The Scientific Method is Not Simply The Experimental Method
Neither the Developmental Scientific Method, nor the Experimental Method are wrong necessarily. But what those two subsets of the scientific method fail to address are several vital steps of Discovery Science Methodology. Our regard of the scientific method as simply being a big lab experiment constitutes a logical fallacy; one which blinds and binds our professionals and emasculates our ability as a culture to address the key questions which face humanity today.
Search for the scientific method in Google and you will find an enormous amount of misinformation and conflation of the scientific method with the experimental method. This confusion is an example of well meaning but of sophomoric guild individuals or cabals attempting to explain incorrectly, what is indeed science. I suppose that this is how these same people might describe the method of making love:
Making Love Method:
- Obtain a Naked Person
- Examine Various Body Parts
- Rub Genitals Together
- Ask if It Was Acceptable
- Exchange Phone Numbers
This is not making love. There is so much that is missing what is happening here, such as to render this process invalid, despite its apparent correctness. This is a method which is touted by someone who has never made love.
In the same way, science is not an experiment, rather it is the process and body of knowledge development. And as such, its applied acumen resides to the greater degree outside the lab, not in it. Anyone who has managed a scientific research organization knows this. A team can refine an experimental insight only so many times, but if they have not asked the right question or obtained the right resources and data, then this is simply lots of activity executed by technicians masquerading as scientists. Regarding the scientific method as simply an extended experiment, can leave it open to ineffectiveness at best, or even worse manipulation by ill-meaning forces who seek to direct the body of predictive knowledge in certain directions (see Promotification below). Science demands that its participants be circumspect and prepared, before they pretend to be competent at testing its first questions.
Wikipedia, in similar form, defines the “Scientific Method” as below (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method). I have called it by its more accurate name here in red:
Scientific Method: (Developmental Scientific Methodology)
- Define a question
- Gather information and resources (observe)
- Form an explanatory hypothesis
- Test the hypothesis by performing an experiment and collecting data in a reproducible manner
- Analyze the data
- Interpret the data and draw conclusions that serve as a starting point for new hypothesis
- Publish results
- Retest (frequently done by other scientists)
While this step series is generally correct and close, this actually represents really only an expansive form of the Experimental Method and focuses on Developmental Science only. In other words, what Wikipedia and its academic authors have defined here is what one does to improve our knowledge of existing and established paradigms, in highly controlled environments, and in cases where we already know what question to ask in the above Step 1. Define a Question. This is simply a method of refining existing knowledge focused on essentially technology development. And that is indeed a valid approach, since what are we going to do if we cannot turn our science into beneficial application? Certainly a large part of science necessarily centers around this diligent technical incrementalism and existing paradigm development process.
But this is NOT the scientific method. It is a PART of the scientific method, more focused and centered on specific procedure from what the authors learned in school, that of the Experimental Method (below, mostly courtesy of Colby College (http://www.colby.edu/biology/BI17x/expt_method.html). To be fair, Wikipedia does address this issue in part of their excellent writeup on Experimental Methodology (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experiment) and its ethical employment and limitations.
Experimental Method: (Look Familiar?)
- Ask a Question
- Form a Hypothesis
- Define a Test/Variables
- Perform an Experiment
- Analyze the Results
- Draw a Conclusion
- Report Results
But what if we do not have the necessary set of observations which could educate us to even know what question to ask in the first place? What if by asking the question as the first step, we bias the participants or the outcome, or blind ourselves to the true experimental domain entailed? What if we were able to conduct a series of initial falsification tests in the early data sets, which would preclude an entire series of predictive tests in the classic developmental methodology later? Moreover, what if we did not know because we collected the wrong data, all because we asked the wrong questions to begin with, or failed to learn from past mistakes made by competitors on the subject. These confusing challenges are common to every lab in a variety of industry verticals.
But Science is About Discovery, not Simply Incremental Development of Current Paradigms
In some of my labs, in the past, when we have made major breakthroughs, or turned an eight month research program into a 3 week discovery process, we did not employ the above process as expressed by academia and Wikipedia. We took a step back and asked three important circumspect questions which differentiate scientists from lab technicians, which occur commensurate with Discovery Scientific Methodology, Step 3 – Aggregation of Data:
Three Critical Questions Scientists Ask When They Really Want an Answer:
- What is it that we do not know, that we do not know?
- What should we test and/or statistically aggregate and analyze before we boast that we can competently ask the question?
- What missteps have we or our competitors made to date?
The Wikipedia Developmental Science Methodology presumes that there is only a small set (s) of the unknown, and our task is simply to fill in that (s) blank. In discovery science this presumption of the small unknown is incorrect, as it embodies a version of the Penultimate Set Fallacy. In Discovery Science Methodology, the key is that we do not necessarily have all the information we need, and even more importantly we might not even be aware that we are not equipped to boast that we can suitably ask the right question. Proceeding in such a disadvantageous state under the Developmental Science process would be akin to one searching for Jimmy Hoffa by starting in one’s living room. It is clear that science has woefully undersold the role of the aggregation of data (Step 3 – Intelligence/Data Aggregation (The 3 Key Questions, below). Mike Huerta is the Associate Director of the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, USA cites that data is the weakness of science in the biomedical field. Probably the richest mine of field scientific data known to man, yet still, the weak link in the scientific method continues even there, to be the data – the first half of the Discovery Science Methodology process.
