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General Science => General Science => Topic started by: littlebrowndragon on 20/09/2019 18:06:38

Title: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 20/09/2019 18:06:38
I am not a scientist.  (I did maths and statistics at university).  To try to get to grips with secondary school level physics again recently, I borrowed a Teach Yourself Physics book from the library.  It was written by a physicist, an experienced physics teacher.   I must say that when I read the author’s  introduction I was somewhat taken aback.  The reason for my surprise was that the author stated that science cannot prove a theory, it can only disprove a theory.

This got me thinking, for example, of global warming.   The implication of the author’s statement is that global warming has not been proven.  Further, it cannot be proven.  Moreover, it has been accepted as a fact merely because of a consensus of opinion among scientists.  It seems to me to be no different from saying that 6 million people can’t be wrong about global warming. ( In truth, of course, 6 million people can be wrong about global warming or, indeed, anything else. )

Given that governments are making all sorts of treaties to combat global warming, treaties that impose a great burden on ordinary people , treaties that require considerable self-sacrifice on the part of you and me, I had thought that this was on the basis of proof, not mere opinion.

Is it correct that science can only disprove theories?  Or, not being a scientist, have I misunderstood the situation?  Could forum scientists please shed some light on this for me?


Thanks,

A very confused littlebrowndragon 

Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: Halc on 20/09/2019 18:27:20
The implication of the author’s statement is that global warming has not been proven.  Further, it cannot be proven.  Moreover, it has been accepted as a fact merely because of a consensus of opinion among scientists.
Indeed it (or any other scientific finding) cannot be proven, but that doesn't mean it has been accepted merely because of people's opinions.  Things that have been accepted are due to a very high probability of being the case.
So for instance, one cannot prove that momentum is conserved, but no example of violation of this rule has ever been demonstrated, so the law is considered fact.  Likewise, global warming has an overwhelming probability of being the case, hence it is considered fact by those using science, instead of biases, to draw their conclusions.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: chiralSPO on 20/09/2019 21:35:26
The various theories that climate change is NOT human-driven has been fairly thoroughly disproven.

ie "the extra CO2 is from volcanoes" doesn't hold up to scrutiny because the ratio of isotopes of "excess" C matches the isotope ratio found of fossil fuels, and the ratio of O isotopes matches what is currently in our air, not what is in carbonate rock. (https://www.wired.com/2015/04/volcanic-versus-anthropogenic-carbon-dioxide-addendum/)
~~~
Since the OP mentions a background in maths and statistics, I would also draw attention to the ideas of Risk Analysis, and Type I error (false positive) vs Type II error (false negative). Because we can never be absolutely sure of anything (barring logical tautology), there is some associated uncertainty with any determination.

Let us imagine that I have a bowl of oysters in front of me. Unfortunately some of them have gone off, and could sicken me if I ate them. By giving each one a quick sniff, I have a 90% chance of identifying (correctly) that a bad one is bad (leaving a 10% Type II error), and a 60% chance of of identifying a good one as good (40% Type I error).

I can't REALLY know, based on any given smell test whether a negative result is a true negative or a false negative. (and likewise with positive). If I don't know what percentage of oysters is bad, then we have little to go on. Let's assume half of them have gone bad. (NB: The analysis changes slightly if we decide on a Baysian or Frequentist approach https://www.probabilisticworld.com/frequentist-bayesian-approaches-inferential-statistics/)

In that case, given that an oyster smells bad, there are two possibilities:
it is bad (50%) and I identified it correctly (90%) (0.9×0.5 = 0.45)
or
it is good (50%) and I identified it incorrectly (40%) (0.4×0.5 = 0.2)
so it looks like if it smells bad it is more than twice as likely to be bad than to be good.

or, if the oyster smells good:
it is bad, and I identified it incorrectly (0.5×0.1 = 0.05)
or
it is good and I identified it correctly (0.5×0.6 = 0.3)
so given that it smells good, the chances of it being good are 6 times better than it being bad.

But here's the thing: I don't like those odds. I have gotten food poisoning from seafood before--it's very unpleasant. And yeah, oysters taste ok... but if I multiply out the various probabilities by how MUCH I stand to gain or lose in each scenario, unless I am literally starving to death, I would not eat a "good smelling" oyster if it had a 1/7 chance of making me ill (and I DEFINITELY wouldn't eat several "good" ones with those odds--I would certainly poison myself).

risk = ∑((probability of something happening)×(how bad it would be if it did happen))

So, back to climate change. Given that our indicators are all pointing to CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL and CLIMATE CHANGE IS BAD, we have to ask ourselves three questions?
• How likely is it climate change is not happening (type I error)? P
• How bad is it if we act as if climate change is happening and it's not? (type I hazard) A
• How bad is it if we act as if climate change is not happening and it is? (type II hazard) B

risk = P×A + (1–P)×B

I posit (and countless studies support me on this) that P is really really small (like 10–6), B is really, really big (like $1017), and A is still big, but not as big (like $1015)


Ultimately:

* hoax.png (451.86 kB . 780x516 - viewed 1114 times)
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: alancalverd on 21/09/2019 09:05:38
Science is the application of the algorithm: observe, hypothesise, test (by further observation), repeat until satisfied.

Scientific knowledge is the residue of explanatory and predictive hypotheses that have not been disproved by test.

Specifically, climate change is an observation. It is inevitable because the atmosphere and biosphere is inherently unstable. We know that it has been both hotter and colder within recorded history,  and by inference from ice samples, we can see periods of rapid heating followed by slow cooling going back over  400,000 years. We are now in a period of rapid heating.

We also observe a correlation between mean surface temperature and the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. However the ice core record shows a lag of 500 - 800 years between temperature and CO2 level, which suggests that CO2 is, or at least was, the thermometer (effect) , not the thermostat (cause).

We also know that atmospheric water is the primary determinant of surface temperature and the quantity of water in the atmosphere is variable (from 0 to 10% as gas) inherently unstable, and cyclic. Unfortunately we have no historic record of cloud cover or atmospheric water content generally, and even the short term behavior is very complex as water exists in all three states (solid, liquid and gas) at all levels, simultaneously, with huge quantities of energy involved in the isothermal processes of melting and evaporation.

There is a current consensus that anthropogenic carbon dioxide is driving the present warming phase. This hypothesis is attractive for many reasons but (a) it runs contrary to the historic record and (b) it has not been tested. The only applicable test is, obviously, to reduce or eliminate anthropogenic CO2 and see what happens, but the whole of animal life depends on the oxidation of carbon compounds, and the quality of human life, since the invention of fire, is directly related to the controlled production of "artificial" carbon dioxide in industry. Very few people can survive without burning fossil fuel or wood - only vegetarians in tropical forests, which are being destroyed anyway, and a few coastal communities whose shallow fishing grounds have not been denuded by industrial trawling.

The history of science, indeed of mankind, is littered with dead ends and disasters caused by spurious correlations, convenient consensus, and bizarre beliefs about the dominion of homo sapiens (or particular subspecies) and various forms of karma and nemesis. If we avoid all these, we can conduct a rational experiment to test the hypothesis of anthropogenic climate change by simply reducing the number of humans on the planet. Natural death will do the work for us, reducing the population to about half in 35 years with no other input, but there will be nobody around in 100 years' time to benefit from the result. If we just limit  the input to one child per female, our successors will inherit a controllably declining population with increased per capita natural resources and a steadily declining need for artificial CO2.

This would be a Good Thing  anyway. If climate change is inevitable and the population continues to grow, there will be mass migrations in the foreseeable future from unsustainable arid or coastal communities, leading to major wars and/or mass starvation. Fewer people = less pressure. If reducing anthropogenic CO2 emission does reverse warming, we will have taken control of the environment with no detriment, and eventually a significant improvement, to the quality of life of our descendants, by doing nothing!   
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: jeffreyH on 21/09/2019 10:36:44
It is exactly because we have too many people on the planet that we have exacerbated climate change. We have hurried the process up. A village of a thousand needs very little fuel. A planet of billions requires a huge amount of fuel. All the processes are magnified. Whatever it is we are doing to the water cycle we are doing it on an unprecedented scale.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: jeffreyH on 21/09/2019 10:38:38
BTW If you don't believe this view go and check out Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. That is our effect on the water cycle. Don't believe me? Fine.

EDIT: Check out how much rain Texas has just had.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 21/09/2019 16:26:12
OK, thanks a lot for those very comprehensive responses to my question.  I'm going to have to mull them over before replying to them!  Meantime, thanks again.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 21/09/2019 17:59:14
Things that have been accepted are due to a very high probability of being the case.So for instance, one cannot prove that momentum is conserved, but no example of violation of this rule has ever been demonstrated, so the law is considered fact.


Thank you for your response.  It raises questions in my head.  So, here goes……. 

Ok, the violation of this rule – the conservation of momentum – has never been demonstrated.  Suppose, however, I’m out for a walk one day and I somehow observe the rule being violated.  Only, being a non-scientist and especially a non-physicist, I do not even know I’ve seen the rule being violated.  What then?  The rule has been violated, even if I cannot demonstrate that it has been violated, even if I do not even know that I have seen it being violated, and yet science, not knowing what I have seen, still insists that the conservation of momentum is a law (or rule).  How does science deal with this sort of scenario, would you say?

A more fundamental issue, I think, is that it appears that science sees the world, the universe, as operating by rules.  I assume that this is also down to statistics i.e. there is a very high probability that the natural world operates by rules (cause and effect?) and so this is now considered fact.

In fact, how does science define what a “fact” actually is, do you know? 


I’m afraid I have a lot to learn about science.  Thank you for your patience!

Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: Bored chemist on 21/09/2019 18:26:03
There are e few rules that we can prove (given certain condition). Momentum conservation is one of them.
Here's the proof- I have to admit I don't understand it.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noether%27s_theorem


Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: Halc on 21/09/2019 18:33:43
Ok, the violation of this rule – the conservation of momentum – has never been demonstrated.  Suppose, however, I’m out for a walk one day and I somehow observe the rule being violated.  Only, being a non-scientist and especially a non-physicist, I do not even know I’ve seen the rule being violated.  What then?
I think then the violation will go unnoticed. But it also means the foundation of physics is in fact mistaken, even if nobody yet knows it.
Once it becomes noticed, everything build on that invalid assumption will have to be rebuilt.  That's a lot of books to rewrite.

Quote
The rule has been violated, even if I cannot demonstrate that it has been violated, even if I do not even know that I have seen it being violated, and yet science, not knowing what I have seen, still insists that the conservation of momentum is a law (or rule).  How does science deal with this sort of scenario, would you say?
Science would not deal with it because you, not knowing that you're witnessing something amazing, have not reported it.

If you know it is wrong, then you're a physicist and they would act to reproduce the phenomenon, in order to posit the beginnings of new rules.
There are claims all the time of such violations (of one rule or another), but none have been verified.  The conservation laws are the most difficult to assault.  Other findings are less cast in stone, like "use of product X makes you more attractive to others".


Quote
A more fundamental issue, I think, is that it appears that science sees the world, the universe, as operating by rules.  I assume that this is also down to statistics i.e. there is a very high probability that the natural world operates by rules (cause and effect?) and so this is now considered fact.

In fact, how does science define what a “fact” actually is, do you know?
I suppose it is something that has a sufficient consensus among those with sufficient knowledge and detachment in the subject matter


I’m afraid I have a lot to learn about science.  Thank you for your patience!
[/quote]
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: Janus on 21/09/2019 19:09:28
Things that have been accepted are due to a very high probability of being the case.So for instance, one cannot prove that momentum is conserved, but no example of violation of this rule has ever been demonstrated, so the law is considered fact.


Thank you for your response.  It raises questions in my head.  So, here goes……. 

Ok, the violation of this rule – the conservation of momentum – has never been demonstrated.  Suppose, however, I’m out for a walk one day and I somehow observe the rule being violated.  Only, being a non-scientist and especially a non-physicist, I do not even know I’ve seen the rule being violated.  What then?  The rule has been violated, even if I cannot demonstrate that it has been violated, even if I do not even know that I have seen it being violated, and yet science, not knowing what I have seen, still insists that the conservation of momentum is a law (or rule).  How does science deal with this sort of scenario, would you say?
In some cases, such as the above mentioned conservation of momentum, it isn't just a case of a violation never being observed, but a case that if it weren't conserved, the world we live in wold look a lot different than it does.  You would see examples of it not being conserved everywhere.  (this is something where many inventors of "perpetual motion" devices run afoul.  They devise these complicated systems designed to "side step" the conservation of energy, without realizing that if energy conservation could be violated, it could be done so much more simply and directly.  All their complications do is make it easy to lose track of the energy transfers.) 
 
Going deeper, there is an actual mathematical proof*( Noether's theorem) that show that certain physical systems have to have conserved quantities.

* in mathematics, it is possible to produce proofs.

Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 21/09/2019 20:13:41
Because we can never be absolutely sure of anything

How do you know this?  Since this is a science site, are you speaking for science?  Are you saying that science can never be absolutely sure of anything?
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: Kryptid on 21/09/2019 22:13:08
How do you know this?  Since this is a science site, are you speaking for science?  Are you saying that science can never be absolutely sure of anything?

