Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Clarifying the Scientific Method

One of the main discoveries of Meru Foundation research is what we have termed, The Science of Consciousness. In several of our video presentations, Stan Tenen emphasizes that these discoveries were developed using the strictest standards of scientific methodology. This was an approach he adhered to at the outset of this project and has never veered from in thirty five years. Over the years, our foundation has been approached by many practitioners and students involved in a wide range of subject matter including quasi-science, mystical, occult, para-normal, and esoteric studies. Many have requested an alignment between Meru research and these subjects and have been put-off by our refusal to do so. To clarify Meru's position on this issue, Stan wrote an essay titled "Damning by Faint Praise" which is on the Meru website at http://www.meru.org/DamnbyFaintPraise.html. This article seeks to demonstrate why it is necessary to maintain strict standards of scientific investigation in doing this work. To further clarify our position, here are terms often associated with the discipline called science and their meanings (as well as the defined meaning of science itself):

1) Scientism:
Scientism is the quasi-religious belief that science has answers to all questions. Scientism, like other faiths, is not concerned about objective reproducible experimental demonstrations. It's a belief system that includes the false belief that today's science is complete and correct, and that science is a static "stack of facts" and/or "stack of data", when in fact science is a dynamic pursuit where all findings and theories are works in progress that are expected to evolve. For more, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientism

2) Pseudo-science (pseudo means false):
The pseudo-sciences attempt to take on the form of science, even where it doesn't apply. While practitioners would dispute it, most psychology and most "political science" is not science at all, even though these use some of the methods of science.

For example, pseudo-scientists believe that anything that can be statistically evaluated is scientific. But statistics is only a tool of science. Quackery can be statistically tested, but that doesn't make it science.
For more, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudoscience .

3) Quasi-science (quasi means "looks like, but isn't"):
Quasi-science is similar to pseudo-science, and includes the "mystical arts" such as tarot and numerology. Magical and religious formulas and rites are quasi-science. Quasi-science alleges to be science, because like pseudo-science, it uses some of the forms of science. Quasi-science cannot be successfully objectively tested.

[Not everyone bothers to distinguish pseudo-science from quasi-science, so the above Wikipedia reference on pseudo-science also applies to what we're calling quasi-science.]

4) Science:
Science (sometimes referred to as "hard science") is and is defined by the scientific method, which includes an explicit pre-stated theory to be tested, and its objective repeated experimental testing. The most important principle of the scientific method is falsifiability. Attempting to prove that one is wrong is anathema to scholars, believers in scientism, pseudo-science, and quasi-science. But it is the basis of all true science.

If there is no pre-stated theory to be tested where the test can succeed or fail, it's not science.

There are no absolute proofs in science, only temporary theories that are always works in progress, and that are always changing and evolving so as to include new data and new facts.

Most importantly, science is based on pre-stated conjectures and theories that can be demonstrated and at least potentially refuted. Einstein said that a scientific theory should _not_ be evaluated based on data or facts, but rather only on whether or not it has internal coherence and self-consistency. This is because science can never know the absolute truth, but it can insist on coherent models that make predictions that can be tested for reliability and consistency with reality.

For more, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method.