How to arrive at the TRUTH using the scientific method ?

Aristotle is known to be the father of the scientific method, for establishing a framework of systemic inquiry to measure the truthfulness of a hypothesis.

So, what’s the scientific method anyway?

The scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry is commonly based on empirical or measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. 

The scientific method — the method wherein inquiry regards itself as fallible and purposely tests itself and criticizes, corrects, and improves itself.

Flowchart of The Scientific Method.
You shouldn’t try to hack the system so that the outcome favours what you want to prove to be true. In fact, you must try as hard as you can to disprove your hypothesis, not the other way around.

Application of the Scientific method-

In Popular Fiction: Sherlock Holmes

Arriving at the truth starts when you doubt everything and think critically and rationally stripping off all cognitive biases and prejudices and build up hypotheses only from the essential naked facts.

A famous quote from Sherlock Holmes.
How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?

Sherlock Holmes.

In Philosophy: Bertrand Russell

When Bertrand Russell, a British Nobel Prize Laureate, philosopher, logician, and mathematician was asked: “What would you tell a generation living 1,000 years from now about the life you’ve lived and the lessons you’ve learned.”

His answer is short but poignant. You can read the transcript below:

“The intellectual thing I should want to say is this: When you are studying any matter, or considering any philosophy, ask yourself only what are the facts and what is the truth that the facts bear out.

Never let yourself be diverted either by what you wish to believe, or by what you think would have beneficent social effects if it were believed.

But look only, and solely, at what are the facts. That is the intellectual thing that I should wish to say.”

In Politics: Barack Obama

When Barack Obama was asked a very interesting question in an Interview with Destin Sandlin from ‘Smarter Everyday’-

“How do you get smarter on topics you might not be an expert on?”, he appealed to the Scientific Method:

Well, it’s interesting. And this is consistent with the Scientific Method, right? Over years, you accumulate knowledge. And you test hypotheses and propositions. So how I think about it today is different than the first day I walked into the Oval Office. Now I’ve got enough of a baseline of knowledge. I’ve seen problems come up before…….

But the most important thing that I find, is : I’ve learned to be pretty good at listening carefully to people who know a lot more than I do about a topic, and making sure that any dissenting voices are in the room at the same time, so that there’s an initial presentation, I will make sure that I hear from everybody in the room: “Does anybody disagree with the baseline facts?” , “Is there any evidence that’s inconsistent with what was just said?” And if there is, then I want to hear that argument in front of me.

And what I’m pretty good at is then asking questions, poking, prodding, testing propositions, seeing if they hold up, and that, I think, is pretty consistent with how scientists approach problems generally.

In Entrepreneurship: Elon Musk

“I think it’s important to reason from first principles rather than by analogy. The normal way we conduct our lives is we reason by analogy. [With analogy] we are doing this because it’s like something else that was done, or it is like what other people are doing. [With first principles] you boil things down to the most fundamental truths…and then reason up from there.”

In another instance regarding learning more, he said,

Frankly, though, I think most people can learn a lot more than they think they can. They sell themselves short without trying.

One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree — make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e, the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.

While Musk admits that arguing from first principles “takes a lot more mental energy,” you end up with unconventional, groundbreaking innovations.

Finally, Derek Muller from Veritasium demonstrates how we come to the truth by eliminating the improbable in this video.

His final takeaway is this:

Derek Muller from Veritasium


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