Review of NOS 8

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Science Communication

LOLO.00.037

www.ut.ee/BG/scom

Session 8

Reflections on the

Nature of Science


Traditional v Contemporary
Model

of

the Nature of Science


TRADITIONAL CONTEMPORARY

1.
Science is only the
set of findings
called scientific
knowledge.

1.
Science is an
organi
s
ation of our
knowledge to help us
learn about nature.


Traditional versus Contemporary

2.

Explaining an event
consists of carefully
reducing that event to
known knowledge
.


2.

Science is part of
human progress and
creativity (Science is
life.)


3.

Progress consists of
discovering theories that
represent a closer
approximation to the

absolute truth.


3.

Science is a search
for findings (Science is a
process)
.


Traditional versus Contemporary

4.1. Science is
“doing
e
xperiments.”


4. Science

consists of many
disciplines and
processes.


4.2 The goal of
science is to find
the absolute truth.

4.2 Although science
is the pursuit of truth, it
is never known
whether the truth has
been attained.

Additional Contemporary views

5.1. Science is a competitive enterprise.

5.2. The popularity of scientific knowledge is
directly related to the prestige of the
people

who originated that knowledge.

5.3. The ease with which a scientist accepts
knowledge is directly related to how
close

the scientist’s paradigm (research
program, etc.) and the knowledge
paradigm are to

each other.

Traditional v Contemporary





Model

of

Scientific Knowledge




Scientific Knowledge

1. Scientific knowledge
corresponds directly to
reality.


1. The progression of
scientific knowledge is
not continuous.



Traditional v Contemporary

2. Scientific knowledge
increases by accretion
from observations.


2. Scientific knowledge
is tentative.


3. Scientific knowledge
progresses by an
accumulation of
observations.


3. Scientific knowledge
is created and validated
by common acceptance
within the scientific

community.


4. Scientific knowledge is
proven or disproven
owing to the direct
influence of
observations.

5.1. Scientific knowledge
is unchanging.


5.2. Scientific data must
not be interpreted by
the scientist.


4. Scientists create
knowledge based on
prior knowledge,
observation, and
logic.

5.1. The tentativeness
of knowledge is
related to how much
people work on it.

5.2. The truth is defined
as an accurate
description of nature.


Role of Scientists

1. A scientist evaluates
scientific claims
exclusively through
empirical evidence.

2. All actions of a
scientist are assumed
to be open
-
minded
and objective.

3. A scientist is
someone who uses
the traditional
scientific method.

1. The primary act of a
scientist is often a leap of
imagination or creativity.

2. A scientist interprets results
based on prior knowledge,
observation, logic, and
social

factors.

3. Scientists create theories
based on prior knowledge,
observation, and logic.


4. A scientist strives
to discover the
absolute truth.


5.1. Scientists must
avoid being
influenced by
anything outside
of “pure” science.

5.2. Scientists must
report data
exactly as their
senses perceive
it.


4. A

scientist works within the scientific
community evaluat
ing

&

contemplat
ing

the work

of other scientists.

5.1. Scientists make decisions before
inquiry
,

based on prior knowledge,
observation, logic,

and social factors.

5.2. A scientist is someone who is curious.

5.3. Scientists communicate with other
members of the community.

5.4. A scientist is influenced by past
research.

5.5. The first inclination of a scientist is to
try and integrate new knowledge into old

knowledge.

6
. Science relies on
precise control of
experiments (and
match with prediction)
for proof.

7.

The use of the
traditional scientific
method is necessary to
discover and validate
theories.

8
. There is a single
method for doing
science.

6
. Scientists are not
compelled to use the
traditional scientific
method.



7
. There is no single
scientific method.



8
. Methods used by
scientists depend on
circumstances.

What is ‘the Scientific Method’ ?

The traditional scientific method involved


Identifying a research question


Putting forward a hypothesis


Planning an experiment/intervention


Determining the parameters of the expt/intervention


Carrying out the expt/intervention, collecting data


Recording and interpreting/analysing the data


Presenting outcomes and drawing conclusions


1
. The scientific method is a
step
-
by
-
step process.



