Science methodically deploys a null hypothesis, is probablistic

Under the title “Kansas redefines science”, the New York Times has published an obfuscating, horribly written article today. It’s nice that they give employment to communications professionals who have heard of Bruno Latour in the way that a good cocktail party guest has heard of Dorothy Parker.
Since even the NY Times literati seem to be hopelessly lost in the theological model of causal explanation, let’s spell out what distinguishes a scientific claim from a theological claim from a postmodern claim.

While both scientific method and theological explanation are collective endeavors, where truth claims are adjudicated by disciplined, socialized collectivities, there are significant logical differences between the scientific method and theological methods of causal investigation.

Science is distinguished by a) the methodical testing of the null hypothesis (there is no relationship) and b) its findings are probablistic, so acknowledge the existence of relationships beyond our knowledge.

  • Tests a theory, in the form of an alternative hypothesis, whether H1: A is caused by B, where both A and B are social or natural phenomena. That is, they must be observable with either human senses or with built tools that are designed to augment those senses. The scientific method always contains, as the main hypothesis, the null hypothesis, H0: A is not caused by B.
  • Causation is provisionally confirmed by time order, correlation. The null hypothesis is rejected.
  • No causal relationship indicated by analysis of data?: We fail to reject the null hypothesis, H0. That is, we fail to reject the hypothesis that there is no relationship between A and B. The logical conclusion: If not B, then not B. Propose next step: Eg. test whether A is caused by C, where both A and C are observable social or natural phenomena, and where the relationship between A and C is suggested by theory.
(Variant: Dialectical historical materialism allows for and investigates the possibility of interactive causation over time between A & B, and non-linear emergent effects of their interaction under specified conditions.)

Drawbacks: 1) Continuous testing process until causation probably indicated.
2) The probability that the tested relationship is representative of the universe of such relationships is usually mathematically indeterminate. So politics, theory continue to be required to argue the existence of a relationship. 3) In a high-inequality social configuration, anti-scientific political claims can be made that technocratic deployment of scientific method is sufficient without politics, re-examination of theoretical assumptions.
Strengths: 1) No skip in logic. Logical rigor is secured in the scientific method by testing the null hypothesis. 2) Lack of human omniscience is addressed in scientific method with probability, repetition.

Theological explanation:
  • Main hypothesis is HG: A is caused by G, where G is the unobservable supernatural.
  • No causal relationship indicated between A and G?: HG fully confirmed, by faith.
  • Can (allow for) test as to whether alternative hypothesis H1: A is caused by B, where A and B are social or natural phenomena. There is no null hypothesis. Main hypothesis, HG: A is caused by G, where G is the unobservable supernatural.
  • No causal relationship indicated between A and B?: HG fully confirmed. If not B, then G, where G is the unobservable supernatural.
Drawbacks: 1) Human lack of omniscience is ignored as a problem for adjudicating contending truth claims. Megalomaniacal skip in logic. 2)  Dogma, doesn’t acknowledge the persistent necessity of theoretical competition, politics. 3) Anti-natural  and anti-social causes bias.
Strengths: 1) Biased toward assuming that social and natural phenomena are caused by the supernatural, supernatural will is knowable by human elites. 2) In a highly inegalitarian society, allows non-elites to use megalomaniacal quasi-logic corresponding to authoritarian elite causal logic (“Invisible Hand causes B because I say so, and I possess/am in the service of wealth/power/omniscience.”) 3) Efficiently strips decision making and determination of truth claims down to unmediated social power.

Nice Postmodernism:
  • The choice of the particular observed social or natural relationship tested (A and B) is directed by the political-economic commitments of the social power funding the testing.
  • Therefore, other possible social and natural relationships are not adequately tested, and it should never be claimed that the confident but provisional confirmation of causal relationships obviates other, inadequately-tested, potentially-observable relationships. 
  • Underscores that scientific causation can only be provisionally confirmed, never fully confirmed by faith, due to the fundamental role of observation in science. This emphasis was made by postmodernists because this important aspect of science, provisional confirmation, can be omitted when scientific findings are discussed in a political or economic social context where the application of findings is paramount. This omission can be used tyrannically. 
  • Unlike theology and neoliberal postmodernism (which abandons ontology and science), Nice postmodernism  is not opposed to the unique and valuable utility of scientific rules and practice to potential democratic practice. 
Drawback: Offensive to social power in its Nice Postmodernist variant. Anti-Enlightenment, dogma-adjunct in its neoliberal postmodernist variant.
Strength: Nice Postmodernism can clarify particular problems scientific method faces, with reference to social context of science.

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