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Post Reply What are some scientific "facts" people say a lot that are wrong?
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Posted 12/14/16 , edited 12/14/16

auroraloose wrote:


ran76 wrote:

That a "theory" is an idea that is, so far, unproven. That's pretty much the opposite of what a scientific theory actually is.


The sentiment you're expressing is right, but it's actually the case that none of our theories are ever proven correct. So whenever someone says, "Science has proven [thing]," that's always incorrect. The best we can do is come up with explanation schemes (theories) that don't lead to contradictions with our observations, and the schemes may be wrong.


Wow someone else is talking about underdetermination


auroraloose wrote:

It is in fact still very much an open question in philosophy whether the hypothesis or the evidence comes first.


Absolutely everything is a posteriori

There is no such thing as "pure reason"
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Posted 12/15/16 , edited 12/15/16

auroraloose wrote:


PeripheralVisionary wrote:


auroraloose wrote:


runec wrote:


ran76 wrote:
That a "theory" is an idea that is, so far, unproven. That's pretty much the opposite of what a scientific theory actually is.


This one has practically become the cornerstone of anti-intellectualism in recent years.



It is fashionable in the current political climate to talk about the danger of distrusting scientists and their theories, but too easily trusting scientific theories can be and has been just as dangerous. I'm not sure what's actually the cornerstone of anti-intellectualism these days, but feigning intellectualism certainly doesn't help. That scientists like Bennett constantly have to remind people that science can't prove anything indicates how deeply this error has penetrated.


I imagine a lot of it is political affiliation and tribal instincts propelling those to gather with similar beliefs, and more so feelings. Though you are right, few to nothing is known for certain, the fact that people pick and choose which science facts to "disbelieve" on such a standard while espousing the opposite or opposing theories are absolutely true is complete bullcrap. Few things are known for certain, beside the fact that contradictions are by nature false. It is an inconsistent standard as I see it. It is basically choosing your favorite football team or political party, as if it matters which sides states which idea, and than aligning your statement and beliefs to reflect that of your personal establishment.



You are correct. Scientists themselves are tribal. Here is how scientists actually function (according to Thomas Kuhn, and I think it's difficult to argue with this):

1. You, the initiate, go to science school and are taught the prevailing theories of the day. They are presented as correctly describing the world (often in opposition to past theories, which are considered somewhat backwards).
2. Your job is presented as collecting the rest of the phenomena currently unexplained by the prevailing theories under a better, more expansive formulation of the prevailing theories. You create this more expansive formulation by learning how the prevailing theories solve certain classes of problems - usually the ones most important to the establishment of the prevailing theories.
3. Once you have been taught how to view the world according to the prevailing theories, you go out and think about/look at the currently unexplained phenomena. If you see something that doesn't seem to fit with the prevailing theories, you come up with/contrive a reason why it actually does fit with the prevailing theories, as you were taught. If you can't do that, you explain the anomaly away: it was somehow an error. I'll say that again: when you see something that doesn't fit with the prevailing theories, you don't conclude the prevailing theory is wrong. You try to fudge it.
4. When do you decide that the prevailing theories are wrong and need to be replaced? When the issues become bothersome enough to the scientific community, or to society. Maybe there are too many anomalies that disagree with the prevailing theory, as was the case before Einstein formulated special relativity. Or maybe millions of people get killed under the rationalizations of a theory and it then falls out of fashion, as happened with eugenics. What bothers scientists - or what makes them spend time thinking about certain subjects - is by no means objective.

This picture - and arguments like it - are the products of 20th-century philosophy and history of science (during the time Neil deGrasse Tyson thinks nothing was happening in philosophy) and were and continue to be incredibly distressing to the scientific community. It is the scientists themselves who make the rules as to what counts as evidence, or good arguments. There's no guidebook to the universe that instructs us how to appropriately examine objective reality. We scientists also decide what it's important to think about: After Aristotle was reintroduced to Western Europe in the middle ages, the "scientists" (that's not what they called themselves) were worried that Aristotle's characterization of the universe as finite (composed of concentric celestial spheres with no empty space) contradicted God's omnipotence. If God is omnipotent, he ought to be able to move the universe. But if the universe is finite in extent, there's nowhere God could move it to. It was decided that God wins out over Aristotle, and that thus the universe must be infinite so that God can move the celestial spheres around. Is that science? We would say no, it isn't. But the standard of no supernatural arguments or explanations didn't exist back then, and they arrived at the right answer.

What scientists have done (science itself does nothing) over time is deal with enough problems that we've developed a good scheme for analyzing the universe. We have peer review, standards for evidence, requirements of reproducibility, journals, grad schools, and the like. We are now able to explain a lot of stuff we couldn't before, and we trust the explanations and methods that were able to get us to where we are. Kuhn would say that scientists' willingness to fudge things instead of immediately overturn the prevailing theories is good - it stabilizes the community so that things don't get too uncertain.

