet again you have this extremely warped logic used in a tragically flawed conclusion; that just because sometimes things have happened that means they always do.  You take the exceptions and make them the absolutes.  It's beyond absurd and nonsensical.

Quote
“Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty — some most unsure, some nearly sure, but none absolutely certain.”
“I can live with doubt, and uncertainty, and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers, and possible beliefs, and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I’m not absolutely sure of anything.” – Richard Feynman

That's his opinion.  That doesn't make it the be all end all.

Quote
It isn’t that we can’t ever come to a conclusion.  We can.  It also isn’t that we can’t ever be confident about our conclusions.  We definitely can.  In fact, we can be  confident far beyond any reasonable doubt (if our conclusions are supported by a preponderance of evidence).

However, and this is the central point that I am trying to make, we can never be fully beyond any doubt.  We can be confident – incredibly, absolutely, positively confident – just never certain.

So really this has all just been a philosophical question not a logical one.  I guess for example one must always have to accept the one in a google chance exists that we are all just manifestations in some future generation's advanced video game, and that nothing is real, blah blah blah.  But that doesn't mean we can't prove things within our boundaries of our reality, within the rules established within our reality.  But if this is all just a philosophical exercise rather than a logical one, then I guess there's no real answer, since philosophy is based in the realm of opinion and subjectivity to begin with, and most often is an exercise in futility.

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The fact is, no matter how certain you are, you (and I!) could be wrong.

You could be, that much is certain!  Hahaha

#### Colin2B

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##### Re: Do scientists actually prove anything?
« Reply #4 on: 18/06/2016 00:38:45 »
Gentlemen, can we please take a deep breath and start again.
Forum rules are to keep it friendly, let's not get into a "he started it first", but try to discuss the topic in as productive a way as possible.
Thanks

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#### Bored chemist

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##### Re: Do scientists actually prove anything?
« Reply #5 on: 18/06/2016 00:45:35 »
Do scientists actually prove anything?

Proof if it exists can be temporary and replaced by a more accurate proof Isaac Newtons Maths held up for a few hundred years and was then proven incorrect by Albert Einstein followed by quantum theory etc?

Alan
Define "proof" and "scientist".
Or, don't bother, it's not as if t will help.

The following users thanked this post: jeffreyH

#### Alan McDougall

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##### Re: Do scientists actually prove anything?
« Reply #6 on: 18/06/2016 01:27:31 »
Do scientists actually prove anything?

Proof if it exists can be temporary and replaced by a more accurate proof Isaac Newtons Maths held up for a few hundred years and was then proven incorrect by Albert Einstein followed by quantum theory etc?

Alan
Define "proof" and "scientist".
Or, don't bother, it's not as if t will help.

Nevertheless I will give it a shot?

A scientist is?

A person who is trained in a science and whose job involves doing scientific research or solving scientific problem

A proof is?

1) Evidence sufficient to establish a thing as true, or to produce belief inits truth.

2) Anything serving as such evidence:

3) The act of testing or making trial of anything; test; trial:
to put a thing to the proof.

4) The establishment of the truth of anything; demonstration.

5) The effect of evidence in convincing the mind.

Alan

#### Alan McDougall

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##### Re: Do scientists actually prove anything?
« Reply #7 on: 18/06/2016 06:49:12 »
Gentlemen, can we please take a deep breath and start again.
Forum rules are to keep it friendly, let's not get into a "he started it first", but try to discuss the topic in as productive a way as possible.
Thanks

You are right, but then we should do our utmost to avoid long nonreligious litanies full of "terminological inexactitudes", that irritate those, who just want to engage in real debate, void of insults, such as directed at me as having "A limited intellect"!

#### IAMREALITY

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##### Re: Do scientists actually prove anything?
« Reply #8 on: 18/06/2016 18:55:14 »
Gentlemen, can we please take a deep breath and start again.
Forum rules are to keep it friendly, let's not get into a "he started it first", but try to discuss the topic in as productive a way as possible.
Thanks

You are right, but then we should do our utmost to avoid long nonreligious litanies full of "terminological inexactitudes", that irritate those, who just want to engage in real debate, void of insults, such as directed at me as having "A limited intellect"!

I did nothing more than refute your points with blunt logic. The post is still there for all to see. I would encourage you that if you see fault with my refutation, if you have a rebuttal to any of the points, to then reply to the context and substance of my refutations with your own blunt logic if necessary, rather than the ad hominems.  That's what 'real debate' is, which you claim to seek.  Let's get back to the topic at hand please.

#### Alan McDougall

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##### Re: Do scientists actually prove anything?
« Reply #9 on: 18/06/2016 21:07:06 »
Gentlemen, can we please take a deep breath and start again.
Forum rules are to keep it friendly, let's not get into a "he started it first", but try to discuss the topic in as productive a way as possible.
Thanks

You are right, but then we should do our utmost to avoid long nonreligious litanies full of "terminological inexactitudes", that irritate those, who just want to engage in real debate, void of insults, such as directed at me as having "A limited intellect"!

I did nothing more than refute your points with blunt logic. The post is still there for all to see. I would encourage you that if you see fault with my refutation, if you have a rebuttal to any of the points, to then reply to the context and substance of my refutations with your own blunt logic if necessary, rather than the ad hominems.  That's what 'real debate' is, which you claim to seek.  Let's get back to the topic at hand please.

At least now was more insulting Gonnna's, dudes or sons in this response of yours, so maybe there is still hope that hope that that we can engage in in meaningful dialogue?

#### IAMREALITY

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##### Re: Do scientists actually prove anything?
« Reply #10 on: 18/06/2016 21:54:56 »
Gentlemen, can we please take a deep breath and start again.
Forum rules are to keep it friendly, let's not get into a "he started it first", but try to discuss the topic in as productive a way as possible.
Thanks

You are right, but then we should do our utmost to avoid long nonreligious litanies full of "terminological inexactitudes", that irritate those, who just want to engage in real debate, void of insults, such as directed at me as having "A limited intellect"!

