• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
  • r ranson
  • Nicole Alderman
stewards:
  • Joseph Lofthouse
  • paul wheaton
  • Mike Haasl
master gardeners:
  • jordan barton
  • John F Dean
  • Carla Burke
  • Greg Martin
gardeners:
  • Jay Angler
  • Leigh Tate
  • thomas rubino

Science vs. "science" - and "engineering" too

 
steward
Posts: 32879
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
hugelkultur trees chicken wofati bee woodworking
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think if you see a cool post and wish to learn more, the wording needs to be careful to not sound like "citation needed" and more like "Ooooo, I really like this and wish to learn more!  Can you teach me, or maybe you have some favorite books or web sites?  I'm off to give google a workout on this topic!"

 
gardener
Posts: 3459
Location: Pacific Wet Coast
1255
duck books chicken cooking food preservation ungarbage
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Paul Wheaton said:

"Ooooo, I really like this and wish to learn more!  Can you teach me, or maybe you have some favorite books or web sites?  I'm off to give google a workout on this topic!"

OK, I'll admit I probably come across a little blunter than that, but one of my angles is usually, "Do you have a source you trust for more info?" The very discussion taking place in this thread is one of the reasons I'm often looking for info that has hopefully been vetted by people more knowledgeable than myself.

I totally agree that if people are sharing their experiences, they should be supported and encouraged. I personally *really* appreciate it when people give enough detail that if I want to try to replicate what they've done, I have enough info to do so. That way permies can build a box full of real world "science" which is messy, situationally dependent, and resilient.
 
steward
Posts: 6125
Location: United States
2638
transportation forest garden tiny house books urban greening the desert
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think it is worth noting that when research is being conducted and theories are proposed, reproducible data from many sources is generally not supposed to be dismissed by the community, because of the following:

-It is generally our understanding of reality that is flawed and not reality that is flawed. So no matter how good "theories" are, they do not usually matter unless there is sufficient data backing it up.

-Observation is mostly what makes good proper science in its purest form. I appreciated what my physics professor said in response to a student's question about why something occurred: "We do not know why, and that's okay. We have plenty of empirical data that demonstrates a pattern we can reduce into a useable equation. All that really matters is we found something that we can do stuff with." It's this practicality that I love about good science and permaculture people!!!

-Many times all of the possible questions have not been asked, and many times the right question has not been asked. So, incorrect conclusions and assumptions are made.

And as a final note on my thoughts about this matter is that I blatantly disregard and dismiss many studies, because many laboratory experiments are removed and isolated from the greater whole, which forgoes the dynamic and complicated interactions that yield emergent properties. So, some of the "findings" in research are not applicable to the real-world, because they were not performed under real-world conditions that involve the greater whole of systems. Things usually behave differently when they are isolated than when they are grouped together. For example, I most certainly behave differently when I am isolated from others than when I am with other people.
 
Posts: 315
Location: North Coast Dominican Republic
11
forest garden trees tiny house
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Dave Burton wrote:"We do not know why, and that's okay. We have plenty of empirical data that demonstrates a pattern we can reduce into a usable equation. All that really matters is we found something that we can do stuff with."



I agree this is what it boils down to. And it is on this exact point that "conventional" and "alternative" medicine (for instance) come to loggerheads. Clinical trials may not be perfect -- and it happens sometimes that a drug gets FDA approval, only to be recalled as unsafe later -- but one advantage they have is that they provide the aforementioned empirical data that demonstrate a pattern we can use.

I hear the term "flawed science" thrown around in controversial areas. But my take on it is this:
Scientists are well aware of the dangers of flawed science, which is why research has certain practices structured into it intended to minimize the risk of flawed science. Peer review is essentially the last line of defense after everything else. Yes, flawed science does occasionally slip through (the persistent "8 glasses of water" advice comes to mind); but in my experience, most people use the term "flawed science" to mean "science that draws conclusions I don't like." If someone tells me that a given statement is "flawed science," I would reply by asking something along the lines of, can you tell me what the flaw in it is?
 
pollinator
Posts: 330
Location: Southern Finland zone 5
107
goat fungi tiny house books homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

paul wheaton wrote:I think there is a big difference between "i came to my position thanks to these whitepapers" and "this whitepaper says you are wrong."