It's just technically true. Any and all observations have the capacity to be mistaken.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: alancalverd on 21/09/2019 22:17:04
The line between science and engineering is drawn by the concept of "good enough". We had pretty good scientific models of  how electric current and magnetic fields relate, sufficient for Edison and the like to develop the public electrical grid in an entirely useable form, but the detail of electron and hole conduction in metals wasn't worked out for a long time afterwards. There is an old saying that "thermodynamics owes more to the development of the steam engine than the steam engine owes to the study of thermodynamics". Science is often about solving problems arising from the failure of apparently obvious engineering projects. So data and laws that may be good enough for today's application may turn out to need  a bit of tweaking tomorrow. Which is yet another reason why science is all about humility and evolving hypotheses, in contrast to politics, philosophy and religion, which are vanities based on absolute certainty.   
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: evan_au on 22/09/2019 11:43:31
Quote from: OP
This got me thinking, for example, of global warming.   The implication of the author’s statement is that global warming has not been proven.  Further, it cannot be proven.  Moreover, it has been accepted as a fact merely because of a consensus of opinion among scientists.  It seems to me to be no different from saying that 6 million people can’t be wrong about global warming
I think what you are saying is that global warming has been proven wrong because one person (not a climate scientist) said it was "fake news".

He can't prove his assertion is true, either.

So you are left with probabilistic calculations like those demonstrated by chiralSPO.

There are groups who clearly stand to lose if the true costs of CO2 emissions are included in economic calculations - the coal and oil industries are clear examples. That is why they are funding big advertising campaigns and political candidates to fight against a realistic cost assessment. That is why the US EPA, NASA and NOAA are being restricted in what they can say (or legislate, in the case of EPA).

Another case involving the EPA occurred with lead in petrol, in the 1980s (under Reagan).
- Similar to today, the EPA was told to reduce costs for industry - and one industry efficiency they were told to implement was to relax the limits on lead in petrol.
- They had to look into it before blindly implementing it
- As I recall, they worked out the cost savings as something like $100 million. That would have been enough savings to implement it.
- However, some statistics on the association between lead in the blood and IQ were used to show that this would dumb down the population (and the use of IQ statistics was somewhat controversial)
- Some statistics on income and IQ showed that this would reduce individual earning capacity
- This would cause a health impact of something like a $billion
- This was something that the EPA simply could not ignore
- So the EPA ignored the government directive and made the limits on lead 10x tougher

Lead in petrol affects children in utero now. This impacts the next election.
People can argue that the biggest impacts of global warming will be felt in 50-100 years, which is after the next election, and so politicians feel they can safely ignore it.
Listen, or read the transcript: https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/radiolab/articles/g-problem-space
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: alancalverd on 22/09/2019 15:40:27
The elephant in the CO2 room is transport. A few very rich people can afford electric cars which are 30% powered by unreliable sources of electricity, which makes reliable electricity more expensive. I  suspect the people who run electric cars would be the first to complain if the lights went out in the operating theater. However the lesson from history is that during miners' strikes and 3-day weeks, the UK government insisted that football stadiums, entertaining tens of thousands, should not use floodlights, whilst the Royal Opera House was exempt.

The standard of living of almost everyone else depends on burning carbon fuel, if only to take your hand-carved ethnic wooden spoons  to market. 

The current joke is that the prospective developers of the "low carbon, Good Thing" HS2 rail link between London and Birmingham have bought swathes of good commuter land at your expense and transferred it to the ownership of the private companies that have so far spent over £20,000,000,000 on consultancy fees to one another and not laid an inch of track. Now there is an excellent prospect that the project will be cancelled, and the land can be used to build houses, all unremarkably close to existing roads and railways and therefore highly desirable residences. Whoopee! Massive bonuses for the already-rich!  All we need to do is cut down a few forests and fire up some furnaces to make the concrete.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: Bored chemist on 22/09/2019 17:57:16
The elephant in the CO2 room is transport.
Yes, it is.
So, we need to think of low CO2 options.
At the moment electricity from renewables is a bit hit + miss.
But, and here's the important bit, it's getting better.
While the CO2 levels in the air are getting worse.

So, we need to concentrate on improving the stuff that already works.

Pointing  out that rich people are selfish bastards is also a reasonable act.
But it's not strongly related to global warming, except that the ones who currently own the fossil fuel  infrastructure are protecting their investments by badmouthing  low carbon alternatives.


Why are yo helping them?
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 22/09/2019 18:14:00
The history of science, indeed of mankind, is littered with dead ends and disasters caused by spurious correlations, convenient consensus, and bizarre beliefs

When the first atomic bomb was tested, I believe that scientists back then were concerned that when the bomb was activated i.e. exploded, it could possibly create a chain reaction causing the destruction of this planet.  Yet they went ahead anyway.  Is this correct, do you know?

“Dead ends and disasters” brings to mind a well known character from Scottish literature called Para Handy.  He was captain of a puffer, a small coastal cargo vessel.  (These boats are now extinct.)  The best way to describe the fictional Para Handy is to relate a story from my childhood involving the captain of a small fishing boat.  He was nicknamed Para Handy and was one of my father’s cronies (my father was very keen on boats). 

My father’s friend, Para Handy, was out with my father and some friends as well as my father’s family i.e. my mother and myself and my sister, for a pleasant summer afternoon’s cruise.  Drink had been consumed.  Para Handy was very drunk.  On the way back into the loch, Para Handy locked himself into the wheelhouse and, applying full throttle, steered his boat straight at the pier.  None of the other men on board could get into the wheelhouse to put a stop to Para Handy’s antics.  The pier was getting very close very fast.  The women present took their children under their arms to the back of the boat where they braced themselves for impact.  There was nothing the other men could do to gain entry to the wheelhouse.  A serious collision seemed inevitable.  At the very last minute, Para Handy unexpectedly unlocked the door and walked out of the wheelhouse, the boat still full steam ahead for collision.  One of the men then managed to grab the wheel and pull the boat round, missing the pier literally by inches.  Some time later, Para Handy actually wrecked that boat.  He was later made captain of a puffer which he wrecked.  Later still he was made captain of a steamer (a passenger vessel) which he also managed to wreck.

I am no spring chicken.  I have been around long enough and have had enough experience of the world to see how untrustworthy people are and that the world is going downhill.  I can see how badly people behave because they are corrupt i.e. they are power hungry, they are self-seeking, they are highly competitive, they empire build etc, etc.   I’ve seen it in every walk of life: in business, in education, in the church etc, etc.  Even in hospital during a lengthy stay there last winter, this corrupt behavior was evident.  Clearly there are plenty of Para Handys in all these walks of life.

As to science, it is captain of this world.  If this captain is a Para Handy (i.e. responsible for all those dead ends and disasters) then it doesn’t matter if science is any good because a bad captain like Para Handy is going to sink the boat and take all hands with him.   
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: Bored chemist on 22/09/2019 18:28:50
Science has no captain.
One bad scientist usually just ends up making a fool of himself- though others may get hurt in the process.

So, if there's a Para Handy involved, it will be a politician (like Trump or Boris) who ignores the advice of the scientists- and the other experts- and does something stupid anyway.
I have been around long enough and have had enough experience of the world to see how untrustworthy people are and that the world is going downhill.
It always has been going down hill- if you look at the papers.
But if you look at wealth of the people  or life expectancy or new discoveries in medicine, it's actually always getting better.
When the first atomic bomb was tested, I believe that scientists back then were concerned that when the bomb was activated i.e. exploded, it could possibly create a chain reaction causing the destruction of this planet.  Yet they went ahead anyway.  Is this correct, do you know?
Well... they did the calculations which showed that the end of the world wasn't going to happen.
But there is no way they could be absolutely sure of anything.
They didn't know if the bomb would even work; that's why they tested it.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 22/09/2019 18:52:21
I think then the violation will go unnoticed. But it also means the foundation of physics is in fact mistaken, even if nobody yet knows it.Once it becomes noticed, everything build on that invalid assumption will have to be rebuilt.  That's a lot of books to rewrite.

More than just a lot of books to rewrite.  That is trivial in comparison to the consequences for people in general.  If science gets it wrong, then people’s lives are at stake.

Quote
Science would not deal with it because you, not knowing that you're witnessing something amazing, have not reported it.

My suspicion is that, being a layman, science would be unlikely to take my claim that I saw the rule violated at all seriously.  I suspect a lot of non-scientists would have to have observed the phenomenon before science would sit up and listen.


Quote
If you know it is wrong, then you're a physicist and they would act to reproduce the phenomenon, in order to posit the beginnings of new rules.

I do not know the truth of this, but I have heard that science is not above hiding inconvenient evidence if uncovered.  I have heard it said that palaeontologists have unearthed some strange “fossils” such as, I think, a modern human shoe and that the presence of this “fossil” shoe, if made public, would be a great embarrassment to these paleaontologists.  It would call into question much of their work.   I am not the only person to have picked up on this.  For example, I can think of at least one piece of fiction where the author has used this as the basis of their story.

A piece of non-fiction this time: Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything.  (This book is, in fact, a short history of science.  The title is misleading.)  In it there is a chapter on early palaeontology.  Bryson describes the antics of certain 18th or 19th century (can’t remember which century) palaeontologists, French, British and American.  I can only remember one name, de Buffon I think it was, a French scientist.  Anyway, Bryson describes their competition, a matter of national pride supposedly, to lay claim to finding the biggest, most spectacular fossil dinosaur.  What each group of palaeontologists did was to cobble together the biggest and most impressive bones into some skeleton of a supposed dinosaur.  The truth had nothing to do with it.  It didn’t matter if the skeleton was anatomically impossible, just shove in any bone anywhere and make the fossil as impressive looking a dead animal as possible.  The nation which produced the biggest fossil would, of course, be the winner.


Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: Bored chemist on 22/09/2019 18:56:31
(can’t remember which century)
Not this one.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 22/09/2019 18:59:45
Science has no captain.

That is not the point.  Science IS the captain.  Science rules the world.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: Janus on 22/09/2019 19:32:03

When the first atomic bomb was tested, I believe that scientists back then were concerned that when the bomb was activated i.e. exploded, it could possibly create a chain reaction causing the destruction of this planet.  Yet they went ahead anyway.  Is this correct, do you know?
There was a time when there was a concern that an that the energy of an atomic bomb could initiate a fusion reaction in the Nitrogen in the atmosphere leading to an uncontrolled chain- reaction.  So the possibility was looked into.  The numbers were run and it was determined that such an event was impossible.  While nitrogen  theoretically can be made to under go fusion which in turn releases energy, the conditions just weren't enough.    Even later, when we developed the Hydrogen bomb which used an atomic bomb as the trigger to set off the Hydrogen fusion explosion, they had to use a special form of hydrogen to get it to work. 98.8% of naturally occurring hydorgen is in the form of H1, and the remaining is H2.   It turns out in order to make the H bomb work, they had to use H2 as fuel.  So even though naturally occurring hydrogen fuses much more readily than nitrogen does, to make the H-bomb work they use a fuel that fused even more easily.
The largest risk for the A bomb test was that it would fissile. That the initial reaction of the fuel would blow the rest of the fuel apart before all it could undergo the fission reaction. 
So the answer is: They considered the possible risk, looked into it, and were able to rule it out long before the test was made.

Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: Bored chemist on 22/09/2019 19:34:06
Science has no captain.

That is not the point.  Science IS the captain.  Science rules the world.
If science ruled the world nobody would have heard of Putin, Trump or  Johnson
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: chiralSPO on 22/09/2019 19:38:59
If science gets it wrong, then people’s lives are at stake.

The same is said of anyone (or institution) with any significant power. If the engineers are wrong, lives are at stake. If the generals are wrong, lives are at stake. If the doctors are wrong, lives are at stake. If the farmers are wrong, lives are at stake. If the pilots are wrong, lives are at stake. If the... you get the point?

Science is a process. It is designed to improve upon itself constantly. Politics is a process, and unfortunately, I think it is much more dangerous at the moment, and is not so much focused on improvement.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 22/09/2019 20:01:33
I think what you are saying is that global warming has been proven wrong because one person (not a climate scientist) said it was "fake news".He can't prove his assertion is true, either.So you are left with probabilistic calculations like those demonstrated by chiralSPO.

I think you would agree that science today is a great deal more influential than any one person.  Governments, for example, act on the advice of scientists, these actions having great ramifications for ordinary citizens.  Therefore It seems that  since science is so influential, it is imperative that scientists advise on the basis of truth rather than on probable truth.

Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 22/09/2019 20:24:27
In some cases, such as the above mentioned conservation of momentum, it isn't just a case of a violation never being observed, but a case that if it weren't conserved, the world we live in wold look a lot different than it does.  You would see examples of it not being conserved everywhere.


One could turn this round and ask if it is the case that for science, seeing is believing.  Thus, if it looks as if there is such a thing as conservation of momentum, then that phenomenon must exist (or be true).  Similarly, we see apples falling to the ground.  On that basis science then posits the existence of a force, gravity, which makes the apples fall.  So the observation makes it look as if there is such a force as gravity.

This then leads me to wonder what  science is, exactly.  Clearly observation is very important in science, and so I ask myself if that is the aim of science?  That is, to describe the world?  Is the aim of science to describe the world rather than get at deeper, underlying truths about the world?
