FAQ
It is currently Wed Jul 26, 2017 12:40 am


Author Message
marnixR
Post  Post subject: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Sun Jul 08, 2012 5:40 pm
User avatar

Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2011 8:35 pm
Posts: 4799
Location: Cardiff, Wales

Offline
the days when Popper ruled, and falsifiability and testability was all that counted to make a proper scientific theory, are some decades behind us now, and people have come to realise that Popper's definition was maybe too narrowly focused on sciences like physics and chemistry where lab experiments predominate, and interactions between cause and effect are relatively simple

i'm not claiming to be the world authority on the philosophy of science, so the following list is probably not exhaustive nor immune from criticism

1. falsifiability

the essential question here is : what event would make you doubt the validity of your theory ? (think JBS Haldane's "rabbits in the Precambrian" reply)

2. testability

this doesn't have to be the type of test you do in a lab, more an answer to the question "if this is true then how would you expect the world to look like ?" - i.e. what are the implications of your theory that, if observed, would lend support to it ?

3. repeatability

in principle anyone with the suitable knowledge and equipment should be able to perform the same trial, make the same observations, follow the same line of logic to come up with what would amount to a validation of the original findings

4. explanatory power

a good theory should be able to explain, without special pleading, all relevant aspects of the subject it attempts to cover, with as few anomalous facts unaccounted for as possible - ideally the facts explained by the theory should cover a broad range of facts
it should also trump competing theories by doing a better job at explaining the available evidence

5. unifying principle

the theory acts as a framework in which a random collection of semi-independent facts become parts of a greater whole, and take on new meaning by being part of that greater whole

6. fruitful research

it should lead to various avenues of further research either in support of the theory or in attempts to disprove
the Alvarez impact theory for the end of the Cretaceous and the immunological interpretation of human evolution by Sarich and Wilson spring to mind

7. consilience

the ability of a theory to seamlessly incorporate new knowledge that was at first not predicted by that theory is a major boon to its credibility - it's what happened to Darwin's theory of natural selection when genetics came on the scene

_________________
"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
"Someone is WRONG on the internet" (xkcd)


Top
TrivediScience
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Fri Mar 20, 2015 9:25 am

Joined: Sat Mar 14, 2015 12:52 pm
Posts: 9
Location: Henderson, NV

Offline
Nice Thread, marnixR


Top
iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Sun Feb 28, 2016 2:23 am
User avatar
Original Member
Original Member

Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2011 11:40 pm
Posts: 5604
Location: Iowa

Offline
bump

_________________
iNow

"[Time] is one of those concepts that is profoundly resistant to a simple definition." ~C. Sagan


Top
Rory
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Sun Feb 28, 2016 8:56 am
User avatar

Joined: Wed May 07, 2014 6:02 am
Posts: 1917

Offline
Some of those characteristics might be better attributed to the hypothesis rather than the theory.

Repeatability and reproducibility are tricky ones. Just yesterday, the Head of Science said to his pupils, "if the result can be repeated then it must be right." He is simplifying for the audience, I guess, but it's still not entirely accurate. It's possible that one person will get the wrong result many times. It's possible that many people will get the wrong result at the same time.

_________________
If you are doomed to be boring - make it short. Andre Geim


Top
Olinguito
Post  Post subject:   |  Posted: Tue Mar 01, 2016 11:24 am
User avatar

Joined: Mon Aug 19, 2013 3:56 pm
Posts: 143

Offline
Rory wrote:
Just yesterday, the Head of Science said to his pupils, "if the result can be repeated then it must be right."

That's a strange way of putting it, IMHO. An experiment that can be repeated many times is just convenient from the point of view of practical testability; whether it explains the theory is another matter. Someone might be convinced that all swans were white and never travelled to Australia: they would never be right no matter how many white swans they saw in their neck of the woods.

_________________
Blog


Top
iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Mon May 16, 2016 7:36 pm
User avatar
Original Member
Original Member

Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2011 11:40 pm
Posts: 5604
Location: Iowa

Offline
marnixR wrote:
1. falsifiability
...
2. testability
...
3. repeatability
...
4. explanatory power
...
5. unifying principle
...
6. fruitful research
...
7. consilience

8. cannot easily be obfuscated with politics and blind denial

_________________
iNow

"[Time] is one of those concepts that is profoundly resistant to a simple definition." ~C. Sagan


Top
Lynx_Fox
Post  Post subject: Re:  |  Posted: Wed May 18, 2016 2:16 pm

Joined: Wed Dec 30, 2015 5:17 am
Posts: 230
Location: US Pacific NorthWest

Offline
Olinguito wrote:
Rory wrote:
Just yesterday, the Head of Science said to his pupils, "if the result can be repeated then it must be right."

