Archive for the ‘Epistemology of Science’ Category

I am a social scientist.

12 Oct

I have taught stats and research design on the University level. I am published in the scientific literature in critiquing other studies and pointing out methodological flaws. Yeah, I pretty much know what I’m talking about.

But even I am shocked by the level of outright fraud among social scientists. Things I was taught in my very first Psychology class were shown to be a fraud (see: Kitty Genovese)! In truth, I was totally bowled over by that.

Remember, there is a HUGE incentive to get published so you can get tenure and then live on Easy Street for the rest of your life (no other institution that I know of has tenure, and for good reason). And there are many other reasons for the fraud, as well. So it is no surprise whatsoever that there is fraud. I just didn’t know it was so widespread, and in “core” studies.

It makes one skeptical of science. It’s not that the method itself is bad, but it appears that a large number of people who do science are dishonest and mere hacks (see: Climate “Science”). They are shilling for a certain world-view or are just concerned about themselves. I mean, science is one (of several) great ways of knowing. But there’s no question that it can be corrupted. And it makes me worried that these people make it so we are indeed rudderless on a godless sea. What this does is make people more skeptical of science itself. That is a shame.

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Posted in Epistemology of Science, Scientific Fraud


We need to understand

13 Jul

how science is actually done. Correctly, that is. See, science is a  method, a sort of epistemology. It is NOT determined by subject matter! It is a way of knowing. There’s a reason we talk about scientific method. That’s because science is indeed a method, not a subject matter.

We need to understand that the emphasis is on falsifiability because to focus on verifiability is to fall into the logical fallacy of Affirming The Consequent (upon which all science is ultimately based, anyway–the Major Premises are never tested, only the Minor Premises and THAT precludes Cartesian surety in the first place–the Major Premises are just assumed, but never tested), but falsifiability helps a great deal from a practicality standpoint). So we focus on ruling OUT a hypotheses rather than “proving” some assertion. The idea is that if you rule out every possible explanation, what is left is true, or at least it is a platform for your assertion. You can NEVER prove something true, only prove alternatives false.

ALL valid scientific hypotheses are falsifiable. See, Freudian constructs are not falsifiable, and are therefore not scientific, for example–it is a “rubber sheet.” You MUST be able to say, “If I see A then B is categorically ruled out.” Similarly, “Global Warming” assertions are simply not scientific–they are not falsifiable. When anything at all “proves” a theory, the theory is scientifically worthless. So at heart, “Global Warming” is not scientific at all–is is merely bald assertion cloaked in the robes of science.

See, the science, real science, is NEVER settled. It can’t be, or it isn’t science at all. You can never prove something true–you can only prove alternative hypotheses false, but it is not logically possible to rule out every possible (not just likely) explanations, if only because you can’t test outside of the space-time continuum. Therefore, there is no Cartesian certainty and all scientific knowledge is uncertain to some degree. It is simply in principle not possible for it to be otherwise. A real scientist leans to live with that uncertainty.

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26 May


Yeah, Science is bastardized, and it is too bad. We live in a truly post-modern world where there ARE no facts, only opinions. Now if the opinions were buttressed by actual evidence…

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Posted in Dishonesty, Epistemology of Science, Scientific Fraud


You wouldn’t want

06 Mar

to be a science denier, would you? But it’s one food myth tumbling after another…

Look, I’m not saying that a high-fat, high-salt diet is ideal. I’m saying the we need to be a little scientifically minded, here. Instead, we have let political food police rule the day.

It’s not just food…

But we need to understand that this goes far beyond a single issue. This goes directly at Science itself. It strikes quite directly at the heart of Science’s truth-claims.

I mean, why is it that dietary “knowledge” changes every few years? Is there nothing sure? And if it changes, how is that real knowledge?

And this strikes at the heart of whether or not scientific knowledge is itself reliable. It certainly is one good way of knowing, but I don’t think logically it’s the only way. Every bit of scientific knowledge is filtered through a subjective human being.

Yes, I understand that these are deep waters, indeed. It strikes at the very core of all knowledge. I mean, if a certain method cannot guarantee truth, what can? In that case it has to be something other than something derived from sensory experience that produces real knowledge. Yet that kind of evidence is often derided as “subjective.” In that case, theory is primary and “data” are secondary. I think that is very clearly true.

