Scientific evidence

May 18, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

Evidence comes in a variety of flavors. What we see, hear, feel, learn, or experience.

Most evidence we might offer up in a discussion is pretty easy to dismiss if that evidence doesn’t line up with our worldview.

Place the word scientific in front of it and the credibility of the evidence changes (even if the science is nonsense or taken out of context).

I don’t mean to dismiss science or its evidence. No, not at all. Science is what makes our society run. We trust science and we rely upon that science to keep us fed, safe, and healthy.

What I am suggesting is that we need to be careful about loosely applying the term to our evidence.

I am sure somewhere there is a scrap of out-of-context scientific evidence the earth is flat.

Maybe a better way to approach our terms and their meaning would be to say something like science generally agrees or even stronger it’s a scientific fact.

Ohm’s Law is a scientific fact that doesn’t require any of us to agree or disagree for it to be true.

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48 comments on “Scientific evidence”

  1. “Science is going to kill us all” – Stephen Hawking.
    The last words of humanity will probably be something like,
    “Oh…maybe we shouldn’t have done that”
    & the scientific evidence won’t be hard to find.

    Wuhan 4.0 😉

  2. Now that the USA central govt is entertaining UFO just understand that
    Those flying the UFOs have not stopped by for a visit!

    There is one thing I truly know is that I am truly haunted humans”

  3. It’s often difficult to find the right words to convey the meaning of exactly what you want to say. And when you do there will usually be at least one person who wants to contradict. So much of what we read is because someone wants to convince you their view is correct. My first question is why and the answer usually involves encouragement to spend money. That view may well be a bit cynical but cynicism can be a useful protective tool.

    I would suggest that facts, laws and rules exist because our belief system supports them. Historically, some facts when further researched are later disproved. My first thought was perhaps that’s why Ohm’s is a Law but I found the following article from Wiki which might help clarify or could add to the confusion.

  4. The best advice I ever received prior to opening my practice was “ deduct 90% of what you hear and doubt the other 10%!

    It works!
    It provides peace!

  5. Science enables us to understand the natural and physical world, even something about the universe up there. We can measure bits of it, make predictions and carry out repeatable experiments.

    May scientists work in small areas of interest without the wider picture. There are some exceptions, Alan Turing was an interesting one. Ecologists possibly more than anyone understand their world as a never-ending weave of systems. Understanding each component doesn’t tell you how the system works or even that you have identified all the elements of the system.

    Sound recording and reproduction should, one might think, be a pretty simple system, but perhaps it isn’t and perhaps we hear things we don’t yet understand or haven’t even conceived.

    1. Science also tells us that each human being is an inimitable individual (a case sui generis). Even twins aren’t exact clones! Thus we will never know the exact perceptions of another individual. We only can assume or hypothesize what he feels, hears, sees, tastes etc., the so-called quality-problem. (99.9 % of all political experts didn’t expect that tzar Vladimir would try to destroy Ukraine.) Thus the majority of all contributions (including those from Paul McGowan) here isn’t scientific at all but rather reveal just individual anecdotical findings never scientifically verified. 🙂

  6. I am going to take a stab at this, but it is probably going to go poorly. I can say to someone that I am a man of science and back it up with what I have doen in my life. As most of you know I am a retired Ph.D. physicist.

    When politicians say “they are following THE science” more often then not they do not know what that really means, but they think that by saying that people will think they know what they are doing.

    So in science we have facts, laws, theorems and axioms. I am not going to try to explain all of them, but I will try to explain the difference between facts and science.

    Facts are things ( phenomenon to be more proper ) that are supported by an abundance of observational data. Here is a very basic fact. Sometime in the past ( it may have been before we, homo sapiens, came into existence about 200,000 to 250,000 years ago ) someone noticed that the bright light in the sky always first appeared over a certain mountain range and always disappeared over the far side of a river. When that someone noticed that this always happens and his children and their children all saw that this always happened it became fact.

    Now, discovering that fact ( the sun rises in the east and sets in the west ) is NOT science! Science began when some other human asked WHY does the sun rise in the east and set in the west? And after centuries of trying to explain why this fact ( as well as some other facts about what we call our solar system ) exists, someone realized that the earth is not flat ( although it seems so ) but is a sphere that rotates on an axis and night and day exist because only half of the earth faces the sun at any given time. And this person’s reward for this brilliant bit of science was to be labeled a heretic!

    In spite of this the above continued to evolve into what is called astrophysics. Science is about WHY. Certainly collecting data, cataloging data and analyzing data is an important part of science, but unless you use that data to answer WHY the data is what it is, it is just data analysis. Science is always evolving and thus changing. Also, many people do not appreciate the rigor that goes into science and how difficult it is to have your ideas accepted as an improvement in a given area of science.

    I hope this helps. Paul is very right that we should all be careful how we use the terms “fact”, “science” and “scientific”.

    1. Thanks, Tony, this was a wonderful explanation.

      It still boggles my mind how someone eventually concluded the Earth is round, it’s a planet circling a sun and all that. That’s an amazing leap of thought.

