I’m too busy at the moment to blog, write, think or maintain my personal hygiene, so I thought I’d add content by getting my readers to provide it for me. So I’m going to propose a little project.
First, a bit of background. I often try to explain to students what the process of scientific reasoning is. This is no small problem. While there are a slew of books that give the reader anecdotes, case studies and the interminable philosophy of science summaries, there is nothing that I can find that provides what one might think of as the Scientists’ Operating Manual.
Such books were common at one time, but the last one to do this in any detail is from the 1950s (Morris Cohen and Ernest Nagel’s Introduction to Logic and the Scientific Method, in the tradition that goes back to the 18th century of treating logic and science as basically the same thing). And even that was too detailed. These books are written by academics for academic students, and that is not what I need for my reasoning skills class, which is what I started this for. What I need is a clear but informed short text, of about 80 pages or less, that explains to people who are not going to be scientists or philosophers of science necessarily, how scientists reach their conclusions.
This is crucial, because people treat science as either a black box (data goes in, conclusions come out, and magic happens in between) or as a kind of political and religious ideology. Neither is correct. So it would be useful to have people write something like this. And I am not that guy. I’d like scientists and those who know the material and methodology well to explain how, in short posts, a particular operation is done, from measuring, to sorting, to inferring, to designing an experiment. Nothing more than what scientists do, in such a way that a general reader can read it and say “So that’s why they …” where the ellipses indicate something like “use double blinds and controls” or “classify” or “come up with explanations that way and so on.
This is not to be a text on statistics or analysis, although obviously we’ll need to talk about them too. Nor is it to be about The Scientific Method, because there are many methods and processes. I may write an introduction that covers this when all the contributions are in.
When they are all done and revised in the light of the inevitable comments and corrections from other readers, I’ll bundle them up as a PDF and make it available free for download.
Interested? Get started writing, or contact others, and send the stuff to me. I’ll put it up online. Any format is fine; I can handle pretty well anything.
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