That's a strange way of putting it, IMHO. An experiment that can be repeated many times is just convenient from the point of view of practical testability; whether it explains the theory is another matter. Someone might be convinced that all swans were white and never travelled to Australia: they would never be right no matter how many white swans they saw in their neck of the woods.


Think the use of "experiment" severely limits and quite misleading as well. Most natural sciences don't necessarily include experiments at all, but careful observation that's checked against consistency with other observations and predicted observation from the tested hypothesis.


Top
Implicate Order
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Thu May 19, 2016 1:17 am
User avatar

Joined: Sun May 15, 2016 3:09 am
Posts: 9

Offline
marnixR wrote:
the days when Popper ruled, and falsifiability and testability was all that counted to make a proper scientific theory, are some decades behind us now, and people have come to realise that Popper's definition was maybe too narrowly focused on sciences like physics and chemistry where lab experiments predominate, and interactions between cause and effect are relatively simple


Interesting topic. :-)

As we progressively expand our domains of enquiry to expand beyond classicism, the requirement for empirisicm is becoming harder to sustain. In delving into enquiries regarding fundamental reality for example, our baseline for our enquiry is generally founded upon 'classical reality'. If this classical reality is a subset of a greater domain, this definition may be too narrow in scope where we ultimately find that any mathematical extension beyond that narrow domain need to be lumped in 'metaphysics' as opposed to science. As a result, there will be a mainstream 'limit' imposed on our scientific enquiry which I am not sure is the intent of the scientific method, which in broad terms is our attempts to understand what is not known.

_________________
Quidquid latine dictum, altum videtur


Top
exchemist
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Fri May 20, 2016 5:41 pm

Joined: Tue May 03, 2016 4:17 pm
Posts: 13
Location: London

Offline
Implicate Order wrote:
marnixR wrote:
the days when Popper ruled, and falsifiability and testability was all that counted to make a proper scientific theory, are some decades behind us now, and people have come to realise that Popper's definition was maybe too narrowly focused on sciences like physics and chemistry where lab experiments predominate, and interactions between cause and effect are relatively simple


Interesting topic. :-)

As we progressively expand our domains of enquiry to expand beyond classicism, the requirement for empirisicm is becoming harder to sustain. In delving into enquiries regarding fundamental reality for example, our baseline for our enquiry is generally founded upon 'classical reality'. If this classical reality is a subset of a greater domain, this definition may be too narrow in scope where we ultimately find that any mathematical extension beyond that narrow domain need to be lumped in 'metaphysics' as opposed to science. As a result, there will be a mainstream 'limit' imposed on our scientific enquiry which I am not sure is the intent of the scientific method, which in broad terms is our attempts to understand what is not known.


I disagree. It seems to me empiricism, that is, the need for science to be rooted in objective observation of nature, is what makes science science. The moment you abandon that you just are not doing science any more. A theoretical construction can certainly run ahead of observation, because that is what we call a prediction of the model. But a theory is only as good as the lack of observations that contradict it.

Can you explain what you mean by "classical reality"? So far as I am aware, science does not make a claim to have definitively established "reality" of any sort, classical or otherwise. In fact we often say that in science, "truth" is provisional, i.e something is treated as "true" or "real" only with the proviso that something may come along tomorrow and upset the apple cart.


Top
Implicate Order
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Sat May 21, 2016 8:16 am
User avatar

Joined: Sun May 15, 2016 3:09 am
Posts: 9

Offline
exchemist wrote:

Can you explain what you mean by "classical reality"? So far as I am aware, science does not make a claim to have definitively established "reality" of any sort, classical or otherwise. In fact we often say that in science, "truth" is provisional, i.e something is treated as "true" or "real" only with the proviso that something may come along tomorrow and upset the apple cart.


Hi exchemist. I suppose what this boils down to is the demand placed by empiricism itself which in effect ensures that the baseline of reality is 'classical in nature'. When referring to classical here I am referring to 'non-quantum' reality defined by classical physics. For example in the double slit experiment, the 'which way' is ultimately resolved by a classical measurement. Where classicalism get's challenged is when we cannot define what we refer to 'such as a wavefunction' as 'a thing' in a 3D and 1T context.

What we are facing for example in a measurement *perhaps* is a 'frame dependent viewpoint' from a chosen vantage. A reality according to that viewpoint conducting the measurement whereas from other vantages, a different reality is observed such as 'Observer A being entangled in the Experiment in which they experience a wavefunction collapse to a classical certainty'.

