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how does science work?

Discussion in 'Other Hot Topics' started by wilf, May 24, 2010.

  1. wilf

    wilf Approved members

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    Some posts in another thread got me thinking about this.

    I am a natural scientist, and live and work with science every working day of my life.

    To think or suggest that something is not true until it has been proven scientifically is a really odd way of approaching the world we live in. Something can be simultaneously true and scientifically unproven. For example it was always true that the earth orbited the sun, but it took science an awfully long time to prove it. Likewise, plate tectonics have been shuffling continents and oceans around since the earth began, but it took science a long time to really get around to understanding and proving that that was happening.

    Likewise, it is really odd to suggest that if someone has repeatedly experienced that something that "works" that it is only "empirical evidence" and that that somehow invalidates it until science has proven its worth.

    Science is built on empirical evidence. Hundreds and thousands and tens of thousands of observations, being sifted and checked and cross-checked with data analyzed this way and that by any number of scientists and researchers..

    A quote from Wikipedia may be helpful here:
    "A central concept in science and the scientific method is that all evidence must be empirical, or empirically based, that is, dependent on evidence or consequences that are observable by the senses."

    But at the start of any scientific proof or "truth" are observations - such as "this really works for me" or "every time I observe this phenomenon I see this". You don't have to understand how or why it works, or how or why it is there - the fact that something works or is there is enough. It's the starting point from which one then looks around to see if there are others reporting the same sort of observation. If there are, then a hypothesis can be developed (ie. "This ______ can do this thing reliably" or "This phenomenon is an observable part of reality." )

    This world is full of mysteries which science has been working on unlocking and unravelling for many centuries, and we have barely scratched the tip of the iceberg. Science often lags well behind what people know to be true - that doesn't invalidate either the science or what people know. It just speaks to the fact that it takes science a long time to prove things, which is due in part to how hard it is to do that and also to how careful scientists generally are.

    So please when discussing matters of science which affect our children with diabetes, lets try to keep in mind that things can be true but unproven scientifically. That doesn't mean we should be gullible - obviously things that are untrue also won't be proven scientifically.

    But I'll tell you that a career in science has made me very humble, when I contemplate just how little we really know about the universe, about the earth, about life. My first reaction when someone tells me about something they've observed that I find hard to believe is to ask them to "tell me more". Maybe I'll try to arrange to have a look for myself at what they've observed, or to read up about others' experiences. And unless I have compelling evidence-based information to the contrary, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

    In closing I'd say we should try to keep in mind that what works for us, won't necessarily work for someone else. A very wise person coined the phrase "Your diabetes may vary". It is applicable more often than not.. :cwds:
     
  2. frizzyrazzy

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    thread was closed. Why reopen it? why not just pm me and tell me what a idiot you think I am?
     
  3. Lee

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    /Seriously Wilf, why rehash?
     
  4. Ali

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    Agree...sad to say but science and scientific studies are still not very accurate or predictive. Ali
     
  5. Ali

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    Whoops. Sorry did not know I was stepping in to anything. Ali
     
  6. Jacob'sDad

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    I have no idea what lead to your post, but that was very well written and well thought out, Wilf. It gives me much food for thought. Thank you for taking the time to post it.

    I have no idea what might have been the trigger to cause you to write it, but I guess I don't need to know in order to find it very insightful. It really strikes a chord with me. I think I will copy what you wrote and save it.:cwds:
     
  7. Flutterby

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    Thanks for explaining it to me, Dad.
     
  8. MHoskins2179

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    Good points

    Very good post, indeed, Wilf. The fact that I know what sparked your post doesn't change the fact that I found it well-written and insightful, as well, regardless of whether I agreed or disagreed on the other topic. I've thought about this whole "science validation" notion myself - just because science says something is valid, doesn't mean it's best for me or another person. I am a journalist and respect what studies prove and research says, but so often I find myself skeptical of seeing another research study from another group wanting to sign their name to a topic. I've seen that in my quarter-century of living with diabetes, as has my mother who's lived with Type 1 diabetes since the age of 5. Sure, science may not validate what personal experiences I've had in my own D-Life, but that certainly doesn't make them any less valid or worthwhile for me. It's the same logic that Your Diabetes Will Likely Vary, and just because science says something is true, doesn't make it so for each person. Anyhow, thanks for the food for thought.
     
