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Assumptions in general are a part of science

F-16_Fighting_Falcon
Posts: 18,324
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4/13/2013 1:39:42 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
Disclaimer: I am essentially complaining about voting on one of my debates. If you are fundamentally against it, feel free to ignore this thread (although I hope a more general discussion of science would come out of it - after all, this forum is empty and bare and nobody is going to read it and draw unwanted attention or "attention-whoring"). I felt that creating a thread was the best thing since I am always against arguing in the comments section while the voting is still going on. Voters deserve to read the debate independent of additional material in the comments. Also, on that same principle, I won't link to the debate but just discuss general concepts although I think I should be open about my initial motivation for starting this thread.

One of my primary issues is an RFD which claimed that I continued to use the word "assumption" or "assume" in my attempt to defend the Theory of Evolution against my opponent. However, it shows a fundamental lack of understanding of science to pick out unrelated words, cobble together an RFD of a few lines and voting against me for saying that I said that something was an assumption. My argument was along the lines of the following:

- Assuming common descent, we create a nested hierarchy of species.
- (I elaborate on how we do this).
- (I point out that if our assumption is false, we should expect a certain result A and if it is true, we should expect result B).
- I calculate the probability of achieving result B to 1 in 10^32 with all the remaining possibilities yielding result A falsifying that assumption.
- The result ended up being that 1 in 10^32 chance result A which corroborated that assumption.

Now, my opponent claimed that because I said something was an assumption, that it was not proven. The voter agreed with that and voted against me because I continued using the word "assumption" and it obviously wouldn't work otherwise. The real problem is that the voter does not understand that assumptions are an integral part of science.

Also, elaborating on that, hypothesis are also a central part of the scientific method. Scientists don't learn facts magically. When there is a question to be answered (which would be the goal of the research), scientists look for background information on the topic and develop a hypothesis. At first, this hypothesis is what the scientist thinks is the most likely answer to that question. At WORST (for instance in college classes in the lab), the hypothesis is a GUESS that the scientist/student thinks answers the question. Usually, however, it is much more than an informed guess and is based on some evidence. Presenting such hypothesis does not make a method non-scientific because of what follows.

Evidence is gathered and tested against the hypothesis. If the hypothesis doesn't fit the evidence, it is discarded. If it fits, more tests are done to see how they fit, and so on. Once the hypothesis passes multiple tests and its accuracy is all but known to be true, it rises to the level of a "Theory."

Making hypothesis doesn't inherently make a method non-scientific. That I continued in my debate to state that there were assumptions and hypotheses made and the fact that one voter used this point against me shows that he was simply rationalizing his argument to vote for the side that he believed in. Rationalizing a vote is incredibly common on DDO. People pick a side that they want to vote for and actively SEARCH for evidence in the debate to support that side. I'll put it frankly, I think this is nuts.

There is a reason good RFD's usually take 2-3 comment posts to finish. On a well-argued debate, a good RFD usually evaluates contrasting arguments and compares their merits against each other. I say this to the poor voters on this site: Do you honestly believe that when you vote on a debate while skimming it, the debaters are unaware of the fact that you skimmed it? I can tell when someone skimmed a debate even when they vote in my favor if they attribute to me arguments that I did not make or cobble together a couple of arguments to explain why I won without explaining why any of the points outweighed opponents objections. On the other hand, there is nothing more fulfilling than seeing RFD's which explain precisely what arguments were made and which arguments outweighed others while providing deep analysis and maybe judges thoughts during the debates. I really hope that people who don't have time to vote would choose to vote on forfeited debates instead of voting on legit debates where members spent hours researching factual data and leave the voting of serious debates to unbiased people who manage their time to vote effective on few debates rather than give shitty votes on many debates. If the debate is close, the debaters deserve someone who actually takes notes and explains their decision.

I try hard not to complain about voting because it is such a scarce resource on DDO but if I am wrong about the part on assumptions, I'd like to know because at least I'll understand that complaining was unjustified and I can better understand your viewpoint.
bladerunner060
Posts: 7,126
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4/13/2013 2:09:00 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
Hey, now, some of us didn't skim, we just used the modern equivalent of the telegraph in terms of awful formatting and forced brevity: the tablet. I know I, for instance will expand my RFD on request. In the morning, when I'm on a real keyboard.
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F-16_Fighting_Falcon
Posts: 18,324
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4/13/2013 2:10:30 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
@ Bladerunner, I know you didn't. If you notice, I made this post about half an hour ago. You only voted 5 minutes ago so I wasn't referring to your vote; at the time I posted this, you hadn't voted.
bladerunner060
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4/13/2013 2:15:19 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 4/13/2013 2:10:30 AM, F-16_Fighting_Falcon wrote:
@ Bladerunner, I know you didn't. If you notice, I made this post about half an hour ago. You only voted 5 minutes ago so I wasn't referring to your vote; at the time I posted this, you hadn't voted.

I know. I being a smart-aleck.
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bladerunner060
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4/13/2013 2:16:16 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 4/13/2013 2:15:19 AM, bladerunner060 wrote:
At 4/13/2013 2:10:30 AM, F-16_Fighting_Falcon wrote:
@ Bladerunner, I know you didn't. If you notice, I made this post about half an hour ago. You only voted 5 minutes ago so I wasn't referring to your vote; at the time I posted this, you hadn't voted.

I know. I being a smart-aleck.

WAS being. Stupid iPad.......
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AlbinoBunny
Posts: 3,781
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4/13/2013 1:37:43 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Interesting debate. Maybe it was because I skimmed over it, but I didn't really fully understand the debate.
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slo1
Posts: 4,361
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4/15/2013 4:37:19 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I have not read the debate, but from what you say it is apparent you were given a red herring argument based upon your use of "assumption".

It does go to highlight the importance of clarity and not assuming everyone will understand the point or will be gentile enough to not maliciously use it against you, if you don't use the best word for the situation.

I'm with you in sentiment though.