A similar phenomemon shows up potentially when an observer from a particular vantage sees a boundary such as an event horizon, whereas from other vantages no such 'phenomenon exists'. We can see that the way an observer interacts with the vacuum of space has possible material consequences from their particular vantage.

The demands placed by empiricism ensures that a 'bias' is reserved for the vantages that do the measurement when in fact something more fundamental at work may simply be dismissed as mere 'metaphysics'. I am not sure how science is going to overcome this hurdle if it wants to dig deep into the realms of quantum gravity for example.

_________________
Quidquid latine dictum, altum videtur


Top
marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Sat May 21, 2016 8:11 pm
User avatar

Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2011 8:35 pm
Posts: 4799
Location: Cardiff, Wales

Offline
didn'tDarwin himself state that any data gathering has to be done to prove or disprove a preconceived theory ?
after all, it's the interplay between theory and its empirical support + the repeatability of the testing of this interplay that makes or breaks a scientific theory

_________________
"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
"Someone is WRONG on the internet" (xkcd)


Top
steve upson
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Tue May 24, 2016 2:32 am
User avatar

Joined: Tue May 24, 2016 12:25 am
Posts: 14

Offline
iNow wrote:
8. cannot easily be obfuscated with politics and blind denial


I think you grossly underestimate the power of the propaganda machine. The demolition squibs at the twin towers is the obvious example that falsifies your claim.

Science is science, physics is physics, and demolition squibs are demolition squibs.


Top
steve upson
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Tue May 24, 2016 2:57 am
User avatar

Joined: Tue May 24, 2016 12:25 am
Posts: 14

Offline
Implicate Order wrote:

What we are facing for example in a measurement *perhaps* is a 'frame dependent viewpoint' from a chosen vantage. A reality according to that viewpoint conducting the measurement whereas from other vantages, a different reality is observed such as 'Observer A being entangled in the Experiment in which they experience a wavefunction collapse to a classical certainty'.



It's much, much simpler than that. Most of our uneasiness is caused by not understanding the mathematics properly. It isn't that we are doing the math wrong, it's that we have no real understanding of what, exactly, we are up to.

I joined the group here with the intention of starting a discussion on this subject. Actually, several discussions.

There is another way to see things, and once you understand that then everything, everything, looks much different. There's been a recent development that's pretty unexpected. A method has been found that allows us to quantify direction as a scalar value that is unchanged by relativistic transformations.

http://mymathforum.com/math/331919-i.html

I look forward to discussing the far-reaching impacts of this discovery with the members here.


The event horizon stuff is way above my pay grade at this point.


Top
iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Tue May 24, 2016 3:34 am
User avatar
Original Member
Original Member

Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2011 11:40 pm
Posts: 5604
Location: Iowa

Offline
steve upson wrote:
iNow wrote:
8. cannot easily be obfuscated with politics and blind denial


I think you grossly underestimate the power of the propaganda machine.

Not at all. Encourage you to try not to speculate about what I do or do not know nor about what I assume and/or estimate.

_________________
iNow

"[Time] is one of those concepts that is profoundly resistant to a simple definition." ~C. Sagan


Top
steve upson
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Tue May 24, 2016 4:07 am
User avatar

Joined: Tue May 24, 2016 12:25 am
Posts: 14

Offline
iNow wrote:
steve upson wrote:
iNow wrote:
8. cannot easily be obfuscated with politics and blind denial


I think you grossly underestimate the power of the propaganda machine.

Not at all. Encourage you to try not to speculate about what I do or do not know nor about what I assume and/or estimate.


I don't follow you. Do you think that they're not demolition squibs, or do you think that this fact has not been obfuscated by politics and blind denial?


Top
iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Tue May 24, 2016 4:24 am
User avatar
Original Member
Original Member

Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2011 11:40 pm
Posts: 5604
Location: Iowa

Offline
Not interested in chasing that particular red herring. It's nonsequitur and tangential to my point.

_________________
iNow

"[Time] is one of those concepts that is profoundly resistant to a simple definition." ~C. Sagan


Top
exchemist
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Tue May 24, 2016 8:27 pm

Joined: Tue May 03, 2016 4:17 pm
Posts: 13
Location: London

Offline
Implicate Order wrote:
Hi exchemist. I suppose what this boils down to is the demand placed by empiricism itself which in effect ensures that the baseline of reality is 'classical in nature'. When referring to classical here I am referring to 'non-quantum' reality defined by classical physics. For example in the double slit experiment, the 'which way' is ultimately resolved by a classical measurement. Where classicalism get's challenged is when we cannot define what we refer to 'such as a wavefunction' as 'a thing' in a 3D and 1T context.

