For a Scientific Method for the Internet Age

The scientific method was created to ask ourselves questions about the world and to try to come up with answers and explanations. This has been the most useful tool to develop the sciences, to help us to come out of the dark ages, and to stop believing in myths.

Thanks to the scientific method we can avoid to be confused and lied at by the outside world, by our senses and even by our brain.

In today’s world (and for the general public), the old scientific method is not as valid as before (talking about the general public, on the real science), because most of the questions we may have are already answered. What we urgently need is a new scientific method that works well with today’s technology and google. A method that helps us to discover the truth in a flood of content and information, sometimes wrong, most of the times incomplete.

Process:

This is the first step, and sometimes, just by questioning about what we read online we’ve moved forward into our search.

This may have two faces:

  • We have a question, how do we discover the correct answer online?
  • We read some fact online, how can we know it’s true?

Example.

Bacon causes Cancer

Formulation of a question

In the traditional Scientific Method we had an hypothesis that we wanted to proof (or disproof). In today’s world, we don’t need an hypothesis. Or simpler, we have a question that we need to proof or disproof: “Is it true?”. This will only work for a fact, and some of the questions we have are not as simple black and white situation. We can toned down our question asking us: “In what context is this true” or “At what level is this true.”

Example.

“Is it true that Bacon causes cancer” or “At what level Bacon causes cancer?”

Hypothesis

Because we live in a confusing world, because both journalist and the general public normally make gigantic leaps away from what the fact is; our hypothesis is going to be simple: “It is false” or at least “There may be a specific situation where this is true”.

Prediction

There’s a couple of rule of thumb predictions that you can use:

  • If it’s too good to be true: Is false.
  • If the journalist makes the statement in form of a question: The answer is no
  • If it comes in a form of a list, or other kind of gimmick: Is false
  • If it’s not signed: It’s false
  • If they are talking about science you can add automatically “In specific cases” or “under certain circumstances”.

Testing

This is a checklist of things you should inquire:

Basically, start to “Google” your questions.

  • Read the Source: Look exactly what the source says.
  • Trusted Sources: You need to know something about the sources. “Nature” is not the same of “Buzzfeed”. Don’t trust blindly the sources either. Everybody can make errors.

This is a checklist of things you should inquire:

  • Follow the money: Who is funding the researchers? A vegetarian Lobby? The Vegan-Bacon Association of America?

If it’s too hard to understand the source or is behind a paywall climb the tree and see who first reported it: Journalists and Journals. You can follow the previous process with this new names.

Some tricks of the trade:

  • Wikipedia is good for for basic information but what you want to the sources on the bottom of the page is most important.
  • The same with papers. The summary will be useful. The bibliography more.

If it’s too hard to understand the source or is behind a paywall climb the tree and see who reported it first: Journalists and Journals. You can follow the previous process with this new names.

This is a good example of somebody that made a good work analyzing the bacon news: All We Know Is That Bacon Can Cause Cancer

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