Saturday, June 9th, 2012

There’s no such thing as “objective”

When tasked to design scientific experiments in any discipline, students have usually been instructed to make their experiments objective.

“You will design an objective experiment to prove your hypothesis”.

It is a known fact that the mere act of looking through an electron microscope alters the object (like a large molecule). No conscious intention to see it in any particular way is necessary for the change to occur; and the change is unavoidable.

Insert intention into the process, and the chance of getting a result that actually mimics what would happen without human interference is nil. How can one generate a supposition, like “I think that change to the abbistabis will always be the result if we do this to the framistat” and not invariably infuse the experiment with our intention to be right?

The usual way real new knowledge turns up is by accident, while we are trying to do or prove some other thing. At least then our intention doesn’t interfere, since we don’t even know what we’re going to see beforehand. Even then, in our zeal to ‘stay on point’, we mostly miss what is being revealed. The book The Outliers has a good description of this. A typical example is that in science class, we are told to discard points on a graph of data that don’t fit into the order of the majority of points, when often they are not just mistakes, but instead significant indications of a bigger picture.

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