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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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. 🙂