The rules of science v3.0

The set of rules presented herein has been established as a tool to distinguish science from beliefs and politics – to distinguish what we know from what we do not know for sure.

It should be noted that by «scientific idea» it is herein meant: a concept having an ability, within a defined context, to consistently predict an outcome within a certain range of values and prohibit an outcome outside this range.

It is here recognised that this definition of a scientific idea excludes those fields of investigation which makes no predictions about measurable outcomes.

Rule about well-defined scientific concepts

A scientific idea must consist of a well-defined concept having a well-defined capability of prediction within a well-defined context.

By idea is here meant: any expression of a relationship between two or more measurands.

By measurand is here meant: well-defined property that can be quantified

By relationship is here meant: a quantified change in measurand A is followed by a quantified change in measurand B

By concept is here meant: a set of measurands and their relationships

By definition is here meant: identification of the set of properties that distinguish a measurand or an idea from all others

By capability is here meant: maximum difference between predictions and measurements

By prediction is here meant: quantification of a measurand, specified without any foreknowledge about the measurement result

By conditions is here meant: a set of those things which have influence on an outcome

By context is here meant: a range of conditions within which a concept is claimed to be valid

Comment

One essential characteristic of a scientific idea is that it must be possible for other persons to replicate and test an idea. The purpose of definitions is to ensure that an idea can be equally understood by different persons. Without well-defined concepts, context and capabilities – it will not be possible for others to replicate, test or evaluate an idea.

Vagueness is the hallmark of pseudo-science and only serves to evade counterarguments.

(It may not be obvious, but a binary property with only two possible values – like is and is not – is also a measurand within the definitions provided here.)

Rule about logically valid scientific ideas

A scientific idea must consist of statements – which are logically valid conclusions deduced from premises – which are themselves logically valid conclusions or axioms.

By statement is here meant: a logical proposition which can be either true or false within the defined context

By logically valid is here meant: the truth of the premises guarantees the truth of the conclusion – it is impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion nevertheless be false.

By true is here meant: a statement which can not be contradicted, within the specified context, by any logically valid statement

By false is here meant: not true

By deduce is here meant: combine premises into a conclusion by means of mathematics and logic

By mathematical is here meant: a consistent and logically valid system of symbols and operations on these symbols

By premise is here meant: a statement used in a deduction

By axiom is here meant: a statement which is self-evidently true

Comment

If a scientific idea is based on at least one logically invalid conclusion – or deduced from at least one logically invalid, or false, premise – something must be wrong with the idea or the presentation of it.

The further judgement of that idea should be suspended until the source of the invalidity has been found and rectified. To avoid that previous false statements are maintained on false premises, new judgement should encompass all consequences of a rectification.

Rule about validation of scientific ideas

Nature is true.

An idea must be tested by comparison of deduced predictions of that idea with measurements.

If a prediction differs from measurement, by more than the combined uncertainty of the measurement and the defined capability of the concept, there must be something wrong with the idea – or the test.

An idea, which has been verified by all tests, may be referred to as validated within the tested range of conditions by reference to the tests it has passed.

However, a new test can suddenly prove that there must be something wrong with a concept – or suddenly, a new concept with better capabilities might be found.

By nature is here meant: anything existing or happening in the universe

By test is here meant: an activity which can verify a part of a concept

By comparison is here meant: quantification of the difference between

By uncertainty is here meant: quantified inaccuracy

By wrong is here meant: not true

By verify is here meant: show the truth of

By more accurate is here meant: lower uncertainty

By prove is here meant: verify a statement by means of theorems.

By theorem is here meant: a concept which has been proven and which can now be used as the basis of other proofs.

Comment

There are many kinds of ideas about truth. This rule has been based on the tradition established by scientists and philosophers like Albert Einstein, Karl Popper and Richard Feynman as evident by the following quotes:

“Truth is what stands the test of experience.”

Albert Einstein – “The Laws of Science and the Laws of Ethics” (1950)

“According to my proposal, what characterizes the empirical method is its manner of exposing to falsification, in every conceivable way, the system to be tested. Its aim is not to save the lives of untenable systems but, on the contrary, to select the one which is by comparison the fittest, by exposing them all to the fiercest struggle for survival.”– Karl Popper – The logic of scientific discovery (1959)

“In general we look for a new law by the following process. First we guess it. Then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what would be implied if this law that we guessed is right. Then we compare the result of the computation to nature, with experiment or experience, compare it directly with observation, to see if it works. If it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It does not make any difference how beautiful your guess is. It does not make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is – if it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. That is all there is to it.”
– Lecture by Richard Feynman on Scientific Method (1964)

Obviously, if an idea has been adjusted to match a set of measurements it is not a prediction. Adjustment of an idea to match measurements will invalidate a test of that idea against the same measurements or contemporary measurements of the same measurand.

