THE FALLACY OF THE SCIENCE BUCKET

I have been called a fool. I have been told I need to learn scientific method. I have been told I am an idiot for trying to defend my position with logic. These ad hominem arguments frequently come from those who are sincere in their emotional expression but lack information as to what the scientific method is and what it is not. Often they are lacking the ability to articulate the cognitive dissonance in their head. They cannot parse the truth out of the abyss of a less than coherent mass of information in their head. They fail to see the distinctives, because they do not have the worldview that allows them to synthesize.





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Clear BLUE GREEN RED YELLOW

THE FALLACY OF THE SCIENCE BUCKET


SUMMARY
This article is an attempt to describe the problem today of a general lack of understanding of the nature of science and the nature of truth. These are not some high level philosophy concepts. This is not some game with words but very basic understanding that less than a generation ago was very clearly taught. However, today many, it seems sometimes even most, do not understand these basic concepts. I am not referring to those without the benefit of formal education; even professors, including science professors.

THE SET UP
Think of a large clear bucket. Label it the science bucket. Beside the bucket are five bottles of colored water one clear, one blue, one green, one red, and one yellow. We are going to use each individual bottle to represent a method of looking at truth.


CLEAR BOTTLE OF TRUTH
Now take a bottle of clear pure water. Lets call that bottle truth. Pour a little of it in the science bucket. The bucket represents what our society calls science, what the media refers to as science, and what many today consider science. As long as it is in the science bucket it is science. Science is a wonderful tool and it does indeed tell us some things that are true. There are many things that do not change. They are not human constructs, they are built into the universe by a rational and logical God. Such as 2+2=4 in a base 10 system. There are truths that are independent of our recognition of them. There is an independent reality. Because one thinks a thing is true does not make it so. Because one denies a thing does not mean it does not exist. As human we are incapable of creative acts in the sense of ex nihilo out of nothing creation. A sense of morality, logic and reason, physical properties are not human constructs. They are regardless of whether that is recognized or not. Debating those issues are not within the scope of this article and would be a rabbit trail that would cause us to miss the point. I ask you to accept it for the sake of this argument.

THE BLUE BOTTLE OF EMPIRICAL SCIENCE
Now we take another bottle of colored water; let’s call it empirical science, or observational science, or pure science. This is a very useful tool. It is one of the most reliable tools for determining truth. There was a time when we used the word science we meant faith is the results of the empirical method. In its simplest form that is observe, test, repeat. If we cannot observe it, test it, repeat it, it cannot be tested by empirical science or the scientific method. So nothing in history, not origins, not the guilt or innocence of someone in a court of law can be determined by empirical science. Empirical science can be introduced in a court of law which may or may not relate to that case, but we can not observe, test and repeat the event so it does not directly provide evidence as to what happened, at best it is indirect evidence. This is that kind of science that has brought us our technological advances. This is what builds our toys and sends men to the moon. So we pour a little of that in to our science bucket. The truth in the bucket is diluted some. As valuable as that is, it still must be interpreted. Often scientists with the same degrees from the same universities will disagree on how to interpret the same data from the same experiment.

THE GREEN BOTTLE OF “HISTORICAL SCIENCE”
Historical science did not used to be called historical science. Although historical science is a common term today, it is misleading. What is called Historical science today used to be called evidentialism in order to distinguish that it is not as reliable as empirical science. Nor is it subject to the same process of verification. Since it is in the past, it can never be repeated or observed in the present. Certainly, as I said, empirical science must be interpreted, but if there are questions, it can be repeated again and again. History is by definition gone, past, unrepeatable. When we weigh the veracity of the conclusions, we must not put empirical science and historical “science” in the same category. It is common practice today to pour a little of the water from our historical “science” bottle in the science bucket and view all the contents of the bucket the same way. That is a mistake. It is as though because we call it all “science” it is of equal weight in terms of its verifiability.

Let’s say you discover a bone in the dirt. It does not have a date on it. So we radiometric date it. Radiometric dating is an example of the error of blending these two concepts. We know in real time right now the speed of the change of the parent element into the daughter element. However to project that back in time we must assume the rate has not changed, we know the original amount and that it has not been contaminated. These are projections that we can never test in real time. The widely variant readings are ignored.