      1. Paul, I wish I could give you a reference for the history of science and math, but I do not have one. What is clear from recorded history ( and probably even before recorded history ) is that humans have always been fascinated by the night sky ( obviously, this is before man made light pollution ). Also, it is clear from recorded history that humans are fascinated with math ( I know you probably find that hard to believe ). Given this I do not find it difficult to accept that humans tried to use math to predict what they saw in the night sky. And it sort of worked, but had some problems.

        As observation of the night sky improved ( the invention of the telescope ) it became clear that the math models had even more problems. Then a FEW bright and bold dudes realized it wasn’t the math that was wrong, it was the ASSUMPTION that the earth was at the center and all the stars and planets revolved around it. When they assumed the sun was at the center the math models did agree with the observed data. The only problem was if they published these new models they would be branded heretics. Being a budding astrophysicist back then really took a lot of bravery.

      2. Boggles my mind how today there are flat earth believers. One guy tried to prove his theory in his home made rocket and crashed to his death. Do they really think earth is a Frisbee? We have reached Europe by flying or sailing either west or East. Isn’t that all the evidence they need? If there was an edge to earth you would think people would have gone there already and looked over the edge. Sheesh how stupid can they be and to kill themselves trying to prove it too. I suppose the moon, the sun and all the planets are flat too…lol. This video is sad, you can see his parachute broke off at take off dooming him. At least the other guy survived though he didn’t prove anything and was hurt. Maybe Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos should allow them to take a ride to space to put this to rest so no more people get hurt or killed.

      3. “concluded the Earth is round”

        It’s 2022.

        Vast stretches of the country steadfastly assert and believe that the earth is, in fact, flat. They steadfastly and increasingly militantly assert and believe that science is a lie. And, they have the constant support of a substantial segment of an exploitative public media, together with political figures, for their conspiracy-fueled convictions.

        In some states, there’s constant pressure to forbid teaching science in schools. In some areas, you put yourself in bodily danger even speaking about science. Many polls indicate that average people think that the USA ought to become a theocracy.

        Rock on.

  7. I’m a big believer in the Karl Popper definition of science, based on the Falsification Principle. For a theory to be considered scientific it must be able to be tested and potentially proven false. In other words, nothing in science is ever proven true; it can only be proven not false.

    Of course, ideas like Ohm’s Law that work for an extended period of time, making predictions that are borne out, without undergoing a paradigm shift as described by Kuhn, can be assumed to be true. But Ohm’s Law could be proven false and then modified in the future. That’s the other thing about science: It’s self-correcting over time.

    1. Indeed, Sir Karl Popper’s concept of scientific proof is rather different, indeed the opposite, from the rather blunt empirical approach favoured elsewhere in the audio world.

      One of his sayings was that even some of the most accepted scientific theories can end up in the dustbin of history, so when people say something is established science and beyond doubt, don’t believe it.

      When I was at University he still had an office, having been head of the department, although he’d officially retired some years earlier. At the time I’m not sure we realised how remarkable this little 19th century European chap was.

    1. It’s funny. In the cartoon the king (Ferdinand?) insists the earth is flat when there is a globe sitting right in front of him. Most educated people in 1492 knew the earth is round. Most just thought the earth’s diameter was smaller.

      Another thing. All bunnies don’t eat carrots. The bunny in my backyard won’t touch the carrots I set out for it. 🙂

    2. All this talk about a flat earth reminds me of this quote I read on Twitter.
      “The Flat Earth Society has members all around the globe.”
      Posted before, but not everyone will have seen it.

  8. A lot of people confuse faith and fact. When they believe strongly enough in something they assume it is a fact and are disappointed when others do not accept their belief as a fact.

  9. Scientific in the phrase ‘scientific evidence’ is just an adjective not a noun. The word is used to mentally tip the scale but it isn’t the proof.
    Newton gave us the law of gravity. It has been tested thoroughly by all of us and to my knowledge no one has proven it is false.

    1. The law of gravity is just a mathematical model predicting behavior. No one yet has explained how and why gravity works. Still a mystery.

        1. Tony, I am familiar with the four forces of nature. I was a physics major in college before I became an architect. We really do not know how gravity works, such as how and why masses attract each other. Theoretical physics is just that, theories with all sorts of problems. Mathematical formulas are not explanations of how things work. They are only predictors.

  10. Fact: In double blind ABX listening tests the ability to identify bit rate, sampling frequency, lossy compression, different amplifier designs, cables etc is essentially zero

    False Science: People cannot hear differences in bit rate, sampling frequency, lossy compression, different amplifier designs, cables etc

    Proper Science: Under the conditions of double blind ABX listening tests
    people cannot hear differences in bit rate, sampling frequency, lossy compression, different amplifier designs, cables etc. At present there is no convincing evidence that ABX test results have any correlation with human response in non test conditions.

  11. Science and politics are merging. There is less tolerance for critical views from peers. In some cases zero tolerance for dissenting views.
    Scientific method has become a joke in some fields of science.
    Future dictators will be so-called “scientists”.

