Theories without predictive power should still be funded

By Confusion on Wednesday 13 August 2008 21:29 - Comments (3)
Category: Science, Views: 6.865

In this /. article about "Solar Systems Like Ours Are Likely To Be Rare " someone responded with:
Whatever... this is naval gazing and conjecture, no more credible than Intelligent Design. These guys have a few data points, they create a highly convoluted system that seems to account for their data points, then the moment they get more data, they start over. Again and again.

A good critical thinker should know when to say "We don't have a fucking clue" if they want to be taken seriously. But then, it's all about money, isn't it?
and he's partially right. Some research targets of science, even in physics, are subject to too many independent variables. This results in theories that are very vulnerable to changes: if you change only a small thing, the predictions the theory make will vary wildly. Theories explaining the formation of solar systems are such research targets and it may well be said that "we don't have a fucking clue".

However, I don't agree with his implicit conclusion that such research targets should not receive any funding. We are still interested in knowing the answers these researchers are looking for. Even a bad theory is better than no theory: they need some starting point.

Of course, alternate theories should be encouraged. If someone wishes to explain the formation of solar systems by starting from Genesis: go ahead. However, it turns out that the current scientific theories, despite lacking predictive power, are considered to be more satisfactory to most than competing theories. Theories that are based on Genesis that explain the formation of solar systems, need for more adaptations to change their predictions from "solar systems are like ours" to "solar systems are unlike ours". So we fund th scientific ones, as they seem the most promising.

Ending with a funny /. comment:
I'm no expert, but as I recall the major problem with probes into the gas giants is that the immense pressure inside of them would crush anything we're capable of making, and electromagnetic interference from the constant storms would make it impossible to transmit any data out.

Plus, every time anyone mentions sending probes into Uranus over at NASA, nobody can stop giggling long enough to seriously work on the problem.
Though I don't think this is only funny: perhaps the connotations of 'Uranus' so often result in the culturally imprinted response of embarassment, that you cannot get a research program to start.

Volgende: What you could be 08-'08 What you could be
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Comments


By Tweakers user mOrPhie, Thursday 14 August 2008 10:24

You're right. It fits very well in the science paradigm of "debunking theories and use the best one available". A good scientific publication would include the conditions which would debunk the theory and thus void it. That would be the scientific and more nuanced version of "we don't have a fucking clue". Acknowledging that it's a theory and still a drop of reality is the way to crush taboo's. During the Middle Ages, certain taboo's were the reason we were so "fucking" sure that witches existed and that the earth was flat...... and so was Uranus. (sorry, couldn't resist)

By Tweakers user Hadron, Saturday 16 August 2008 09:23

If no research is done, we will never get from the position 'we don't have a damn clue'.
Each successive research into solar systems will yield new data, which might or might not be useful.

I suppose it is a bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle without knowing the final picture. You start off with an empty board, and you don't have a damn clue what the picture will be.
So, you pick up a piece. This very likely doesn't make things much clearer, but at least you've started.
And after a few pieces, a pattern starts to come into view. So, you think you're there. However, the next piece doesn't match the pattern, and shatters your clues.
However, even if the piece doesn't seem to match the pattern, that's no reason not to finish the puzzle. You might've put it in the wrong place, or at a wrong angle. More pieces mean more clues. Eventually, there'll be enough pieces to ensure what the picture looks like.

Stopping along the way, because your conclusions were wrong is like ignoring reality and substituting it with your own.
Stopping because after picking up the first piece you 'still don't have a damn clue' is more like ignoring reality.

However, that doesn't mean all research has to continue, no matter what. Like puzzling, research takes time and resources, which can only be spent once. After all, while you're doing one puzzle, you can't be doing another at the same time without delaying the results.

But, if you argue that research should be stopped after picking up the first piece, you effectively are arguing that research itself is useless, that we might have been better off not researching at all. Perhaps we should go back to hunting wild boars with wooden spears, then.

By Tweakers user achiedeman, Friday 22 August 2008 16:03

All hadron is saying is: it's right to be wrong, because the combination between right and wrong is the way that will make progress.

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