Dr. Magda Havas: “Cherry Picking and Black Swans”

Dr. Magda Havas presents this short video to illustrate the difference between “cherry picking” science and falsification or finding the “black swan”. She writes, “Some scientists are criticized for cherry picking their studies when in fact they are falsifying a hypothesis. Falsification, a concept coined by Sir Karl Popper (philosopher of science), is one of the methods that differentiates science from other forms of acquiring knowledge.”

7 thoughts on “Dr. Magda Havas: “Cherry Picking and Black Swans””

  1. Black swan or red herring?

    “All swans are white” is not a valid hypothesis – It lacks any proposed relationship among independent and dependent variables, and thus cannot be tested.

    Simply observing the presence or absence of something is not science, so I question the premise of this video.

  2. Of the non-industry funded studies that show no positive co-relation between EMF and cancer/deleterious effects on humans, I want to know why they didn’t get any results pointing to this. Was it bad science? Paid off? Someone should look into each of these studies that is essentially “getting in the way of reducing EMF”. I do believe that if something can have a 10-year or 20-year effect on humans, most people won’t even understand it or care.

  3. “All swans are white” IS a valid hypothesis because it is falsifiable. A proposed relationship among independent and dependent variables is not required for a hypothesis to be valid. I question your ability to discern what is science Richard.

  4. @hh: You are free to believe what you like.

    I believe that most educated people would agree with this –

    Like many words, “science” has more than one proper use, and the word can also be misused. In its most fundamental sense, modern science is a process by which we try to understand how the natural world works and how it came to be that way. It is NOT a process for merely collecting “facts” about, or just describing, the natural world, although such observations do provide the raw material for scientific understanding. (taken from: http://www.indiana.edu/~ensiweb/lessons/unt.s.is.html)

  5. Yes, Richard, educated people would agree with your quotation from the Indiana University website, BUT they would also agree that that your are “cherry picking” your evidence because you have only post a part of their definition of science. It is also clear that you don’t understand the essence of their entire discussion of the issue, so you have made an incorrect extrapolation in stating that a hypothesis needs to explicitly mention relationships between dependent and independent variables to be “valid.” As “hh” reminds us, Karl Poppers “falsifiability” criterion is all that is required to judge whether the scientific method can be applied. In this case, research on genetic reproduction and survey data on how swans adapt to their different environments around the world will make a major contribution to assessing the probability that “All swans are white.” Rather than remaining a dilettante about the important subject of science and Complex Systems, I would recommend reading Nassim Taleb’s “Black Swan” and Robert Laughlin’s “A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics From the Bottom Down”.

    Then you might ask the question why the public and media are not asking questions of the high energy physicists why they have spent over $60 billion of our taxes during the last 50 years on their plasma schemes for fusion energy production while courageous scientists exploring Low Energy Nuclear Reaction or Lattice Assisted Nuclear Reaction have recently achieved positive energy production after only 20 years and less that a few paltry million of public funds.

  6. “…you have only post[ed] a part of their definition of science.”

    Yes, I quoted only part, and then I provided the source of the quote. What more do you require? Should I simply rip entire web pages and paste them in here? Or cite every source of what science is (and is not)?

    I stand by my previous posts in this thread.

  7. What more is required is to make an argument or assertion in your posting that is consistent with your reference. You don’t have to post the entire reference, but that doesn’t give you the right to make an argument that is not supported by your reference and try to imply otherwise. Your original comment that the hypothesis “All swans are white” was not valid or falsifiable was in error. And you use this to deprecate the video instruction by Dr. Havas. The point I was making is that the URL you cited on definition of science supports the approach of Dr. Havas and contradicts your clueless posting. Now, you compound your abuse of rational argument by making an irrelevant comment about my attempt to set you straight.

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