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: chiralSPO on 22/09/2019 20:40:14
One could turn this round and ask if it is the case that for science, seeing is believing.  Thus, if it looks as if there is such a thing as conservation of momentum, then that phenomenon must exist (or be true).  Similarly, we see apples falling to the ground.  On that basis science then posits the existence of a force, gravity, which makes the apples fall.  So the observation makes it look as if there is such a force as gravity.

This then leads me to wonder what  science is, exactly.  Clearly observation is very important in science, and so I ask myself if that is the aim of science?  That is, to describe the world?  Is the aim of science to describe the world rather than get at deeper, underlying truths about the world?

If science were merely trying to describe the world, we would have stopped at "apples fall."

Science not only seeks out the underlying fundamental truths about the world, but also seeks to harness it for the betterment of our technological prowess.

observation-->understanding-->technology
gravity applies to all things (and many other observations) --> Newtonian mechanics --> ballistics

Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 22/09/2019 20:55:55
Quote from: littlebrowndragon on Today at 18:14:00 I have been around long enough and have had enough experience of the world to see how untrustworthy people are and that the world is going downhill.


Quote from Bored chemist « on: Today at 18:28:50 »
It always has been going down hill- if you look at the papers.But if you look at wealth of the people  or life expectancy or new discoveries in medicine, it's actually always getting better.

I do not believe what I read in the papers.  Also, I have grave reservations about using indicators such as wealth, life expectancy or advances in medicine as evidence that the state of world is improving.

 I find for example, that wealth  is generally taken very literally as referring to money.  There are other kinds of wealth, such as wealth of the mind.  One can have as much money as Donald Trump but still have an impoverished mind.

However, taking wealth as it is generally understood, then I do not think people are getting wealthier.  In the UK, for example, I frequently hear people, perhaps on the radio, claiming that the UK is very wealthy and that we all eat well in this country.  If so, then why are there so many food banks appearing, food banks which I myself recently had to make use of when I hit rock bottom.  In addition, in Scotland at least, school canteens remain open during the summer holidays so that children can use then to get one square meal at least per day.  This is not wealth.  And this in, supposedly, one of the wealthiest countries of the world.


Where I do agree with you, however, is in the propensity for Trump or Boris to do something stupid.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: chiralSPO on 22/09/2019 21:29:41
Yes, unfortunately, increases in "total wealth" do not necessarily mean that more people are lifted out of poverty. The distribution of that wealth is also quite important. Wealth disparity is increasing very quickly (not too different from how things were in the 1920s).

Also, "wealth" as currently defined does not account for the value of environmental capital or the services rendered by natural phenomenon (how much is a rainstorm worth when it comes at the right time and place? how much risk does it pose if it comes at the wrong time and place? what is the value of the algae producing the oxygen we breath? or the geological features that cleanse the water we drink?)

Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: Bored chemist on 22/09/2019 21:46:52
I frequently hear people, perhaps on the radio, claiming that the UK is very wealthy and that we all eat well in this country.  If so, then why are there so many food banks appearing, food banks which I myself recently had to make use of when I hit rock bottom. 
It's clear that  the distribution of wealth is, franky, unfair.
The "boss" who is paid 100 times what the cleaner gets is not actually 100 times "better" in any meaningful way.

And we currently have a government with a policy of making things worse on that score.

However, it remains the case that, even though a small number of people are in dire straits, the population, as a whole, is better off than it was.

What I'm less sure about is whether those improvements will continue in the current political climate.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: Colin2B on 22/09/2019 23:00:29
That is not the point.  Science IS the captain.  Science rules the world.
Far from it.
Eg. There has been a lot of talk over the past few years about the health danger of excess sugar in our diet. There is a lot of evidence for this, but governments are slow to act, because they are subject to many pressures. How slow? Well in 1972 John Yudkin, a nutrition scientist, published “Pure, white and deadly” highlighting the role of sugar in obesity and heart disease. In a well orchestrated campaign the sugar industry fought to ridicule his findings and even reduce research grants into this area. Sugar is big business and governments listen. When I was small there was a high glucose drink given when you were sick and couldn’t eat, now it’s marketed as a fitness drink. Go figure!

it is imperative that scientists advise on the basis of truth rather than on probable truth.
There is nothing more truthful than probable.
The sun has risen every day for as long as we know and is very predictable. It is very probable that it will rise tomorrow, but never certain.
There are other things that are probable, but less certain than the sun rising. The best you can do is give as good an indication of the likelihood of something happening as predicted. That is science, very little is 100% certain.
Science works on observation, experiment and repeatability of those experiments. From that we can draw conclusions about likely causes, but next year there might be an experiment or observation that changes our ideas and everyone is on the lookout for those because there lies the makings of a Nobel prize.

Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: evan_au on 22/09/2019 23:10:30
Quote from: littlebrowndragon
Even in hospital during a lengthy stay there last winter...
Living in the UK, you have access to a National Health Service (NHS), which is effectively free to people who are financially stressed. It has its flaws, but it works, funded out of taxes on those who are (currently) financially healthy.

In the USA, the focus is on minimising how much tax the individual pays, which means that the government can't fund a "safety net" like the UK. If you are at a financial low point in the USA, you are at a health low point too; it has a grossly overpriced and underperforming health system.

Even simple economic models show that a tax scale that increases with income works to even-out wealth disparity in the community. Under a flat tax system, wealth disparity increases over time. And extreme wealth disparity promotes extreme violence.
- Unfortunately, my country seems intent on going down the track of a flat tax system, at present
- The Scandinavian countries accept a very high rate of tax for top income-earners - and they regularly come top in quality-of-life surveys
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: jeffreyH on 22/09/2019 23:25:49
Science doesn't work, scientists do. There are only mathematical proofs. Mathematics does not truly represent reality. It simply models it. Proof is not the purpose of a model. It is a representation of the underlying data derived from observation.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: alancalverd on 23/09/2019 15:22:08

That is not the point.  Science IS the captain.  Science rules the world.

Sadly, that is not the case. The human world is ruled by religion and politics in the service of greed and perversion.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: alancalverd on 23/09/2019 15:25:47
Is the aim of science to describe the world rather than get at deeper, underlying truths about the world?
If there were any evidence for or meaning of that phrase, I'm sure we could use the scientific method to discover them. But it seems to be pure philosophistry.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 23/09/2019 16:30:25
The same is said of anyone (or institution) with any significant power. If the engineers are wrong, lives are at stake. If the generals are wrong, lives are at stake. If the doctors are wrong, lives are at stake. If the farmers are wrong, lives are at stake. If the pilots are wrong, lives are at stake. If the... you get the point?

As you point out, my life, your life etc. is in an awful lot of other people's hands. So when I say that people in this society are untrustworthy, well...…….. that, and the desire for people to "take responsibility" for others' lives i.e. control them, is one of the indicators that leads me to conclude that this world is going downhill.

As to the generals being wrong, I find that some of the poems of Seigfreid Sassoon paint an eloquent picture of the all too frequent consequences.

Yes, if the doctors are wrong lives are at stake too.  I totally agree.  Unfortunately I do think that they are wrong, in my experience at least, which is why I have not visited a GP for well over 15 years.





Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 23/09/2019 16:32:26
There was a time when there was a concern that an that the energy of an atomic bomb could initiate a fusion reaction in the Nitrogen in the atmosphere leading to an uncontrolled chain- reaction................................

Thank you for that.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 23/09/2019 16:47:37
Science not only seeks out the underlying fundamental truths about the world, but also seeks to harness it for the betterment of our technological prowess.

This is the science page from Wikipedia in which it says what science is.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science

 I note that it does not mention "truth", rather it mentions "knowledge" .  So this has got me wondering about the difference between "truth" and "knowledge".  Although I am no philosopher, I would imagine that they would draw a distinction between the two terms.  Does science draw a distinction between these two terms i.e. truth and knowledge, do you know? 

Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 23/09/2019 16:52:36
Yes, unfortunately, increases in "total wealth" do not necessarily mean that more people are lifted out of poverty. The distribution of that wealth is also quite important. Wealth disparity is increasing very quickly (not too different from how things were in the 1920s).

An interesting exercise here  might be to take a step or two back from the issue of the distribution of wealth and ask, in more general terms, why does society have money?  What is its purpose?  (And I do not mean here to buy goods etc.)  Money, too much as well as too little, seems to cause an awful lot of grief.  So why on earth did society invent it, I wonder?  There must be some underlying, more fundamental, reason.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: chiralSPO on 23/09/2019 16:57:04
Well, this is going off topic, but...

Money makes it easier for people to trade.

If person A has too many apples, and not enough bread, and person B has too much water, and not enough gasoline, and person C has too much gasoline and not enough apples, and person D has too much bread and not enough water... then without money they would all have to come together and do a big bartering operation involving all of them (very complicated and messy). But with money, each can sell what they have too much of at one point in spacetime, and buy what they need at another. Much more efficient!
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 23/09/2019 17:27:22
Far from it.Eg. There has been a lot of talk over the past few years about the health danger of excess sugar in our diet. There is a lot of evidence for this, but governments are slow to act, because they are subject to many pressures. How slow? Well in 1972 John Yudkin, a nutrition scientist, published “Pure, white and deadly” highlighting the role of sugar in obesity and heart disease. In a well orchestrated campaign the sugar industry fought to ridicule his findings and even reduce research grants into this area. Sugar is big business and governments listen. When I was small there was a high glucose drink given when you were sick and couldn’t eat, now it’s marketed as a fitness drink

Lucozade?  I remember it well.

I take your point about business also having a great deal of clout. On the other hand, if science back then did not have influence, why did business go to such lengths to rubbish the nutritionist's claims about sugar, I wonder?   

That being said, the example you quoted goes back to 1972.  I'm wondering if the balance of power has not shifted over the last 40 plus years.  The attitude to sugar now is hardening such that we are  being subjected to that foul tasting artifical sweetener which replaces sugar in soft drinks.  (As an aside, science has not, as far as I am aware, explored the psychological consequences of one's diet being so controlled e.g. no sugar, no fat, no salt etc, etc, especially as it is discouraging the very foods which people actually like and which give other foods a better taste.   I.e.  it could be that the harm done because of the detrimental psychological effects (assuming that there are detrimental efects) is greater than the supposed physical consequences.)

On the other hand, I remember the days when scientists at university did blue skies research  Now, of course, research is commercially driven.  Is this because business does indeed have the upper hand?  Or, alternatively, another possibility is that scientists, seeing how powerful business was (and is), aligned themselves a bit too enthusiastically with business in order to get some of that power.

 

Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 23/09/2019 18:17:25
Living in the UK, you have access to a National Health Service (NHS), which is effectively free to people who are financially stressed. It has its flaws, but it works, funded out of taxes on those who are (currently) financially healthy.

"Financially stressed"?  That's one way of putting it, I suppose, but it does not describe what it is like to live in poverty.  I'm afraid it does not even come close.  People who have experienced real poverty would not, I think, use such a term.


As to the NHS being free, I think that is like saying the internet is free.  There are many costs, most of them hidden.

Your assertion that the NHS works is, in my experience, not the case at all.  Far from it, in fact.  I spent 2 months in hospital over last winter and boy did I have my eyes opened as to what really goes on.  In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I consider myself lucky that I survived the experience and that I am still here to tell the tale. 

As a taster, on at least three occasions I and another patient saved other patients from severe injuries which these elderly people with brittle bones would have sustained had they fallen off their chairs before we caught them. (Myself and the other patient could only get about using a zimmer and in my case crutches.)  There was a fourth occasion where a patient was saved from serious injury in this way, but this time by a visitor.

Another example: I was in hospital because of starvation and malnourishment ( I will not go into the reasons for my hitting rock bottom here).  Despite being on a fortified diet (i.e. extra minerals and vitamins, food enriched with extra butter/milk etc) one of the nurses, bearing a grudge, anonymously and surreptitiously put me on a minimum diet, the most basic available.  So, e.g. I was denied side salads with my main meal, denied any other "extras" and put on the smallest portions of food possible.  The portions were tiny.  And this to a patient suffering malnutrition and who had starved for 5 weeks (i.e. not eaten any food at all for 5 weeks).  In addition, before being transferred to this smaller cottage hospital, I was in the regional hospital where so fearful was I of being overlooked at mealtimes - being overlooked was a very real possibility - that I felt it necessary to hoard food.  So I ordered extra food e.g. apples, cheese and biscuits, at mealtimes and kept this supply hidden amongst my belongings.  That, I discovered, is the reality of the NHS.


So, the experience of hospital is another which confirms to me that the world is in decline.  In addition, in my experience hospitals are no different to other walks of life.  I think that scientists are no different from other people,  no more trustworthy than teachers, business people etc, etc.  So whether or not science is a force for good is not the question.  It is whether, given the nature of people in general, science should have the clout it does.             
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: jeffreyH on 23/09/2019 19:24:27
If you hadn't eaten anything at all for 5 weeks then you should be dead. So now nobody should believe anything else you say because it is likely all untrue.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 23/09/2019 19:57:25
In an earlier post I claimed that science is captain of the world.  Some of you disagreed.  Some claimed politicians ruled the world, others that it was business.  No one agreed that is was science.

Upon reflection, I see that I was wrong.  Business is indeed captain of the world.