One of the things I haven't mentioned here is truth: scientists can determine the truth of observation statements (yes, there is a sun), but we can't necessarily tell you whether our theoretical frameworks are true. We may even postulate entities (like phlogiston) that don't actually exist. We used to think it was always possible to say whether one event happened before another, but that depends on how far away from each other they happened, and how much time passed between the two events. So absolute simultaneity is actually a concept that doesn't exist in this universe. Really the best we can do is say that we're pretty damn sure our theories make sense. And in a very real sense, "pretty damn sure" means "I'd bet a lot of money I'm right." But the possibility always remains that we're wrong. That doesn't mean we should always worry about that possibility, or entertain people who say we should worry - scientists are pretty damn sure global warming is happening. But giving ourselves license to think we never have to worry is dangerous, because we will miss what's actually going on in the universe if we do. And a lot of money can ride on that.

The other thing I haven't mentioned is the scientific method. I personally think there is no such thing as the scientific method - at least, not much more than what I described above. I definitely think the "hypothesis - evidence - theory - law" formulation we learn in school is bullshit. It is in fact still very much an open question in philosophy whether the hypothesis or the evidence comes first.

I'm sorry I can't give you anything more concrete as a foundation for scientific truth than how much money we'd be willing to bet a theory is correct.

Ah I see. Taking some time to digest, but is this a response to the nature of trust in most any situations and truth I mentioned earlier in a similar sized text? In any case, I am sorry I do not see you around more, for you provide interesting knowledge that I and many others can barely comprehend without hours of thought, much less that of the knowledge to properly framework. The forums are crap anyway.

The sun example was very helpful, although to nitpick, it can be subjected to some scrutiny in the nature of reality, but this would my brain to reason it out in simple sentences, since it is early in the morning and I haven't had my cup of coffee yet. :(

Plus, it would be missing the point.
Posted 12/15/16
How can a hypothesis be formed with no evidence or observation as a basis for its formation?

That's kinda like saying dont worry about that wheat over there, we'll just start with bread.
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Posted 12/15/16
No, it's more like saying:

Hypothesis -- "I think the Sun is powered by teenage sexual frustration" leading to the Theory of Solarsexual Thermogenesis leading to the Law of Solarsexual Thermostatics.
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Posted 12/15/16

nanikore2 wrote:


auroraloose wrote:

The sentiment you're expressing is right, but it's actually the case that none of our theories are ever proven correct. So whenever someone says, "Science has proven [thing]," that's always incorrect. The best we can do is come up with explanation schemes (theories) that don't lead to contradictions with our observations, and the schemes may be wrong.


Wow someone else is talking about underdetermination


Who was the first person? I'm relatively new around here and don't know everyone.


nanikore2 wrote:


auroraloose wrote:

It is in fact still very much an open question in philosophy whether the hypothesis or the evidence comes first.


Absolutely everything is a posteriori

There is no such thing as "pure reason"


It's been a while since I've thought about the rationalism/empiricism debate, but in this case I was referring to the current debate between inductivism and hypothetico-deductivism (and variants).
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Posted 12/15/16 , edited 12/15/16

PeripheralVisionary wrote:

Ah I see. Taking some time to digest, but is this a response to the nature of trust in most any situations and truth I mentioned earlier in a similar sized text? In any case, I am sorry I do not see you around more, for you provide interesting knowledge that I and many others can barely comprehend without hours of thought, much less that of the knowledge to properly framework. The forums are crap anyway.


I appreciate the compliment, but don't sell yourself short. It's true I know a lot about science, and philosophy and history of science, but science is also my job. There are plenty of things I wouldn't be able to understand without hours of thought and don't possess the best frameworks for understanding - economics, biology, and psychology being just the few I could think of off the top of my head.

I actually like the forums (though I only really hang around GD and a few anime discussion threads). Because even if I live in the Ivory Tower, I am far from master of all ideas; the fact remains that large collections of people spouting random things can - and do - actually come up with good stuff that never would have occurred to me otherwise. Sure, there's a lot of garbage, but even the garbage shows me how people behave and so has something to teach. The internet is a fascinating thing.


PeripheralVisionary wrote:

The sun example was very helpful, although to nitpick, it can be subjected to some scrutiny in the nature of reality, but this would my brain to reason it out in simple sentences, since it is early in the morning and I haven't had my cup of coffee yet. :(

Plus, it would be missing the point.


