Jump to content

Scientific Ethos


Recommended Posts

I'm taking the liberty of splitting this from that thread which I'll quote a single post from below:
[quote name='xrieg' timestamp='1296204478' post='78131']
Actually it seems to be a sound research practice - scientific ethos is dead and high time to realize that :-P Scientific results to be valid should by possible to verify and reproduce. Otherwise the temptation (especially for students, but many researchers as well) could be too strong - and raw data home production would follow. For any serious paper with non-trivial results first thing one should carefully read are assumptions - and data collection methodology.
[/quote]

Neitzsche said God is dead and that we killed him, Xrieg is saying scientific ethos is dead... if so I'm adding that it is an unborn child aborted by capitalism with the coathanger named bureacracy.

One of the things that bother me about language is that nowadays every field is a science. It used to be you had science and arts, now you have linguistic science and stuff like that. Don't get me wrong, I do not mean to say that it is impossible or unlikely to take a structured approach, the scientific method, and apply it to language or whatever kind of subject you want. I just think it is easier to be able to say that maths and physics and chemistry are more alike to eachother than to language or history... If anyone dares to say that a field should not be called a science, I bet they'll be met with fierce resistance from that fields practitioners, because if you aren't doing science then you are a crackpot. - That seems to be the general consensus in any case. - And an artist cannot just make pretty art, but it has to be art that at the same time makes you think about how the world is going to hell and stuff. Things have to be functional, and we just happen to have a lot of reasons to believe the scientific method is very very functional.

Here is one downside of this: crackpots, politicians and the like, will invariably try to pose as scientists and thus make it hard to discern between them and real scientists.
There are currently more people alive than ever before. A higher percentage of them have the time and means to become either a crackpot or a scientist. So currently we have a vast amount of scientific and crackpot output per year, to the point where no single person is able to review it all. That's bad news for metaphysical solipsists, but most of us rejected that philosophy in favor of something more practical I believe.

The distinction between good scientists and bad people is, to me, in the intent. A researcher will pose a question which we want to be answered, regardless of what the truth is. Other people will limit themselves to certain answers. If the truth is otherwise they will hide their findings or alter them until it matches what they want.

How do we protect ourselves from a lack of ethics? Simply put, we do not trust one person. If one researcher makes a claim, that claim will be analyzed by a dozen other independent researchers, before it gets published in a peer reviewed journal. Therein is written a recipe on how to reproduce the research in your own backyard if you'd want to. - Except that sometimes I doubt the government would like you to install all those dangerous machines in your backyard without a permit. - Even if you don't feel obliged, some other people will carry out the experiment and if it failed they'll report it too and try to figure out what went wrong etc. If some thesis stands unchallenged for long enough, more and more people will accept that it is true and build upon it further.
Apparently scientists haven't ever believed in other scientists being ethical. However they relied on peer review to discern real science from wishful publishing. As such I don't think scientific ethos ever really was 'alive' and if it is 'dying' now, then it must be because peer review is becoming more and more an economical and corruptible process.


Another scientific ethics question is if some questions should be answered at all? Every year I spot at least one article in which it is claimed that women are better in X but not in Y - yes that is a pun. - Is that really relevant? Suppose that gender Z really is 'better' on whatever grand scale you designed. What will you do? Kill all the humans which are not gender Z? Last I checked we still need both to procreate.


Crackpot signs:
1. If a 'researcher' does not want to tell you how something they demonstrated works, they either don't know or it actually does not.
2. If anyone refers to Continental drift and skepticism and that person is not a geologist, then they're crackpots. Seriously, it's about as convincing an argument as the good old ad Hitlerum.
3. If anybody without qualifications in physics or chemistry is referring to quantum mechanics, then they're quacks. Quantum is not the modern 'Open Sesame' or 'Abracadabra'.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Did somebody mention Quantum Mechanics?

Agreed, science at its heart has nothing to do with ethics. You must be honest with yourself in observing your experimental results or you're not doing science, but that's where the requirement stops. After that, scientists are all too human.

Culturally, there was a long time where the US public thought scientists walked on water. This was back when standards of living were jumping up back in the 1930's-40's-50's-60's due to their inventions, ranging from antibiotics to pesticides and fertilizer, and peaking with the war-stopping Bomb. "Better Living Through Chemistry" and all that. Since then, partly because we have realized all gifts are mixed blessings, that image has been torn down off the pedestal.

Perhaps rather than saying scientific ethos is dead, we should say veneration of scientists is dead.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I cant help but think that the first post is an attack against me personally but since I cant confirm that I wont dwell on it.
However if you are changing answers in order to hide the true result it isn't science. You would be Disney if you did that (lemmings jumping off cliffs is false so they just through them off in a bag). You hypothesis the final answer in order to know where to start looking that's why the first thought is to produce a reason for studying such which science fields call a Purpose.