That is why science was obliged to move from blue skies research into research that is commercially driven.  From that perspective, it seems to me that it matters not whether the likes of global warming or any other theory is proven or not, because science is no longer independent i.e. it is in the pocket of business.  In fact, business is no doubt using science to rake in even more money.  Global warming, then, is in all likelihood a money making scheme for business and that is why it no doubt funds a great deal of research into global warming and why the acceptance of global warming and the fear of the supposed consequences of global warming have gained such momentum in the last decade or two.  This lack of independence of science raises questions about the accuracy of its findings.

As to politicians ruling the world, they too are in the pocket of business.  After all, I ask myself, what business would give a job to a retired, or practicing, politician on its board of directors if that politician made a habit of speaking out against business? 

He who pays the piper calls the tune.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: jeffreyH on 23/09/2019 20:12:31
As for depending upon processed food full of sugar. Cook it from scatch. That way you have much more control over what you eat. People state inconvenience. Oh it's much more convenient to eat processed food. Is it?
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 23/09/2019 20:54:56
Quote
Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
« Reply #43 on: Today at 19:24:27 »
If you hadn't eaten anything at all for 5 weeks then you should be dead. So now nobody should believe anything else you say because it is likely all untrue.


It is absolutely true that I ate nothing for 5 weeks.  In fact, I had been on short rations (consuming whatever food was left in the house) for about 5 weeks before actually going completely without food, so I started starvation in an already weakened state.  However, suggesting that I should be dead after that length of time without food is simply an indication of how little you know about it.

In the first instance, Gandhi used starvation as a political gesture.  I’m not sure for how long he fasted, but I suspect he starved for even longer than 5 weeks – at least as long as it took for the violence he was protesting about to stop.  I believe that he allowed himself to drink water which was laced with lemon juice.  I’m not sure what difference lemon juice would have made to malnutrition, but perhaps at the very least drinking it with water would have disguised the foul taste one gets in one’s mouth as a result of malnutrition.  Having said that, the taste in my mouth got so bad that drinking tap water became such an unpleasant experience that I doubt lemon juice would have made much difference.  Actually, lemon juice might have made me produce more saliva, and swallowing foul tasting saliva just made me vomit even more.

Then there were the IRA prisoners in the 70s who went on hunger strike in NI prisons.  They became like walking skeletons.  Again, I do not know how long they regularly went without food, but long enough to become seriously ill, ill enough to put pressure on the UK government.  Based on my own experience, I would assume periods of starvation longer than 5 weeks, in the beginning at least.

You will no doubt also be familiar with pictures of survivors of concentration camps such as Auschwitz.  Their food intake was so bad as to make them severely malnourished, a state that they endured for years, not weeks.  They were skeletal by the end of it and extremely weak, but not dead.


One of the strange things about starving was that I did not actually feel hungry.  I got no hunger pangs at all.  What would have been the point?  There was no food and that was that.  Bowel movements ceased almost immediately, of course.  The first 2 weeks were not too bad.  However, I did start vomiting quite quickly.  As soon as I got out of bed, I vomited.  As soon as I sat up in bed, I vomited.  In the end I could not even drink water without vomiting.  Dehydration was becoming a serious problem.   

In the beginning week or two I would try and sit up during the day and watch a film or read or do a jigsaw puzzle.  These activities made me so nauseous that in the end I took to my bed, leaving it only to use the bathroom.  In bed, I could not even listen to the radio without feeling sick so I had to give that up too.  Lying in bed, day and night with nothing to do was very, very hard. 

Vomiting was not the only problem.   Sitting up to get out of bed made me pass out.  Vomiting made me pass out.  This symptom got worse as the starvation progressed.   Naturally I lost a lot of weight.  In the end I became so weak that walking all of a few yards to get to the living room to put on the gas fire became too much for me.

Another symptom which I only noticed when I got to hospital and which was due to malnutrition, was that my eyesight had deteriorated.  My eyes became “jumpy” so that I could not focus on any object.  The object was not out of focus, rather my eyes would not stop jumping about, would not fix on the object.  This symptom gradually disappeared as I began eating again, as did the vomiting and passing out.  In hospital I was weighed weekly.  It was only in the last week, the eighth week that I actually put on a little bit of weight.  Even though I was eating well (as long as the nurses were not trying to starve me, that is)  I lost weight every week until that last week.

My social worker in hospital asked me if starving was painful.  It wasn’t.  It was unpleasant, decidedly unpleasant, but not painful.

Finally, I would say this: that the proof of the pudding is in the eating.  Anyone who wants to find out if my claims are true could try a repeat “experiment” to see if their symptoms and the outcome are the same as mine!
 

Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: alancalverd on 24/09/2019 00:19:34
I note that it does not mention "truth", rather it mentions "knowledge" .  So this has got me wondering about the difference between "truth" and "knowledge".  Although I am no philosopher, I would imagine that they would draw a distinction between the two terms.  Does science draw a distinction between these two terms i.e. truth and knowledge, do you know? 
As I  pointed out earlier, scientific knowledge is "the residue of scientific hypotheses that have not been disproved". You might also add "the reliable data in reference books" but this gets a bit fuzzy if it is extended to new experimental results in biology and psychology where the mechanism being investigated is very complex and not all the environmental parameters are known or controlled.

Back in the world of "hard" sciences we do occasionally use the concept of "true value" as a Platonic ideal. You can measure, say, temperature, and assign a range to  your reported value, say 300 ± 0.01K, depending on the quality of your instrumentation. The implication is that the "true" value lies between 299.99 and 300.01K. We can also use truth in its everyday meaning: it is true to say that I observed an apple to fall, but even though the observation has been repeated billions of times, the resulting laws of gravitation are only experimental discoveries and could turn out not to be true at very large or very small distances.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: alancalverd on 24/09/2019 09:57:22
LBD's recollection of the effects of zero food intake are consistent with many such observations, particularly accounts from survivors of Nazi and Japanese military imprisonment and slave labor. Most people can survive up to 6 weeks with no food.

The "minimal diet" complaint may actually be the result of optimum treatment. Concentration camp survivors were initially put on a minimal diet with a high nutritional content but negligible bulk. Electrolytes, sugars, fats, proteins and vitamins are essential and quickly absorbed from aqueous suspension, but if diluted with indigestible vegetable fiber they will be excreted or vomited along with the bulk diluent, particularly if the patient has an underlying infection such as cholera or typhoid. AFAIK this is standard treatment for epidemic victims.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 24/09/2019 12:19:49
                                 
As for depending upon processed food full of sugar. Cook it from scatch. That way you have much more control over what you eat. People state inconvenience. Oh it's much more convenient to eat processed food. Is it?

In answer to your question, under certain circumstances, yes, I think it is much more convenient to eat processed food.   Again, I speak from experience here. 

For the last 10 years, being on an extremely tight budget i.e. I was poor, I survived without a cooker or a fridge (or a washing machine or vacuum cleaner etc, etc) because  I simply could not afford to run household appliances.  I could not afford to go shopping more than once a week. 

Fresh food was out of the question for three reasons.  Firstly, I had no means of keeping food fresh (except in winter, but even then keeping the likes of milk fresh was very difficult, and I could not afford to waste the food I had).  Secondly, fresh food tends to be rather more expensive than processed food.  And thirdly, I had no means of cooking fresh food because I did not have a cooker.  There is a gas fire in the living room and I arranged a line over that fire from which I could suspend cheap ready meals for heating.  As I did not put the fire on in summer, then at that time of year I ate ready meals cold.

Then there are other practical issues to consider.

 Poverty is extremely stressful, and it is exhausting.  One is living on a knife-edge all of the time.  E.g. you hear that strong winds are forecast for next day and you worry that if they take a tile off the roof then you cannot afford to have the damage repaired.  You see your furniture becoming older and more decrepit, and you worry because you know that you cannot afford either replacements or repairs.  The ancient tv you own starts to act up………one’s shoes are worn, tatty and let the water in……………etc, etc.  It is the relentless grind of worry that really takes it out of you.  If you had money then you could buy your way out of trouble but you simply cannot do that when you are poor. 

At this point one has to prioritise.  Even if one could cook from scratch, one is simply too exhausted with the daily grind of poverty to have the energy to do other than eat processed food.  One is also exhausted from eating poor quality food for years and years.  It really is a vicious circle.  So, yes, under these circumstances eating processed food is definitely more convenient.


And I can also say this: having lived in poverty for 10 years, then starved for 5 weeks, then had 2 months in hospital, I would not have missed ANY of those experiences for the world.   

In terms of starvation, I am probably in a unique position, in the UK at least, to know what starvation really means, what it is really like.  Having experienced poverty, I know what that is like too.  Therefore when someone like a politician or even a scientist e.g. a psychologist, talks about poverty, I can tell instantly if they know what they are talking about.  I can tell instantly if they speak from real experience or not (some psychologists play at being poor for a year, write books about it and then (mis-)advise governments or think tanks about poverty).    These experiences also let me explain to inexperienced people, why, for example, it is not always easier to eat fresh food, and why it is often more “convenient” to eat processed food.


Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 24/09/2019 12:24:19
it is true to say that I observed an apple to fall, but even though the observation has been repeated billions of times, the resulting laws of gravitation are only experimental discoveries and could turn out not to be true at very large or very small distances.

That's interesting.  I think that I am correct in saying that rules which apply here on earth e.g. gravity, are assumed (right word?) to be true not just in this galaxy but are thought to hold for the entire universe.  Could you put me right on that?
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: alancalverd on 24/09/2019 16:21:09
Tiled roof, furniture, television....way beyond the dreams of half the world's population, or even (thanks to the Luftwaffe) those of my childhood in London!  But as you imply, having a waterproof house and a pot to piss in doesn't guarantee an easy life, or indeed even a sustainable existence, in a cash-based society: "consumer durables" can quickly become a burden rather than an asset. Civilisation, especially urban civilisation, is all about specialisation and collaboration, and cash is the lubricant that makes all the parts work together smoothly, as Thomas Cook has just discovered.   
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: alancalverd on 24/09/2019 16:39:21

That's interesting.  I think that I am correct in saying that rules which apply here on earth e.g. gravity, are assumed (right word?) to be true not just in this galaxy but are thought to hold for the entire universe.  Could you put me right on that?


I've used it before, but here's an illustrative tale. Three blokes on a train in Patagonia, look out of the window and see a black cow and a white cow.

Politician: "The vast majority of Patagonian cows are black"

Statistician: "On a random but not sufficient sample, one could hypothesise that half the cows in Patagonia are black"

Physicist: "I can see two bovine quadrupeds. At least one side of one of them is black."

At present we have no reason to think that Newtonian gravity and Einsteinian relativity are not universal. However some observed behaviors require further explanation in terms of phenomena or entities not yet observed. See, for instance, "dark energy" and "dark matter". And although there is evidence consistent with a Big Bang, the laws describing that singularity are unclear.

You might care to think about my idea of "negaticles" - fundamental particles with charge, spin, etc., but with negative mass. They would have the property of repelling ordinary matter but aggregating to each other. We would be able to observe the repulsion as an expansion of the observable universe, but could we observe any other effect of their presence?
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: Harryobr on 25/09/2019 12:04:52
If science ruled the world nobody would have heard of Putin, Trump or  Johnson
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 25/09/2019 18:11:05
LBD's recollection of the effects of zero food intake are consistent with many such observations, particularly accounts from survivors of Nazi and Japanese military imprisonment and slave labor. Most people can survive up to 6 weeks with no food.

I appreciate the above.  Thank you.

Having used discussion forums on and off for many years now, I know that one of the first things forum users will do when another member makes assertions such as I have done is to check up on these on e.g. the internet.  Of course, as you know, finding that my assertions are consistent with observations from third parties does not prove that I was telling the truth.  I could easily have found out about the symptoms of starvation myself and concocted any old story about them.  (However, and I repeat: I was telling the truth.)

In earlier posts I have made much of personal experience.  I went so far as to say that I would not have missed out on my recent experiences for the world (i.e. poverty, starvation, hospital).  Any experience is valuable, good or bad.   Importantly, having extensive personal experience means that I generally do not have to check up on people to assess whether or not they are telling the truth.  The more extensive one’s personal experience, then the better one becomes at recognizing authenticity i.e. recognizing if someone is lying, (even though that person may not even be aware that they are telling lies.)  The following is an example:

In 1988 I spent 6 weeks backpacking in China.  The following year I watched tv news programmes reporting on the Tiananmen Square protests.  Reporters observed how the police used cattle prods against the protesters.  The use of cattle prods was, the reporters declared, an abuse of human rights.  Of course, most of those reporters just swept into China at the start of the trouble, stayed there for a few days until the excitement was over, then flew home again.  In other words, they knew nothing about China. ( It is also apparent to me that even those reporters who have lived for a while in the country from which they are reporting, are nonetheless living in what amounts to a hermetically sealed bubble. )

When I was in China I too saw police wielding cattle prods.   And I was glad to see them.  That is because I recognised that cattle prods were not instruments of torture.  Instead, they were used to save lives. 

