Scientist or not a scientist

Science is a method of how to investigate the world.

The scientists work according to scientific rules. Those who work according to those rules are those that can be called scientists, whether they have an academic degree or not. What is not so often realized is that you can have degree and anyway not work scientifically. And you can lack a degree and anyway work scientifically.

You get an idea how things can be connected and explain some phenomenon. You form a test to try to confirm it. If it’s already a “good” idea, or after the first confirming test you can call it a hypothesis. You go on with other tests to confirm or reject the hypothesis. The hypothesis can then be so well grounded that you can call it a theory.

 

What is a scientific theory?

(Information retrieved from the Chemical Resource Center (KRC) in Sweden)

A scientific theory is a well-functioning model, which explains a natural phenomenon. A scientific theory is not rejected because it does not “envision it”, it is rejected only on experimental grounds. We say that the natural sciences are empirical, ie. They must work in experimental situations.

What characterizes a scientific theory? How do we know it’s a scientific theory? The most important criteria are that it is

  • Falsible. Ie It must be possible to find experiments that contradict the theory if it is incorrect.
  • Predictive, ie Results can be predicted, which is called prediction. It should be possible to make predictions about the future based on it.

Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish a scientific theory from a pseudoscientific theory. Then there are some things that are worth checking out. Pseudoscience is characterized by

  1. Belief in authorities
  2. Lack of repeatability
  3. Hand-picked examples
  4. Dismissal of contradictory facts
  5. Non-falsible theories
  6. Inadequate explanation value
  7. Ad hoc hypotheses – customize the hypothesis to explain a particular phenomenon

The scientific method only works with what can be observed in the natural world. It though doesn’t say other objects can’t exist.

Many scientists today embrace the philosophy of naturalism, which is not science. According to naturalism cosmos consists only of objects studied by the natural sciences, and does not include any immaterial or intentional realities.

The scientific method does not take any stand if there are any additional ways than the scientific method to obtain knowledge.

The philosophy naturalism says that the reality can not involve any immaterial or intentional realities, for example a creator outside the world.

Scientism is another philosophy that goes one step further and says there are no other ways to obtain knowledge than through the scientific method.

What is often forgotten is that according to the scientific method, the answers that you get are dependent on knowledge of today, what you have perceived about the world so far and how your tests are designed with these facts as a base. So the answers we get today are not 100 % truth, they are the most probable truth depending on what we know today. When knowledge increase, the most probable truth may change to something else.

6 thoughts on “Scientist or not a scientist

  1. Yes. Knowledge against science. Or scientific theories. That’s why wise scientists refuse to answer to the question: “Is it possible to have working apiary without treatments?”. Because sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t. And scientia still doesn’t know the key circumstances of the success or failure.
    So, we can say that most we know about living beings is still just knowledge, but not the real scientific knowledge. We know better, what will happen, when we strongly interfere in natural process (like feeding, treating, inseminating etc.) eliminating lots of key factors, but in fact we don’t know, what WILL happen without our interference.
    Lack of data in my humble opinion.
    Thank You for Your work, Erik.

    • Thanks for your input Krzysztof!
      It makes me inspired to do the following comment.
      An expression often used is “science and proven experience”. Knowledge is always imperfect, dependant as it is on previous knowledge, which is also imperfect. That’s why science says “this is true, as far as we know today”. The science knowledge is coming from following the scientific rules in making tests and discussing the results, often with statistics.
      “Proven experience” is knowledge obtained through other means than scientific tests, often during many years getting the same results when doing things the same way. Is it false knowledge or bad knowledge? Of course not. That’s why it’s used by scientists, and used as well.
      If the advice would be to do nothing until you had scientific tests confirming methods or descriptions, not much would be done. It’s not much confirmed by science what we do every day in life. And yes, many things we do are kind of wrong. And even advices we follow from scientists sometimes change radically after a number of years when they and we know better. Also so with proven experience.
      When it comes to scientific tests, after some time we may realise that tests done are designed with lack of knowledge concerning some important facts. If these had been known the tests had been designed differently and results had maybe been different.
      Sadly, sometimes also scientists (as all other types of people) have been revealed to cheat. (Why do people cheat?) One way of doing that is to consciously design a test so that you most probably woun’t get a statistically significant result. With bees and varroa tests you just keep what you call control colonies and test colonies enough close to each other and let the mite populations raise high enough.

  2. Dear Erik,
    so may I ask, why you deleted my critical post regarding “Resistant bees in Wales”?!
    The presented table within that article is full of statistical error.

    Thus your own site is containing pseudoscience too – and you were told so.

    Best regards

    André

  3. Nice topic.
    You touched several times this topic in earlier blogs, from different perspectives. This is good because necessary.
    Normally beekeepers are thought to work not scientifically and learnings are discussed more anecdotally. In contrast scientist are trained to ask clear hypothesis, conduct precise experiments (i.e. only one factor – the one that is investigated – is changed, statistic is OK and the result is confirmed at least a second time.) Hence, it is clear that the scientific approach is preferable to solve important questions, however, cannot always be followed up, as the effort is clearly higher and for simple topics often to overblown.
    Anyway, I very much like your sentence, that there are beekeepers that work scientifically and are no scientists and scientists (or better people with a degree) that do not work scientifically.
    I personally have the feeling that the “commercialisation” of science becomes bigger and bigger and as a consequence, scientific topics are more and more biased. As an example bee health research is too much focused on varroa research and equivalently on the effect of pesticides. When directly asked why varroa research dominated that much over the research on pesticides Prof. Bienefeld answered in the german beekeepers journal: Because the legislator don’t want that. Even worse, scientists are paid to publish wrong results, when this fits to the needs of big companies (e.g. Monsanto or Syngenta) or even heavily attacked if they publish results that do not fit to the marketing stories of huge companies. In my eyes this should be mentioned as well, when talking about this topic.
    On the other hand a lot of beekeepers like D. Lusby, M. Bush and K. Webster in the US and you Erik and some others in Europe contributed significantly to the varroa resistance progress and demonstrated that beekeeping is possible without treatment in a scientifically manner. It is important to understand that varroa is a simple threat to bees, that can be overcome by right management and selection system.
    These principles have been addressed and are regularly discussed eg. in your blogs.
    As said above probably because too many scientists get not funded anymore, if they would contribute too successful to resistance research or in case the blame pesticides too much, we have the situation that we have right now. The example you gave in your March blog – the beekeeper C. Baldwin works since years treatment free, but he feels blacklisted as no scientist is interested in what he is doing in particular.
    This is a weird situation. However, as framework will not change in short term this will go on and may even get worse.

    BTW, Erik did you know Maja Lunde? I have read her nice nook recently: “The story of bees”.

  4. The truth is:
    Neither Dee Lusby nor Michael Bush nor Kirk Webster nor Paul Jungels follow a scientific approach at all!

    I’m tempted to say: Not even one of the well-known treatment-free beekeeper-gurus does.

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