What we are facing for example in a measurement *perhaps* is a 'frame dependent viewpoint' from a chosen vantage. A reality according to that viewpoint conducting the measurement whereas from other vantages, a different reality is observed such as 'Observer A being entangled in the Experiment in which they experience a wavefunction collapse to a classical certainty'.

A similar phenomemon shows up potentially when an observer from a particular vantage sees a boundary such as an event horizon, whereas from other vantages no such 'phenomenon exists'. We can see that the way an observer interacts with the vacuum of space has possible material consequences from their particular vantage.

The demands placed by empiricism ensures that a 'bias' is reserved for the vantages that do the measurement when in fact something more fundamental at work may simply be dismissed as mere 'metaphysics'. I am not sure how science is going to overcome this hurdle if it wants to dig deep into the realms of quantum gravity for example.


I think this is wrong. QM results from empirical observation of nature. It does not contradict it in the least.

An observation is an observation, it is neither "classical" nor non-"classical". You can describe theories as classical or non-classical, but not observations.

It looks to me as if you may have been bamboozled by quantum obscurantists. :)


Top
Zinjanthropos
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Tue May 24, 2016 11:14 pm
Original Member
Original Member

Joined: Mon Aug 15, 2011 2:49 am
Posts: 379

Offline
This thread reminded me of those scientists at CERN a few years back. They conducted over 10000 tests that to them proved neutrinos moved faster than c, with the conclusion Einstein was wrong. Then somebody noticed a problem with the test equipment, fixed it and the next thing you know neutrinos move at less than c, Einstein was right again. I think that means neutrinos have rest mass, but that's another topic.

My point is, ideal observation to conclusion depends on test equipment infallibility. A certain amount of trust in man's machines/devices is required and even then it is possible to come up with the wrong results without realizing it.

_________________
"Science is much better than religion because our faith is shakeable. There can be something I believe with all my heart to be absolutely true, and the minute there's evidence that it isn't true, I throw it out like yesterday's garbage"-Krauss


Top
Implicate Order
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Wed May 25, 2016 12:51 am
User avatar

Joined: Sun May 15, 2016 3:09 am
Posts: 9

Offline
exchemist wrote:

I think this is wrong. QM results from empirical observation of nature. It does not contradict it in the least.

An observation is an observation, it is neither "classical" nor non-"classical". You can describe theories as classical or non-classical, but not observations.

It looks to me as if you may have been bamboozled by quantum obscurantists. :)


LOL. You are probably right. It's pretty confusing stuff. :-)

We have a central problem with our interpretations of QM referred to as the Measurement Problem and despite our abilities to use the Schrodinger equation to accurately describe how a quantum state evolves to produce a classical result, we are still caught in a bind as identified by Stephen Weinberg in that despite the fact we have a deterministic equation to resolve a classical outcome, we can still only deal with probabilities. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Measurement_problem) "If observers and their measuring apparatus are themselves described by a deterministic wave function, why can we not predict precise results for measurements, but only probabilities? As a general question: How can one establish a correspondence between quantum and classical reality?

An observation is the result of a measurement, and if that observation entails an interaction between a measuring device and that which is being measured, then the result will be a contaminated feature of the measurement process itself and not an invariant or conclusive result in which all observers will necessarily agree upon. If science uses the results of observations as the bedrock for theory robustness, then it is presenting a potentially one-sided viewpoint from the perspective of the observer (or measuring device) standing outside the system that is being measured who is not participating in the outcome. The result will be a description of a 'thing' as opposed to a 'process' which may be a better representation of the underlying reality.

Anyway, it sounds like we may have to agree to disagree with each other.

_________________
Quidquid latine dictum, altum videtur


Top
exchemist
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Wed May 25, 2016 2:49 pm

Joined: Tue May 03, 2016 4:17 pm
Posts: 13
Location: London

Offline
Implicate Order wrote:

LOL. You are probably right. It's pretty confusing stuff. :-)

We have a central problem with our interpretations of QM referred to as the Measurement Problem and despite our abilities to use the Schrodinger equation to accurately describe how a quantum state evolves to produce a classical result, we are still caught in a bind as identified by Stephen Weinberg in that despite the fact we have a deterministic equation to resolve a classical outcome, we can still only deal with probabilities. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Measurement_problem) "If observers and their measuring apparatus are themselves described by a deterministic wave function, why can we not predict precise results for measurements, but only probabilities? As a general question: How can one establish a correspondence between quantum and classical reality?