Take a Chinese ticket counter at a railway station.  There is a long queue of Chinese waiting to buy a ticket.  As the Chinese get to within 2 yards of the counter window, all hell breaks loose.  The Chinese punch and bite and scratch and kick and fight each other to get to that window.  They climb over each other’s shoulders to get to the window.  There were times when it was literally more than my life’s worth to even attempt to buy a ticket under those conditions.  However, as soon as a policeman appeared with one of those cattle prods, the biting, punching, kicking Chinese instantly desisted their life-threatening hostilities and stood quietly to attention in an orderly line.  So no, Mr or Mrs Reporter, the use of cattle prods was not abusive, it was life saving.  (This behavior by the Chinese was typical.  You similarly risked your life travelling on the Beijing underground.  Waiting at a Lanzhou bus stop early one morning along with only 2 other passengers, both Chinese, I witnessed both of them get into a violent scrum as they simultaneously tried to squeeze through the door of the bus.  The bus, by the way, was completely empty.)             

On the radio not so long ago I heard someone extol the virtues of the internet.  He declared proudly that he had no need to leave his living room to see the world because google brought the world to him on his computer.  The idea that one can see the world without leaving one’s living room, or even through reading books, is, of course, abject nonsense.  Experiencing the world is called Living.  And it enriches life enormously.

I have done a fair bit of travelling worldwide.  Sometimes when I am, say, watching a film which is set, not in a country or place to which I have been, but somewhere similar e.g central Asia, I can sometimes get a real sense of recognition, of familiarity.  I can smell the place, taste it, sense the atmosphere, recognize the types of people, all as if I was actually there.  That makes watching films a hugely more enriching experience.  It is that sort of experience which enriches life enormously.  So I feel sorry for that fellow who thinks he doesn’t need to leave his living room to see the world.  Did he but know it he is living in a prison, and moreover, a prison of sensory deprivation.

So, experience enriches life.  It also enables one to detect authenticity or the lack of authenticity.  In fact, it allows one to be completley independent of other people.

PS: another reason why I would not have missed out on poverty was that ittaught me to be more resourceful and better at solving problems.  For example, I made myself a slow cooker heated by boiling water. It didn't work very well, but perhaps if I made certain modifications.....  Anyway, those of you familiar with tv programmes like The Great Egg race (Prof Heinz Wolf) or Scrapheap Challenge will know the sort of resourcefulness and problem solving abilities I mean.

Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 25/09/2019 18:16:43
If science ruled the world nobody would have heard of Putin, Trump or  Johnson

Someone else made a similar comment.  As I said in an earlier post, I realise that I was wrong.  It is business that rules the world.  Putin, Trump and Johnson are merely in the pockets of business. 
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 25/09/2019 18:34:46
Tiled roof, furniture, television....way beyond the dreams of half the world's population, or even (thanks to the Luftwaffe) those of my childhood in London!

The above is not the point.  The point is that people such as politicians, aided by their advisers, make policies based on pure fantasy i.e. they do not have the slightest idea of the conditions people are really living under and therefore what effect those policies are going to have on them.  (Or perhaps politicians DO realise the effect these policies will have, on poor folks especially, and implement them out of cruelty.  Nothing like kicking a dog when it’s down, eh?)  Also, the point also is that many people claim that in the UK there is no real poverty and that no one is starving.  These people are living in a fantasy land and ought not to be able to make these claims without being challenged.  I have never yet heard such a claim being challenged.  This merely perpetuates the lies. 

When I was in hospital, the social services had to get me some money.  I was, inevitably, put in touch with the Department of Work and Pensions to enquire about claiming Universal Credit.  In the end, I was offered £300 per month.  That amount was less than what I was living on before I was reduced to starvation and went into hospital.  In addition, in my weakened condition I was still expected to go out and look for work. Of course, on that amount of money, I would never fully recover my health.  My future at that point looked dire.   It was a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire.  In addition, any emergency advance the DWP gave me would be treated as a loan.  On £300 per month, I would be expected to repay a loan as well as feed, clothe, heat myself plus more, lots more.  Actually, I can remember at first how awful I felt.  But then I got angry.  Really angry.  I got VERY angry.  I felt intensly resentful because all the government thinks people like me are worth is £300 per month.  That is inhuman.  All the more so because politicians like Johnson are paid a small fortune (and have a secure future doing lecture tours at tens of thousands of £s a shot, or working one day a week on the board of some company, with enough left over to pay for a daily help and a PA) all for having a whale of a time travelling abroad to meet their buddies, for spending all day talking and generally playing around and wrecking people’s lives.  This while other people like me are only worth starvation wages.  Anger is acknowledged by the government as being a serious problem now in the UK.  When people are treated like dirt, no wonder they get angry.

A radio psychologist/journalist, as a money making experiment, spent a year living in poverty.  Of course, she didn’t move out of her centrally heated, large terraced house to live in a hovel.  She did not replace all her good quality furniture with dirty, broken 2nd hand furniture. (I now know why people donate goods to 2nd hand/charity shops.  It is because the goods e.g. tvs, dvd players, are faulty.  One such item I bought had a remote which drained its batteries in 24 hours.)  She did not repaper the walls of her house in paper she didn’t like but would have to put up with due to lack of money.  Similarly carpets etc.  No replacing good carpets with bare, ugly alternatives.   I suspect, especially as she had children, that she still ran a washing machine, a cooker and a fridge etc.  Of course she did not replace her family’s good quality clothing with cheap, mis-fitting alternatives.  Her waterproof shoes would have been of good enough quality to last the duration of the experiment without springing a leak.  It is possible she may have decided to do away with the tv and the computers etc.  I suspect she would not have allowed the experiment to damage her children’s health by making them eat the cheapest processed food she could find - cold.  She would still have had the security of her bank savings, even if she decided not to dip into them. Her husband remained in employment, even if she did not use his money i.e. she had security.  I’m not sure if she had a mortgage and how she paid for that.  Also, and this is the most important aspect, she KNEW that this experiment would only last for one year.  She also KNEW that her book based on these experiences would get published.  She also KNEW the experiment would bring in other work, possibly advising politicians or think tanks.  Before experiencing poverty myself, I might have been taken in by this woman’s nonsense.  But because of my personal experience, I didn’t have to check up on other people’s experiences of poverty to assess her claims.  I KNOW that she didn’t have a clue about what poverty is really like. 


PS : One final point.  When in Cold War Bulgaria, I was an overnight guest of a peasant couple.  They were pretty poor.  For example, the toilet was a hole in the dirt in a shed in the yard.  Despite being so poor, they did own a television.  You see, merely existing is not enough.  One needs something else, something to lift the spirits, something to give one hope.  So poor people will often go without certain things for the sake of having a tv. 

(As to myself, I did without some things too e.g. a pair of waterproof shoes, rather than go without a tv or radio.  In fact, it’s probably better not to bother replacing one’s cheap, leaking shoes too quickly.  One can only afford other just as cheap, poor quality replacements which will either fall apart or spring a leak within a week or two anyway.  Better to keep an intact, if leaking, pair of shoes than replace them with even poorer quality ones.) 

And by the way, I only used my dodgy 2nd hand tv to watch dvds.  I couldn’t afford a tv licence. 
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: evan_au on 26/09/2019 08:45:35
Quote from: littlebrowndragon
You might care to think about my idea of "negaticles" - fundamental particles with charge, spin, etc., but with negative mass. They would have the property of repelling ordinary matter but aggregating to each other.
There was a hypothesis that perhaps antimatter might repel normal matter.
- This might explain the almost total absence of antimatter in the part of the universe we can see
- There has been a long-term project at the LHC to measure the gravitational acceleration of anti-protons, and now anti-hydrogen
- But it is an extremely difficult experiment to conduct
- Most physicists guess that antimatter and "normal matter" will attract each other normally - but you don't really know until you conduct the experiment!

As for negative mass, that would be interpreted in Newton's gravity equation as a repulsive force.
- However, according to Einstein's relativity, any real particle with real energy will have a real mass (due to E=mc2 etc)
- The concept of "negative energy" is hard to grasp.
-  Most equations which produce energy have a squared term in them, which always produce a non-negative energy
- In fact, E=mc2  is part of a larger equation which has squares & 4th powers, so Energy should still always be positive.
E2 = (pc)2 + (m0c2)2 
See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy%E2%80%93momentum_relation
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: alancalverd on 26/09/2019 14:21:12
E2 = (pc)2 + (m0c2)2 

Better still! If a2 = b2, then a =  +b or -b

You read it here first, folks!
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: Bored chemist on 26/09/2019 19:35:31
Tiled roof, furniture, television....way beyond the dreams of half the world's population, or even (thanks to the Luftwaffe) those of my childhood in London!

The above is not the point.  The point is that people such as politicians, aided by their advisers, make policies based on pure fantasy i.e. they do not have the slightest idea of the conditions people are really living under and therefore what effect those policies are going to have on them.  (Or perhaps politicians DO realise the effect these policies will have, on poor folks especially, and implement them out of cruelty.  Nothing like kicking a dog when it’s down, eh?)  Also, the point also is that many people claim that in the UK there is no real poverty and that no one is starving.  These people are living in a fantasy land and ought not to be able to make these claims without being challenged.  I have never yet heard such a claim being challenged.  This merely perpetuates the lies. 

When I was in hospital, the social services had to get me some money.  I was, inevitably, put in touch with the Department of Work and Pensions to enquire about claiming Universal Credit.  In the end, I was offered £300 per month.  That amount was less than what I was living on before I was reduced to starvation and went into hospital.  In addition, in my weakened condition I was still expected to go out and look for work. Of course, on that amount of money, I would never fully recover my health.  My future at that point looked dire.   It was a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire.  In addition, any emergency advance the DWP gave me would be treated as a loan.  On £300 per month, I would be expected to repay a loan as well as feed, clothe, heat myself plus more, lots more.  Actually, I can remember at first how awful I felt.  But then I got angry.  Really angry.  I got VERY angry.  I felt intensly resentful because all the government thinks people like me are worth is £300 per month.  That is inhuman.  All the more so because politicians like Johnson are paid a small fortune (and have a secure future doing lecture tours at tens of thousands of £s a shot, or working one day a week on the board of some company, with enough left over to pay for a daily help and a PA) all for having a whale of a time travelling abroad to meet their buddies, for spending all day talking and generally playing around and wrecking people’s lives.  This while other people like me are only worth starvation wages.  Anger is acknowledged by the government as being a serious problem now in the UK.  When people are treated like dirt, no wonder they get angry.

A radio psychologist/journalist, as a money making experiment, spent a year living in poverty.  Of course, she didn’t move out of her centrally heated, large terraced house to live in a hovel.  She did not replace all her good quality furniture with dirty, broken 2nd hand furniture. (I now know why people donate goods to 2nd hand/charity shops.  It is because the goods e.g. tvs, dvd players, are faulty.  One such item I bought had a remote which drained its batteries in 24 hours.)  She did not repaper the walls of her house in paper she didn’t like but would have to put up with due to lack of money.  Similarly carpets etc.  No replacing good carpets with bare, ugly alternatives.   I suspect, especially as she had children, that she still ran a washing machine, a cooker and a fridge etc.  Of course she did not replace her family’s good quality clothing with cheap, mis-fitting alternatives.  Her waterproof shoes would have been of good enough quality to last the duration of the experiment without springing a leak.  It is possible she may have decided to do away with the tv and the computers etc.  I suspect she would not have allowed the experiment to damage her children’s health by making them eat the cheapest processed food she could find - cold.  She would still have had the security of her bank savings, even if she decided not to dip into them. Her husband remained in employment, even if she did not use his money i.e. she had security.  I’m not sure if she had a mortgage and how she paid for that.  Also, and this is the most important aspect, she KNEW that this experiment would only last for one year.  She also KNEW that her book based on these experiences would get published.  She also KNEW the experiment would bring in other work, possibly advising politicians or think tanks.  Before experiencing poverty myself, I might have been taken in by this woman’s nonsense.  But because of my personal experience, I didn’t have to check up on other people’s experiences of poverty to assess her claims.  I KNOW that she didn’t have a clue about what poverty is really like. 


PS : One final point.  When in Cold War Bulgaria, I was an overnight guest of a peasant couple.  They were pretty poor.  For example, the toilet was a hole in the dirt in a shed in the yard.  Despite being so poor, they did own a television.  You see, merely existing is not enough.  One needs something else, something to lift the spirits, something to give one hope.  So poor people will often go without certain things for the sake of having a tv. 

(As to myself, I did without some things too e.g. a pair of waterproof shoes, rather than go without a tv or radio.  In fact, it’s probably better not to bother replacing one’s cheap, leaking shoes too quickly.  One can only afford other just as cheap, poor quality replacements which will either fall apart or spring a leak within a week or two anyway.  Better to keep an intact, if leaking, pair of shoes than replace them with even poorer quality ones.) 

And by the way, I only used my dodgy 2nd hand tv to watch dvds.  I couldn’t afford a tv licence. 

OK, so now we know why people shouldn't vote Tory.

That has very little to do with how science works.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 27/09/2019 15:21:26
OK, so now we know why people shouldn't vote Tory.That has very little to do with how science works.

The issue I was intending to raise, and which began quite a few posts ago, is about personal experience.  As far as I am aware,  personal experience is completely inadmissible when practicing science.  My aim originally was to attempt to point out the shortcomings of this failure.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 27/09/2019 18:20:14



Reviewing the Situation: an assessment

I began this thread enquiring, as a non-scientist, about scientific proof.  Specifically, I asked about a statement I read in a science book which said that science cannot prove theories, it can only disprove theories.