Today we erroneously presume the present is the key to the past. But we cannot be certain that the present has always been the way it has been in the past. In fact we do have very strong evidence that it has not always been as it is now. The reverse is actually true. The past is the key to the present. When we take that approach we see the development of the present in the roots of the past. That is a more rational approach, For example If there was a creation, that negates the option of the present being the key to the past, because something different than what is happening now happened in the past -- creation. If, however, we assume there was no creation, then what we are doing is presuming the conclusion in order to prove it. That is a logical fallacy -- circular reasoning. Examination of the evidence has its limitations. In evidentialism looking for truth we cannot observe it, test it, and repeat it. In historically looking for the truth, we must realize that we can never duplicate past events in real time. We look for tests of truth like coherence, correspondence and cohesion. Or It makes logical sense, it matches what we see, and it is logically consistent. However, if the premise is wrong, no matter how correct the logic, the conclusion will be wrong. We swirl in our bucket the clear water, the blue water and now the green water and the clarity of the bucket contents darkens.

THE RED BOTTLE OF SPECULATIVE “SCIENCE”
It should not be a stretch to see that speculative science is speculative. Hawking is called both by himself and the scientific community a speculative astrophysicist. What that means is that he does what all speculative scientists do. He take ideas, some which may have some basis in empirical science, and some which may have some basis in historical “science,” and projects the implications of those ideas to their end. So we are projecting the implications of assumptions that may or may not be true. This can have a value. But it is not anything like what has historically been called science. This is far closer to metaphysics and/or other branches of philosophy. Yet as this is poured into the science bucket it is often given the same reliability as empiricism and evidentialism. While empiricism can be checked by observation, testing, and repetition, it is still subject to interpretation of the data. Evidentialism is not subject to testing or observation. Speculation is not subject to any real time testing at all. It can only be tested by how well it logically follows from the initial assumptions made. However, those initial assumptions are subject to the limitations of means by which they we derived. So as we pour into our science bucket the clear, blue, green, and red, since we are combining them not in perfect proportions and they actually have physical properties, we do not get white or black, but a color perhaps best described as toilet water before a flush. Yet when we talk about the different types of “science,” we call them all “science” without the corresponding evaluation of their advantages and disadvantages. Each of the elements contained in the bucket contents has varying reliability.

THE YELLOW BOTTLE OF CONSENSUS - BUT IS ACTUALLY OPINION
Today you can find in dictionaries science defined as the consensus of what scientists believe. This is a crazy concept. Science has never been considered to be consensus. Besides, what does that actually mean? You have 100 scientists who think the results of empirical science combined with historical “science” and speculative “science” result in the world view of a specific perspective, yet 10 scientists with the same degrees in the same fields disagree with the conclusion of the 100 scientists. Then the response becomes well respected scientists agree... So who determines that? We are talking the same degrees in the same fields from the same schools. With that being the situation, and it often is the situation, you are dealing with what is actually only opinion. So like kids on a playground, the criteria is boiled down to peer pressure, cliques, and popularity. By what criteria do we test the relationship of mere opinion to truth? Yet because popular philosophy has declared truth relative and objective reality nonexistent, this has carried over to the culture of science. Grants and other forms of funding are awarded considering issues that are often tied to politics. But still, in spite of how very far all of this is removed from the empirical reality of observe, test, and repeat, a large helping of the opinion bottle is poured into the science bucket.

Then without any discrimination, this whole putrid looking mess all gets the same generic term science. It is bad enough that media, Hollywood and popular speech incorporates all of these into the same term and equal in weight and trust. Even the scientific and academic community cross fertilize from the bucket contents to add credibility anything that is their particular pronouncement. The science bucket contains some truth. However it is very nonuniform in veracity.

This is the fallacy of the science bucket. It is as if we masticate and ingest a huge variety of content from healthy and unhealthy sources, then regurgitate it into the bucket and offer it all as a delectable dish to be trusted to give us a healthy worldview.

Normal people do not chug down such things, but rather flush them. Now do not misunderstand, I am not saying we flush real science. I am very pro science. It is a very useful tool. However, science is not some regurgitated mess of “stuff.” We must look at the different pieces of information and examine how they were derived. What is their basis in truth? “Science” as a mere word is not very helpful. Science as a set of tools for examining the world around us is very helpful. We must also consider the source. Empiricism is not evidentialism, evidentialism is not speculation, and consensus and opinion have never represented science. Today the word science is used to lend the air of credibility to all kinds of errors in thinking. The generalized stirred up science bucket is a fallacy. The key fallacy that it represents is equivocation. Equivocation is using one term in more than one way for the purpose of obscuring the reality. That is the problem of the science bucket. It attempts to equate four very different means of discovering truth, each with very different methods of verification, and different levels of reliability and then calls them all the same term - “science.”

Calling someone who is critical of an element of the science bucket unscientific is very much like when you criticize ideas and policies and get accused of being prejudiced of the person’s gender or ethnicity. It is descending to an ad hominem attack, thereby side stepping any consideration of the argument. That is not science.