... Ross... I don t think my definition is much different than yours. The greatest difference is that in mine someone else provides the facts for the evaluatorMessage 1 of 2 , Jun 30, 2009View Source--- In ClimateConcern@yahoogroups.com, "Ross Mayhew" <rmayhew@...> wrote:
> I think i fell into a bit of a trap when asking the question, in that i did not "operationally define" my terms - something that is very useful and sometimes absolutely vital to do in any scientific pursuit, if one wishes to get a reply which truly answers the question one has in mind. Mr. Hanson has proposed one such defintion:
> "It seems that an unbiased report would have to cover all the pros and
> all the cons of an argument and then let the reader decide without editorial opinion. Even here the author could be accused of deleting material in favor of one side or another."
> This is one possible operational definition of the concept "without bias", but it is not the one i had in mind when asking the question. Mr. Hanson's definition is essentially a journalistic one: a good reporter lays out all the information he or she deems relevant (within the space allotted to them, i.e.) as accurately and clearly as they can, and leaves the task of coming to conclusions to the reader.
> I was thinking about another of several possible operational definitions: a scientific one: a TRULY unbiased scientist would be someone seeking to make as close an approximation to the absolute Truth of a given situation as is humanly possible, given the information available - without starting out on this quest for capital-T Truth with any pre-concieved notions as to what that Truth might actually be, and without jumping to any conclusions in the middle of the process, but rather a) gathering all the information he or she deems relevant, b) examining it as best as their mind and extensions thereof (such as computer models or any other tool they wish to use), then c) forming tentative conclusions based upon this analysis. Essentially it would be the process which an alien scientist coming from another planet would take - one which has no stake in the outcome and who is dispassionately studying a situation which interests them from a purely knowledge-seeking starting point. One could compare such a scientist or group of scientists to the ideal jury, which is presented with the information which seems relevant to the question(s) being asked, and is asked to come to conclusions based SOLEY upon this information, without bringing in any pre-concieved biases to their decision-making process.
> Obviously, this ideal is not an easy one to approach in such an emotionally and politically charged field as climate change - it is not like asking "What is the habitat and ecological relationships of the species of dung-beetle X?". That said, i was asking for people's opinions or who comes closest to this Truth-seeking ideal.
> From Rainy, cool New Scotland,
> Ross Mayhew.
I don't think my definition is much different than yours. The greatest difference is that in mine someone else provides the facts for the evaluator and in yours, the evaluator him/herself, provides those. Providing what facts to evaluate might be as important as the evaluation itself. Both aspects depend on decision making and, whether it is made by a computer model or a human, decision making is based on prior knowledge and the weight that either the program or the human gives to that knowledge. That is a form of bias. I am not a scientist and what follows might be contrary to what some who read this may think as science and I look forward to their views.
What you or I might define as an unbiased approach to "truth" is not science.
Here is the Wikipedia definition of science:
"Science (from the Latin scientia, meaning "knowledge") refers to any systematic knowledge-base or prescriptive practice that is capable of resulting in a prediction or predictable type of outcome. In this sense, science may refer to a highly skilled technique or practice.
In its more restricted contemporary sense, science refers to a system of acquiring knowledge based on scientific method, and to the organized body of knowledge gained through such research. This article focuses on the more restricted use of the word. Science as discussed in this article is sometimes called experimental science to differentiate it from applied science - the application of scientific research to specific human needs - although the two are often interconnected."
Therefore SCIENCE is a method that depends upon a specific procedure. A guess is made as to how a specific physical phenomenon should behave (the hypothesis). An experiment is devised to test that behavior. A prediction is made on what facts from the experiment should support the hypothesis. The experiment is carried out and the facts recorded. Conclusions are then drawn based upon the observed facts. If the prediction is "true" then the hypothesis is supported, not proven. Of course many ancillary results can be obtained from the experiment that may lead to another hypothesis or even to other experiments that may eventually support the original hypothesis or not. One of the more important aspects of these procedures is that everything, the methods and the data, remain clear and transparent in order that the procedure be duplicated and/ or analyzed by others. Without duplication and/or verification, the hypothesis cannot be supported. The promoter of a hypothesis hopes to advance it to the level of a theory.
One explanation of the difference between hypothesis and theory is (found somewhere on the internet):
"A hypothesis attempts to answer questions by putting forth a plausible explanation that has yet to be rigorously tested. A theory, on the other hand, has already undergone extensive testing by various scientists and is generally accepted as being an accurate explanation of an observation. This doesn't mean the theory is correct; only that current testing has not yet been able to disprove it, and the evidence as it is understood, appears to support it"
Those who put forward a hypothesis are certainly biased. They think reality works in a specific way and they are going to try to promote it to the level of theory. We would commonly say, "to prove it".
You and me, as observers of this process, try to determine an absolute truth with either an analysis of all the positions (if we're capable) or by faith in the opinion of a third party who we believe has the ability to conduct a proper analysis (and has undertaken a thorough one) that we lack. However, IMOH most who comment on climate have an established bias and we're going to get something far less than the full story. Unless that bias happens to be the correct one. :-)
From rainy and warm Tucson,