An observation is the result of a measurement, and if that observation entails an interaction between a measuring device and that which is being measured, then the result will be a contaminated feature of the measurement process itself and not an invariant or conclusive result in which all observers will necessarily agree upon. If science uses the results of observations as the bedrock for theory robustness, then it is presenting a potentially one-sided viewpoint from the perspective of the observer (or measuring device) standing outside the system that is being measured who is not participating in the outcome. The result will be a description of a 'thing' as opposed to a 'process' which may be a better representation of the underlying reality.

Anyway, it sounds like we may have to agree to disagree with each other.


All that is saying is there is this thing in QM (which is a theory) called the uncertainty principle, which means you cannot measure exact values for everything about a QM entity simultaneously. It's a limit to knowledge, which makes some people uncomfortable if they have been brought up on a deterministic view of nature.

But the observations we make fit with this theory. They do not contradict it. So the message is that even if the theory makes you uncomfortable, tough, that is how nature seems to be.


Top
Zinjanthropos
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Wed May 25, 2016 3:19 pm
Original Member
Original Member

Joined: Mon Aug 15, 2011 2:49 am
Posts: 379

Offline
exchemist wrote:
tough, that is how nature seems to be.


Theoretically, I think you're right, LOL. To paraphrase Neils Bohr, "your theory is crazy but is it crazy enough to be true?" (something like that)

Nature is TOUGH but I don't believe it is science's duty to prove it. Science needs to show me (us) how it probably works. I say probably because I'm not sure if anyone who has ever put forward a theory can say with 100% certainty that they've nailed it. We can all make a determination on nature's attributes once we tune in and listen.

Quote:
It's a limit to knowledge, which makes some people uncomfortable if they have been brought up on a deterministic view of nature.


IMHO, a theory is only as good as the available knowledge will permit. I sometimes wonder if it is even possible for one intelligent species to know everything. For this reason I find science incremental but where it will end up is a complete mystery. Even if we acquire 99.9% of all the knowledge there can possibly be, then there is still no guarantee of absolute certainty.

_________________
"Science is much better than religion because our faith is shakeable. There can be something I believe with all my heart to be absolutely true, and the minute there's evidence that it isn't true, I throw it out like yesterday's garbage"-Krauss


Top
iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Wed May 25, 2016 6:41 pm
User avatar
Original Member
Original Member

Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2011 11:40 pm
Posts: 5604
Location: Iowa

Offline
Seems like a good time for this:

Image

_________________
iNow

"[Time] is one of those concepts that is profoundly resistant to a simple definition." ~C. Sagan


Top
Zinjanthropos
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Wed May 25, 2016 9:03 pm
Original Member
Original Member

Joined: Mon Aug 15, 2011 2:49 am
Posts: 379

Offline
iNow wrote:
Image


Speaking of observation. When I first looked at the flow chart I didn't notice the downward pointing arrows, I saw the words 'leads to' and 'summates' flowing from bottom to top. I actually read the whole thing from bottom to top and it made sense.

_________________
"Science is much better than religion because our faith is shakeable. There can be something I believe with all my heart to be absolutely true, and the minute there's evidence that it isn't true, I throw it out like yesterday's garbage"-Krauss


Top
Implicate Order
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Thu May 26, 2016 1:56 am
User avatar

Joined: Sun May 15, 2016 3:09 am
Posts: 9

Offline
exchemist wrote:

All that is saying is there is this thing in QM (which is a theory) called the uncertainty principle, which means you cannot measure exact values for everything about a QM entity simultaneously. It's a limit to knowledge, which makes some people uncomfortable if they have been brought up on a deterministic view of nature.

But the observations we make fit with this theory. They do not contradict it. So the message is that even if the theory makes you uncomfortable, tough, that is how nature seems to be.


Well I am not a theoretical physicist and hence can't jump to the same assumptions as you. My understanding is therefore based on attempting to understand why issues such as the Measurement problem are raised by eminent minds in the field.

https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/contex ... -mysteries

http://arxiv.org/abs/1405.3483

_________________
Quidquid latine dictum, altum videtur


Top
iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Fri Jul 15, 2016 8:09 pm
User avatar
Original Member
Original Member

Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2011 11:40 pm
Posts: 5604
Location: Iowa

Offline
An interesting piece yesterday about what hundreds of scientists say they'd change about science. Here are their favorites:

http://www.vox.com/2016/7/14/12120746/s ... nges-fixes
Quote:
We recently asked scientists a simple question: If you could change one thing about how science works today, what would it be and why?

We heard back from 270 scientists around the world, including graduate students, senior professors, laboratory heads, and Fields Medalists. And they told us that in a variety of ways, they feel their careers are being hijacked by perverse incentives.

You can read all about what they told us — and how these problems in science can be fixed — in our feature. As a bonus, here are some of our favorite responses to the survey.


