Introduction to the Scientific Method

Instructor: Rainsong
Date: June 30, 2018 (Saturday)

Seminar: Topic: Introduction to the Scientific Method (and the distinction between Science as an Institution and Science as a Method of Inquiry… along with commentary on PSC’s stance on it, for reasons muttering about cockamamy theories and general lack of scientific education… waves cane from rocking chair) -Saturday, 30 June 2018 at 6:30pm/1830hr New York Time — text format in the PSC #lecture room (Discord) — Instructor: Rainsong — Search LECTURE30

rowinha: SCIENCE (v.). VS SCIENCE (n.) ! A battle for the ages. :sweatsmile:

Rainsong: 😀

Rainsong: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. It looks like we’re at the bottom of the hour.

Rainsong: Welcome to another seminar here at the social club.

Rainsong: Our topic for the evening is “An Introduction to the Scientific Method”

Kate Embers: Hello there ^^

Rainsong: We’ll also be discussing the difference between “Science as an Institution” and “Science as a Method of Inquiry”, as the two are too often conflated.

Rainsong: Hi, Kate.

Rainsong: Does anyone have any questions before we dive into this?

Kate Embers: nope

Rainsong: If you were to consult Google-sensei’s dictionary, for a Friendly Definition, you would find “scientific method” defined as “a method of procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.”

Rainsong: Generally speaking, that procedure is followed by the publication of the results, so that other people can check to see if they notice any errors in procedure and any things that could be improved, and also to attempt to replicate the results.

Rainsong: In most cases, the observation is followed by the development of a “hypothesis.” This is basically a guess based on the observations… and, vitally, this “guess” must be something that could conceivably be disproven. “Bear-paw ice cream is superior in all ways to Double Chocolate Fudge ice cream” is an opinion that can neither be proven nor disproven. Therefore, it cannot be a hypothesis.

Rainsong: By contrast, “Red marbles roll down the scratching post faster than orange marbles.”

Rainsong: This can be tested, by rolling red and orange marbles down the same scratching post, recording how long it takes for them to cover the same distance, and comparing the speeds.

Rainsong: If the speed of the red marbles is higher than the orange marbles, then the hypothesis would appear to be correct.

Rainsong: If the speed of the red marbles is the same as the orange marbles, or if the speed of the red marbles is lower than the orange marbles, the hypothesis has been disproven.

Rainsong: Of course, most hypotheses are not quite that easy to test, but the basic concept holds.

Rainsong: Questions so far? Comments?

Raggiedmon: Not from me

Rainsong: Alright, in the marble example, the experiment was simple, and could probably be put together in ten or fifteen minutes.

O_keeper: Good Day All!

Rainsong: Hi, O_Keeper

Rainsong: Sometimes, the experiment is entirely observational.

Rainsong: Example: “Gyrfalcons are grey with black flecks.”

Rainsong: Experiment: Search out and look at (preferably also photograph or videorecord) gyrfalcons in various parts of their range.

Rainsong: Result: Some Gyrfalcons are grey with black flecks. Some Gyrfalcons are white with black flecks, and some are black with black flecks.

Rainsong: (the black flecks on black background are visible because of changes in the texture of the feathers, in case you’re wondering)

Rainsong: Then you’d publish your results, probably with pictures of the three colour phases of Gyrfalcons, so that more people could know more about Gyrfalcons, thus contributing to knowledge. Then, if someone encountered brown Gyrfalcons, or noticed that grey Gyrfalcons were more common in the “western” part of the range, they could write a reply adding more information to the general knowledge about Gyrfalcons.

Rainsong: Gyrfalcons are large predatory birds, largest of the falcons. As far as I know, there are no brown ones, but the three known colour phases can occur in the same clutch of chicks.

Rainsong: Your trivia for the day.

Rainsong: So, with the data from that experiment, the hypothesis hasn’t been disproven. If the hypothesis was “All Gyrfalcons are grey with black flecks,” then it would have been disproven.

Rainsong: Questions? Comments?

Rainsong: It is important to note that, while a hypothesis must be able to be disproven, it is not necessary that it can be entirely proven.

Rainsong: Let’s change the hypothesis to “All swans are white” and pretend that we are in England. All the swans native to the northern hemisphere are white. If you can’t get to Australia and New Zealand, you might never find out that your hypothesis is incorrect.

Rainsong: To take an example closer to our channel topic, someone could start with a hypothesis of “Associative Remote Viewing is bogus nonsense that only works in fiction.”

Rainsong: The way to test this is to take some targets that can be objectively verified, and try using ARV on those targets.

Rainsong: If it works, then the hypothesis has been disproven.

Rainsong: But what if it doesn’t work?

Rainsong: The negative result is consistent with the hypothesis.

