On Verification

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With people resisting vaccines returning to the news, I had to bump this post forward on my posting timetable.

Many definitions of science exists. Most, if not all, are variations on a theme. Mine is simple: The search for the explanation of what we observe in nature. Search, explanation, observe, and nature serve as the four key words defining science. I think of them as the what, why, how, and where of science.

To me, words as hypothesis, scientific method, controls, and others are important, but they also cloud a person’s impression with terms they lead them to misconceptions by over-generalizing.. But search, explanation, observe, and nature tells important aspect of what, why, who, and where of science.

That being said, the how of science is also important. From accurately recording data from direct observations to the following proper procedures in an experiment, the scientific process is a playbook with rules – and yes, there are officials that will examine what is done in order to verify the results and to make sure scientific standards are met.

The purpose of this post isn’t about hypotheses, data collection, and conclusions – well, not directly. This post examines an important aspect that many (if not most) people do not realize – verification.

Science is an appeal to the collective wisdom in order to build consensus. When a scientist or team of scientists announce a new discovery, a jury of their peers judge the claim. Not a collection of journalists, politicians, clergy, or random people off the street – a group of their peers. Geologists don’t judge information about a new vaccine. Neither do botanists, chemists, psychiatrists, physicists, or even the majority of biologists. Immunologists study the claim to either verify or discredit the new finding. Not just one group, but as many groups as possible. Not a group from the same lab, university, or institute, but by peers from all over the world.

In science, the burden of proof is on those making the claim – so it is the wisdom of the collective of specialists with PhDs that decide the validity. Verification is done at the geek level. Discrediting with evidence is part of the scientific process, therefore not a reason to find fault with science.

Verification is actually a continual process because something in the future may come forth to discredit what had been previously accepted. Verification is an important part of the scientific process – not a reason to find fault with science.

Continual verification is why science is based on evidence – and not on political, religious, cultural, or personal beliefs. The public should have faith in science because of faith in the process. If someone does not have faith in the process, they do not understand science. They are ignoring science in favor of a belief system outside of the scientific community. They are ignoring science as the poetry of reality.

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53 thoughts on “On Verification

  1. I completely agree, Frank. I’m puzzled as to why people are continuously headstrong in such a way. This also reminds me of a documentary I watched previously about how adamant people were that the earth is flat, despite being presented with scientific proof via experiments that they themselves carried out! It’s astonishing.

    Liked by 3 people

    • And it’s a myth that people hundreds of years ago believed the earth was flat. They knew then that it wasn’t. As you said, it’s people now, even when presented with proof, who choose to believe the absurd instead.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Merril,
        Thank you. I’m guessing that Ocean (above) is thinking about some people at the time. Yes, the scholars and educated knew better – but I imagine some Flat Earth believers still existed – just as some occur today.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Lenora,
      Thank you. People fight science for a variety of reasons. I think of them as science deniers in order to justify their position. Simply strange. The Flat Earth is an interesting thought in itself. Although the is a myth aspect that Merril mentions below, that doesn’t mean people haven’t thought of it … even today!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We often base our perception on other peoples opinions, instead of researching and finding the ‘Facts’ for ourselves.. This is a failing we have, as we often go with the herd instead of willing to stand up and seek deeper truths that uncover the real facts of things..
    Science is now making huge leaps forward in many fields.. We Humans are a gullible lot, with so much yet to learn,
    We have to Trust in Science,, But at the same time, each human is unique and what treats one, may not suit another.. Like pills and their side effects..

    When my Children were babies in the early 70’s I did not like the idea of the MMR vaccinations in the UK being given all together for the very same reasons that Vaccines are mistrusted today .. But I discussed this with my GP and got them inoculated in separate injections.. …

    An interesting read Frank thank you 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sue,
      Thank you sharing your personal experience! The basis/foundations of misconceptions is quite the study in itself …. very interesting … and it definitely impacts learning and daily interactions with others – and this is true for children and adults!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You are right, Frank, so many are willing to believe celebrities or politicians or some random posters on social media, but they do not understand the [constant] process of verification that scientific theories go through. There is a lot of ignorance about so much today.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. All so true. Anti-vaccers hurt not only their own families but the population around them.

    I have a couple of quibbles with your definition of science. It troubles me to even use the word “faith in the (science) process.” I would suggest “understanding” instead. To me, faith implies unquestioning belief. Our understanding of nature is a continuum of knowledge, varying from certainty (e.g., that gravity is real) to uncertainty (e.g., sociology.) New knowledge is continually being produced.

    My second thought is that it is important to recognize that testing and reproducibility are vital elements in science. As you rightly note, Frank, peer review does this, but the truth is that it is not always done well, so there is a place for skepticism in the process. The value of vaccinations is not one of these. As I said, it is a continuum.

    I’m glad you posted on this, it’s very important.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Jim,
      Thanks for your thoughts … and as we both know, the anti-vaccers have been around and will continue. Unfortunately, they will probably always be.

      Regarding my use of the word “faith” in this post. 1) It was not in my definition (which is italicized in the second paragraph. 2) My use of faith in the closing paragraph is as a synonym for trust – of which Merriam- Webster would agree. On that same thought, my use of faith did not suggest any relationship to the “faith” in a religious sense – especially because I criticized religion in the same paragraph.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I understand, Frank. My point about skepticism refers to the rare instances when “scientists” let us down. Cases in point include the disgraced doctor in the U.K. whose paper started a lot of the anti-vaxer mess, Linus Pauling, and Albert Einstein who, while being a most-brilliant physicist, later opined on just about every subject imaginable, sometimes wisely and sometimes not so much.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I understand. Just because a scientist says something (especially outside of their field), that doesn’t mean it’s a point backed by science. Others point to events as Piltdown (and others) as a negative of science – of course, they forget that science is what discovered the fraud.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Non-immunized children are a threat to other non-immunized children and themselves. Science has long ago proven the social cost of disease and prevention. For every side effect of immunization, there are unmeasurable negative reactions. Why folks don’t get that is beyond me.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Frank,

    Yes but how many times have we seen this? We have plenty of folks who trash the idea of climate change and its harmful effects in spite of the volumes of evidence that prove it is so.

    The anti-vaxers are just another branch of this tree. They distrust the science, and yet . . they fully trust that which has never been verified. It’s unnerving.

    I love that last line, btw.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Frank,
    Terrific accompanying video. The whole vaccination flap underscores the effectiveness of the power of fear (recalling the autism claim). Fear continues to chip away at our faith in governmental institutions that were once believed in and trusted which may result in cracks to the Republic’s veneer.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Interesting read Frank. I think much of the problem is that people love a good story. An anecdote will hold far more influence over individual opinion than scientific evidence and the rigour of peer review. And stories are shared and spread into everyone’s belief systems.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Brilliantly done, Frank. Marc is right. The teacher in you has come out in full force and with excellent arguments.
    The anti-vaxxers scare the bejeesus out of me by their attitude. They and a few others who won’t listen to the science.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Frank, firstly this was so so so well expressed and eloquently written.

    I immediately thought of this quote from Hamlet:

    “There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy [science].”

    I am a firm believer in this
    😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fiery,
      Thank you for the kind words. So many emphasize the scientific method and the importance of steps as defining a problem, establishing a hypothesis, gathering data, and drawing conclusions – but the verification step is not only less emphasized, but possibly the most important. Because I’ve written my share of posts about science, it was time for this one.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. The video is exceptional, Frank. I’m always grateful to the scientists who bring their process and inquiry and excitement from their field to the public, as the scientists in this video have all done in their own way. I am grateful for what I can learn from them. I like to think of myself as a “citizen scientist,” observing and appreciating the world around me.”There’s real poetry in the real world.” I love that line! I deeply respect and admire those who contribute to our body of knowledge within the demands and rigors of their field. We need those minds!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love the Symphony of Science videos – and it’s been a while since I used one. This one fit wonderfully – and the fact that you noticed this made me smile! 😀 … “Demand and rigor of their field” is another great line in the comments that should be noted by all. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. What a gorgeous way to describe science, as “the poetry of reality.” Well done! Now, unfortunately, poetry and reality seem too far-fetched for those who want to believe in the evil of biology and science verification. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pam,
      Thank you. For full disclosure, I actually stole the line because that is the title of the video – so the line as a last minute addition as a lead in to the video. Meanwhile, oh yes – to the believes of science is evil, this post, video, and other support information are propaganda.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Well said/written, Frank. I just read something the other day about science and had to go find it again:

    “Science is not about control. It is about cultivating a perpetual condition of wonder in the face of something that forever grows one step richer and subtler than our latest theory about it. It is about reverence, not mastery.”
    ― Richard Powers

    My husband is a scientist and I could quibble with you about a few things, especially when it comes to peer review. Alas, the world of science has its politics, too, based on money that’s hard to come by. My husband once had a peer reviewer comment on his research that there is no link between stress and heart disease when clearly the science has been showing there is a link. As it turned out, the peer reviewer was doing similar research and wanted the funding my husband was applying for (via grant) so it was in his interest to find as much fault as he could with my husband’s research. There is a lot wrong in the world of science. And a lot right. Money, I think, is the main problem. The lack of variety in terms of ideas will be another if all the available money continues to flow towards the same scientists with the big labs rather than out to the little guys who might be harboring the good ideas.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Well done piece and insightful comments, too. As science progresses in enlarging our understanding of the universe, it disproves many aspects of superstitious belief. But those superstitions (e.g. religion), are deeply bound emotionally in the human mind. When we come up with an anti-superstition vaccine, maybe we’ll make some progress.😉 It really has a lot to do with quality education. That has been sinking in this country.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Eilene,
      Welcome first-time commenter and thanks for the thoughtful comment. “Anti-superstition vaccine” made me laugh – but sadly, I agree with your point. A segment of religion is a problem – so is a portion of politics – and yes, the education system – let alone the myths, legends, and misconceptions that linger.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Solid post and an important one.
    There is a strict process – with rules in the scientific method for a reason.
    Research means controlling variables and the results/conclusions must be repeatable – multiple times – over and over again with the exact same predictable result.
    Science and medicine does a pretty good job of this.
    But still, people believe what they ant to believe and come up with the most creative reasons why. (Is it fear of the actual fact or laziness and unwillingness to really do the research…oh, that does require some understanding of vocabulary and logical methods…but there are ways to learn those if interested if these we not acquired in school.)
    Enjoyed the read and care taken to write it

    Like

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