In this case, the issue is not really what they data say, but what you are, and scientific studies are merely a platform for that. In short, truth is bound up in a way of being, and “facts’ are ultimately unreliable. Yet that is rationalism and pretty much discredited in the modern mind.

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Posted in Epistemology of Science, Nutrition, Philosophy of Science


Almost for sure

09 Feb

the biggest scientific fraud of all time.

The Perfect Storm

But I think there are reasons for this “perfect storm.”

1- “Science” is almost deified as a way of knowing. People pretend that it is the ONLY valid epistemology. It is laden with prestige. So anyone who can make a plausible claim of scientific knowledge is given a lot of deference. The skeptical lay public often just shrug and figure that they simply don’t understand–it is beyond them.

2- Closely related is that many people are quite full of themselves and therefore want to attach themselves to science. They have been told from an early age that they are a “special snowflake” and they quite believe it. They all live in the town of Lake Woebegone, where all the children are above average. And so they show they are “smarter than the average bear” by holding to what they perceive as science. Anyone who questions their stance is “anti-science” and therefore can be dismissed out of hand–it is protective for them. Anyone who disagrees is a moron. No need to defend their positions, because they are preaching to the already converted and they rarely if ever bring these things up with those who might have a reasoned different POV.

3- Scientists have been willing to be dishonest, or at least very self-aggrandizing. At best you can say that they seriously lack introspection, and at worst they are just psychopaths who simply don’t care about lying if it benefits them.

4- This is a Lefty meme that doesn’t smack of Leftism on the surface. So the unwitting are even more easily had. Like the old saying goes, they are watermelons–green on the surface but red to the core. But being obviously red is a dog that don’t hunt, so they paint themselves as green.

And again, many are just not very introspective and so they never confront the issues directly. For example, I have strongly supported wilderness and other conservation all my life, (well, since my early teens) and yet I am conservative. I agree that I would not want to live in China because of the horrible pollution–that place looks like Mordor.



So you get a lot of people who are both fooled and who consider themselves virtuous for helping to fool others. It’s a bad cycle in terms of knowledge.

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Posted in "Global Warming", Epistemology of Science


Yet another example

18 May

of the demise of science. It’s fraud if you ONLY accept the knowledge that fits with your pre-conceived notions and things from your minions. THAT’s not science, it’s mere politics. Don’t get me wrong, I am a scientist and don’t believe that science is the end-all and be-all in terms of epistemology. But it is often very good, if done well. But too often it is not done well, and that is the problem. We don’t need to lose all faith in actual science, just in the bastardized form of it.

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Posted in Epistemology of Science, Scientific Fraud


It’s aggravating to me

24 Apr

to see nutritional myths promulgated like this. Really? This kind of crap utterly ruins science. Like the “Global Warming” lunatics, what they do discredits actual science. As a population, we should really get more sophisticated in terms of epistemology. These guys are pooping in the soup, so to speak. Science is a great way of knowing (not the only one), and we are getting to the point where we reject science because a) morons abuse it and b) we are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. They should stop giving us reasons to reject science. Don’t blame science, blame scientists.

As Glenn Reynolds said, Yet all the nutritional commands — like the command to avoid sunlight — have been issued in the Voice Of Authority, with doubters and skeptics condemned as disrespecters of science. There’s even the suggestion that the war on tobacco caused people who quit smoking to gain weight, with more cancers resulting from obesity than from cigarettes. If that proves out, will the anti-smoking folks be targeted like the tobacco companies were?

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Posted in Epistemology of Science, Nutrition


By definition, “Science” cannot produce Truth

04 Aug

I don’t think I can do  this without a look fairly long explanation. Let me try to make it as brief as I can.

We need to understand that science cannot produce truth. That is not to say that it is not a good way of knowing certain things, and I am very much scientifically-oriented. But it cannot, in principle, produce truth.

Let’s look at the basis of science. It is a logical argument, called “the syllogism.”

  • Major Premise(Antecedent): If I have the flu, I have a sore throat
  • Minor Premise (Consequent): I have a sore throat
  • Conclusion: Therefore, I have the flu

Now, the key here is to prove the antecedent true, not just the consequent. In fact, if I prove the consequent or minor premise true, it does not at all prove the conclusion is true. It is actually a logical fallacy called “affirming the consequent.”

The syllogism was then changed to an IF/THEN statement. In logical form, it is the same thing. IF sore throat, THEN flu. In this case, the major premise or antecedent was merely assumed.

All science is based on this logical fallacy of affirming the consequent. That’s why Popper and others have argued that you can never prove a major premise true but can only show that certain things are false. Science is not dispositive, it just gives you a forum to argue why you think you saw what you did. And your conclusion might be both correct and logically invalid. The major premise is just assumed and in fact can never be tested.

See, the conclusion is true If and only If every other conceivable explanation for the minor premise or the consequent is ruled out. Not likely explanations, but conceivable ones. That’s why people like Cook and Campbell went to such great lengths to delineate the threats to the validity of the conclusion. Mainly, they are threats to the If and only if aspect of the consequent. It is an argument. The fact that you have ruled out these other explanations only increases the strength of your argument. But let’s not be confused. This is persuasion, not a demonstration of incontrovertible fact unless you can rule out all other explanations, which you never can.

All science is based on affirming the consequent, not the antecedent. It is therefore logically fallacious and simply cannot get us to truth in a Cartesian sense (you know, Renée Descartes and his method of systematic doubt–the only thing he can know for sure is that he exists, because he knows he’s having a thought, and his having a thought is proof that he exists).

What does this all mean? In means that any scientific result is platform upon which you can stand to say why you think you found what you did. In other words, it allows you to explain and argue your major premise. It by no means proves that major premise.

This is not a fault in execution. It is not that you just didn’t do it right. No, it is a flaw in principle. To argue otherwise is just to stamp your foot and demand in a juvenile tantrum that things be different than they are.

Does that mean that science is not a great way of knowing? Not at all. In may, though, mean that science cannot bear the weight you put on it. That is not the fault of science. That is the fault of scientists. So look to science for utility, not TRUTH.

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Posted in Epistemology of Science


Is violence EVER moral?

29 Jul

Of course it is. Only a fool thinks otherwise.

Let’s say you were witnessing someone being brutally raped, and there is no way to get the police there before it happens. You could stop the assault by firing a gun at the attacker. What is the moral thing to do?

Well DUH! The only moral thing to do is to violently stop the attack. Yeah, violently. Hopefully with a weapon (even if you are wicked tough you might get injured or incapacitated in the scuffle, and THEN where would the innocent victim be?). So there is one instance that took me about a millisecond to think of where violence is the right thing to do. So don’t give me some mindless crapola about how one is never supposed to be violent. That is simply not true, and every thinking person in the world knows it.

I think that one should avoid force and violence as much as possible. One should slaughter a hog with regret. But violence is indeed the right thing to do at times. I like hamburgers as much as the next guy. The fact that I pay someone else to slaughter the cow by no means clears me of moral responsibility. If slaughtering a cow is immoral, so is eating a hamburger. And vice-versa. If eating a hamburger is NOT immoral, neither is slaughtering a cow.

How you know what to do yet again brings us to the root of all morality–epistemology.


In one amusing

19 Jul

episode of The Big Bang Theory, the geeks are arguing about how Superman could catch Lois Lane without cutting her in half. At one point, one character out of frustration says, “In what space, sir? In what space?”

It’s a great question. The character is imaginary, but the question is not.

Just how does that happen? What are the grounds for your assertion? Is it merely your preference? Maybe (to quote Charles Dickens) you just had a bit of bad beef.

The epistemological question is, “How do you know?” Upon what grounds are you standing? In what space, sir?

I honestly don’t mind disagreement. But there better be a good argument for what you believe. Otherwise, I may just dismiss it as “A bit of bad beef.” To paraphrase Socrates in the Theatetus, “Why should I believe you over a dog-faced baboon or some stranger creatures still?” Don’t just tell me about your feelings (I don’t really care about those in this setting), tell me on what facts you base your opinion. If it’s just your idiosyncratic preference, I don’t much care in terms of evidentiary value. Your feelings may well be important, but just not as evidence. Not so much, not really. It may well be the case that they are important for other reasons.

There are many things that might count as evidence. There is sense or even occult (hidden) evidence (such as God telling you something). But tell me why you believe what you believe.

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Posted in Epistemology of Science