There’s been some blog commentary about the state of ‘science’ in modern society, latching onto the recent admission by the editor of The Lancet that alot of what is published is incorrect (Source). This comes about from the feeding-frenzy of modern research in which competition for research funding is fierce due to researcher’s KPI indicator being essentially the number of publications published in the peer censored reviewed literature.

The problem is that most of the researchers are not involved in the scientific method but applying known science to whatever policies need a scientific, or more correctly engineering, approach.

Science is not about forecasting the future for that is the role of religion.

The scientific method involves explaining an anomlous observation using extant facts and principles in the here and now. The most concise explanation of the method is that of geophysical exploration in which observations are made, interpreted, model(s) proposed and then tested. The crucial thing is that we are not predicting the future, but that the source of the geophysical anomaly, a real physical object in the ground, has to actually exist in the here and now. And if the in-situ test fails, then the model is flawed. Exploration geologists are one profession that the title ‘scientist’ is applicable. The rest are engineers or technicians who apply known scientific principles. The crucial fact is that when conducting a scientific experiment, the outcome of the test has to actually exist in the here and now, and not inferred to appear at some indeterminate time in the future.

But those who self-identify as scientists and involved in, say, climate science, are thus not scientists. After all if science is about explaining observations, then global warming/climate change/climate disruption has not been observed requiring a scientific explanation. The global warming meme is expected to occur in the future if we, so it is said, do not mend our ways and become righteous. Which means that academic disciplines which prognosticate the future are simply technologically driven religions or belief systems.

There is also the emphasis on ‘statistics’ and ‘statistical significance’. In exploration geology the presence or absence of a mineral target is not determined by any statistical significance – it’s either there or not. No one in the mining industry waffles on about a mineral ore-body being present at the 95% confidence level! We do use statistics to estimate the mineral content of a mineral ore-body but that is not science but engineering.

Rather the crisis that science finds itself in is due to the invasion of academia by the politically-correct, academic mediocre; and there is no escape from the looming next scientific ‘dark-age’.

Update: Not to make a fine point on it but climate science is all about prophesy, that something terrible will happen in the future if we do not behave in a particular manner in the here and now. Science is not concerned with the future because the future does not exist in the here and now, so when the climate scientists assert that the science is settled, they are gloriously wrong and simply don’t understand the scientific method.

About Louis Hissink

Retired diamond exploration geologist. I spent my professional life looking for mineral deposits, found some, and also located a number of kimberlites in NSW and Western Australia. Exploration geology is the closest one can get to practicing the scientific method, mineral exploration always being concerned with finding anomalous geophysical or geochemical data, framing a model and explanation for the anomaly and then testing it with drilling or excavation. All scientific theories are ultimately false since they invariably involved explaining something with incomplete extant knowledge. Since no one is omniscient or knows everything, so too scientific theories which are solely limited to existing knowledge. Because the future always yields new data, scientific theories must change to be compatible with the new data. Thus a true scientist is never in love with any particular theory, always knowing that when the facts change, so too must he/she change their minds.
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