Here is the feature referenced above. The Seven Biggest Problems Facing Science: http://www.vox.com/2016/7/14/12016710/s ... ew-process

_________________
iNow

"[Time] is one of those concepts that is profoundly resistant to a simple definition." ~C. Sagan


Top
Rory
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Fri Jul 15, 2016 9:07 pm
User avatar

Joined: Wed May 07, 2014 6:02 am
Posts: 1917

Offline
All true but who will do anything about it?

Politics. That's the worst. Science is essentially run by titans who can have you blackballed if they don't like you on a personal level.

It's basically a conveyor belt... produce at least one academic paper every three years or fall off the end, into obscurity.

Edit: Another thing I hate: the fact that, if you're extremely lucky, you might get to investigate a hypothesis of your own - when aged 40. Until that point, you will be a manual labourer for your PI.

If you really want to do Science (not to work as somebody else's manual labourer), then it would be more efficient to first establish your own financial independence, and then self-fund your own studies.

I also hate the way there is this unchallenged assumption that working in groups is more effective than workng individually. It's easier to keep track of progress if one person has ownership - trying to get 10 competing individuals to work coherently on one question doesn't make sense.

_________________
If you are doomed to be boring - make it short. Andre Geim


Top
iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Fri Jul 15, 2016 10:05 pm
User avatar
Original Member
Original Member

Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2011 11:40 pm
Posts: 5604
Location: Iowa

Offline
Politics is what happens any time there's an interaction between two or more individuals.

_________________
iNow

"[Time] is one of those concepts that is profoundly resistant to a simple definition." ~C. Sagan


Top
Rory
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Sun Jul 17, 2016 12:48 am
User avatar

Joined: Wed May 07, 2014 6:02 am
Posts: 1917

Offline
Problem solved: have scientists work independently.

Our current model of Science produces incrementally tiny advances at the expense of vast amounts of time and money - to the extent that anything potentially useful (e.g. cancer treatment) is already economically unviable by the time it is allowed onto market. And all within the context of people being forced to work together.

Make it less bureaucratic, less expensive, and let collaboration occur organically because it turns out to be mutually useful for all parties - not because it is prescribed from on high. :evil:

_________________
If you are doomed to be boring - make it short. Andre Geim


Top
iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Sun Jul 17, 2016 2:54 am
User avatar
Original Member
Original Member

Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2011 11:40 pm
Posts: 5604
Location: Iowa

Offline
Am confused. Who's stopping you from doing that, exactly?

_________________
iNow

"[Time] is one of those concepts that is profoundly resistant to a simple definition." ~C. Sagan


Top
Rory
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Sun Jul 17, 2016 8:32 am
User avatar

Joined: Wed May 07, 2014 6:02 am
Posts: 1917

Offline
Nobody in a research group has full control over the decision as to the person(s) with whom they are expected to collaborate (i.e. fellow group members). Some members will get some say but none are allowed to single-handedly choose ALL of their co-workers. So everybody is forced to work together - irrespective of the utility of that arrangement.

_________________
If you are doomed to be boring - make it short. Andre Geim


Top
Falconer360
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Sun Jul 17, 2016 3:57 pm
User avatar
Original Member
Original Member

Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2011 10:30 pm
Posts: 988
Location: Somewhere in the Great State of Washington

Offline
Rory wrote:
I also hate the way there is this unchallenged assumption that working in groups is more effective than workng individually. It's easier to keep track of progress if one person has ownership - trying to get 10 competing individuals to work coherently on one question doesn't make sense.


While my natural inclination is to work alone, I must admit that working alone you don't have that soundboard effect that you get when working with adequate colleagues. Often times working in a group is more effective simply because it helps prevent tunnel vision and causes deeper thought on subjects and ideas.

In paleobotany for instance, it's highly useful to have a few different eyes looking at the same fossil because while one person is leaning towards one species due to the venation of the leaf, the other researcher is looking more closely at the length to width ratio and the tooth margin which leads them to think something else. This in turn stimulates intense discussion and debate on the specimen and generally leads to a more accurate identification.

The whole point of teamwork is to have a group of individuals whose total strengths make up for their individual weaknesses.

_________________
"For every moment of triumph, for every instance of beauty, many souls must be trampled." Hunter S Thompson
"It is easy to kill someone with a slash of a sword. It is hard to be impossible for others to cut down" - Yagyu Munenori


Top
Rory
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Sun Jul 17, 2016 10:22 pm
User avatar

Joined: Wed May 07, 2014 6:02 am
Posts: 1917

Offline
It can happen that group work fosters useful discussion.