I did nothing more than refute your points with blunt logic. The post is still there for all to see. I would encourage you that if you see fault with my refutation, if you have a rebuttal to any of the points, to then reply to the context and substance of my refutations with your own blunt logic if necessary, rather than the ad hominems.  That's what 'real debate' is, which you claim to seek.  Let's get back to the topic at hand please.

At least now was more insulting Gonnna's, dudes or sons in this response of yours, so maybe there is still hope that hope that that we can engage in in meaningful dialogue?
No idea what this blather is, nor do I much care.  I ask that you please stop addressing me in a personal manner. The mod already made it clear it's unproductive.  If you can't refute my points logically or reply to the context of my post, I ask that you simply not respond to me at all.  Thanks.

#### Alan McDougall

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##### Re: Do scientists actually prove anything?
« Reply #11 on: 18/06/2016 23:12:25 »
Gentlemen, can we please take a deep breath and start again.
Forum rules are to keep it friendly, let's not get into a "he started it first", but try to discuss the topic in as productive a way as possible.
Thanks

You are right, but then we should do our utmost to avoid long nonreligious litanies full of "terminological inexactitudes", that irritate those, who just want to engage in real debate, void of insults, such as directed at me as having "A limited intellect"!

I did nothing more than refute your points with blunt logic. The post is still there for all to see. I would encourage you that if you see fault with my refutation, if you have a rebuttal to any of the points, to then reply to the context and substance of my refutations with your own blunt logic if necessary, rather than the ad hominems.  That's what 'real debate' is, which you claim to seek.  Let's get back to the topic at hand please.

At least now was more insulting Gonnna's, dudes or sons in this response of yours, so maybe there is still hope that hope that that we can engage in in meaningful dialogue?
No idea what this blather is, nor do I much care.  I ask that you please stop addressing me in a personal manner. The mod already made it clear it's unproductive.  If you can't refute my points logically or reply to the context of my post, I ask that you simply not respond to me at all.  Thanks.

I will try if you do the same and refrain from calling me a 75 year old man "Son" or Dude! which is the height of disrepect

#### IAMREALITY

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##### Re: Do scientists actually prove anything?
« Reply #12 on: 18/06/2016 23:27:01 »
Gentlemen, can we please take a deep breath and start again.
Forum rules are to keep it friendly, let's not get into a "he started it first", but try to discuss the topic in as productive a way as possible.
Thanks

You are right, but then we should do our utmost to avoid long nonreligious litanies full of "terminological inexactitudes", that irritate those, who just want to engage in real debate, void of insults, such as directed at me as having "A limited intellect"!

I did nothing more than refute your points with blunt logic. The post is still there for all to see. I would encourage you that if you see fault with my refutation, if you have a rebuttal to any of the points, to then reply to the context and substance of my refutations with your own blunt logic if necessary, rather than the ad hominems.  That's what 'real debate' is, which you claim to seek.  Let's get back to the topic at hand please.

At least now was more insulting Gonnna's, dudes or sons in this response of yours, so maybe there is still hope that hope that that we can engage in in meaningful dialogue?
No idea what this blather is, nor do I much care.  I ask that you please stop addressing me in a personal manner. The mod already made it clear it's unproductive.  If you can't refute my points logically or reply to the context of my post, I ask that you simply not respond to me at all.  Thanks.

I will try if you do the same and refrain from calling me a 75 year old man "Son" or Dude! which is the height of disrepect
I never called you dude, son... And I will ask yet again,  please reply to me only in the context of refuting my logic above, or the content of my posts, as opposed to me directly. Thanks.

#### Alan McDougall

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##### Re: Do scientists actually prove anything?
« Reply #13 on: 19/06/2016 00:46:00 »
IAMREALITY

Quote
I will try if you do the same and refrain from calling me a 75 year old man "Son" or Dude! which is the height of disrespect

Quote
I never called you dude, son... And I will ask yet again,  please reply to me only in the context of refuting my logic above, or the content of my posts, as opposed to me directly. Thanks.

It was not me that you called a "Dude you called The great Richard Feynman a Dude!
« Last Edit: 19/06/2016 00:48:03 by Alan McDougall »

#### IAMREALITY

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##### Re: Do scientists actually prove anything?
« Reply #14 on: 19/06/2016 01:40:41 »

It was not me that you called a "Dude you called The great Richard Feynman a Dude!

Just no words...

#### jeffreyH

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• The graviton sucks
##### Re: Do scientists actually prove anything?
« Reply #15 on: 19/06/2016 02:40:17 »
Is this thread ever going to get back to a science discussion? You are both as bad as each other.

#### IAMREALITY

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##### Re: Do scientists actually prove anything?
« Reply #16 on: 19/06/2016 02:56:38 »
Is this thread ever going to get back to a science discussion? You are both as bad as each other.
With all due respect, I've repeatedly stated to get back to discussion. But I will always reply to a post directed at me.  But that is in reply. All I've wanted is for the discussion to get back to the merits, and  hope the discussion gets back on track.  Cause I agree with you 100%, it's beyond ridiculous at this point.
« Last Edit: 19/06/2016 03:30:28 by IAMREALITY »

#### Colin2B

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##### Re: Do scientists actually prove anything?
« Reply #17 on: 19/06/2016 09:11:35 »
This thread has lost its direction with over half of it bickering.
Start afresh if you want to, but this is now locked.

#### The Naked Scientists Forum

##### Re: Do scientists actually prove anything?
« Reply #17 on: 19/06/2016 09:11:35 »