    1. Tim, In what field do you see the scientific method becoming a joke? I see no evidence that science and politics are merging which is very concerning. Many of the problems that we all face ( pollution, resource consumption and allocation, clean water supply, food supply, over population, pandemics ) are going to require more science not less. The problem is politicians come mostly from a legal background and not a science background. Historically they don’t merge very well.

    2. To amplify your point, dictators of the past like Lenin and Stalin already considered themselves scientists. Their science was Marxism which purported to explain all human relations and interactions without reference to personality or the supernatural.

      1. Laszlo, You are talking about political science. That is a “soft” science and not as “hard” science like physics, chemistry, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, etc. The same rules do not apply to soft science. Soft science allows for tyrants and dictators. Those are not allowed in hard science, thank goodness!

        1. So there are different sciences – some are hard some are soft.

          Science is becoming a word that is loosing it’s accepted meaning?

          I.e. political science

          Some are legit some aren’t?

          Seems to me that we are getting awfully close to calling everything science. Hard or soft….

          Listening to the proper equipment for the proper reproduction of any given recording is a hard or soft science?

          😉 😀 ✌️

  12. Science does not represent “scientific fact” as an absolute truth. With a particular set of parameters and a very high number of correct results it is highly likely to be the truth for that particular set of parameters. Predicting events based on Newton’s Gravitational theory has been shown to be “the truth” (with vanishingly small uncertainty) for observations made within the parameter set of “classical mechanics”. It does not deliver correct results on the cosmological scale, or at the particle level of Nuclear Physics. Ohm’s law does not work correctly at extremely low temperatures.

  13. Facts are independent of science. What we mean by science is the theoretical matrix into which facts are embedded. In short, science is theories. Facts are observable and measurable; theories are not. However, theories are testable. To the degree that theories survive crucial tests by predicting the outcomes successfully, those theories are useful. They can be called, in Popper’s words, “corroborated.” However, no matter how many tests they survive and how many results they correctly predict, they cannot be called “true.” Truth applies only in the realms of mathematics, logic, and philosophy.

    That the sun rises over a mountain range in the east and sets over the ocean in the west are facts. That these facts can be explained by proposing that the sun orbits the earth is theory. We moderns are proud of the fact that we have discarded the geocentric theory of the solar system and come up with the heliocentric theory. We lose sight of the fact that it, too, is a theory. Though I can’t imagine how, it is always possible that the heliocentric theory of the solar system will also be overthrown by a better theory that explains more.

    What I’ve summarized here is basically Karl Popper’s approach to the philosophy of science.

    1. When a theory is rigorously proven to be correct it becomes a Law in science. Thus we have Newton’s Law of Motion and Ohm’s Law of Resistance. In the science world there is a hierarchy of proven things: Laws, Theorems. Axioms and Lemmas. I have a classmate who has a Lemma named after him. I may not seem like much being number four in the hierarchy, but if I had a Lemma named after me, I would have a big fat smile on my face all the time.

      1. I believe your comment is partially correct but leaves much out. Theories are never—according to Popper—proven correct. They are simply “not yet refuted.” If they become Laws (with your upper case designation) they may at some point be overruled. Popper enjoys pointing out that this is precisely what happened to Newton’s laws (lower case). Einstein’s theories of Relativity provided a more comprehensive, more detailed, and more accurate way of measuring motion. Hence they refuted Newton’s theories of gravitation and motion. Of course in daily life and including even the trajectories of space probes, the accuracy of Relativistic equations is not needed. (Who cares about a correction to the speed of a space vehicle in the twelfth decimal place?) So it’s not really correct to say that Newton’s laws were “proven.” They were darn good and addressed every issue quite well for two hundred years. But Einstein’s theory was superior. And some day Einstein’s theory may be refuted by an even better theory. But even then people will still be using Newtonian calculations for normal motions on or near Earth.

  14. When I configure a computer on a network, there may be many ways to get to the configuration, however, there is only one way to make the computer access the network’s resources like shares and printers.

    The science dictates this 😉

  15. “We trust science and we rely upon that science”
    That is what is holding us all back. Early scientists for the most part where forced to obey the edicts of the Roman Catholic Church. Even Einstein bent the rules of his theory of relativity because of pressure from the church.
    The human body has 10 trillion cells, each cell has 100,000 chemical reactions per second. Einsteins theory / energy can not explain what is happening in the body. His energy is way to slow. Too this day scientists do not know where the energy comes from for a single cell to divide.

  16. To bring us back to audio, which I’m pretty sure is the titular focus of this forum, there is a very popular mistake of confounding science and measurement, especially among some highly vocal adherents of a site with the word “Science” in its name. Measurement is very often an important element of science and scientific discovery. In and of itself, however, measurement is not science.

    As far as the earth being flat, I have proof that it is not. If it was, my cat would have knocked something breakable off the edge by now.

    1. “which I’m pretty sure is the titular focus of this forum”
      Yes, unless Paul posts about sourdough bread, CoViD-19, wearing masks, vegetarianism,
      being respectful to others, electric cars, growing tomatoes, pizza ovens, etc, etc. 😉

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