Rainsong: However, it does not prove the hypothesis.

Rainsong: Someone else may come along later, repeat the same experiment, and get positive results. (If, for example, the RVers in the replicating experiment were better at it than the ones in the first test.)

Rainsong: Questions at this point? Commentary?

rowinha: Only that prove/disprove is entirely dependent on the type of hypothesis.

Rainsong: True

rowinha: Only concrete statements can be concretely disproven. Statistical statements…can only really statistically approximate a proof/disproof.

rowinha: Which is part of the problem with RV; the need for “statistically significant” deviations from baseline random.

rowinha: As opposed to disproving, say, the speed of light. :upsidedown:

Rainsong: 😀

rowinha: done muddling the argument. You may continue.

Rainsong: Thanks for the comments.

Rainsong: The paper that was supposed to be discussed in the last Journal Club was a reply to a study, by the way.

Rainsong: Also, when some of us were discussing this class a few weeks ago, Wayfarer said, “Parapsychological research has long since moved on from trying to prove these things are real to trying to understand what they are like. Process oriented research is the new standard. There is more than enough evidence of anomalous cognition, intuition, and so on that an honest evaluation will necessarily concede. The only hold-outs who are rejecting things based on scientific theory are dogmatists who don’t understand the processes of science, so parapsychology has simply moved on.”

Rainsong: That does not refute Rowinha’s comment about the difficulty with statistically significant results in RV.

Rainsong: One of my instructors did the experiment I mentioned regarding ARV. He used several common stocks on the NYSE, and predicted the results for those stocks…buying and selling accordingly.

Rainsong: He felt that the stock market would provide a good objective target.

Rainsong: I’ll be pulling out some of the papers about his adventure later this week, for someone else. I’ll attach the links to the log.

Rainsong: Spoiler alert: Even his detractors admit it worked.

Rainsong: Alright, that’s the Scientific Method…. Science as a verb. The means of inquiry.

Rainsong: Or, as I think of it, “Real Science”

Rainsong: Then, there’s Science as an Institution.

Rainsong: AKA, Science as a noun.

Azarea: question: why capitalize science?

Rainsong: Hi, Azarea.

Rainsong: Because I’m very deliberately using it as a proper noun in this context.

Azarea: (hi. Sorry to butt in like that)

Rainsong: You’ve probably heard that scientists can lose their reputation if they investigate certain topics.

Rainsong: And that there are sub-topics that academic journals will not cover in their area of publication.

Rainsong: These are both true, by the way.

Rainsong: And it’s because of the “Science as an Institution” thing.

Rainsong: In most cases, it’s a human-nature thing: The top dogs will lose their status if their stuff is no longer “correct”… and that conflicts directly with the “Science as a Method” thing, since the idea of the latter is to get more information and understanding.

Rainsong: In some cases, the “known data” becomes almost a religion, and anyone looking into anything that might topple the “accepted order” is heretical.

Rainsong: It’s more of a problem in the younger, softer sciences. cough cough Psychology cough cough

Rainsong: And it will become more of a problem in the future than it is now, as fewer tenure-track research positions are available. The primary purpose of “tenure” at a university was to protect researcher/professor types when they investigated topics that went against the grain.

Rainsong: Example: a prof at work has published studies about the effects of QiGong on some medical conditions. She has tenure.

Rainsong: You’ve probably heard people say that “Science doesn’t believe in /accept such-and-such,” particularly in parapsychology. Or, in pharmacology, “Science thinks that such-a-drug works on that-symptom because of this mechanism.”

Rainsong: That’d be “Science as an Institution” / the scientific establishment that those people are referring to, whether or not they are correct about what the scientific establishment thinks.

Rainsong: And, I’m going to tuck another example in here. This one’s real, and happened at work, a few years ago.

Rainsong: There’s a prof who works in a different department, and she’s a bigwig in her chosen field.

Rainsong: Because of her background, she was unfamiliar with energy work -psionic or otherwise- but she had obviously heard of it. (She’s not from around here.)

Rainsong: It came up somehow, while talking with the then-head of my department. And she said she’d never heard or seen any evidence to suggest that energy working actually worked.

Rainsong: The person she was talking to has severe back problems, and said that energy-healing had worked on his back, when morphine failed.

Rainsong: Her reply? “Hmmm. Sounds like evidence to me.” And then she looked into it a bit more.

Rainsong: Questions or commentary at this point?

Rainsong: Apparently not.

Rainsong: Okay.

Rainsong: Now for the social club’s view of science…

Rainsong: The scientific method is a good thing.

Rainsong: It’s better to try something out and learn whether or not it’s bogus than to just take people’s word for stuff.

