Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Strong Inference, Science (1964)

Strong Inference. Certain systematic methods of scientific thinking may produce much more rapid progress than others.

Strong inference consists of applying the following steps to every problem in science, formally and explicitly and regularly:
  1. Devising alternative hypotheses

  2. Devising a crucial experiment (or several of them), with alternative possible outcomes, each of which will, as nearly as possible, exclude one or more of the hypotheses

  3. Carrying out the experiment so as to get a clean result

Rinse and repeat to form a "conditional inductive tree" or decision tree. Write the tree out.

Or, as the philospher Karl Popper says today, there is no such thing as proof in science -- because some later alternative explanation may be as good or better -- so that science advances only by disproofs. There is no point in making hypotheses that are not falsifiable, because such hypotheses do not say anything: "it must be possible for an empirical scientific system to be refuted by experience".

Form multiple working hypotheses, so as not to get too emotionally attached to any particular one.

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