Buttle's World

14 January, 2009

Playing by the Rules

Filed under: Posts — clgood @ 20:59

Harriet Hall has an excellent article on not leveling the playing field, but agreeing what game we’re playing. It’s worth reading the whole thing. Here, for your edification, are the rules:

If you want to play the science game, here’s what you do:

  1. Submit your hypothesis to proper testing. Testimonials, intuitions, personal experience, and “other ways of knowing” don’t count.
  2. See if you can falsify the hypothesis.
  3. Try to rule out alternative explanations and confounding factors.
  4. Report your findings in journal articles submitted to peer review.
  5. Allow the scientific community to critique the published evidence and engage in dialog and debate.
  6. Withhold judgment until your results can be replicated elsewhere.
  7. Respect the consensus of the majority of the scientific community as to whether your hypothesis is probably true or false (always allowing for revision based on further evidence).
  8. Be willing to follow the evidence and admit you are wrong if that’s what the evidence says.

If you want to play the science game, here are some of the things you don’t do:

  1. Accuse the entire scientific community of being wrong (unless you have compelling evidence, in which case you should argue for it in the scientific journals and at professional meetings, not in the media).
  2. Design poor-quality experiments that are almost guaranteed to show your hypothesis is true, whether it really is or not. Use science to show THAT your treatment works, not to ask IF it works.
  3. Keep using arguments that have already been thoroughly discredited. (The intelligent design folks are still claiming the eye could not have evolved because it is irreducibly complex; homeopaths are still claiming homeopathy cured more patients than conventional medicine in the 19th century epidemics).
  4. Write books for the general public to promote your thesis – as if public opinion could influence science!
  5. Form an activist organization to promote your beliefs.
  6. Step outside the scientific paradigm and appeal to intuition and belief.
  7. Mention the persecution of Galileo and compare yourself to him.
  8. Invent a conspiracy theory (Big Pharma is suppressing the truth!).
  9. Claim to be a lone genius who knows more than all the other scientists put together.
  10. Offer a treatment to the public after only the most preliminary studies.
  11. Set up a website to sell products that are not backed by good evidence.
  12. Refuse to admit it when your hypothesis is proven wrong
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