2
.1. The method must be
planned out in advance of
the inquiry.

2
.2. When a scientist uses
the traditional scientific
method correctly, the
results are true

without
doubt.

1
.1. Knowledge can be
gained by means other
than the scientific
method.

1
.2. Scientists can adjust
their method of inquiry in
the middle of an
investigation and

still
obtain valid results.

1
.3. The traditional scientific
method is simply one
possible guide for inquiry.


Theories in
the Nature of Science

1.
Theories are based directly
on observation.


2.
New theories are
improvements over old
theories because
observations improve and

increase over time.


3.
An entire theory is falsified
if subject to a single
contradictory fact.

1. Observations are theory
laden.


2. Theories are the inventions
of scientists.




3. The occurrence of a
contradictory fact does not
necessarily compel the
abandonment

of a theory.

4. A theory is a
hypothesis that has
been proven to be
correct.

5. Old theories are of no
use to scientists.

4. Theories are tools used to

describe, explain, and predict
scientific phenomena.


5. Theories fit within certain

paradigms.


6.1. A scientist’s initial notions of
where to start an inquiry are
theory laden.

6.2. Theories are validated by their
connection to other, generally
accepted theories.

6.3. Observations are influenced
by social factor
s.

Making false assumptions


While the scientific process follows an inherent
logic and links observations with inference, it also
builds on theories and utilises laws to illustrate
patterns.


But what about the making of assumptions in
making observations, carrying out interpretations,
or in deriving theories.


The following tries to illustrate this aspect.

STORY 1

There is a cabin on the side of a mountain. Three
people are inside and they are dead. How did they
die?



Answer: They were killed in a plane crash The three

people were the pilot, co
-
pilot, and navigator. They crashed
in snow storm.


False Assumption: That the cabin was a mountain cabin. It
was actually the cabin of a jetliner.


STORY 2

It is a hot August afternoon. The location is the living room in an
old Victorian mansion. The 7
-
foot (2m) window is open and the
curtains are blowing in the breeze generated by the
thunderstorm that just passed.

On the floor lie the bodies of Bill and Monica. They are
surrounded by puddles of water and broken glass. Please close
your eyes and picture the scene. Now change the picture.
Neither Bill nor Monica has any clothing on.

How did they die?



Answer: They suffocated. The storm winds blew open the window, which
knocked their fish bowl off the table, and it crashed onto the floor.


False assumption: That Bill and Monica are human. They are actually
goldfish.


STORY 3

A man is walking down the street, sees a bar and enters.
He asks the bartender for a glass of water. The bartender
pulls out a gun and points it at him. The man says “Thank
you” and leaves the bar.


What happened?


Answer: The man who asked for the glass of water had the
hiccups. The bartender pulled the gun to scare the hiccups
away.


False Assumption: That the bartender pulled the gun in
order to kill the man.

STORY 4

A woman leaves home and makes three left turns.
She returns home again. On the way, she passed
two women with masks.


Who were the two women?





Answer: The umpire and the catcher.


False Assumption: That the woman was walking on city streets. She really is on
a baseball field


STORY 5

A man and his son were rock climbing on a particularly
dangerous mountain when they slipped and fell. The man
was killed, but the son lived and was rushed to a hospital.
The old surgeon looked at the young man and declared, "I
can't operate on this boy: he is my son."


How can this be?





Answer: The old surgeon was the boy's mother


False Assumption: That the surgeon was a man.

STORY 6

Preston and his men searched the frozen tundra for
escaped convict Ben Barker. Just as they were about to
give up, one of Preston's men spotted a body. Barker was
found lying dead in the snow. There were no tracks leading
to or from the body. The cause of death was partially due to
the unopened pack on his back. Barker did not die of thirst,
hunger, or cold. What was in Barker's pack that led to his
death?


Answer: An unopened parachute.


False Assumption: That Barker’s “pack” was a backpack, not a parachute pack.
Also, he had arrived there somehow by land, not by air.




STORY 7

Two train tracks run parallel to each other, except for a short
distance where they meet and become one track over a
narrow bridge. One morning, a train speeds onto the bridge.
Another train coming from the opposite direction, also speeds
onto the bridge. Neither train can stop on the short bridge, yet
there is no collision. How is this possible?




