A commenter on a previous post writes:
A lot of great discoveries came from non-scientific losers. E=MCC. Airplanes. America. Someone discovered how to make an airplane by playing with a box. Physics is mostly theoretical. America, I guess, is the most scientific discovery. They applied the scientific method to determine its existence, but they used no control group, and no placebo. For that, America’s existence is not yet proven. There seem to be other ways of establishing truth than just the scientific method. Scientists are contemporary soothsayers. They should use every means possible of proving a fact.
Despite its insightfulness and coherence, the above argument raises some immediate questions:
- What does it have to do with anything I said?
- What would mean to use a placebo or control group to test America’s existence? Would it mean sending a ship in a different direction, and checking that it didn’t also reach America? Would it mean verifying that America can’t be reached from Europe by foot — since if it could, then it wouldn’t be America, but rather part of Eurasia?
- Has England’s existence been scientifically proven? What about France’s?
- Where do so many people get the cockamamie idea that there’s such a thing as a “scientific method” — that science is not just really, really, really careful thinking? (I blame the school system.)