Could we all be astrologers? how publication bias can delay scientific revolutions.

My dear friend, Arash Afraz, has written an interesting piece titled "We could all be astrologers how publication bias can delay scientific revolutions". I highly recommend reading it.
Though I agree with him that the lack of visibility of the negative results, certainly, misleads us to hold on to certain ideas for longer than we should, (and perhaps even to extend them into arbitrary directions), but I do believe that there is a distinct contrast between how ancient scholars deduced facts and how post-enightenment era led (and leads) to flourishing theories that are fundamentally better. Arash ascribes much of the success of the new age theories to statistical proofs. That could be a misstep. It is not far fetched to assume that, statistically, one can prove that Baron Münchhausen pulled himself out of a swamp by pulling his own hair. But Münchhausen trilemma fails to stand fallibalism and the relative objectivity of truth in the light of uncertainty. At the end, Popper wins that argument…. What contrasts the new age of scientific explorations from that of the ancient scholars, roots in a different dimension. It is the search for the difficult to alter reasoning that is the root of advancement that happened during and after enlightenment. Untestable theories of the ancient scholars and the observation of statistical trend have one thing in common, "explanations that can easily be altered", as David Deutsch puts it elegantly. Thus they both are not adding any closer-to-truth explanatory information about the world. It is only when one provides the hard to vary assertions about the truth that his theory is worth considering a step forward. Thus the triumph of the modern age science is not due to statistically significant observations, but rather it is the rendition of such observations into a robust construct that separates the elegant scientists from astrologers (of the modern day and the ancient times). I believe that biological sciences have been vastly centered around the statistical trends of observations rather than solid theories. That is where the contrast of biological sciences and physical sciences becomes vividly apparent. There are very few hard theories in biology, partly due to its inherent complexity and in part due to the difficulty of (not just good experimentation but also) theoretically-driven experimentation. Perhaps we are at the dawn of seeing a transition from scattered fragments of observation to the formation of real theories in biological sciences. In my own field, lately, there has been a parallel birth of momentous forward-thinking projects; the U.S. BRAIN Initiative, Europe’s Human Brain Project and Japan’s Brain/MINDS . Though these projects will enhance the pace of discoveries and will push our knowledge forward, they do not provide the path for departure from beholding the statistical trends in observations as the truth to real hard theories. Perhaps the pioneers that will light the way in biological sciences (and in neuroscience) will be those who will have the deep insight in how to weave the products of such upcoming observations into cohesive hard-to-vary explanations. What happened in the 20th century in Physics, is a dream to come true for the 21st century in Biology.

See on Scoop.itNeurovium: Neuroscience at the intersection of Philosophy, Computation, Biology & Physics


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