But this is not necessarily the case - this potential benefit must be balanced against the possibility for personality clashes. I once worked with two guys whom I would quite happily have never met again in my entire life. Instead, I had to sit 2 metres away from one of them for about 50% of my working week - and had to endure the regular but unscheduled appearance of the other on an almost daily basis.

_________________
If you are doomed to be boring - make it short. Andre Geim


Top
iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 2:25 am
User avatar
Original Member
Original Member

Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2011 11:40 pm
Posts: 5604
Location: Iowa

Offline
So, basically you had to be at work. :lol:

_________________
iNow

"[Time] is one of those concepts that is profoundly resistant to a simple definition." ~C. Sagan


Top
Rory
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 7:14 am
User avatar

Joined: Wed May 07, 2014 6:02 am
Posts: 1917

Offline
:lol: Yes!

Seriously, though, we spend upto 40 hours per week at work... that is an enormous proportion of our life.

Why don't we empower people to optimise that time? I guess most people feel guilty making too many outward complaints so instead they internalise their anger and frustration.

If only we removed the power structures then people would naturally find a rhythm and working flow that suits them - I like to think of Google as an exemplar.

_________________
If you are doomed to be boring - make it short. Andre Geim


Top
iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 1:43 pm
User avatar
Original Member
Original Member

Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2011 11:40 pm
Posts: 5604
Location: Iowa

Offline
Rory wrote:
Why don't we empower people to optimise that time?

Well, some organizations (and populations or leaders within organizations) very much do try to do that. Just because you don't feel it's happening where you are specifically doesn't mean it isn't happening elsewhere.


Rory wrote:
If only we removed the power structures then people would naturally find a rhythm and working flow that suits them - I like to think of Google as an exemplar.

They're not as amazing as it appears. I've got some friends and former colleagues on the inside, and many who got in and quickly left when the reality didn't live up to the hype. Again, it really depends on the individual leaders, what they advocate, and what flexibility they're given (leaders in a start-up often tend to have more flexibility than leaders in the military, for example).

On another note, it's called "work" and not "fun" or "playtime" or "optimized existence expenditure" for a reason. ;)

Also, perhaps this should be split into its own thread since we're now way OT...

_________________
iNow

"[Time] is one of those concepts that is profoundly resistant to a simple definition." ~C. Sagan


Top
Rory
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 2:20 pm
User avatar

Joined: Wed May 07, 2014 6:02 am
Posts: 1917

Offline
Just because a tiny minority are trying to optimise power structures within the workplace doesn't mean that office politics isn't a significant issue.

And I fundamentally disagree with you on the nature and purpose of work. I think that the overall purpose of an organisation is achieved more efficiently (and with less damage to employees' mental and emotional health) if individual employees are granted greater autonomy. That means:

*minimal deadlines
*non-linear corporate organisation
*no formal management
*no arbitrary obligation to sit at a specific desk for a specific length of time
*no set rooms or seats
*collaboration is optional and organic not compulsory or enforced
*free think time and free feel (yeah, somebody needs to rephrase that) constitutes the majority of employees' time
*all employees are trained in assertiveness skills
*passivity and aggression strictly not allowed
*workplace romances allowed
*mutually consensual platonic hugging and hand-holding positively encouraged
*reward by outcome (value added to society) not by achievement of arbitrary targets

We may have gone OT but... you started it! :P

Edit: also, if work feels like work, then you may be in the wrong profession. You will know your true calling when going to work feels like being paid to be who you are.

_________________
If you are doomed to be boring - make it short. Andre Geim


Top
Rory
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Tue Jul 19, 2016 9:28 am
User avatar

Joined: Wed May 07, 2014 6:02 am
Posts: 1917

Offline
What do you think iNow, are my suggestions outrageous? ;)

_________________
If you are doomed to be boring - make it short. Andre Geim


Top
iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Tue Jul 19, 2016 4:40 pm
User avatar
Original Member
Original Member

Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2011 11:40 pm
Posts: 5604
Location: Iowa

Offline
I agree with much of what you say and think in an idealized world this approach is best case. Where I struggle is that this is not an idealized world. Many people are lucky to have any work, let alone work that perfectly optimizes everyones individual life wellness and mental fulfilliment. We must make trade-offs and determine for ourselves in each instance what we're willing to accept for other justified ends and what we're not.

For you, working with others and a sense of autonomy are where you draw the line. For me, it's how enabled I am to provide for my family and live securely in an uncertain world with a bit of flexibility around my time. I'm willing to put up with a lot of suboptimal conditions if those things are provided.

