• Qmeri
    54
    Many people think that things like empirical tests and mathematical logic make science special. This is not true. Everyone has been using empiricism and logic to some extend since forever. Science has become the most reliable source of information because of the way it fights against human error and corruption.

    There are many ways science does this, but I'd say by far the most important is peer review. If someone publishes something as "science", it will get scrutinized by other scientists. If it's an unimportant claim in an unimportant paper, something quite obviously unscientific might get through the scrutiny, since no one cared enough. But this is a small problem, since once any claimed "science" gains any importance, it will get the full attention and scrutiny of the scientists. Therefore, while science will never be perfect, it will never get corrupted in the big questions.

    And why mainstream science? Because in peer review, mass matters. A fringe community of people might all use the scientific method correctly and peer review each other with good intent, but they have a high likelihood of making the same mistakes and having the same biases, since they are this fringe group. Whereas in the mainstream science a scientific claim will get scrutinized by people of many different groups, religions and ideologies, which makes it unlikely that they have the same biases or make the same mistakes.

    Thus, the bigger and more important the scientific claim, the more reliable the mainstream science is.
  • Pfhorrest
    592
    I think this touches on an underdeveloped field of philosophy.

    When it comes to prescriptive matters, we have basic ethical theories about what makes a state of affairs good and how to conduct our own behavior, but we also have the field of political philosophy which is all about the social arrangements of who if anyone gets to decide those things and what if any kind of authority they have over other people and so on.

    But when it comes to descriptive matters, we have ontology and epistemology to tell us to do things empirically and critically, but there isn't a lot of philosophy, certainly not a whole field of it, about the social arrangements of who if anyone gets to make the decisions about what is real and true and what if any kind of authority they have over other people and so on. Bacon talked a bit about it, but for the most part it seems like it's just done, and not philosophized about. Not that I know of at least -- I'd love to hear if it has been.

    I wrote my own essay On Academics, Education, and the Institutes of Knowledge entirely about this subject, and if there are more well-know philosophers who've written about it that I should read, I'd like to hear about them.
  • unenlightened
    4.1k
    Mainstream science rules because the magic works. If the magic doesn't work, it's religion.
  • ssu
    1.7k
    That science is basically made by a scientific community that uses peer review, replicates experiments and has a vast network for interaction is obviously true and should be noted.

    However, not everything is made public and peer reviewed. For example, the production of nuclear weapons is a trait that isn't widely marketed and isn't knowledge widely published around the World even today, even if the actual technology is basically totally ancient: something that has existed for 75 years. When after Operation Desert Storm the UN inspectors inspected Saddam Hussein's actual nuclear weapons program (or it's remnants), not the utter fantasy project that George Bush later used as a lie to invade Iraq, they noticed that Iraq at that time was using (or trying to use) the technology of the 1940's to produce it's plutonium. Not the present technology that the Superpowers used during the Cold War (and still use). Details of that technology are still actually enforced quite well: any scientist having the knowledge of nuclear weapons technology will think twice before he or she sells know how to some willing party. Not only can you end up in jail, you can get literally killed for even trying.

    Yet as technology is based on science and all that math and logic, same things can be invented even without prior knowledge from others and procurement of nuclear weapons and other valuable technologies can happen around the World without any interaction by the various secluded research communities. For example the Space Race between the US and Russia shows clearly how different technological solutions were used to overcome the same obstacles.
  • Qmeri
    54
    All of this "secret science" you are talking about is pretty much by definition not mainstream science and has no bearing on how reliable mainstream science is. Sure, there probably is quite a lot of scientific studies that never get to the mainstream and the mainstream would probably develop in some areas, if it got its hands on such data. And mainstream peer review would probably find quite a lot of unscientific nonsense from this weird set of data that missed much of the scrutiny it would have gotten within all these years. If any institution could use the mainstream to make their secret studies more reliable, they would. But that would ruin the whole point of the secrecy. If you ever get your hands on such "secret data", use it as much as you want. It's still not as reliable as mainstream scientific studies, but if there are no mainstream scientific studies about the subject and you really need to use that data for something, go ahead.
  • ssu
    1.7k
    All of this "secret science" you are talking about is pretty much by definition not mainstream science and has no bearing on how reliable mainstream science is.Qmeri
    Nuclear physics is quite at the core of physics and totally mainstream, actually. And is just as reliable as anything else in science.

    And it isn't "mainstream science" vs. "fringe science". What you have are "mainstream schools of thought" and then other schools of thought. You can have in Quantum Physics the "Copenhagen Interpretation", but that doesn't mean at all the science itself would be different.
  • ovdtogt
    378
    If the magic doesn't work, it's religionunenlightened

    Religion, Homeopathy and Acupuncture do work. It's effects are psychological and therefor very difficult to quantify scientifically. The mind has a healing power of which we still no very little.
  • ovdtogt
    378
    But this is a small problem, since once any claimed "science" gains any importanceQmeri

    Science is what can be proven. All the rest is educated guesswork.
  • Pfhorrest
    592
    Nothing can be proven (only disproven). All of science is educated guesswork (which is still much better than uneducated guesswork).
  • ovdtogt
    378
    Nothing can be proven (only disproven).Pfhorrest

    The fact that your GPS works proves it.
  • Pfhorrest
    592
    No, if my GPS failed to work it would disprove "it" (assuming you mean GR here). Important distinction.

    Whatever the absolute truth is, it has to be consistent with my GPS working, but there's always wiggle room for multiple alternatives consistent with that.
  • ovdtogt
    378
    Whatever the absolute truth is,Pfhorrest

    If it is the absolute truth you are looking for, might I suggest you try one of the many religions?
  • Pfhorrest
    592
    Alright, you're obviously not here for a productive conversation but to try scoring some kind of imaginary internet points, so I'm out.
  • Qmeri
    54
    "Nuclear physics is quite at the core of physics and totally mainstream, actually. And is just as reliable as anything else in science."-ssu

    You are confusing a scientific subject like nuclear physics with what the mainstream science says about nuclear physics. I'm saying that a theory that has been evaluated and accepted by mainstream science is more reliable than a theory that has only been evaluated and accepted by a fringe group (like a selected group of contracted scientists who will keep their studies secret) simply because peer review does become more reliable with a larger mass of more diverse peer reviewers. Mainstream science is not the only way of getting reliable information, but it is usually the most reliable if one does not want to become an expert himself.
  • unenlightened
    4.1k
    Religion, Homeopathy and Acupuncture do work.ovdtogt

    Of course they work! And you didn't need to post that on sciences' machines to inform me; your psychic fluence had already informed us before you pressed the first key.

    Not.
  • frank
    3.8k
    Nothing can be proven (only disproven).
    — Pfhorrest

    The fact that your GPS works proves it.
    ovdtogt

    Your GPS working proves that engineers kick ass. Science and engineering are good friends, but they aren't the same.
  • ssu
    1.7k
    I'm saying that a theory that has been evaluated and accepted by mainstream science is more reliable than a theory that has only been evaluated and accepted by a fringe group (like a selected group of contracted scientists who will keep their studies secret) simply because peer review does become more reliable with a larger mass of more diverse peer reviewers. Mainstream science is not the only way of getting reliable information, but it is usually the most reliable if one does not want to become an expert himself.Qmeri
    Again, I would emphasize that there are schools of thought in science, not mainstream and fringe science itself. The foundations of science are the same. The experiments are the same, publish them or not. You either have science or then you have non-science, humbug. You can have scientist disagreeing on a variety of issues, but either one is right and another is wrong or they are talking about different issues.
  • ovdtogt
    378
    ]Your GPS working proves that engineers kick ass. Science and engineering are good friends, but they aren't the same.[/quote]

    The fact that your GPS works is thanks to Einsteins relativity theory being correct. Without science, you would have very little engineering.
  • Pfhorrest
    592
    Correct enough.

    For aiming a cannon Newton's laws are correct enough but that doesn't make them correct simpliciter.
  • ovdtogt
    378
    Exactly. In the frame of reference of aiming a cannon Newton's laws are true enough. For determining your GPS position, you need Einsteins relativity theory to understand that the passage of time in satellites is faster due to the effect of gravity.
    I also use the analogy of building a house or a very long bridge. With a house you can consider the earth to be flat and for a bridge you have to take account of the curvature of the earth.
    Absolute knowledge does not exist (for us). We always work with relative knowledge.
  • Athena
    307
    That is a nice belief but there are elites whose voice of authority weighs much more than others, and they can prevent correction just as the church of old was able to prevent correction, short of torturing and killing people. Only a person with much persistence and knowing people with strong connections can get past the control of these guardians of truth.
  • frank
    3.8k
    The fact that your GPS works is thanks to Einsteins relativity theory being correct. Without science, you would have very little engineering.ovdtogt

    We don't need any info about relativity to make the GPS work. We'd just adjust the time when necessary, maybe build it into the software to adjust it without knowing why it's happening. Happens all the time.