Yeah, you can get way too deep with questions like, "Is the sun real?" In this case I just wanted to give an example of an observation scientists can verify: we can all go outside and see that there's a sun; that's not false. Whether the sun is an enormous ball of hydrogen producing energy from fusion or the blinding brilliance of Sailor Galaxia having sex with Goku is a different story.
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Posted 12/15/16

auroraloose wrote:

Schrödinger's cat is both alive and dead.

NO. A MILLION NOs.

I HATE Schrödinger's cat references and jokes. Because they always mess it up - and are all cutesy about how "weird" and "mysterious" quantum mechanics is. Knowing Schrödinger's cat is a thing does not make you cool, or smart. If you talk about it too much, it probably means you're one of the people contributing to the infantilization of our society's understanding of science. STOP IT. Here, let me tell you what it's appropriate to conclude about Schrödinger's cat (from the Copenhagen interpretation, which is really the best we can do at the moment):

When it is put into the box and the poison mechanism is set up, the cat is no longer a system for which the states "alive" and "dead" exist. It's not both alive and dead, and I'd even be wary of saying it's neither alive nor dead. You just can't ask that question. The information doesn't exist.
a cat that's dead and alive is a zombie cat.
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Posted 12/15/16

ran76 wrote:

That a "theory" is an idea that is, so far, unproven. That's pretty much the opposite of what a scientific theory actually is.
only a person who doesn't know what a scientific theory is would write this.
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Posted 12/15/16

cdarklock wrote:


auroraloose wrote:

Schrödinger's cat is both alive and dead.

NO. A MILLION NOs.



Kind of like the uncertainty principle: the more precisely you know the position of a particle, the less precisely you know its velocity.

Well, see, velocity is calculated from the delta of multiple position measurements. If you have exactly one position measurement, and are hence 100% certain of the particle's position, you can't possibly have a velocity measurement and are therefore 0% certain of the velocity.

Why this is regarded as somehow significant is beyond me.


I think it's okay to think of position/velocity measurements that way.

One practical reason the uncertainty principle is important is that, without uncertainty, physicists couldn't explain why the electrons in atoms don't just fall into the nuclei, making molecules and chemistry impossible. (Admittedly, there are a few steps I left out of that, but they'd take a long time to explain.)

Uncertainty in quantum mechanics isn't magical; it works just like uncertainty in statistics.
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Posted 12/15/16

FlyinDumpling wrote:


ran76 wrote:

That a "theory" is an idea that is, so far, unproven. That's pretty much the opposite of what a scientific theory actually is.
only a person who doesn't know what a scientific theory is would write this.


http://www.livescience.com/21491-what-is-a-scientific-theory-definition-of-theory.html
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Posted 12/15/16

FlyinDumpling wrote:


auroraloose wrote:

Schrödinger's cat is both alive and dead.

NO. A MILLION NOs.

I HATE Schrödinger's cat references and jokes. Because they always mess it up - and are all cutesy about how "weird" and "mysterious" quantum mechanics is. Knowing Schrödinger's cat is a thing does not make you cool, or smart. If you talk about it too much, it probably means you're one of the people contributing to the infantilization of our society's understanding of science. STOP IT. Here, let me tell you what it's appropriate to conclude about Schrödinger's cat (from the Copenhagen interpretation, which is really the best we can do at the moment):

When it is put into the box and the poison mechanism is set up, the cat is no longer a system for which the states "alive" and "dead" exist. It's not both alive and dead, and I'd even be wary of saying it's neither alive nor dead. You just can't ask that question. The information doesn't exist.
a cat that's dead and alive is a zombie cat.


only if you go by the voodoo definition of zombie... if you squint...

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Posted 12/15/16

ran76 wrote:


FlyinDumpling wrote:


ran76 wrote:

That a "theory" is an idea that is, so far, unproven. That's pretty much the opposite of what a scientific theory actually is.
only a person who doesn't know what a scientific theory is would write this.


http://www.livescience.com/21491-what-is-a-scientific-theory-definition-of-theory.html


From the Live Science article:


A scientific theory is not the end result of the scientific method; theories can be proven or rejected, just like hypotheses.


The article is okay, but it's pretty sloppy. It's fairly obvious the author is neither a scientist nor qualified to talk about science (she doesn't even possess a bachelor's degree). Theories cannot be proven. I find it disturbing that an organization as large as Live Science doesn't even possess the editing capabilities of a dumb grad student.
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Posted 12/15/16
That man is the cause for climate change.
There is nothing we can do to effect the climate
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Posted 12/15/16 , edited 12/16/16
Even though Xmas is seen as having a secular meaning, it actually has religious roots.

"X" meaning Christ in Greek, with the usage dating back to 1700.
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Posted 12/15/16

Madhatter8 wrote:

That man is the cause for climate change.
There is nothing we can do to effect the climate


you are joking right?
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