Rainsong: It’s also important to remember that published material sometimes has a deliberate bias (eg, the 1995 report on remote viewing, which was very obviously intended to bury the program, rather than report accurate data — obvious by the way it was conducted. Not by the results in the report).

Rainsong: And sometimes, published material is simply horse-pucky.

Rainsong: Wading through and learning to determine which is which takes time and experience.

Rainsong: Knowing what the scientific method is, and what it can and cannot be usefully used for, is also important.

Rainsong: Our community is a social club, and it started out being a psionic social club… hence the name.

Rainsong: We’ve become a bit more focused on education and scientific inquiry in the past fifteen years or so. And, other kinds of magic are represented amongst our regulars.

Rainsong: Science can’t tell you whether or not psionics is better or worse than chaos magic or omnimancy or kitchen witchcraft, on its face.

Rainsong: It can potentially tell you whether a certain psionic method of, for example, charging a camera battery is faster or more effective – or slower or less effective – than a certain kitchen witch method, or a certain chaos method, or a certain omnimancy method of attempting the same effect.

Rainsong: Does that make sense?

Rainsong: One of the reasons we don’t espouse a particular model of how psionics – or other energy work – works is that, so far, there hasn’t been any solid scientific evidence to support one of the models over the others. Many of the working models get results for at least some people at least some of the time, but that doesn’t mean that the model reflects reality. There are several perfectly valid ways to get stuff to work, with often opposing ideas about how, so we’re still pretty early on in the “how does this work?” inquiry.

Rainsong: Oh, I should mention “theories”

Rainsong: In normal, casual conversation, a “theory” is much like a guess about something.

Rainsong: In scientific contexts, the word “theory” isn’t quite the same.

Rainsong: I’m going to nab Wikipedia’s definition this time: “A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. Such fact-supported theories are not ‘guesses’ but reliable accounts of the real world.”

Rainsong: In other words, it develops out of a bunch of experiments from those hypotheses we talked about earlier.

rowinha: (except for things like string theory, with absolutely no data)

rowinha: (sorry, rain, couldn’t help myself)

Rainsong: (Yea, and then we open an even bigger can of worms…)

rowinha: Ahem. Continue. :upsidedown:

Rainsong: It’s all good.

Rainsong: As you can see, the whole “science” thing can get a little complicated.

Rainsong: And because folks often conflate spirituality with psionics – possibly because many other kinds of magic are associated with religious practice – it can get pretty weird.

Rainsong: One of the detractors of the ARV experiment I mentioned objected to it because the guy who did the experiment was doing energy stuff with… money! The horror of it.

Rainsong: And, worse, he made a lot of money in a short period of time by using ARV to get better than normal results when playing the stock market.

Rainsong: Yes, there are people who have a problem with using magic to your own advantage.

Rainsong: If you are one of them, don’t use magic to your own advantage. No problem.

Rainsong: Any questions? comments?

Azarea: do you consider calling ARV magic accurate use of words, or was this more a slipup?

Azarea: also, am interested in said paper about the ARV stock market thing

Rainsong: I consider ARV to be a subcategory of psionics. Psionics is widely – although not universally – seen as a subcategory of magic.

Azarea: do you know of any research that pits different magical models against each other?

Rainsong: There are some broad comparative observational studies, but I don’t have many readily to hand that actively research such comparisons.

Azarea: ok

Rainsong: The research I do know about tends to be comparing variants of roughly the same kinds of thing. For example, comparing EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) to EDMR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing).

Rainsong: And comparing cupping on its own to cupping with acupuncture.

Rainsong: Any other comments or questions?

rowinha: You know how I can always tell when science as an institution is at play? When any evidence toward a disbelieved hypothesis “must be a hoax but we’ll wait for the Nth confirmation”, or when any contradiction to a believed hypothesis means “science is broken! :scream:”. That’s how I know.

Rainsong: Yep

Rainsong: In reality, of course, any contradiction to a believed hypothesis means “more data has been acquired” or “more data is needed”

rowinha: Or, you know, that hypothesis might be wrong.

rowinha: Galileo is a great example ‘f Science as an institution at work.

Rainsong: True

Rainsong: (The “more data has been acquired” can result in the hypothesis being shown to be wrong. “Hey, dudes, there are black waterfowl with really necks and legs farther forward than a goose’s here. That’s a bloody black swan!” )

Rainsong: Looks like we’ve come to the end of this evening’s seminar.

Rainsong: Thanks for participating, everyone.

Rainsong: As noted, I’ll add links to the ARV studies in the logs

Raggiedmon: Thank for lecture

Rainsong: Thanks for participating 😀

Kate Embers: thanks <3

Rainsong: Here’s one of them: And a summary… Other copy of the first: (I’m doing a Google search because I don’t have it at hand at the moment… and adding it in here for reference)

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