Rule about hypothesis within science

A concept which depends on a least one premise, which has not yet been validated, should be referred to as a hypothesis.

By validated is here meant: provided data or a precise reference which supports the truth of

By “precise reference” is here meant: identification of the source and a quote of the statements which is regarded as a sufficient support for the truth of a statement

Comment

To communicate clearly about the status of a scientific idea and avoid the premature use of an idea, it is wise to communicate clearly that an idea is resting on premises which have not yet been validated – whenever that is the case.

Rule about measurement within science

A proper measurement report must contain:

  • Definition of the measurand
  • Definition of the conditions
  • Measured values
  • Well-defined non-standard units – or international standard units
  • Traceability for the measurements
  • The uncertainty of the measurements
  • Information about how the uncertainty has been determined

By measurement is here meant: quantify a measurand by an enumerated multiple of a unit

By unit is here meant: a well-defined quantity which has one unique value

By traceability is here meant: an unbroken chain of calibrations to the definition of a unit

By calibration is here meant: a comparison of a measurement with a traceable reference having a known uncertainty

By reference is here meant: a reference measurement having an unbroken chain of calibrations to the definition of the unit.

Comment

The reliability of a measurement is related to the information provided in the measurement report. The information in the measurement report is also crucial for replication of a test. If the measurement report lacks crucial information, the outcome can be deemed void or invalid.

Further, all measurements are associated with some uncertainty. The uncertainty of a measurement may be significant for the conclusions of a test.

Hence, when reporting the result of a measurement, it is obligatory that some quantitative indication of the quality of the result be given so that those who use it can assess its reliability.

Without such an indication, measurement results cannot be compared, either among themselves or with reference values given in a specification or standard.

Rule about traceable facts within science

All data, which are relevant and significant to a propounded idea, must be provided together with precise information about how that data has been measured or obtained or reference to a readily available document containing that information.

If data has been disregarded or corrected, then both the original data and the corrected data must be provided together with a proper argument for the correction.

By data is here meant: originally measured or predicted value of a measurand or relationship between measurands

By readily available is here meant: available, without further request, by anyone having access to the document or media in which the idea is propounded

By relevant is here meant: a premise or part of a premise for the propounded conclusion

By significant: has an effect on the conclusion

By propounded is here meant: put forward for consideration

By precise information is here meant: sufficient for replication by independent persons having the same or equal tools and equipment available to them

By disregarded is here meant: removed from a set of data

By corrected is here meant: a measured or predicted value has been replaced with another value or property

Comment

All kinds of errors can be made when evaluating or analysing data. To facilitate an investigation of the data by other scientists, all relevant and significant data should be readily available to anyone who might like to verify that the propounded ideas are supported by the data or to analyse the data in alternative ways.

Rule about proper arguments within science

A proper argument for a scientific idea must be a logically valid combination of well-defined terms and traceable facts into a conclusion.

A proper argument for a scientific idea must also be free from logical fallacies, vague terms and opinions.

By term is here meant: a word or phrase used to identify a thing or a relationship between things

By traceable is here meant: precisely identified source

By source is here meant: document which contains facts

By document is here meant: any identified collection of words and symbols

By fact is here meant: a true statement about a thing or a relationship between things

By logical fallacies is here meant: any conclusion which does not necessarily follow from the premises

By necessarily is here meant: can not be anything else in a logically valid and consistent framework

By vague is here meant: does not distinguish a thing from all other things

By opinion is here meant: a statement which does not necessarily follow from measurement or test.

Comment

All kinds of errors and misconceptions are made within science. Common sources for such errors are all kinds of arguments where the conclusion does not necessarily follow from facts. Either because the premises are wrong, the conclusion does not necessarily follow from the premises or the terminology is too vague to be able to judge the validity of a statement.

Proper arguments will be a barrier against making many of these errors and help proponents and opponents to reveal errors and misconceptions about an idea.

The strive for truth should characterise all scientific endeavour. The purpose of this rule is to promote precision in argument and facilitate scrutiny.

About inductive reasoning within science

Inductive reasoning is any conclusion which can not be deduced from a test result.

A conclusion arrived at by inductive reasoning is invalid.

Comment

Inductive reasoning is widespread within religion, politics and science.

A prediction arrived at by inductive reasoning might happen to become true by luck.

However, science is not about luck – science is about reliable prediction.


Revision history

Version 3.0 published 2016-11-30 ; Updated based on comments from Gnomish

Version 2.0 published 2016-11-25 ; Draft

This is an original work by Science or Fiction, with invaluable scrutiny, comments and guidance by Gnomish. This work, or parts thereof, can be reproduced on the condition that this source is identified and a link to this original internet page is provided together with the reproduced material.

