The Scientific Domain



I wanted to share a few thoughts into the mind of the scientific individual.

Because most people don't understand what it means to think like a scientist. It's actually really hard to do.

Thinking like a scientist involves being hard-nose mechanistic. It involves being methodologically meticulous. It involves being willing to grind out trial after trial after trial of experimentation to test validity, anticipating, almost paranoiacly, the off-chance that a bias or a synaptic noise or whatever inconceivable error resulted in either being just slightly off in experiment, or being even slightly wrong in the data interpretation. It requires you to be willing to indiscriminately demolish every preconceived thought or notion, in order to be as sure one can be that the replication trial will be as pure and conclusive as the first test, the last test, and every replicate test in between. Thinking like a scientist means being willing to actively doubt every set of verisimilis evidence pointing you to your desired outcome, so you might prove, independent of any possible biased influence, that your results can be demonstrated, and correlating data sets from an experimental procedure can be generated again, and again, and again.

The antithesis that probably drives this notion home the fastest is the understanding of confirmation bias. Which, unfortunately, confirmation bias is more prevalent now than ever: we have a set of ideas, to which we may be the author of but more often than not they're ideas we've been indoctrinated with, and we take these ideas and go to and fro looking for materials that more or less validate our preconceived opinions.

A scientist, properly trained, does exactly the opposite.

It means as an informed citizen, one reliable source isn't sufficient. To understand a story, or piece of writing, it has to be collaborated. It needs to be compared with competing sources. And the dissent needs to be objectively disproved. 

And it means for me as an experimental chemist, I need to be confident enough in my methodology where that I will not hesitate to obliterate my materials, my results, my conclusions, and start over from first-principles so to generate the same data set that I did the first time I tested my compound.

And this is just within one's own domain of scientific research. This is just the first step.

The next step is peer review.

Peer review, where you send off preliminary reports to competing research teams and laboratories across the country, who receive no remorse by proving your research process faulty. Peer review is where, much like in the first case, it is necessary that every preconceived thought or emotion is surveyed, scrutinized, and shredded at the vertices of every perceivable flaw, every potential error, and any possible overlook. Experiments may be done by different teams from different perspectives and the sum of the results are returned as carbon placed under high temperature and pressure; where if everything step leading to publishing was done right, what might emerge from the inhospitable environment of the scientific domain is an emergent truth, shimmering with brilliance like a diamond.

This is the domain of science.

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