Why scientists disagree #2…

Posted on May 2, 2011


Fig 1: I disagree!

Jenny: ” You say that scientists argue for the same reasons that the rest of us do  – there’s never enough information and like us they fill in the gaps with assumptions, guesses or biases which they call theory. The main difference between us and scientists is that their assumptions or biases – the imaginary bridges they build into the future are based on mathematical assumptions or biases so we can’t understand them, we can’t understand their lingo . But for all their fancy language it’s still nothing more than assumptions, guesses and biases stated in the form of mathematical formulas?”

Peter: ” So how could I build an imaginary bridge into the future in mathematical  or logical  lingo that represents  my assumptions about getting married to Bonny Anne Snelgrove?”

Professor Wiggly: ” A very simple formula might be: A (you)  + B (Bonny) = C (happy times). A more complicated formula might be: A + B = C (happy for time t1 to time t2) + D ( some happy and stressful and surprising times plus children  for  t3-t4). A still more complicate formula would read : A +B = C (happy times for t1-t2) + D (happy and stressful and surprising times and children   for t3-t4) + F

Fig 2: Formula

(uncertain times concerning health, job, finances, children, parents, etc. for t 5 – t6.) Notice the further the imaginary bridge reaches out into the future the more uncertain it becomes. Whereas the more precise the imaginary bridge (the formula)  becomes the easier it is to tests it ‘s accuracy as the future unfolds – for instance if it specifies the number of children, a map of your desired career path and   specific  savings  for each year. The more specific the A’s, B’s, C’s etc. are, and the more specific the time periods – the t’s – the easier it is to test it. The vaguer the A’s, B’s, etc.  and the time periods, the less useful and testable the theory. That’s one of the reasons scientists argue with each other, they often use fuzzy terms and times in their formulae. For instance in the above formula ‘C’ refers to ‘happy’ and ‘stressful’ times. Those terms are fuzzy, difficult to measure because what’s happy for some may be stressful for another. So to be useful scientifically there must be specific yardsticks for measuring the key term in the formula.”

Fig 1: flickr.com/photos/pndz/3680349093



Posted in: Sciencing