With one, we are sharing.  With the other, we are suggesting that somebody on permies is less than perfect (wrong).

Quite simple really.



Thank you for this, it's excellent! A light bulb moment for me! It's really that simple

People in scientific communities use many different versions of "this whitepaper says you are wrong." I've witnessed university professors getting as upset with each other as little children at playground and I have not been able to tell where the conversation went wrong. To me it sounded like normal scientific discussion that you see in scientific papers too: "Smith and Jones reported X. However, they had the following flaws in their methodology: [...] In this paper, we will present our results, which show Y."

The light bulb moment for me is that:

There is no need to mention what Smith and Jones got "wrong", AT ALL.  Just state my position, and give the examples and citates if I have them. I can mention the results of Smith and Jones, if necessary, but I don't have to comment on them.






 
paul wheaton
steward
Posts: 32879
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
hugelkultur trees chicken wofati bee woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
As I was reading the "gardening by the moon" stuff, I see that I forgot to mention:  if somebody enjoys gardening by the moon, and shares their great results, then I vote that we allow that person and their friends to be happy.   Maybe the moon phase made a difference.   Maybe we won't have the scientific explanation for a hundred year.  Maybe there is already a scientific explanation.

If another person reads it and thinks that planting during a certain moon phase makes no difference, then they are perfectly welcome to do their gardening a different way.  Fair enough.   And if that person wants to go onto their blog or social media or whatever and say "bullshit" and "science therefore dumbfuck" they can.   Of course, I choose to not publish that.



 
pollinator
Posts: 3596
Location: Toronto, Ontario
500
hugelkultur dog forest garden fungi trees rabbit urban wofati cooking bee homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am sometimes the last person I would think qualified to discuss such things, but I think a lot of it comes down to social diplomacy. As Nina mentioned, you don't have to label what you see as mistakes in another's procedure as such, for example. You might mention specifically some perhaps unintended consequences of what they did that you think might have muddled things, but likely only in the event that you're asked why your procedure differs from previous work.

As to moon phase planting,  I agree. I don't know what the specific mechanism at work is, but I would suspect it has to do with the moon's gravitational influence. It might, for instance, take less energy for plants to draw water up from their root zones, or it may raise the water table slightly.

I would like to know,  but that's not really relevant to getting your point across without smashing someone's conversational or intellectual toes to do so. Winning such a conversation isn't winning if there's no discourse possible afterwards because everyone else took their toys and went home.

-CK
 
master gardener
Posts: 2141
Location: southern Illinois.
527
goat cat dog chicken composting toilet food preservation bee solar wood heat homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Going back to the original post, I have been following up on articles quoting "scientists ".  I realize that in the strict sense that is someone who studies science.   But when I think of the word I think of a Ph.D. who is trained in the area being researched and following basic research principles.  Yes, I know others can do research. I have published. Nevertheless, that is my image of a scientist. Not to bore anyone with all my findings, but two examples that I have read quoted as being scientists were a community college instructor with an MS and a Dr. commenting on COVID who turned out to be an Optometrist.
 
paul wheaton
steward
Posts: 32879
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
hugelkultur trees chicken wofati bee woodworking
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator


(source)
 
steward
Posts: 5419
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
2051
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Some of my favorite scientists are open to the possibility that scientists are fallible, and are subject to conscious/unconscious bias, to conflicts of interest, and to errors in protocols, understanding, and judgement.

Dr. Richard Horton, current editor of The Lancet wrote:“The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.”



Dr. Marcia Angel, past editor of The New England Journal of Medicine wrote:“It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine.”



I have been studying the biochemistry of human nutrition for 4 decades. It's astonishing how much the science has changed in that time. I expect it to continue to change, just as dramatically as it has in the past.

I worked for 20 years as a research chemist. The horror stories that I could tell... Eventually, I left science behind, and turned to subsistence farming in a monastery as the thing furthest from that mentality. These days, I do plant breeding as a druid artist. I'm much happier that way.

 
Tongue wrestling. It's not what you think. And here, take this tiny ad. You'll need it.
Rocket Mass Heater Plans - now free for a while
https://permies.com/goodies/7/rmhplans
reply
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic