Re: Bias in Science, Part 2

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Date: Wed Jun 01 2005 - 07:12:05 EDT


I basically agree with you.

> &nbsp; 1) Nothing in my analysis depended on whether the conclusion was right or wrong. &nbsp;The methodology is not sound and therefore no conclusion can be drawn in either case. &nbsp;If "a serious flaw in our well established model" really exists, it needs to be shown through the most rigorous and disciplined methodology and repeated by independent labs. &nbsp;(Note that Baumgardner's paper only uses references to papers published by the authors of his paper--no independent results.) &nbsp;I have no vested interest except that the results and conclusions be accurate, whatever the consequences may be. &nbsp;Confidence depends on how thoroughly the authors followed high quality scientific procedures. &nbsp;

The quality of Baumgardner's work does fall quite sort.
But let's suppose that one of us (myself, or yourself,
or Michael, or Glenn for example) stumbled on some
very consistent measurements of coal that always comes
out to 6009 +/- 100 ybp (years before present). Suppose
the measurements are independent of the stratigraphy and
are clearly not layed down at the same time.
It's a stretch beyond the pale to imagine this,
but let's just suppose that it is sufficient
to pursuade us that there is something. Any one of the
above would _want_ to be sure about this.

Now we try to publish this. Obviously, we would not
write like Baumgardner et al making grandiose claims, we
would be circumspect, but we would still be obliged
to admit what we observed and we would have to say
something about the 6009 ybp. The title might be something
like "anamolous AMS dating of coal deposits from the
Pennsylvanian .... ".

Maybe I am wrong and it would get published in a
respected journal on geology. The chances of it
being dismissed as "creationist" are pretty high
no matter how intellectually honest the work is.

One thing is that we would be aware of that, but
still, honest science _could_ be dismissed.

> &nbsp; &nbsp;Let me pursue your hypothetical reasoning a little further and suppose that the best methodology showed a very young age for these samples and that independent results confirmed such a result. &nbsp;Until and unless there is a corresponding understanding and interpretation of all the data and experiments to the contrary, the result should remain in the "unexplained" category. &nbsp;Historically, radical new ideas do not contradict but encompass past observations. &nbsp;Quantum mechanics did not invalidate the results of classical mechanics but helped us understand those results better.

This is my impression also.

> &nbsp; &nbsp;2) The same approach must be used for everyone, no matter how respected. &nbsp;If a highly respected scientist advocates an erroneous result due to poor methodology, he or she will be quick to correct it when that is clarified. &nbsp;For example, one day a very highly respected scientist in our lab came to me to report the discovery of room temperature superconductivity. &nbsp;Skeptical but excited, I went to his lab and watched him repeat the experiment. &nbsp;Very impressive and carefully done. &nbsp;The next day another colleague spent a day examining the experiment and found a defective Zener diode in the lock-in amplifier. &nbsp;There went the Nobel prize. &nbsp;The incident was forgotten--almost. &nbsp;Only the three of us knew about it until now.

In principle yes. But suppose everything checked out.
The world is filled with sinners, and
some of them might have been working at ATT: naturally,
IBM has none. :-) The journal will probably send your
paper to ATT.

Fine that you make it clear what you have done, but
in this example, you are placing your work on the line,
and you have to protect your discovery from theft. IBM
might have a big enough budget to patent the invention
before it goes out, but the researcher in historically
black minority college might not.

This is deviationing from the main issue of your posts,
but clearly another bias in science can be skulduggery.

> &nbsp; &nbsp;Einstein was wrong--though we don't know if it was when he added the cosmological constant or when he withdrew it--maybe the latter. &nbsp;

I still think as a scientist, he showed good wisdom even if
he was wrong. One should resist planting "correction constants"
and "fenagling factors" into equations. Although quantum mechanics
seems to be "spooky", statistics without a foundation is very shaky.
We really have had to accept that one through reproducability alone.

>John Bardeen, the only person to get two Nobel prizes in Physics, was wrong on some other phenomena. &nbsp;I'm nowhere in that league but I've been wrong a lot. &nbsp;In the late '80s I championed a lot of research in copper interconnects for silicon technology. &nbsp;In 1990 I declared it would never happen and cited 3 fundamental reasons for it. &nbsp;In 1997 I was able to proclaim on national TV that we were commercializing it. &nbsp;What's the point? &nbsp;The issue is not whether a respected scientist is wrong or not, it's the process of discovering truth about nature. &nbsp;In science, we cannot be respecters of persons. &nbsp;The same rigor and careful logic must be applied to all ideas, independent of who champions it and what the consequences are. &nbsp;Of course, we are more likely to pay attention to someone with a strong track record but in all cases, the ideas themselves must be tested and not accepted on the basis of who says it.


> &nbsp; &nbsp;Don't get the impression I'm opposed to new ideas. &nbsp;We thrive on new ideas. &nbsp;I'm just saying that new ideas must be based on sound methodology and that, if we can't determine the thoroughness of the methodology, we're justified in rejecting ideas that directly contradict past experiments that were carefully done.

I know what you are saying. But I also know that
we can be put into difficult situations that we would
not like to be place in, yet we must speak the truth
as best we understand it.

Anyway, with respect to Creationists, I have yet
to see anything of substance, let alone research
that does not have some serious distortions somewhere.

By Grace alone we proceed,
Received on Wed Jun 1 07:14:40 2005

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