Trust the Scientific Method

I believe that scientific method gives us the best chance of finding the truth through one variant of experiment or another.  That doesn’t mean that research flaws can’t slip in and give us incorrect conclusions that can be accepted for a while.

I’ve just noticed some articles about African Neanderthals – these guys may have ranged from the Med to Jo’berg.  It conflicts with all my training – that sub-Saharan Africans lack Neanderthal genetics has been an article of rather amusing faith. 

I researched the correlation between technology – cell phones, mostly – and Hutterite outmigration.  The data looked fine – the statistical probability of my research not being significant was extremely low – yet one interview with an old Hutterite minister, and an article in the Mennonite Quarterly Review brought forward a confounding situation.  The presence of a group called the Arnoldleut, and their earlier incorporation and eventual ejection from the colonies was far more significant than the technological changes I studied.  While that discovery was part of my research, it was also luck – a secretary with whom I had worked arranged the interview not so much to help my research but to create a situation where a runaway could spend an evening back on the colony visiting with her mother as I interviewed the minister.  I trust the scientific method – but without that last interview, I would have published nonsense . . . and my last interview occurred because of a secretary’s kindness in finding a way for a grandmother to meet her new grandchild. 

I believe that scientific method is the best way we have to get facts – but all of our results are subject to further examination.  The physical laws that Isaac Newton developed were all the results of observations that occurred within earth’s gravity and atmosphere – yet most of the universe is vacuum and free fall.  The ability to observe the very small increased after Newton – and we’ve moved into a time when Quantum became the word to describe a form of physics that was not available for Newton to observe. 

I trust scientific method.  Scientific method insists that all of our findings are tentative . . . I am unlikely to be the last person to research Hutterite outmigration.  My findings are correct (due to a secretary getting me one more interview) and I was saved the embarrassment of publishing an incorrect explanation of that outmigration.  Newton’s laws are in print, and useful – but later researchers till the fields of quantum physics.  The results of scientific inquiry are always tentative, they can always be questioned.  It’s worth remembering that Piltdown man spent nearly 40 years in mankind’s family tree before the hoax was conclusively proven in 1953. 

Science does not move through consensus nor certainty.  Trust the method – but question the results.  We do not prove with statistics – statistical methodology just quantifies the likelihood of something occurring due to random happenstance.  We take that statistical data, and infer causality.  I’m one of the lucky ones – Mary Kidwiler arranged an opportunity that kept me from the embarrassment and mockery that accompanies publishing a scientific blunder.  Follow the scientific method – but remember, all conclusions are tentative and subject to revision.

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