This work has been based on:
https://dhf66.wordpress.com/2016/07/09/10-theorems-for-ideas-about-how-things-work/

This is work is still under development but has been published here for further scrutiny. Any proposals for improvement, from anyone, will be greatly appreciated. 🙂

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15 thoughts on “The rules of science v3.0

  1. The definition of terms used in this essay are listed here:

    “By idea is here meant: any idea, hypothesis, concept, model or theory which states or proposes a relationship between two or more measurands.”
    Idea: any expression of a relationship between two or more measurands.

    “By measurand is here meant: a well-defined physical quantity that can
    be characterised by an essentially unique value.”
    Measurand: a property characterised by a specific value.

    it can simmer some more. it only gets better.

    Like

    • Regarding:

      By observation is here meant: quantification or characterization of the properties of a measurand
      or
      Observation: enumerated value of a measurand

      Just to clarify – your proposal implies that anything of interest within science can be quantified. Can we imagine a property which can not be quantified but can be characterized?

      Like

      • there can be qualities or properties which are not measured, but the act of measurement implies enumeration of a multiple of standard units.
        a measurand is something which is measured.
        so i think if the word measurand is applicable then quantity is an inherent part of the nature of that beast.

        Like

    • Thanks a lot for your input. I intended to keep track of changes but gave it up.
      Anyhow, I think you will recognise your input.

      I published v3.0 right now – and I am ready for more comments – it would be nice to bring this through to a solid product. 🙂

      Like

      • this has been tightened up considerably. it’s to the stage where i think i’d have to write the individual statements on cards and stick them on the walls to get a graphical view of the big picture.
        also, i may have read this too many times and become somewhat blind. perhaps i should keep away from it for a week and come back with fresh eyes.
        there remains a number of redundancies but juggling all the ideas without graphical aids (like cards stuck on a wall) is exceeding my concentration atm..
        um… some few specifics:
        you have definitions for ‘concept’ and ‘idea’ which are identical.
        you have definition for ‘inaccuracy’ and ‘uncertainty’ which seem to be identical
        i think i have to go do something completely different for a little while and come back to this.
        it’s not ripe yet, but it’s getting there. i think it can be reduced by about half, still. i’ll do you better when i can.

        Like

        • Thanks – enough feedback for a new revision already. I´ll start working on the redundancies.

          I also think I will remove the repetitive phrase: “By … is here meant:” as well – a colon will do.

          Hold on with your card game, until I have cleaned up some more. 🙂

          Like

        • i’m thrilled to help you do what you want with your idea.
          it’s worthy and not a trivial bit of scholarship was required to bring it off.
          it should have your name on the bronze plaque.
          i just don’t want to leave grubby fingerprints on it.

          Like

  2. there is a gang who seeks to mimic ‘science’ in order to fraudulently obtain the respect the process has earned through successful application over time. it was, indeed, the last bastion of acclaimed virtue.
    (now you need to give yourself the title of ‘reverend’ AND ‘doctor’ to trigger the reflex – and even that is failing due to an analog of Gresham’s Law thanks to this ‘mystification’ of science.
    i continuously run across conversations (online) that orbit this topic. it would benefit immensely to have a standard.
    (example: http://blog.dilbert.com/post/154082416051/the-non-expert-problem-and-climate-change-science)

    if you are able to refine your treatise to a one page checklist – like an entry in a taxonomic key – you may find it becomes the dominant link referencing scientific epistemology.
    your work may very well become the blade of occam.
    if it is simple enough that half the population can understand it, it will fill a current demand like nothing else.
    popper made a name over his grasp of the notion that falsification is the operant principle in the evolution of theories.
    you, however, have covered all he missed for a complete understanding.
    i’ll be watching to see how much traffic that generates as a proxy smple of how many remain capable of reason in the general population.

    Like

  3. a brain can only manage so many discrete elements at once.

    we overcome this by building higher level concepts that subsume others but represent them as one.
    a simple example is typing.
    if a person is required to type a letter he is shown on the screen, for instance, he will be unable to exceed 2 per second
    but we know that typists easily perform at a much higher rate.
    this is because, with rehearsal, common strings of letters cease to be discrete letters and become integrated into units composed of more than one letter.
    -ing, -ion are typical examples that a typist has integrated into single units. sometimes typos are generated from that…

    in any case, the definitions are necessary to prove that the construction of a higher level concept is done without contradictions and therefore can be understood without ambiguity and used for logical computation.
    but learning the words is a separate matter from conveying the greater meaning you are after.

    you want to build a metaphysical structure. you need good bricks. but your monument is not to bricks.
    i dunno why i have this fondness for analogies… lol

    a glossary can keep the definitions out of the way so the main ideas can be center stage in the spotlight.
    i think you want to approach bumper-sticker, catch-phrase, memorability and convenience as much as possible.
    5 simple declarative sentences would be something to aim for…

    Like

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