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"cargo cult" science



This seemed pertinent, from Carl Zimmer's blog:

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom/2008/07/09/dawn-of-the-picasso-fish/

We must be certain that we are not engaging in what Feynman called âcargo 
cult scienceâ.

http://wwwcdf.pd.infn.it/~loreti/science.html

(Whatâs missing from âcargo cult science is) âa kind of scientific 
integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of 
utter honesty â a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if youâre 
doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it 
invalid â not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could 
possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that youâve 
eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked â to make sure the 
other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.

Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you 
know them. You must do the best you can â if you know anything at all wrong, 
or possibly wrong â to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and 
advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that 
disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more 
subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate 
theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things 
it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that 
the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition.

In summary, the idea is to give all of the information to help others to judge 
the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to 
judgement in one particular direction or another. â

>>

I'm sure we've all be guilty of this to one degree or another. Something good 
to remember, though. 

It helps to send your unpublished manuscripts to your worst enemies -- if they 
are kind or mean enough to furnish comments. Just sift through the snide, 
thoughtless and rude criticisms to find at l
r point of view and, perhaps, a new direction or two to take your studies.

David Peters
davidpeters@att.net