    The GPS does require knowledge of something else though: not from a scientist, but from a mathematician by the name of Descartes.
  • ovdtogt
    378
    We don't need any info about relativity to make the GPS work.frank

    I didn't say that you need relativity to make GPS work. This is what I said.
    The fact that your GPS works is thanks to Einsteins relativity theory being correctovdtogt
  • Athena
    307


    I like your explanation of relative knowledge. I found an explanation of it in a very old book "The Science of Logic" along with an explanation of why this demands we remain humble and not be too sure of ourselves. Understanding that is of cultural importance. I think education for technology has taken us down a fool's path with a greatly over-exaggerated opinion of ourselves.
  • Qmeri
    54
    I would emphasize that there are schools of thought in science, not mainstream and fringe science itself. The foundations of science are the same. The experiments are the same, publish them or not. You either have science or then you have non-science, humbug. You can have scientist disagreeing on a variety of issues, but either one is right and another is wrong or they are talking about different issues.ssu

    I do agree that there are many schools of thought within science. For example quite many of the interpretations of quantum mechanics are so widely accepted that they are all part of mainstream science. This simply shows us that mainstream science has not concluded the issue yet to a single theory and mainstream science clearly acknowledges this. And that is a reliable position to take from mainstream science - that the issue is controversial and no single position has yet been definitively proven.

    I disagree that everything either is or is not science - there are degrees of how scientific something is. An unpublished experiment that has not been peer reviewed is not very scientific. An unpublished experiment peer reviewed by a small fringe group is more scientific. And a published experiment peer reviewed by a large and diverse group is very scientific. It's not black and white.
  • frank
    3.8k
    I didn't say that you need relativity to make GPS work. This is what I said.
    The fact that your GPS works is thanks to Einsteins relativity theory being correct
    — ovdtogt
    ovdtogt

    Oh. Yea, there's a huge amount of data that suggests that relativity is correct.
  • ovdtogt
    378
    I think education for technology has taken us down a fool's path with a greatly over-exaggerated opinion of ourselves.Athena

    Yes I agree. All these wonderful marvels science and engineering have brought us has left us with an ecological disaster (an extinction rate almost unprecedented in history) and global warming.
  • ovdtogt
    378
    The GPS does require knowledge of something else though: not from a scientist, but from a mathematician by the name of Descartes.frank

    I think you need quite a lot more than just a mathematician to get a satellite orbiting around the earth. It is not called rocket science for nothing.
  • Qmeri
    54
    That is a nice belief but there are elites whose voice of authority weighs much more than others, and they can prevent correction just as the church of old was able to prevent correction, short of torturing and killing people. Only a person with much persistence and knowing people with strong connections can get past the control of these guardians of truth.Athena

    Well, any engineer knows that this is not true - one can simply read wikipedia for engineering issues and their engineering projects based on this easily available scientific information reliably end up working.

    And while I do acknowledge that mainstream science will never be perfect and that some level of corruption will always exist... mainstream science with its peer review from large diverse sources which can't all be controlled by any power on earth does the removal of errors and corruption better than any other large source of information on earth.

    Of course one can with effort and persistence become an expert and get even more reliable information that way, but that has no bearing on how reliable mainstream science is.
  • Athena
    307


    Ah, you bring up a good point. Not all branches of science are the same. For an engineer, it is pretty black and white. Either it works or it does not. Some wouldn't even call psychology a science, however recently brain studies are more scientific than Freud's speculations and "knowing" which was culturally biased.

    A problem with modern age science is specialization. It is like studying the universe with a telescope that can focus on one light in the sky but is so limited it can not explain the universe.

    And I think our materialism has also created a blindness that may set the US behind the pack of progressive technology. Reality is not limited to matter, but is energy and I don't think we have a good grasp of the forces. Our linear logic got us to where we are now, but nonlinear eastern logic could pick up the ball and maybe leave us in the dust?
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