Tuesday, 16 January 2007

How to ... Challenge a scientific theory

As an incentive to regular updates I am forcing myself to have a couple of little weekly series. And this how to guide will be one of them, it will be a somewhat tongue-in-cheek look at various issues that take my fancy, it will also be fairly brief.

In this first issue I will set up a list of rules for what to do if you want to challenge the mainstream - perhaps we could forward it to the DI (and maybe contrarians and denialists of all flavours). So any here we go...

1: Whatever you might think of the prevailing theory, you have to admit that it has become the mainstream position on its subject by virtue of explaining the data better than anything else.

2: Therefore your hypothesis should also be able to reproduce the existing data - and in most cases the existing theory will be a special (or limiting) case of your hypothesis.

3: If there should be some data (actual hard experimental data not just some objection you have) that seems to fall outside the existing theory then your hypothesis must explain this.

4: Your hypothesis must make predictions for the results of future experimental findings (preferably predictions that differ from those of the existing theory otherwise how will anyone be able to tell the difference between them).

5: After much testing by the scientific community at large if you hypothesis has accounted for all of the observed data especially that which cannot be accounted for by any other method - then and only then have you succeeded in your challenge.

NOTE: A very important thing to consider on this process is that if you have to resort to a public relations campaign to overcome your failings at any of the above steps you are automatically disqualified from the process.


paddy said...

Good article. This great image I found a while ago sums it all up rather well: tinyurl.com/2354oa

And really, I am not a spam robot. Would a spam robot be wearing grey underwear..? I doubt it.