# The Naked Scientists Forum

### Author Topic: What is scientific proof?  (Read 695 times)

#### Alan McDougall

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##### What is scientific proof?
« on: 28/06/2016 13:57:44 »
What is scientific proof?

Can I give an example of what I mean?

In a particular country ?

It never rains in January.

It sometimes rains in March.

It never rains in August.

It always rains in December.

What does that prove?

#### IAMREALITY

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##### Re: What is scientific proof?
« Reply #1 on: 28/06/2016 16:04:56 »
What is scientific proof?

Can I give an example of what I mean?

In a particular country ?

It never rains in January.

It sometimes rains in March.

It never rains in August.

It always rains in December.

What does that prove?

Likely that there weren't enough data points used in the assessment.

But it also has nothing to do with scientific proof, since the example offered no conclusions.  Those were merely observations.  There were no conclusions drawn by them.  So I think most would be left confused by your example.

#### PmbPhy

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##### Re: What is scientific proof?
« Reply #2 on: 28/06/2016 16:08:22 »
What is scientific proof?

Can I give an example of what I mean?

In a particular country ?

It never rains in January.

It sometimes rains in March.

It never rains in August.

It always rains in December.

What does that prove?
There's no such thing as scientific proof. The concept of proof doesn't pertain to physics, at least not for the most part. There are instances where one can say that they've proved something in science. For example; if one starts with certain propositions which are taken as axioms then the rules of logic can be applied wherein one arrives at a proposition which is called the conclusion. It is in this sense that the conclusion is said to have been proved. However the proof relies on the validity (truth value) of the axioms.

#### alancalverd

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##### Re: What is scientific proof?
« Reply #3 on: 28/06/2016 23:16:22 »
It is a series of data points, which doesn't prove anything.

You might however suggest the hypothesis that the letter u prevents rain. The scientific test of your hypothesis would be whether it rains in February, June or July. If it doesn't, then you are on the track of something interesting. A lot of science is about investigating apparent anomalies: why does it sometimes rain in March? Anything to do with leap years? What is the complete annual rainfall distribution? Any other "sometimes"? Time for some experimental investigation: if we taught the population to speak French, pleuvrait-il en janvier?

Scientific proof is pretty much the inverse of mathematical proof. In maths, QED means absolutely and always, but scientific proof is further from the Latin probare (certify, testify...) and closer to the German Prufung (test, examination). Scientific knowledge is the residue of explanatory and predictive hypotheses that have not been disproved.

#### Alan McDougall

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##### Re: What is scientific proof?
« Reply #4 on: 29/06/2016 02:11:07 »
It is a series of data points, which doesn't prove anything.

You might however suggest the hypothesis that the letter u prevents rain. The scientific test of your hypothesis would be whether it rains in February, June or July. If it doesn't, then you are on the track of something interesting. A lot of science is about investigating apparent anomalies: why does it sometimes rain in March? Anything to do with leap years? What is the complete annual rainfall distribution? Any other "sometimes"? Time for some experimental investigation: if we taught the population to speak French, pleuvrait-il en janvier?

Scientific proof is pretty much the inverse of mathematical proof. In maths, QED means absolutely and always, but scientific proof is further from the Latin probare (certify, testify...) and closer to the German Prufung (test, examination). Scientific knowledge is the residue of explanatory and predictive hypotheses that have not been disproved.

Your post contained some interesting points however?

However, in my opinion those 4 statements I made about which month it rained or did not rain etc, were just observation by a hypothetical weather authority "that proved absolutely nothing"

#### IAMREALITY

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##### Re: What is scientific proof?
« Reply #5 on: 29/06/2016 06:30:24 »

Your post contained some interesting points however?

However, in my opinion those 4 statements I made about which month it rained or did not rain etc, were just observation by a hypothetical weather authority "that proved absolutely nothing"

So basically what I said... What do I win?

#### alancalverd

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##### Re: What is scientific proof?
« Reply #6 on: 29/06/2016 07:41:27 »

However, in my opinion those 4 statements I made about which month it rained or did not rain etc, were just observation by a hypothetical weather authority "that proved absolutely nothing"

We all agree that data is not proof. Scientific proof is the test of a hypothesis by studying the data.

But a great deal of science stems from the observation of repeated or correlated phenomena, so data like "always", "never" and "sometimes" suggests that there is an underlying mechanism worth exploring.

Indeed it goes further: the object of civil engineering is to use science to turn "sometimes" into "never", and the object of mechanical engineering is to turn "sometimes" into "always". Or as one professor told a class of prospective students "mech engs build weapons, civ engs build targets".

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##### Re: What is scientific proof?
« Reply #6 on: 29/06/2016 07:41:27 »