I think a lot of people haven’t thought broadly about the benefits that will come from data sharing. Once we have a comprehensive set of information about data, as we do about the scientific literature, it’ll let us start looking at the landscape of biomedical research from a different perspective. It will give us another metric for assessing science and progress and it will allow us to find data that might be useful for any of a number of scientific purposes. Now, for most biomedical research the public products are the conclusions and the interpretations about data, and those conceptual aspects are probably the most fragile part of that scientific process.
~ Mike Huerta, Associate Director of the US National Labrary of Medicine (http://blogs.nature.com/scientificdata/2014/08/12/data-matters-interview-with-mike-huerta/)
Without data availability, the researcher cannot even hope to ask the right question, and must simply start by acting all busy. Well yes, you can search your living room for Jimmy Hoffa, and certainly perform developmental investigation there, but you are really only performing those activities to which you are accustomed. You will see many a SSkeptic performing this type of ‘scientific inquiry.’ They have not looked at the broad set of data, nor have they asked the right question to begin with, sometimes purposefully; rather desiring only to tender the appearance of doing science. Getting themselves photographed naked, and pretending that they were in the process of making love.
Knowing how to ask the right question, if approached properly, can turn years of potentially misleading predictive study (Promotification) into a much shorter timeframe and more productive falsification based conclusions. This process is neither deliberated nor executed in the lab. Much of what is considered “pseudoscience” as a subject, suffers from this sleight-of-hand shortfall through targeting by fake SSkeptics. By not knowing how to ask the right question, one can fall susceptible to a pseudoscience called Promotification:
Promotification – One or a series of predictive experiments touted as scientific, yet employed in such a fashion as to mislead, impugn, obfuscate or delay. Deception or incompetence wherein only predictive testing methodology was undertaken in a hypothesis reduction hierarchy when more effective falsification pathways or current evidence were readily available, but were ignored.
Through asking the wrong question, power is sublimed from the hands of science and into the hands of those who do not desire an answer.
“Science does not make progress by confirmation of hypotheses. because confirmatory evidence is too easy to find.”
When you regard the ethical impact of promoting ideas, asking wrong questions, or when one or more of the below steps is skipped or placed in the wrong order, in a discovery science context, then this can be an indication that SSkeptical Tradecraft is underway. It behooves the discovery science researcher to be fully cognizant and circumspect for the influences of SSkepticism in the answers he is handed. One does not even have to manage a lab, and might be simply addressing a tough question. If one is actually being held accountable by an external body of oversight, such as a board of directors who want results, not status-quo and protocol, then often necessity drives this as the true scientific method:
DISCOVERY SCIENCE METHODOLOGY:
3. INTELLIGENCE/AGGREGATION OF DATA (The Three Key Questions)
4. CONSTRUCT FORMULATION
5. SPONSORSHIP/PEER INPUT (Ockham’s Razor)
6. HYPOTHESIS DEVELOPMENT
7. PREDICTIVE TESTING
8. COMPETITIVE HYPOTHESES FRAMING (ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTION)
9. FALSIFICATION TESTING
10. HYPOTHESIS MODIFICATION
11. FALSIFICATION TESTING/REPEATABILITY
12. THEORY FORMULATION/REFINEMENT
13. PEER REVIEW (Community Vetting)
Just as corruption produces human suffering, in similar fashion, Tradecraft SSkepticism produces cultivated ignorance
How do I know that SSkeptics fully acknowledge this process as constituting the full scientific method? Because they skillfully and adeptly know how to manipulate the steps of this process such that specific desired outcomes and conclusions are produced. It is a method of corruption, not unlike that which the ministers of a country might employ, through the gaming of laws, policies and bureaucracy such that they and their cronies are enriched in the process of legislation. Just as corruption produces human suffering, in similar, Tradecraft SSkepticism produces cultivated ignorance.
The icon on the right will act as my post signature icon, tagging the entire series of posts on Tradecraft SSkepticcism. This tag will apply when the post is specifically depicting ways in which Social Skepticism manipulates through Tradecraft, academia, media, science, scientists and their Cabal faithful; spinning a false representation of the reality which encompasses the nature of man and our realm. This icon will be affixed on the top right hand side of such posts. 🙂
SSkeptics are fully aware at how to obviate, block access to, or eliminate any or all of the above steps, as means to a specific end. They intimidate researchers in specific embargoed subjects involved in or considering seriously any activity under Steps 1 – 7. Further then, SSkeptics pretend that they are the only ones sufficiently equipped to ask the question framed in Step 8; which constitutes an extraordinary boast. By skipping Steps 1 – 7, SSkeptics are able to socially circumvent sound science and posit the wrong question as the first step. Amateurs researchers rarely catch this sleight-of-hand which has been foisted on them, while the public just nods in wide eyed resignation. Scientists who understand this know that they are to keep quiet. This asking of the wrong question ensures a flawed execution of the scientific method such that Steps 9 – 15 never have a realistic set of hypotheses which to test. So, SSkeptics DO understand this, the full scientific method. All too well.
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