This statement bothered me and so I asked forum members, presumably mostly working or retired scientists, for clarification.  A discussion ensued in which members agreed with the claim made in the science book.  One member put the situation particularly well, I thought:

“Scientific knowledge is the residue of explanatory and predictive hypotheses that have not been disproved by test.”

Hmmm……….a “residue” e.g. a “leftover” or the “dregs” or the “scum”, perhaps?  All of these are synonyms.  So, what scientific knowledge amounts to is that it is the “scum/residue/dregs” left over after a filtering process i.e. the process of filtering out the outright lies from a mass of information.  The leftovers are not themselves truths.  No.  They are merely theories which cannot be disproven yet which science then calls truths or knowledge or fact.

What the scientific method amounts to, then, is that anyone can come up with any old crack-pot theory – I could, my next door neighbour could - and as long as it cannot be disproven, that crack-pot theory can become science “truth” or “fact” or “knowledge”.   (OK, not quite.  I am not a published scientist so my crack-pot theory would never make it across the starting line.)  That is my assessment of the situation.  The scientific method opens the door to any old crackpot theory.  Those of you who cannot see that, and I do not suppose any of you can, need to stand back a bit from science.  Unfortunately, however, scientific heads are far too buried in detail to exercise the detachment necessary to gain such a perspective.  My being a non-scientist, albeit one who knows a great deal about the history of science, is where, I believe, I have the advantage i.e. I have the necessary detachment to be able to distinguish the wood from the trees.

(My assertion about “crack-pot theories” is not flippant.  I am thinking here of Classical Physics v. Quantum Theory.  Admittedly I have not spoken to my physicist friend about this for many years, but am I not correct in saying that relevant physics experiments can be explained in terms of both Classical Physics and Quantum Theory? And yet physics in schools and beyond is being taught as if Quantum Theory has replaced Classical Theory?    I also believe that General Relatively, far from being disproved, was actually voted in by a group of eminent scientists of the day e.g. Bohr, Einstein, Di Broglie, Planck, at a Copenhagen conference in, I think, the early 1930s.) 


In short, I found all this rather disturbing.  I was hoping to hear something more positive and definite about how scientific knowledge is acquired and so I broadened my research to the internet and to media.  For example, BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time has a few podcasts on the Scientific Method. I listened to these.  I was not encouraged when I heard that science, instead if being independent, had borrowed some of its practices from mathematics.  (I don’t know how much you know but if you do investigate the history of science, you might be in for a bit of a shock.) 


What particularly bothers me is this lack of certainty in science.  Have any of you any idea what living in uncertainty is doing to your minds?  Have any of you any idea what this indiscriminate amassing of information is doing to your minds?  Uncertainty.  Never having solid ground under one’s feet.  It nearly drove me mad when I was younger.  It did me enormous psychological damage.  To say it nearly killed me is not putting it too strongly.  So too my (previous) inability to pick out the relevant detail form a mass of other detail.  Science ought to have similar warnings to cigarettes: Science Kills.

In fact, from where I am sitting now, I’d rather turn to religion.  I’d rather have faith.  At least it would preserve my sanity when walking over quicksand.  So why choose science?  Unlike religions, science does not promise salvation.  Actually, science is in the business of offering threats – science’s version of Hell – and it doesn’t matter whether you are a believer or a sinner, no one can escape climate change.  In fact, science manufactures fear: dying of cancer, dementia, plague, asteroid collision, climate change, the expanding sun swallowing the earth.  These all frightened me at one time or another.

Despite this, science purports to be doing good e.g. by improving longevity or saving us from climate change.  But what is the point when its very practice drives you to madness in the first place?  It strikes me that science is playing the same game as the electrician who came to my house once.  He was supposedly there to help but was in reality touting for business.  He walked around the house whilst every so often, with a sharp intake of breath, pointing out one fault after another.  He wore the face of a concerned friend, someone concerned for your health and safety, when in fact he was just putting the frighteners on me in order to get more business from me.

That is what science is doing too.  It points out all the flaws in the world e.g. asteroid collision, climate change, just to make business for itself so that we turn to science to save us.

So I thank you all for your input.  You have enabled me to obtain a greater understanding of science, although not, I think, in the way you might have expected. 
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: Bored chemist on 27/09/2019 18:46:37
Hmmm……….a “residue” e.g. a “leftover” or the “dregs” or the “scum”, perhaps?  All of these are synonyms. 
Obviously, not in this case, so that's just silly.
It might be better to describe science as the survivors.
What the scientific method amounts to, then, is that anyone can come up with any old crack-pot theory

In science , it can be crack-pot or it can be a theory.
But it can't be both.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_theory

I could, my next door neighbour could - and as long as it cannot be disproven, that crack-pot theory can become science “truth” or “fact” or “knowledge”
No it couldn't.
At best, it could become a hypothesis.
It would fall into one of two types.
Either you can use it to make a prediction, or it can't.
If it can't then it's not a scientific hypothesis (because it' not testable).
If it can, then the hypothesis will stand as part of science.
Until someone actually tests it.
If it passes the test then maybe it's not so crack-pot as you think.
If it fails it's discarded- consigned to the world of failed ideas in science.

Most of them just get forgotten.
Some get remembered as examples of how not to do it.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N_ray
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phlogiston_theory

So, what's clear is that you have yet to understand how science works.
Perhaps you should wait until you do before you criticise it so strongly(and accurately)
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 27/09/2019 21:06:03
In science , it can be crack-pot or it can be a theory.But it can't be both.

Thank you for your very lucid explanation of the difference between a theory and a hypothesis.

At the risk of once again coming on too strong - but if you read on you will understand why I feel that this is necessary and that I speak on behalf of the general public, not just for myself – science is full of crackpot theories e.g. General Relativity, Quantum Theory, Newton’s Laws and all the rest.  In other words, I think the entire corpus of science to be composed of crackpot theories. 

Two things: as has already been said, science cannot hope to get to the truth.  If a theory is not true, what is it?  Crackpot.

My second big objection is the malign nature of these untruths.  For example, on Desert Island Discs (BBC Radio 4) today a man, a member of a well known band who later worked for Greenpeace, nearly cracked up because he was so afraid for his child’s future in view of predictions of climate change.

As I said in my post, these predictions of science, some of which I’ve mentioned, are seriously psychologically damaging the population.  And again, I repeat, this damage is being done to the population by the untruths of science.

I could go further and point to various questionable ideas but I will just raise one issue.  Physicists have denounced intuition.  And this on the basis of knowing nothing about the human mind and how it interacts with the world.  At this point I’d like to say: if that’s not crackpot, what is? 

Is there anything here that you can honestly argue with?  It seems to me that there is a great onus on scientists at the moment to put my mind to rest, my mind being just like the vast majority of people in this world, the mind of a non-scientist, and one which is suffering under the rule of science.


PS: I looked up the references you so kindly provided.  My response to them would be: just because a few theories that scientists consider to be crackpot have been located and discarded does not mean that there are not legions more lying undetected. 
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: Hayseed on 27/09/2019 21:53:42
littlebrowndragon, I can well understand your feeling of the whole situation.  I believe that you are trying to put everything together, too fast.  Keep things simple and separated.

Remember, no one can put all of this together.  Keep in mind that science has tried to mix the knowable, with the un-knownable.  Many believe this can be done with math.

Scientist are just like all other people, most want to truly discover, but consensus has constrained and misled them.

No man will ever know how and when this universe started.  No one will ever know where mass and energy came from.

And don't count on, that understanding the physical, will lead you to the purpose of existence.  It won't.  Life does not come from the physical.   But still, the physical is an elegant perfection.

And we can study the mass and energy we have now.  We can manipulate it.  We can even manipulate it greatly, without understanding it...........imagine what we could do, when we do understand it.

I believe we could quadruple, even sextuple the current power transfer of wireless charging and double the data rate of any rf channel, without increasing the bandwidth, for a few examples.

Being able to design and manipulate matter on the atomic level, will be a huge tech revolution.  It could lead anywhere.  Cheap abundant elemental resources.  Atomic printer.  Imagine that.  A replicator.

These kind of things are worth study.   Putting atoms together, not busting them apart into un-usable, dissolving fragments.

Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: evan_au on 27/09/2019 22:52:17
Quote from: littlebrowndragon
What particularly bothers me is this lack of certainty in science
You could be killed by a truck tomorrow.
There is no certainty in life - get used to it!

Quote
science is full of crackpot theories e.g. General Relativity, Quantum Theory, Newton’s Laws
You just quoted three of the most widely tested theories in physics.
- The testing eventually showed that Newton's Laws did not quite hold true for the planet Mercury (if you watched it closely over a couple of centuries), and this small discrepancy was eventually resolved with Einstein's General Relativity.
- Einstein's Relativity was non-intuitive at first, but it has passed very many verification tests over the past century
- All three of these theories have been so well tested that you could not call them crackpot
- But nobody claims that these theories are perfect; physicists are always looking for some small discrepancy - because there is a Nobel Prize waiting for someone who develops a better theory (which passes sufficient verification tests where the old one fails).

Quote
a man ... nearly cracked up because he was so afraid for his child’s future in view of predictions of climate change
It's true that many people are being stressed out by climate change.

It's also true that many people are not stressed by it because they think there is nothing wrong with the way they live and/or that other people will step up to pay the true costs of today's behavior (ie people in other countries, the poor people, the people in government after they retire, or people in later generations).

I heard someone say that the best way to get across the message of climate change is "optimism, tinged with trepidation".
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: alancalverd on 28/09/2019 00:37:58
The climate has always changed and always will. Human societies have been wiped out by climate change, and also (particularly in northern Europe) more recently thrived on it - apart from a bit of starvation in the 11th - 13th centuries when the temperature dropped to its current level but our forefathers hadn't invented coal fires, chimneys and glazed windows. 

We have a serious but entirely avoidable problem in the near future, that modern civilisation is not resilient to quite small changes in climate. Part of the problem is that 80% of the human population lives within 60 miles of the coast, so a small rise in sea level will precipitate a massive migration of say 20% who live within 10 miles of the coast trying to move into space already occupied by the other 60% rather than have their sewers flood and carpets ruined. There is no prospect of a general shift inland because the fertile land and all the facilities we cherish are all in the coastal strip. So there will be enormous civil wars, everywhere.

Or we could reduce the population. Zero cost, massive benefits, no chance of it happening (there's no immediate profit to be made from a shrinking consumer base).
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: alancalverd on 28/09/2019 01:09:21
personal experience is completely inadmissible when practicing science.
No! A thousand times no!

Observe, hypothesise, test. It all begins with personal experience - the observation. It takes a person to make a hypothesis. It needs a person to do and evaluate the test. It is all about personal experience!

The convention of scientific writing is to describe your experiences with sufficient detail about the circumstances that others can repeat the experiment. Neatly summarised by the requirement for a patent specification: a patent is a means of doing something, expressed so that "a person skilled in the art" can reproduce it.

There was something of a Victorian style convention  that required scientific papers to be written in the passive voice, but in fact all the greatest discoveries (Cook, Ross, Darwin, Amundsen, Becquerel….) were excitedly reported in the first person and to my mind the best papers continue to do so: short letters and weird case notes are much more interesting than stodgy undergraduate  reworkings of the obvious.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: Colin2B on 28/09/2019 09:09:21
Physicists have denounced intuition.  And this on the basis of knowing nothing about the human mind and how it interacts with the world. 
That is untrue.
Most scientists will tell you that at various points in an investigation they have a sense of the direction to go, or have ‘slept on it’. The difference for a scientist is that they will then try to rigorously test out that intuition to see whether it provides consistent testable results.

I was not encouraged when I heard that science, instead if being independent, had borrowed some of its practices from mathematics.
You might just as well criticise Marie Curie, Louis Pasteur, etc for thinking and writing in French.
Mathematics is a language for analysing and describing processes and the results of experiments and observations.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: alancalverd on 28/09/2019 10:39:51
Intuition is the process that derives a hypothesis from observation. You can't do science without it.

The object of physics is to develop useful mathematical models of the universe.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 28/09/2019 20:38:19
All three of these theories have been so well tested that you could not call them crackpot



None of these theories is true.  It doesn’t matter how much they have been tested; they have not been proven to be true.  They are untruths.  This is not an opinion of mine as a non-scientist.  I am quoting scientists.  Scientists themselves say that none of their theories are true and can never be true.

You have just demonstrated to me one of the big problems with science as it is presented.  That is, because scietists do not drive home the point that their theories are not true, then those such as Newton’s Laws which have been around for a long time, begin to take on the status of truths in people’s minds.  That is to say that people, and I suspect scientists can be included here, begin to think and behave as if these laws and theories ARE true.

But then let’s turn this around a little and look at it from a different perspective.  Consider the Scottish legal system.  There are three possible verdicts: Guilty, Not Guilty, Not Proven.  What would happen to the Scottish legal system if the outcome of every single trial was Not Proven?  So there are murders, rapes, amd all sorts of heinous crimes being committed and nobody ever gets convicted.  They all leave the courtroom with Not Proven.  I think the Scottish legal system would be in deep trouble if this happened and its practices would be subject to intense scrutiny with a view to reforming these practices. 

