I spent all last night and part of this afternoon reading over everyone's posts in this entire thread. Participants can rest assured that I have seen what you have posted, to at least a cursory glance. Some posts, of course, got more studious attention.
A general pattern jumps out. You all appear to have a very Victorian-flavored romanticized ideal of "Science" in your minds. I do not get the sense that any of you have ever labored late into the night in an actual scientific research lab. I do not get the sense that you have seen the scientific method practiced up close in a personal way.
In the case of Forest_Dump
, this is more disturbing. This is a person claiming to have a post-graduate degree in paleontology (or whatever it is).
If you are actually around real science as it is practiced on the laboratory floor (as it were), you very quickly gain a sense of how extraordinarily boring and tedious it actually is. Practical science is extremely mathematical and requires reams of collected data that is then processed and presented using tedious statistical methods. And this data must be presented with error bars that represent statistical margins of error, which are sometimes the "error of least squares" or sometimes the error is "Gaussian", and there are references to the confidence of the data to "5 sigma" and so on. And because correlation does not imply causation, you have to then repeat the test on many different mice, or rabbits. Like you have to inject the chemical into 85 mice, and then keep 85 mice around who are the "control group". You take the data, and then report on the statistics of both the injected and control group.
This is all very tedious. It is not sufficient to merely be "literate" to do science. You must have an intuitive command of mathematics, and have a little bit of perfectionism in your personality. Practical science is neither sexy nor philosophical. It is absolutely devoid of ideology.
Practical science is so obsessed with the empirical data, it is obsessed to a degree no 'regular person' would be comfortable with. We can take that to the bank because we can compare how car mechanics work on cars. They do not perform tedious collection of data or use statistical analysis of that data. If car mechanics worked like scientists, they would have to bring in your car, and 25 different exact versions of your car, and cross-check data collected on all of them. Graph the data, (with error bars) and try to deduce a cause. They don't do that. Instead, they just do routine checks and then use their "mechanics intuition" and "wisdom" to proceed. This magical intuition is only picked up through years of being in a garage. Also, there is no time to waste because the customer wants their car back tomorrow. Get um in, Get um out.
People are people, they will naturally avoid laborious tedium, and naturally avoid math. People do not build scale models of the Notre Dame cathedral out of toothpicks and Elmer's glue. People do not naturally tend to clean their toilet with a toothbrush. But lab science is actually as tedious. (And it's expensive to boot!). Computer science is even more tedious than the biology experiments described so far. Doing computer science really feels like Notre-Dame, Lego(R) version.
If you are climatologist, some of those people have to live for 4 months in a raised igloo in antarctica, eating their dinners out of cans, all so they can extract some ice out of the ground 68 meters below surface.
The tedium, perfectionism, adherence to mathematics, and obsession with raw data <--- these exact aspects are why the scientific method did not take hold until way up in to the 16th century AD. Research scientists do not sit around in white togas contemplating the "nature of the cosmos". That simply does not go on.
I will present two examples that exhibit how boring and mechanical science really is. Charles Darwin first, and Dr. Peter Higgs second.
The public dialogue has Charles Darwin riding around in a pirate ship (dubbed the USS Atheism) and hoisting the black flag with skull and crossbones, as he points his secular saber at christian culture -- and yells nasty pirate threats at the shivering christians. Not what happened. Not at all. Darwin did not discover the theory of evolution by natural selection because he had some ideological bent. He didn't concoct the theory to "Destroy Christian culture" nor to "remove God's hand from creation.". Darwin was not boiled in a cauldron of atheistic ideology. Instead, evolution was deduced innocently from data collected in the wild. The theory was actually presented as a solution to some esoteric problem in taxonomy involving the difference between a variety and a species. (But wait -- that's "boring". It is boring,
isn't it?) Science can be boring.
Next is Dr. Peter Higgs. The popularity of the Higg's Boson was inflated and overhyped by the science journalists. There were two fat hardcover books written about the boson with titles like
- The God Particle
- The Particle at the End of the Universe (cue dramatic music dun-dun-ddd!)
Excited journalists were getting a collective erection over the "God Particle" and they wanted to hold earth-shattering interview with Dr. Higgs himself. They would ask him how he has become harmonised with the essence of all reality and physical cosmic existence and how he reaches out with his fingers and "feels the heartbeat of the universe". And every time the interview would come, poor Dr. Higgs would just always say something plain and vanilla and disappoint everyone. Higgs would say
Well,l I was just working on a theory of symmetry breaking in the electroweak Lagrangian.
The who..wha...? But Doctor Higgs, what about the Nature of Reality and the seeing the mind of God???
Higgs tried to spice it up, but if fell flat again:
Uhm.. we thought there might be a scalar field whose vacuum expectation value was non-zero when the the quantum state is at its lo---
...and the interviewer's eyes would glaze over.
I knew Peter needed to take a more drastic approach. I met with Higgs, and I said, "Peter.. look. When the interviewer shows up this afternoon don't tell him anything about symmetry breaking or vacuum structure, even though you really want to. Instead tell him something like... well uhm... tell them that Lady Cosmos slips under the sheets with you at night and whispers her darkest secrets in your ear. Mix it up like that."
The interviewer came and Peter did what I suggested, and it was a bombshell. Next thing we know, we're getting calls about making documentaries about the so-called "God Particle".
But anyways. The basic problem I see in this thread.Science : according to the SPCF forum Science : as it actually is.
We rarely have time to put the finishing touches on our research paper, as the deadline approaches for publication in the journal. This work often goes into the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes we don't sleep. Other times we have to remind each other to take a break and eat. Life and limb are rarely sacrificed, if we are digging for bones in Tibet, or tagging polar bears in Greenland. Often sanity is imperiled as we find ourselves pushing 60+ hours per week in the lab.
But no -- researchers do not sit in the teacher's lounge wearing togas and sipping on espresso latte's, while they discuss "Reality". That could not be farther from the truth.