Answer: The trains were crossing the bridge at different times of the
morning.



False Assumption: Sounds like the two trains had arrived there at the same
time; it was just the same morning.


STORY 8

Justin Summers owns a vacation house in northern Ontario
which has an A
-
shaped roof. One side of the roof faces north
and the other side faces south. The prevailing winds from the
north are usually quite strong. The strange thing is that the
stronger the north wind blows, the stronger the resulting
updraft on the south side of the roof. Therefore, if a rooster
was to lay an egg on the peak of the roof during a strong
northerly wind, on which side should the egg fall most of the
time?



Answer: Roosters don't lay eggs.


False Assumption: That the rooster, being a chicken, was a hen.

STORY 9

There is an ancient invention still used in some parts of the
world today that allows people to see through walls. What is
it?



Answer: Windows.


False Assumptions:

The walls are totally solid and opaque. The walls are not
part of a house. Somehow, windows weren’t “invented”.
Windows aren’t that ancient. “Some parts of the world”
means only a few places, not commonly found.

STORY 10

Sly Hand, the famous magician, claims he can tell
the score of any football game before it even starts.
Many think he is psychic and possesses
supernatural powers. How is it that he can be
accurate about the score 99 percent of the time?



Answer: There really is no magic. The score of any football game before it
starts is always “zero to zero”.


False Assumption: That the “score” was the final score. Also, we don’t
assume any score exists before the game begins.


STORY 11

It is a stormy, snowy day.


There is a man dead inside a shack. There are no windows and
the only door is locked from inside. There is no way in or out. The
man has a stab wound. There is a puddle of water and blood next
to him.


How did he die?



Answer: He stabbed himself with an icicle!


False Assumption: That the water was always liquid, and certainly not in the form of an
icicle, not to mention that suicide with an icicle is not very common!


Laws in the

Nature of Science

1. Scientific laws are found
directly in nature.

2. Scientists interpret the
laws found in nature.

3. Scientific laws can be
proven to be absolutely
true.

4. Laws are proven theories.

1. Laws are created by
scientists.

2. Laws are validated within
the scientific community.

3. Laws are a scientist’s
best attempt to explain
some part of nature.

Examining a Law


Volume is directly proportional to
temperature


V proportional to T i.e. V = constant x T


Or V/T = constant



www.chm.davidson.edu/ChemistryApp
lets/GasLaws/CharlesLaw.html


Facts


In science, an observation that has been
repeatedly confirmed and for all practical
purposes is accepted as "true."



Truth in science, however, is never final,
and what is accepted as a fact today may
be modified or even discarded tomorrow.


Hypotheses


A tentative statement about the natural world
leading to deductions that can be tested.


If the deductions are verified, it becomes more
probable that the hypothesis is correct. If the
deductions are incorrect, the original hypothesis
can be abandoned or modified.



Hypotheses can be used to build more complex
inferences and explanations.


Laws and Theories


L
aws
describe
relationships
, observed or perceived, of

phenomena in nature.


Theories are
inferred explanations

for

natural phenomena
and mechanisms for relationships among

natural
phenomena.


Hypotheses in science

may lead to either

t
heories or laws
with the accumulation of substantial supporting

evidence
and acceptance in the scientific community.


Theories

and laws do not progress into one and another
.

T
hey are distinctly and functionally

different types of
knowledge.


Back to the Questionnaire


Questions 5, 6, 7 which were asking about
Theories and Laws

Interpretation of Qu 5


Are scientific theories discovered ?
(A,B,C)



Are scientific theories invented ? (D,E,F)



Interpretation of Qu 6


Are theories related to laws ? (A)



Are scientific laws discovered ? (A,B,C)



Are scientific laws invented ? (C,D,E)

Interpretation of Qu 7



Are laws more definite than theories ?
(A,B,C)



Do theories become laws if there is
sufficient evidence? (B,



Or is it that theories and laws cannot be
compared ? (D)

Do we now have some

ideas how to describe the

Nature of Science ?


Discuss Nature of Science related to



Socially and culturally embedded,


Subjectivity,

Creativity,

Tentativeness,

Observation and Inference

Aspects of the Nature of Science

Socially and culturally embedded


Science is a
human endeavo
u
r

and is
influenced by the society and

c
ulture in
which it is practiced.

The values of the culture

determine what
and how science is conducted, interpreted,

accepted, and utili
s
ed.


Subjectivity


Science is influenced and driven by the presently accepted
scientific theories and laws
.


The development of questions, investigations, and
interpretations of data are filtered through

t
he lens of current
theory.


This is an unavoidable subjectivity

that allows science to
progress and remain consistent, yet also

contributes to
change in science

when previous evidence is

examined
from the perspective of new knowledge.


Personal

subjectivity

is also unavoidable.


Personal values, agendas, and

p
rior experiences dictate
what and how scientists conduct their

w
ork.

Creativity


Scientific knowledge is
created from human
imaginations

and

logical reasoning
.



This creation is based on observations and

inferences of the natural world.


Tentativeness

Scientific knowledge is
subject to change

with
new observations and with the reinterpretations
of existing observations.


Scientific knowledge is
based on and/or
derived from observations

of the natural
world.


Observation and Inference


S
cience is
based on both observation
and inference.



Observations

are gathered through human
senses or extensions of those

senses.


Inferences are interpretations of those
observations.



Perspectives of current science and the
scientist guide both

observations and
inferences. Multiple perspectives
contribute to

valid multiple interpretations
of observations.

Consider these two examples


Is the notion that hypothetical particles
(tachyons) may travel faster than light a
pseudoscientific idea?



Well this speculation was proposed by
scientists with perfectly respectable credentials,
and other respectable experimenters took time
to look for such particles. None have been
found. We no longer expect to find any, but we
do not consider the idea to have been
"unscientific".

Example 2


Is it scientific to hypothesise that one could
build a perpetual motion machine that
would run forever with power output, but
no power input?


Most scientists would answer "No."



What is the essential difference between
these two examples?


Possible responses


In the first case, the hypothetical tachyons
would not violate any known principles of
physics.


In the second case, a perpetual motion
machine would violate the very well
-
established laws of thermodynamics, and
also violate even more basic laws as well,
such as Newton's laws, and conservation
of momentum and angular momentum.




But are the laws and theories of science
sacred?



Of course not; they represent part of the
logical structure called "established
science" that is the culmination of our
accumulated scientific knowledge.


The tentativeness of science, or
science is not the truth !



We fully expect that future discoveries and insights will
cause us to modify this structure in some ways.


This won't invalidate the whole of science, for the old
laws and theories will continue to work as well as they
always did, but the newer structure may have more
precision, power, breadth or scope, and may have more
appealing conceptual structure.


Such continual evolution and modification of science is
gradual and generally changes only a small portion of
the vast edifice of science.


Once in a while, a "revolution" of thought occurs causing
us to rethink or reformulate a major chunk of science, but
even that doesn't make the old formulations wrong within
their original scope of applicability.

But …..


The seekers after perpetual motion are a
textbook example of the scientific impulse
gone astray.



They exhibit most of the qualities of
pseudoscientists as mentioned in session
4.


What is science ?


Science is a mode of generating and
evaluating ideas.


It is a way of thinking, knowing, working and
communicating about the natural and social
world.


It is both rational and subjective, both creative
and methodical, both speculative and logical.


Science is about being curious, investigating
and testing how the world works.


Science involves observing and
classifying, designing and building,
measuring and managing risks.


It is about perceiving and recording,
questioning and testing, arguing and
caring.


Science is not a unitary concept.


There is no single scientific method.
Certainly not the inductive myth from
Francis Bacon (1561
-
1626).

The End

I hope you now can answer the question
-

what is
science?


to a layman.

I invite you to write and essay of the Nature of
Science (which includes citing of references).


And on May 4 or 5 I invite you to discuss the
Nature of Science further, based on your own
presentations.

[On the website
www.ut.ee/BG/scom

there are a
number of articles which may be helpful.]