Re: My last word

Brian D Harper (
Sat, 17 Apr 1999 21:29:07 -0700

At 03:10 PM 4/17/99 EDT, Huxter wrote:

>In a message dated 4/17/99 7:00:02 PM !!!First Boot!!!,
>***in regards to:
> > << > >I wonder if Jon Wells has ever heard of the phrase 'experiment'? >>
><< Better word, unsupported insinuation. You didn't say it straight out, but
> implied he has not by the tone of the phrase. Unsupported in that you did
> not explain what you did (not) know about his experience in the area.
> Without the explanation of that, it's left unsupported.
>***** The support was supplied by his own words. Anyone should have been
>able to recognize the point I was making. EVERYONE has heard the word
>'experiment,' no?

Yes, everyone has heard the word "experiment" but I suspect not
everyone appreciates the difficulty in performing good experiments.
The primary thrust of my own research has been designing and
implementing experiments, though I also do a little theory.
I would hope that any experimentalist realizes the inherant
danger of not measuring what you intend to measure. Its kind
of like "garbage in garbage out" wrt to computer models. Assuming
you're not totally inept :), you're always going to measure something.
Are you measuring what you think you're measuring? More to the
point of the present discussion, are you measuring what you
claim to measuring.

Jonathan has raised some important points. Judging by his own
words, as you suggest above, I come to the conclusion that
Jonathan understands more than you think about empirical science.
In any event, it seems to me rather easy to actually deal with
what he wrote rather than measure how long his priestly robes

Now, I'm sure there is a lot that I don't appreciate about the
difficulties of field tests in biology :). I imagine that there
are some compromises that must be made etc. etc. But just
because something is the best that can be done doesn't mean
its good enough. It doesn't mean that your really measuring
what you think or claim to be measuring.

But, in the very least, an experimentalist should go to great
pains in explaining his experiment. What compromises were needed?
How is the experiment different from the actual case being
studied? As an experimentalist myself I would say failure to
do this is simply inexcusable. Maybe its not fraud, but it
certainly is poor procedure.

If what Wells says is true (I can't judge this myself), that
"...peppered moths do not normally rest on tree trunks in the wild."
And if they are portrayed as doing so, then this should be
clearly stated. Further, if, as Jonathan claims

#"Textbook photographs which show peppered moths on tree trunks have been
#staged. The photographs were made by people who either manually positioned
#live, torpid moths on tree trunks, or glued or pinned dead moths to them."

then this should be clearly indicated. I simply cannot imagine anyone
who calls himself an experimentalist failing to describe the conditions
under which his or her reported results were obtained.

Brian Harper
Associate Professor
Applied Mechanics
The Ohio State University

"All kinds of private metaphysics and theology have
grown like weeds in the garden of thermodynamics"
-- E. H. Hiebert