I will admit thought that I am a science major forest ecology to be specific and you do need to take chem in order to take any other science major. So technically I do have a little back ground knowledge on quantum mechanics which I will tell you is a theory. Which brings me to the next point that we call all our findings theories because a true scientist never has a sure thing. In fact gravity although it is a law could still be reversed if there is powerful evidence against it (not very likely.

As for everything being a science I actually partially believe with that because science simply is the study of something. Since everything can be studied everything can be science its simply looking at it from a different angle.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Working, so just a few remarks:
1. In most leading peer reviewed journals there are but 2-3 reviewers per paper; major difference between good journal and bad one is _who_ reviews (and of course supply and demand)
2. We talk two separate problems here: dishonest researchers and those too dumb/ incompetent to do real science. In both cases scientific scrutiny (collaboration, peer reviews) addresses the problem - but with high level of specialization there are many fields that the only people that could competently review the paper are already among its authors (or their everyday collaborators). And pretty often review follows the line: do I know/respect the guy? text/figures formatting; are all my pals' papers in bibliography? and finally: is there anything really new I should consider - or it's just a reheated version of their last 5 papers
3. Publications in peer reviewed journals is the best known method to evaluate scientists' performance - but 'the best' is not 'perfect'. Most researchers nowadays does not bring anything new to human knowledge during their lifetimes and yet (depending on a field) between a few and several papers annually is required to secure their positions and grants money. Consequently the paper flow is overwhelming, everybody publishes - and quality vary

Edited by xrieg
Link to post
Share on other sites

I am annoyed that in school, history, civics, and similar subjects are nowadays grouped under the tag "Social Science." It used to be "Social Studies," which was far more accurate.
The only common subject in the grouping that is a science is geography.

A sign that a subject is likely not a science: essays required. You don't need to be able to write a standard essay to be able to do science.
But then again, essays have been slowly infecting almost every subject...


On a different note, here's a wonderful example of the peer review system being slow on the uptake. It's not that the paper is wrong or anything, but... just read the article.
[url="http://fliptomato.wordpress.com/2007/03/19/medical-researcher-discovers-integration-gets-75-citations/"]http://fliptomato.wo...s-75-citations/[/url]


Oh, by the way, quantum mechanics isn't all that complicated to understand, in principle, when you get a good explaining text, and are beyond a high school level (I don't mean the average high school graduate; I mean actually knowing the material).

Edited by apophys
Link to post
Share on other sites

Quantum Mechanics :P

Just a quick question, how many of the people in this thread believe themselves to be scientists?

I am just interested if any real scientists would have any interest in this thread.

(BTW I consider myself a real scientist, my CV would agree lol)

Cheers,

Cutler


[quote name='apophys' timestamp='1296569137' post='78322']
I am annoyed that in school, history, civics, and similar subjects are nowadays grouped under the tag "Social Science." It used to be "Social Studies," which was far more accurate.
The only common subject in the grouping that is a science is geography.

A sign that a subject is likely not a science: essays required. You don't need to be able to write a standard essay to be able to do science.
But then again, essays have been slowly infecting almost every subject...


On a different note, here's a wonderful example of the peer review system being slow on the uptake. It's not that the paper is wrong or anything, but... just read the article.
[url="http://fliptomato.wordpress.com/2007/03/19/medical-researcher-discovers-integration-gets-75-citations/"]http://fliptomato.wo...s-75-citations/[/url]


Oh, by the way, quantum mechanics isn't all that complicated to understand, in principle, when you get a good explaining text, and are beyond a high school level (I don't mean the average high school graduate; I mean actually knowing the material).
[/quote]

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm currently officially working as a scientist. Before being hired as such, I've always wanted to pursue a scientific career and for as long as I can remember I have claimed to be a scientist at heart.

[quote name='Fyrd Argentus' timestamp='1296514287' post='78309']
Perhaps rather than saying scientific ethos is dead, we should say veneration of scientists is dead.
[/quote]
The downsides of industrialization and other yield increasing methods, of which science is a presupposition, are becoming more clear. As such science is losing its status as a miracle creation tool. However at the same time I think more and more people are believing in the scientific method. After all, the idea that industry without regulations will lead to negative results, has been investigated using the scientific method as well. (Albeit at some occassions the route from observation to theory was very very short and easy.) As Apophys says too, social studies are now called social sciences and if you say you dislike that, people will get angry and state that they are indeed sciences. Why do we even have the word 'social studies' then?


[quote name='Kamisha' timestamp='1296525128' post='78313']
I cant help but think that the first post is an attack against me personally but since I cant confirm that I wont dwell on it.
[/quote]
This topic was split so that my rants would be less linked to you and your thread... oh irony. Also, if you don't believe me, look at the explicit crackpot signs I listed. Do you fit any of those criteria?