  9. MamaC

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    The science does, however, offer the average newbie a good place to start the journey.
     
  10. Jensmami

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    Really:confused::confused::confused:

    Does that entail stirring up trouble, and put Michelle and Jeff down? Even if everything was true, why write it now?
     
  11. KatieJane'smom

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    Wilf,
    You are a wise man and an eloquent writer. Thanks for saying it so well. Your explanation is great!
     
  12. wilf

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    I guess this was just a long-winded way of my trying to clarify that something can be true but scientifically unproven at the same time.

    A classic example is acupuncture. Western medical science professionals routinely scoffed at the idea and said it couldn't work, until the early 1970s when (in the course of Nixon's rapprochement with China) they had the opportunity to see it being used in practice. At that point the truth that "it worked" was undeniable, even if it couldn't yet be explained by western science.. :cwds:
     
  13. sooz

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    Wilf, the very considerable amount of respect that I have for you has now risen to even greater heights. Thank you for a very lucid, solid piece of writing.
     
  14. Christopher

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    Yes, it was a solid piece of something.....;)

    (Kidding, people.....just kidding....kind of...) :p
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2010
  15. swellman

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    You say you work with "science" every day yet you say this. This is in complete opposite of what science is. Science never proves anything ... as far as I know that exists only within the field of mathematics.

    Of course you can assume anything to be true until evidence suggests otherwise. This, I guess, is a point of view. If we're talking about unicorns or leprechauns then I'm guessing no harm no foul but when we're talking about laying out some money for a cure for this or that or for something with a promise of a benefit I would think one would consider if it had been critically examined. I would think.

    In any event I can't take your post seriously since you reference Wikipedia then ask "How does science work?." You either didn't read it thoroughly or you just do not like what it says.
     
  16. swellman

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    No, no, no ... you did not just cite acupuncture?!?!

    Science just, somewhat recently, came as close as it can to prove it doesn't work - except it can't prove that it can't work - it only proved that it doesn't work when you actually study it.

    Yea ... I know ... I will post the study when I find it.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19433697
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2010
  17. buggle

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    Come on kids, play nice.

    ETA: Swellman, I forgive you for all of your transgressions, whether real or imagined on my part... because you quote Tim Minchin. :p
     
  18. StillMamamia

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    Soooo, can we apply this to rebounds as well? 'Cause you know I know they happen...but I have no proof.:D
     
  19. Jeff

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    In my mind, there are several issues at play with regard to diabetes alert dogs.

    First -- can a dog reliably and consistently alert to the presence of a low blood sugar? That remains unproven, regardless of all of the claims raised here. Can anyone prove -- prove, not attest -- that a dog will alert in the presence of confounding odors, smoke, illness (in the dog), fatigue, while asleep, in the presence of others with dabetes? Can you prove that a dig will alert at night for every low? How will you prove that? This is not just some exercise in "science vs. emperical evidence." This is, after all, the health of our children.

    Second -- the price of many diabetes alert dogs rivals that of many luxury automobiles. I have heard of dogs costing $50,000. It would seem to me that before someone would spend that kind of money on something, you would want proof that the product worked as advertised. And again, claims that something works are not the same as proof from a well designed scientific study.

    Third -- there are situations where the presence of a diabetes alert dog may be difficult if not impossible. Examples: Driving, at the beach, on a roller coaster, in a hot tub, intimacy, at prom or a school dance. There are countless others.

    I know several families who have a diabetes alert dog and who feel very positive about their dog and the experience of having the dog. They state unequivocally that the dog catches lows that they did not with finger stick blood tests. They are happy having the dog. They feel better about living with diabetes because of the dog.

    There is nothing wrong with any of that per se, but even claims like that are not evidence that the dog is a reliable and consistent hypoglycemia detector.

    If you want something to detect lows and highs and to improve metabolic and psychosocial outcomes, a continuous glucose monitor is the best tool available today. There is ample science to support that.

    And for the price of some of the most expensive alert dogs, you could cash pay for a CGM for over 10 years.
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2010
  20. Lee

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    Swellman, the more I read your posts in these hot topics, the more I like you :D
     

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