Friday, September 22, 2006

Irreproducibility

I think one reason science, while admired and appreciated, gets such a bad rap from the general public is that anything that doesn't fall under the domain of the Scientific Method is summarily dismissed.

What I mean by the Scientific Method is first, your subject of interest must be observable, then you must be able to describe this subject with enough clarity to hypothesize how it works. From your hypothesis, you would then make predictions about your subject of interest, and you would create and carry out experiments to test your predictions. The experiment part is often repeated many times to determine if the hypothesis is accurate.

There are a lot of things that don't fall under the domain of the Scientific Method, which doesn't necessarily mean that they aren't true. It just means that it is silly to look at them from a scientific viewpoint. Now this little prelude is not leading up to some deep discussion of pseudoscience or religion or the paranormal.

Old Wives Tales.

There are reasons these things stick around.

1) They have been around for a while (hence "old")
2) Wives tell them so they should be believed
3) If you say something enough times it's gotta be true, right?

How about the one: "It's fun until someone loses an eye?"

Should we subject this one to the Scientific Method? Or should we just take it at face value?

Apparently we should subject it to the Scientific Method. Did you know that the seemingly playful activity of egging a person (throwing an egg at someone, i.e. a politician) can actually cause damage if it hits them in the eye? Warning: This link will take you to the actual article published in a british medical journal.

As a science communicator I constantly comb the scientific literature for what is going on and to see what is relevant to me and to you. I have noticed that - in this blog - I tend to pick on studies that seem ridiculous and "why botherish". I guess one of my big beefs is that not everything should be submitted to the Scientific Method. The Scientific Method is a good way to test a hypothesis, but some things just need to be taken on faith.

Also this kind of stuff is really easy to talk about.

2 comments:

R2K said...

: )

Anonymous said...

" .... first, your subject of interest must be observable, then .... "

Observability is a highly objective notion.