Now consider if scientists were to be totally scrupulous in their presentation whether in papers, textbooks or popular science books/magazines etc.  They would find themselves having to put, probably in parenthesis, beside every law, every theory the statement Not Proven.  What do you think the reaction would be?  What would YOUR reaction have been if that had been your introduction to science?  Personally, I would have found it to be terribly discouraging.  Here’s me looking to understand how the world works and all I’m getting is a load of theories which are not proven.  I would be unable to find it at all worthwhile to go on studying the subject.  The only possible interest I would find is in the rather more detached question of: How can people place so much value on something which never can find a true answer to any question?   (Now that I have come to this point, I am reminded of philosophy and the problem I have with that.  Philosophers too, admit that they can’t answer any questions and have resorted to claiming that questions are more important than answers.  At this point, for anybody with any sanity, for anybody who lives in the real world and has to deal with real life, teir jaw should be hitting the sidewalk.  The simple fact is that in real life, you need answers to questions.  And I would go on to say that in REAL life you need to know the truth.)
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 28/09/2019 20:47:03
Most scientists will tell you that at various points in an investigation they have a sense of the direction to go, or have ‘slept on it’. The difference for a scientist is that they will then try to rigorously test out that intuition to see whether it provides consistent testable results.


Exactly.  However much intuition plays a role in providing a sense of direction for a scientist during an investigation, the actual testing of the hypothesis cannot involve intuition.  Scientific method disallows “proof by intuition”. 
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 28/09/2019 20:50:05
Intuition is the process that derives a hypothesis from observation. You can't do science without it.

As far as I understand it, intuition is not part of the scientific method.  However much intuition is used in formulating a hypothesis, e.g. a flash of inspiration when having one’s morning shower, the finalised hypothesis is not tested using intuition.  It is tested experimentally, these experiments being designed to be repeatable to enable further testing. 
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: Bored chemist on 28/09/2019 22:11:04
None of these theories is true.  It doesn’t matter how much they have been tested; they have not been proven to be true.  They are untruths. 
No.
They may or may not be true.
They are unproven.
That's a different thing altogether.

I could make two statements
(1) There are lupins in my garden
(2) There are no lupins in my garden

One of those statements has to be true.
I can post pictures of lupins and claim it's my garden- but you might reasonably enough claim that I took a picture of someone else's garden.
It's practically impossible for me to prove that I have the flowers.

On the other hand, I can post a picture of my garden which shows it without lupins.
But again that doesn't prove anything- it might be someone else's garden or it may have been taken years ago- before I grew the plants.


But according to your misunderstanding,
because I can't prove statement 1 it must be false and
because I can't prove statement 2 it must be false.

But they can't both be false- there are lupins or there aren't.
So your idea that "if a statement is not proved right, it must be false " can't be right.


Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: alancalverd on 28/09/2019 22:15:58
You don't use an oscilloscope to formulate a hypothesis, and you don't use intuition to test it. So what? The essential steps of observe, hypothesise, test are quite distinct. Formulating a hypothesis is an integral part of science, and intuition is the key to that process. In the absence of intuition our hypotheses would never progress beyond dogma.

Here's an example. I once watched a gorilla discover what had eluded mankind for around 2000 years since Aristotle  lied about gravitation. He dropped two apples, one larger than the other, and noticed that they hit the ground at the same time. AFAIK he had no formal education in science, but he repeated the experiment, got the same result, then changed hands and got the same result again. Observe, hypothesise, and two critical tests - brilliant. Galileo was tried by the Inquisition, forced to recant, and died under house arrest for even suggesting the result, which says a lot about the stupidity of humans.

Not all experiments are designed to be repeatable. They might be in principle, but there are all sorts of practical constraints when dealing with explosives, or fatigue testing an airframe, for instance.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: alancalverd on 28/09/2019 22:24:29
There's a world of difference between mathematical proof (absolute demonstration that A = B follows logically and always from the stated axioms), legal proof (that X occurred beyond reasonable doubt), and scientific proof. The latter is actually a loose translation of prufung - a test. Scientific knowledge is the residue of explanatory and predictive hypotheses that have not failed a test.

This actually reflects back on the classic nonrepeatable experiment: proof testing a gun or a rope.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: evan_au on 29/09/2019 00:40:46
Quote from: littlebrowndragon
It doesn’t matter how much they have been tested; they have not been proven to be true.  They are untruths.
Let me give you another level of truth: "Good enough for all practical purposes".
Newton's laws of gravity (& motion), despite having known errors in the case of Mercury (or in case of high speeds), are good enough to plot the course of a spacecraft traveling to Mercury - a trip that might take 5-10 years.
The impact of the solar wind, errors in position and thrust measurement will have a greater impact than the errors in Newton's laws of gravity and motion.

But I wouldn't use Newton to plot an orbit close to a black hole!

Quote
They would find themselves having to put, probably in parenthesis, beside every law, every theory the statement Not Proven.
They do.
- Theory and hypothesis both imply that it hasn't been fully proven yet.
- And scientific laws have been proved to the satisfaction of experts in the field, but are always provisional in case some better experiment or theory comes along.
- Unfortunately, sometimes the "theory" or "law" appellation has been in place for so long that it remains in place, even after the experts are satisfied, for purely historical reasons...
- So, "Newton's laws of motion" retain the "law" moniker, even after they have been superseded
- And "Einstein's theory of General Relativity" retains the "theory" moniker, even though it has satisfied the experts, and hasn't (yet) been superseded. People like Steven Hawking were certainly wanting to develop a better theory of gravity, one that is compatible with quantum theory.

In a sense, every theory has a realm of applicability, and this is often stated (explicitly or implicitly) in the assumptions on which it is based.

And there are boundaries to the applicability, often where the theory produces "nonsensical" results (eg infinities - Einstein was acutely aware of several areas where his theories hit unexplainable infinities).
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: Kryptid on 29/09/2019 04:46:12
Now consider if scientists were to be totally scrupulous in their presentation whether in papers, textbooks or popular science books/magazines etc.  They would find themselves having to put, probably in parenthesis, beside every law, every theory the statement Not Proven.  What do you think the reaction would be?  What would YOUR reaction have been if that had been your introduction to science?  Personally, I would have found it to be terribly discouraging.  Here’s me looking to understand how the world works and all I’m getting is a load of theories which are not proven.  I would be unable to find it at all worthwhile to go on studying the subject.  The only possible interest I would find is in the rather more detached question of: How can people place so much value on something which never can find a true answer to any question?   (Now that I have come to this point, I am reminded of philosophy and the problem I have with that.  Philosophers too, admit that they can’t answer any questions and have resorted to claiming that questions are more important than answers.  At this point, for anybody with any sanity, for anybody who lives in the real world and has to deal with real life, teir jaw should be hitting the sidewalk.  The simple fact is that in real life, you need answers to questions.  And I would go on to say that in REAL life you need to know the truth.)

Okay, so you don't like that science can only give us theories and not absolute truth. That being said, what do you suggest we replace science with? What system do you propose that can give us the whole truth on issues that science can only give us approximations of?
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: alancalverd on 29/09/2019 10:05:41
They would find themselves having to put, probably in parenthesis, beside every law, every theory the statement Not Proven.  What do you think the reaction would be?  What would YOUR reaction have been if that had been your introduction to science?
It was. Not quite, admittedly. The phrase was "not disproved", and we were encouraged to question and  investigate every assertion that was ever put before us. Brilliantly, my first physics lesson consisted of a simple demonstration and some dictated notes. At the end, the teacher said "What you have just written is a lie. I didn't do that, and you didn't see it.  No matter what anyone ever tells you, if you are going to be a scientist, say what you did, say what you saw, and say what you think. Now cross out that page and write down  what happened "

Three of my gang ended up running public laboratories and after a career in the scientific civil service I still  have a lot of fun consulting with small companies and challenging idiots in authority. 
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 29/09/2019 15:37:18
Being able to design and manipulate matter on the atomic level, will be a huge tech revolution.  It could lead anywhere.  Cheap abundant elemental resources.  Atomic printer.  Imagine that.  A replicator.


So, you are saying that without science we would not be enjoying e.g. technology, and all the benefits technology provides?

My answer here is that no one knows what a world which had taken a different path, a non-technological path, would be like.  A non-technological world could have many features, these of far greater benefit to humanity than what technology makes available.   A technological world could, in fact, have resulted in a very poor, restricted world, even a harmful world, compared to whatever other possibilities are available to us.   We simply do not know.  And since we do not know, then I do not think we can make such claims about technology. 
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: Bored chemist on 29/09/2019 17:02:17
My answer here is that no one knows what a world which had taken a different path, a non-technological path, would be like.
Sure; we don't know.
But, if you get sick, do you go to the doctor?
A non-technological world could have many features, these of far greater benefit to humanity than what technology makes available.
We have a fair idea of what happens to people without technology.
Sickness, hunger and an early death
That's why we use tech.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: Janus on 29/09/2019 18:20:53
Being able to design and manipulate matter on the atomic level, will be a huge tech revolution.  It could lead anywhere.  Cheap abundant elemental resources.  Atomic printer.  Imagine that.  A replicator.


So, you are saying that without science we would not be enjoying e.g. technology, and all the benefits technology provides?

My answer here is that no one knows what a world which had taken a different path, a non-technological path, would be like.  A non-technological world could have many features, these of far greater benefit to humanity than what technology makes available.   A technological world could, in fact, have resulted in a very poor, restricted world, even a harmful world, compared to whatever other possibilities are available to us.   We simply do not know.  And since we do not know, then I do not think we can make such claims about technology. 

I've got a pretty good idea what such a non-technological world would be like:  The vast majority of the population's main efforts would be aimed at just surviving and supplying the needs of a small minority that lived in relative luxury.
People who pine for " simpler way of life" seldom have had to live one.
Look, I talk from experience. I grew up on a farm, a farm. It was an 80 acre "subsistence" farm. Meaning it only produced what our family used.  Even then, my Dad had  to hold a full time job(In the Iron mines) to fully provide for us.  Now, if it hadn't been for technology in the form of a tractor, mechanical bailer, etc., he would have never been able to do both. Running the farm alone would have been a full time job.  My older brother would have likely never went to high school because my parents would probably pulled him from school once he got old enough to be a significant help working the farm (this is exactly what happened to my father; his parents pulled him out school after the 8th grade in order to help with their farm.)
Later, when I was in high school my parents had sold the farm and moved to a smaller (still rural) piece of land.  They also chose to heat the house by wood stove (cheaper than oil, even though the house was equiped with an oil furnace.  This in turn meant that I spent a good part of my "free time" helping Dad make firewood. I didn't get to spend my summers or even weekends, running around, hanging out with friends etc.  If we had to do this without gas powered chain saws for felling trees and sawing up the felled trees, and had to rely on just hand powered means, the demands on my time would have increased even more (most likely I wouldn't have been able to even participate in sports at school either).   And this was just to heat our house in what was a fairly moderate climate.

Besides that, we have a great deal of evidence what life in a low-technological* society is like, as humanity has spent the majority of its history in this state.

For a truly non-technological society, you would have to go all the way back before the first person shaped a rock to use as a tool; as anything deliberately fashioned to do a job is "technology", regardless of how primitive it is.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: alancalverd on 29/09/2019 19:47:07
Jimmy Doherty (Jimmy's Farm, Jamie Oliver, etc) made the point very simply, standing in a market in Uganda. He said "80% of the Ugandan population work on the land, but there isn't enough food for everyone. Less than 2% of the UK population work on the land, and the shops are full."

The Ugandan climate is like ours but better - more predictable rainfall and a bit warmer, with much less seasonal variance in daylight and temperature.

The difference is technology.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: Janus on 29/09/2019 20:01:14
Jimmy Doherty (Jimmy's Farm, Jamie Oliver, etc) made the point very simply, standing in a market in Uganda. He said "80% of the Ugandan population work on the land, but there isn't enough food for everyone. Less than 2% of the UK population work on the land, and the shops are full."

The Ugandan climate is like ours but better - more predictable rainfall and a bit warmer, with much less seasonal variance in daylight and temperature.

The difference is technology.
A significant contribution to the ending of the period commonly referred to as the "Dark Ages" was the development for the metal plow; with which, a single farmer could cultivate much more land than he could with a wooden plow.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 29/09/2019 20:32:19
Observe, hypothesise, test. It all begins with personal experience - the observation. It takes a person to make a hypothesis. It needs a person to do and evaluate the test. It is all about personal experience!


Scientific experiments are nothing to do with personal experience.  Yes, I agree it is an experience, a personal experience for each individual, to carry out a scientific experiment.  But the crucial thing for science is that every other person must be able to repeat that experiment and, as it were, get an identical experience.    So, there is nothing personal about it at all.  Science, indeed, rules out the personal in favour of the communal. 
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 29/09/2019 20:37:20
But they can't both be false- there are lupins or there aren't.So your idea that "if a statement is not proved right, it must be false " can't be right.


Yes, you are correct.   

