Originally posted by cenpuppie
reply to post by rnaa
Sorry your 100% wrong in that, i'm not a science basher so before you make assumptions be sure that they are right. I am bashing the scientists who
comes to the table with his mind made up already and there are scientists like that, they are just using science to further their own agenda. I seen
on the history channel when they were trying to explain the extinction of the dinosaurs. Rather than saying "We don't know" we got the comet
theory, the mega tsunami theory, and even the disease theory, that's when i made my decision that nobody really knows.
And yes, i know what a theory is and i stand by what i said. To many times assumptions come first then the testing.
I only have your post to go by. I apologize if I assumed incorrectly that your assertion that theory comes first is somehow informing us that you
really know that theory comes last. Forgive me, but what you said reveals nothing about your understanding of how science works and how theories are
developed. It does however, reveal a criticism of the scientific method via a complete misunderstanding of how it works.
Your History channel program is an example of a popular science entertainment program, frozen in time. Do you know how long ago it was made? Science
may have moved on from there, maybe disease has been rejected altogether. Maybe disease has been folded into the asteroid idea.
Of course, each talking head scientist you see in the program likes his idea and would like it to be shown to be correct. Their job in the film is to
present their ideas in a way that shows how the scenario they describe could work. The only assumption going on here is that you understand that any
of the competing ideas could win out, or none of them. If you have learned that about science, then at least you got something useful out of the
As a popsci entertainment, it is a vehicle of the producers and writers. It is not a scientific journal. It is imprecise and depending on the degree
to which the writers understand the topic possibly misleading in spots. The fact that they presented three scenarios is specifically telling you that
none of this is known for sure, nor can it ever really be known for sure. What it is telling you is that "here is the state of play in science today
- aren't these ideas interesting?". The idea is to entertain and educate, in that order.
In fact, there have been several extinctions periods. Why couldn't each of them have a different cause. The asteroid or comet idea has a lot of
support and evidence of its possibility. The mega tsunami idea has somewhat less as far as I know. The disease idea has been around for a long time
but I don't think it has much evidence to support it, that's why scientists continue to look. They aren't making assumptions by any means. They
keep coming up with new ideas specifically because they just don't know and assuming things isn't the answer.
Terminology, if you understand it, is your friend. Scientists don't test 'assumptions'. Scientists test hypotheses. An hypothesis is not the same
as an assumption.
: X applies in example 1 therefore it must also apply in example 2 which is similar. Nothing to see here, move on.
: What is going on in example 2? I don't know, but maybe it is X because X applies in example 1 which appears to be similar. Lets
test it and find out, if it doesn't work then we need to figure out to explain why example 2 is different from example 1.
These are too completely different scenario's. Of course scientists are human and make mistakes and sometimes go down the path of assuming things
that are unjustified. Many, many times the scientist does recognize just another instance of "Example 1" and needn't start from scratch on the
problem. But it is not in their interest to ignore genuine cases of "Example 2" because new discoveries are what make a career, a reputation, and
again scientists are as human as everyone else.
OK, now that I have said all that, I admit assumptions are made in order to test a new idea. Until the idea is tested it is just an idea, so we have
to figure out ways to test the idea. Its pointless to sit in the dorm room and say "pffffffft, hey man! what if the dinosaurs were wiped out when a
big meteor hit the earth or something, pffffffffft ..... oh dude, sorry man I'm hogging this joint, you want some?"
So the scientists say things like, well if it did happen what would have happened? what would be the effect on the atmosphere? on the earth itself? on
the animals? would it block out the sun with dust and smoke? how big would it have to be to do that? how long would it stay in the air? would that be
long enough to reduce the dinosaur population to an unsustainable minimum? would there still be any evidence of the collision on earth? where? would
it puncture the mantle? (maybe Iceland?) would it leave a big hole? (maybe Yucatan?) or would we just be unlucky and any evidence would have
disappeared by now?
So yes, coming up with those questions involves a starting point: "if it did happen" - that is assuming it might be correct. If the assumption is
that it couldn't be correct then the whole exercise is pointless. Then assuming it can be tested and figuring out how that might be done. If the
assumption is that it cannot be tested, then again it is just an interesting thought. Then assuming there might be evidence left around. If the
assumption is that there could be no evidence, then it is a waste of time looking for it.
So yes assumptions are made. But the scientist's assumption is not "I assume this idea IS right so lets go tell everyone the good news without
further bother". That methodology may sound familiar to you, but it is not the scientific methodology and it doesn't add anything useful to society
or the worlds knowledge base.
The scientist's assumption is "IF we assume that this idea is right, we ought to be able to test it and find evidence for it. If we can do that, we
have advanced the worlds knowledge base and contributed something useful. If not, well, we have still added to the worlds knowledge base and somebody
might be interested that we couldn't figure it out and it might keep them from wasting their time too".
[edit on 15/10/2009 by rnaa]