_________________
iNow

"[Time] is one of those concepts that is profoundly resistant to a simple definition." ~C. Sagan


Top
Rory
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Tue Jul 19, 2016 5:28 pm
User avatar

Joined: Wed May 07, 2014 6:02 am
Posts: 1917

Offline
Image

^Reminded me of this

Well, I don't have a mortgage or anyone to provide for, but it's not like I get to choose to only work in an empowering politically neutral workplace. None exist, as far as I can tell.

_________________
If you are doomed to be boring - make it short. Andre Geim


Top
iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Tue Jul 19, 2016 9:48 pm
User avatar
Original Member
Original Member

Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2011 11:40 pm
Posts: 5604
Location: Iowa

Offline
:)

_________________
iNow

"[Time] is one of those concepts that is profoundly resistant to a simple definition." ~C. Sagan


Top
Falconer360
Post  Post subject: Re: what makes a good scientific theory ?  |  Posted: Wed Jul 20, 2016 5:42 pm
User avatar
Original Member
Original Member

Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2011 10:30 pm
Posts: 988
Location: Somewhere in the Great State of Washington

Offline
Rory, I'm not being nitpicky or anything I just wanted to tackle each point head on.

Rory wrote:
Just because a tiny minority are trying to optimise power structures within the workplace doesn't mean that office politics isn't a significant issue.

And I fundamentally disagree with you on the nature and purpose of work. I think that the overall purpose of an organisation is achieved more efficiently (and with less damage to employees' mental and emotional health) if individual employees are granted greater autonomy. That means

I don't think all organizations benefit by granting their employees more autonomy. I do however agree that a healthy and efficient organization has happy employees. Although there is an obvious limit of how much you can do to make your employees happy without sacrificing efficiency and productivity. You can't make everyone happy after all.

Quote:
*minimal deadlines


I agree with this as an ideal goal, but realistically all projects and work you do will have some sort of deadline. I mean it has to be done at some point. Without deadlines on certain projects, they will never be accomplished due to them being less enjoyable than other projects. I do however think that any deadline given must be reasonable.
Quote:
*no formal management


Even at the small stat up level, formal management is a necessity. Having a defined hierarchy is needed for delegating tasks and making sure people stay on task. You can't just trust everyone to go do their own thing without any sort of oversight or direction. I've worked in situations where "everyone is equal" and it was a nightmare. One person just slacked off all the time letting everyone else do the lions share of the work. Maybe in an idealistic world everyone could be expected to govern themselves and behave responsibly, but this is the real world and people aren't like that.

Quote:
*no arbitrary obligation to sit at a specific desk for a specific length of time
*no set rooms or seats


I have no real issue with this, just that it may not work in all work environments. My employees move around a lot and are not tied to one spot. However, they aren't able to just use my desk whenever, and I only can do my work at my desk. So you know it might work well for certain organizations, just not a universal across all.

Quote:
*collaboration is optional and organic not compulsory or enforced


I've already talked about my views extensively on this, but I will add that a good manager won't force two people who won't get along to work together. That being said part of being an adult is sucking it up and learning to deal with people you don't want to deal with. A wise friend of mine once stated "Be thankful for your most challenging clients, colleagues, and friends. They're the ones from whom you'll learn the most." And it's very true.

Quote:
*free think time and free feel (yeah, somebody needs to rephrase that) constitutes the majority of employees' time

Hey no free feels here :P

Quote:
*all employees are trained in assertiveness skills
*passivity and aggression strictly not allowed

Agreed.

Quote:
*mutually consensual platonic hugging and hand-holding positively encouraged

While I don't believe that these are necessary, I also don't believe they should be banned. I personally just hate touching people, and having people touch me. I feel awkward just patting someone on the shoulder and I generally loathe hugs from non-loved ones

Quote:
Edit: also, if work feels like work, then you may be in the wrong profession. You will know your true calling when going to work feels like being paid to be who you are.


In my experience, every job eventually feels like work. Even if I was a professional snowmobiler, I would eventually start to feel that way. But hey, maybe I'm weird.

Overall I agree with Inow that your approach is the best case for idealized world, but not the world we live in. A lot of the organizational structures we have today are there because they work in the world that we have. If you're having trouble with the place you work, maybe the problem is that it isn't the right place for you? Kind of like how working night shift or working customer service isn't for everyone. Note: I don't mean this in a way implying you aren't capable or or anything offensive.

_________________
"For every moment of triumph, for every instance of beauty, many souls must be trampled." Hunter S Thompson
"It is easy to kill someone with a slash of a sword. It is hard to be impossible for others to cut down" - Yagyu Munenori


Top
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Print view

Who is online
Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
Jump to:   
cron

Delete all board cookies | The team | All times are UTC


This free forum is proudly hosted by ProphpBB | phpBB software | Report Abuse | Privacy