(You may have noticed that I did modify my position and talk about Not Proven rather than true or false, but to take this a little further, it is immaterial.  For if any scientific theory IS true, it is purely by chance and there is no way of knowing.  But further, if you apply a little statistics to the situation, you will find that in the very large, complex world we live in, the odds against hitting the jackpot i.e. the odds against coming up with a true theory are very, very considerably worse than the odds of winning at roulette. Therefore we can assume that by far the majority of scientific theories are false. )
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 29/09/2019 20:39:45
Let me give you another level of truth: "Good enough for all practical purposes".

I have already suggested that some of you scientists are failing through a lack of knowledge of philosophy.  In this case I would suggest that you take time to learn something of “American Pragmatism” and how it compares to “British Empiricism” and “Continental Platonism”.  And I would just say here that the very fact that the various countries have opted for different approaches to dealing with life is evidence that the jury is out on all these methods. 
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 29/09/2019 20:45:15
Okay, so you don't like that science can only give us theories and not absolute truth. That being said, what do you suggest we replace science with? What system do you propose that can give us the whole truth on issues that science can only give us approximations of?


There are many options that have been explored by philosophers but the only one that has been really pursued, as far as I am aware, is the scientific method.   You might therefore wish to, at the very least, try out some of the other methods to see if they are any better.  However, that said, the reason philosophers cannot come up with answers or truths any more than scientists can is because both scientists and philosophers adopt the same basic flaw: a hostile attitude.  And I think it is this flaw that is responsible for both their failures. That is, you are out to shoot things down, to criticize, to compete and only whatever can survive the very hostile conditions is accepted. 

I suggest that the very opposite approach would be the correct way to deal with the world.  That is, accept everything uncritically.  Believe everyone.  Your job then would be e.g. to wonder why, say, somebody tells you that they have seen flowers falling out of the sky on numerous occasions.  You have never experienced this.  You might one day even be standing next to this person when they claim to be seeing flowers falling out of the sky.  But you do not call that person a liar.  You ask the question: How can somebody be perceiving flowers falling out of the sky and I am right beside them and yet these flowers do not form part of my perception?
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: Bored chemist on 29/09/2019 21:06:04
I suggest that the very opposite approach would be the correct way to deal with the world.  That is, accept everything uncritically.  Believe everyone. 

Would you  like to buy London bridge?
Also, I have a Nigerian prince you might want to talk to.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: alancalverd on 29/09/2019 22:31:09

A significant contribution to the ending of the period commonly referred to as the "Dark Ages" was the development for the metal plow; with which, a single farmer could cultivate much more land than he could with a wooden plow.

The Egyptians, Greeks and Chinese has iron-shod ploughs long before the Romans destroyed western civilisation.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: alancalverd on 29/09/2019 23:01:14
But the crucial thing for science is that every other person must be able to repeat that experiment and, as it were, get an identical experience.
In principle, yes. In practice, no. The whole point of writing scientific textbooks, compiling engineering data, or taking rock samples from the moon, is to avoid the need for others to waste time repeating a single, well-done experiment.

Quote
the odds against coming up with a true theory are very, very considerably worse than the odds of winning at roulette. Therefore we can assume that by far the majority of scientific theories are false.
Written like a true philosopher. (a) nobody ever claims that a scientific hypothesis is "true", only that it has so far stood up to scrutiny. (b) scientific hypotheses are inspired by observation, which shortens the odds quite a bit, then usually refined by reductio ad absurdam or some parallel process to suggest a definitive experiment.  And we do indeed stand on the shoulders of giants, who show us where or where not to look (admittedly some intellectual pygmies have exerted considerable influence from time to time, to the shame of all who found their hypotheses politically convenient) . Theories that are not founded on observation and are not testable, are not considered to be scientific. And as I have said before, the residue of explanatory and predictive hypotheses that have not been disproved by experiment, is called knowledge.

The Bohr model of the atom is a theory that does not stand up to scrutiny but does explain some experimental findings (that the atom is mostly empty and occupies a space much bigger than the nucleus) and provides a useful pointer to a more robust model.

Quote
various countries have opted for different approaches to dealing with life
You wouldn't get away with a statement like that in a scientific meeting. You might state specifically that European law has different axioms from most laws written in English, or that European social mores and school  curricula have been dominated by Catholicism, which is unlike Anglicanism or protestant fundamentalism;  but vague and meaningless generalities about "countries" and "life" belong in the septic tank of philosophy.

Quote
both scientists and philosophers adopt the same basic flaw: a hostile attitude
Wrong. Scientists are mutually hostile to bullshit. Philosophers thrive on bullshit and are hostile to each other.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: Kryptid on 30/09/2019 01:23:44
I suggest that the very opposite approach would be the correct way to deal with the world.  That is, accept everything uncritically.  Believe everyone.  Your job then would be e.g. to wonder why, say, somebody tells you that they have seen flowers falling out of the sky on numerous occasions.  You have never experienced this.  You might one day even be standing next to this person when they claim to be seeing flowers falling out of the sky.  But you do not call that person a liar.  You ask the question: How can somebody be perceiving flowers falling out of the sky and I am right beside them and yet these flowers do not form part of my perception?

Please explain how this methodology would allow you to arrive at absolute truth.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: evan_au on 30/09/2019 02:39:35
Quote from: littlebrowndragon
the odds against coming up with a true theory are very, very considerably worse than the odds of winning at roulette. Therefore we can assume that by far the majority of scientific theories are false.
I agree with you - just have a look at the "New Theories" section of this forum!

However, like the roulette wheel, we have a way of weeding out the good ones from the bad ones - the Prediction test.
- If you can reliably predict the outcome, you win
- If you can't predict the outcome, you go bankrupt
- And then you apply some statistical criteria to ensure that you know how likely you are to get the same answer by chance
- In medicine and psychology, to publish a result, they often require a "P-Value" of 0.05 or better, which means that there is less than 5% chance that these results could be obtained by chance.
- In nuclear physics, they apply a much more stringent test of "5 sigma".
- But the test of a good theory is that it keeps on predicting the outcome, in test after test

There seems to be no end of the theories to test, and some of them are winners; but in the casino, the house always wins, and the gamblers go home empty-handed (on average).
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 30/09/2019 20:49:27
Besides that, we have a great deal of evidence what life in a low-technological* society is like, as humanity has spent the majority of its history in this state.



I can appreciate the difficulties you experienced on the farm.  I too have lived with hardly any technology.  However...….

The song I have quoted below describes our use of technology.

http://www.wordsforlife.org.uk/songs/there-was-old-lady

“There was an old lady
There was an old lady who swallowed a fly
I don't know why she swallowed a fly - perhaps she'll die!
There was an old lady who swallowed a spider,
That wriggled and wiggled and tiggled inside her;
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
I don't know why she swallowed a fly - Perhaps she'll die!
There was an old lady who swallowed a bird;
How absurd to swallow a bird.
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
I don't know why she swallowed a fly - Perhaps she'll die!
There was an old lady who swallowed a cat;
Fancy that to swallow a cat!
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
I don't know why she swallowed a fly - Perhaps she'll die!
There was an old lady that swallowed a dog;………………………
…………………………..”

In the song, the old woman attempts to catch the fly by employing ever more extreme solutions i.e. swallowing bigger and bigger animals.  Finally, she resorts to swallowing a horse.  The outcome?  She died, of course.

People use technology to try to solve a problem.  The technology they use to solve that problem creates even more problems.  These additional problems are then tackled with even more technology resulting in a third set of new problems.  In other words, the more technology is employed to solve problems the more problems it actually creates.  Thus the use of technology creates a vicious circle: one set of problems is superseded by an even bigger set of problems which in its turn is replaced by an even bigger set of problems until the whole technological edifice is so riddled with problems that it  teeters on the brink of collapse. 

That is what is happening now.  For example, the more my local library uses technology, the more problems I experience as a user of that service.  Airline computers have made the headlines recently e.g. when BA’s computers went down for something like 3 days.  The banks have problems with computer security, as do web based companies e.g. yahoo.  (And these are only the problems we know about.)  Technology is becoming more and more unreliable and breaks down more frequently.  I noticed this in particular when I was in hospital.  The nurses spent more of their time attending to the extremely temperamental technology which left them precious little time to attend to their patients, i.e. the nurses were nursing the technology rather than the patients.

We are building a society that is ever more dependent on technology, including the internet.  This is clearly unsustainable.  When the tipping point comes, the whole lot is going to come down.  I do not think that tipping point is very far away. 
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: littlebrowndragon on 30/09/2019 20:52:11
Jimmy Doherty (Jimmy's Farm, Jamie Oliver, etc) made the point very simply, standing in a market in Uganda. He said "80% of the Ugandan population work on the land, but there isn't enough food for everyone. Less than 2% of the UK population work on the land, and the shops are full."

Our prehistoric human ancestors managed without technology.  The birds in my garden manage without technology. 

In fact, one of the problems created by our use of technology is world over-population.  So, I suggest that it is technology that has created the problem whereby Ugandans do not have enough food. 

In the UK, although we have enough food, I think that is misleading.  Why do we have enough food?  I suggest it is due to the (mis-)use of technology i.e. we are forcing the land into over production to feed an over populated country.  That cannot be sustainable.  It is yet another problem caused by technology that is going to have to be solved before too long – and hopefully not by “swallowing a horse”.  (I refer to an earlier post referencing our mis-use of technology, using The Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly” as an analogy to describe what is really going on.)
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: Bored chemist on 30/09/2019 21:12:06
Our prehistoric human ancestors managed without technology.
"Managed"- only just, and with huge mortality.
So, I suggest that it is technology that has created the problem whereby Ugandans do not have enough food. 
No
https://borgenproject.org/top-10-facts-about-hunger-in-uganda/
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: alancalverd on 30/09/2019 23:52:25
There is indeed a problem with looking for technological solutions to trivial problems, and the Boeing 737MAX exemplifies one - using a computer to correct a quirk that can be solved by proper training or redesign to eliminate it altogether. Long ago we used to say "to err is human, but to really screw things up, you need a computer..."  The dumbest autopilot can get you into trouble even when it's working properly. I think there is an underlying problem in education: kids are taught that computers know everything and are ultimately in charge, but it ain't so: technology is a tool to be used when you want it.

But that isn't the case in agriculture. A friend has a collection of interesting  sheds on his farm, where guys maintain and rebuild beautiful old warplanes, but the prize exhibit is a 1939  Ford Ferguson tractor, the weapon that won WWII.

There's the difference. Using machines to replace muscle power is undeniably the key to a good life, but using machines to replace brain power isn't.  Garden birds may survive a generation without technology, but crows and thrushes use simple tools and Australian hawks use fire to drive their prey out from cover. 
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: Bored chemist on 01/10/2019 20:09:36
1939  Ford Ferguson tractor, the weapon that won WWII.
The Germans had tractors too.
What they didn't have was magnetron radars.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: syhprum on 01/10/2019 21:33:46
They did have cavity magnetrons somewhat later in the war after they found them in downed aircraft and Siemens built copies.
Like many war winning technological marvels that each side developed they had little effect on the outcome of the war. 
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: Kryptid on 01/10/2019 21:43:44
I'm still waiting for the answer to this question:

Please explain how this methodology would allow you to arrive at absolute truth.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: syhprum on 01/10/2019 23:08:58
We have enough to eat because we can import it with the aid of money made by banking and arms sales, during our most recent war with Germany we were hard put to grow enough to feed ourselves and had to resort to a lot of amateur farming, it will probably be the same again if this "Brexit" nonsense comes to pass.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: alancalverd on 02/10/2019 00:16:59
The UK actually grows about 60% of the food we eat, and exports almost the remainder. Whatever the source of income, remarkably little of our imported food is of EU origin - well over half comes from further afield. The idea that the Spanish will suddenly stop selling us lettuce, or the Danes will stop exporting bacon on 1 November, is as absurd as the belief that we didn't import these things before we joined the EU.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: Bored chemist on 02/10/2019 07:32:01
The points are that lettuce held up for a week at Dover for customs checks isn't quite the same thing, and the EU's tariffs will also make it more expensive.
So, much less of a problem for the wealthy- hard luck if you are already struggling.
Typical Tory policy.
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: alancalverd on 02/10/2019 08:38:27
There is no reason why lettuce crossing the border at Dover should be held up any longer than lettuce crossing the border at Geneva or Kenyan beans entering the country through East Midlands airport. Every road consignment is already  scrutinised for stowaways and contraband, and not everything passing through Dover originated in the EU anyway. The EU does not impose export tariffs on food - stuff should if anything be cheaper as it will have to compete with world prices.

The fuss about an Irish border is equally ridiculous. For the last 50 years there have been different laws, currencies, rates of VAT, fuel duty and income tax on either side of the border. No problem, and the free circulation of people predates the EU.

I've been shipping urgent hardware and short-lived radioactive pharmaceuticals all over the world for the last 20 years (with very little EU business - too expensive!) The answer, then, now and for ever, is to do  the business, deliver the goods, and let the accountants sort out the paperwork later. 
Title: Re: Proving or disproving theories: how does science work?
Post by: evan_au on 04/10/2019 00:29:51
Gentlemen, Gentlemen!

BREXIT is not science; whether it will be A Good Thing for the UK and/or Ireland and/or Europe will have to wait until the results of the experiment become available. And then politicians on both sides of the debate will say "I told you so!".
 
Please keep BREXIT in "Just Chat!".