[quote name='apophys' timestamp='1296569137' post='78322']
Oh, by the way, quantum mechanics isn't all that complicated to understand, in principle, when you get a good explaining text, and are beyond a high school level (I don't mean the average high school graduate; I mean actually knowing the material).
[/quote]
The only university level courses in quantum mechanics that I know about, are being taught to physicist, mathematicians, engineers, chemists and studies involving a lot of chemistry such as biotechnology. I think it is safe to say that is less than 50% of university students, which is a lot less than 50% of the general population. Which is sadly less than the number of people who claim to understand quantum mechanics. Sure it is not that hard if you actually have a decent textbook and followed basic calculus. If only we could get people to study calculus some more...


[quote name='xrieg' timestamp='1296545073' post='78316']
3. Publications in peer reviewed journals is the best known method to evaluate scientists' performance - but 'the best' is not 'perfect'. Most researchers nowadays does not bring anything new to human knowledge during their lifetimes and yet (depending on a field) between a few and several papers annually is required to secure their positions and grants money. Consequently the paper flow is overwhelming, everybody publishes - and quality vary
[/quote]
That is true and one of the reasons I dislike the capitalist approach to science as I'd call it. However from an ethical viewpoint this is a bit vague. There is a huge difference between a not all that novel technique leading to the same old conclusions, and forged data leading to exciting and new (but false) insights. If the first gets published it is a nuisance. If the latter gets published it is an abomination. The first person will get some money to continue their unexciting research. The latter will get money to hire additional scientists to expand on their success. Those scientists will be met with the question how they can reproduce the results and eventually with the question of joining the dark side or to become whistle-blowers. Even the unexciting result can come at the expense of an 'innocent' scientist, who did not bother to publish their unexciting results and whose funds were cut. But then again, if you are a store clerk and you manage to sell more than the clerk in the rival branch, you might inadvertently make them fire that guy.
I do not think there has ever been any social system which was immune to corruption. It is not news that peer review is susceptible to corruption. The need to publish is a good motivator for corruption. The low number of peers in a field is a great facilitator. It does mean only a handful of people will actually care about those articles though.

Link to post
Share on other sites

[quote name='Kafuuka' timestamp='1296584514' post='78331']
The only university level courses in quantum mechanics that I know about, are being taught to physicist, mathematicians, engineers, chemists and studies involving a lot of chemistry such as biotechnology. I think it is safe to say that is less than 50% of university students, which is a lot less than 50% of the general population. Which is sadly less than the number of people who claim to understand quantum mechanics. Sure it is not that hard if you actually have a decent textbook and followed basic calculus. If only we could get people to study calculus some more...
[/quote]

I'm merely saying you don't need more than a high school physics background to understand a text like the [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Introduction_to_quantum_mechanics"]non-technical wikipedia intro page to quantum mechanics[/url]. You can't do anything with such limited knowledge, but you can understand the concepts, and if you do in fact understand them, you won't be making gigantic blunders.


Incidentally, I haven't technically gotten my high school diploma yet (even though I'm a substantial way through undergraduate math for a math bachelor). So of course I'm still nobody with a lot to learn. (I don't claim to know quantum mechanics, of course, but I understand its concepts well enough to recognize a crackpot when I see one.)

(I assume when you say "crackpots" you mean people like those who take the Heisenberg uncertainty principle philosophically. Although maybe not quite so absurd as this...)

Edited by apophys
Link to post
Share on other sites

Quantum mechanic quacks is mainly a pet peeve of mine. Probably because I have a degree in physics, I notice all the people who do it wrong. My theory is that people like to use "quantum mechanics" because it allows [b]some[/b] things that are classically not possible and they like to forget that the word "[b]some[/b]" is actually quite limited. If you cannot prove your thesis classically, then try to prove it with quantum or with special relativity. Even if you fail, less people will notice.

I suppose that other fields have similar problems. I can imagine that a lot of pseudo psychiatrists like to quote Freud. People like to use big names, and to compare themselves with revolutionary scientists like Wegener, Galileo, Darwin... This works very well on people who know little about the field, but as Xrieg mentioned, it pervades even the peer review process. If you have to review a paper by someone who has so far made excellent work and that person can list a number of equally renown people who posed similar theses, then you're going to be a lot less skeptical. Ironically with the huge specialization we have now, I'm a complete novice in several fields that my coworkers work in and if they present me with a paper a certain conversation often happens:
coworker "Have you read this paper?"
me "Yeah, it is not that good, don't you think so?"
coworker "Oh? I thought it would be good, <prof phd X> is a very famous author in our field."
me "Well, s/he must have been pressed for time or something."

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
  • Forum Statistics

    16,484
    Total Topics
    178,012
    Total Posts
  • Recently Browsing

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • Upcoming Events

    No upcoming events found
  • Recent Event Reviews

×
×
  • Create New...