THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD & SPECULATION

THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD
I think most of us accept and admire the development of the scientific method in our culture. It is a very useful tool, a way to become more clear on what the important factors in events are. It is not perfect, not the only method of finding truth, as it is limited to what can be sensed. We know our senses are limited and much is happening beyond the range of sensibility. Yes, we have developed tools that extend beyond our usual range but even they have limits. 

Basically, science is done by careful observation, and when done properly, simplifies the question. By this, I mean that if we wanted to study the effect of taking some substance or food into the body, our observation will be more accurate if all the people being tested are on the same food regimen and not taking any other substances. We call this minimizing variables. It is obvious if we are studying the health effect of an herb and some of those in our test group are also recreating with LSD, then very possible we won’t have reliable results, will we?

Our model, for scientific study, is then to set up clear parameters and minimize the factors (variables) that might also have an influence. It is equally important that there be a control group — a group of those tested not receiving the thing we are testing for. If we did not have a control group, how would we know that the changes we see in our test group might have happened anyway? Get the idea?

Then, as well, we want to test a sufficient number to minimize natural variability. People, animals, and plants all vary as to their susceptibility to things and also in how they give us signs that they are affected. Not necessarily the same in all. 

To summarize, the scientific method will set up a “controlled” study, one made more simple, with a proper comparative group, and a sufficient number of those tested to minimize variability.

THE PROBLEM
The difficulty we face, and so obvious now with this current epidemic, is mixing scientific studies with speculation. It really helps to see the difference. 

Here is an example from an article appearing in the current issue of New Scientist. This is an extract:

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Rise of Measles Linked With Emergence of Large Cities 2500 Years Ago

The measles virus crossed over to people from cattle around 500 BC, supporting the idea that it could only get established as a human disease once large enough cities had developed. “It’s not proof, but it’s compatible with the notion that large cities might have provided the opportunity for it to emerge,” says Sébastien Calvignac-Spencer at the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, Germany.

The measles virus evolved from the virus that causes rinderpest, a disease that used to be common in cattle and led to famines in Africa in the 20th century, until vaccination eradicated it by 2011.

It was already known that the measles virus evolved from the rinderpest one because they are so genetically similar, but it was unclear when it made the jump. Previous estimates were that it happened around AD 900. But that conclusion was based on analysis of fairly recent measles viruses

Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2246470-rise-of-measles-linked-with-emergence-of-large-cities-2500-years-ago/#ixzz6Pwa4FiaP

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Commentary: When you first read this, it seems like a scientific report. There are statements made like they are the determined truth. As an example “The measles virus crossed over to people from cattle around 500 BC.” Another similar statement further down is “It was already known that the measles virus evolved from the rinderpest one because they are so genetically similar, but it was unclear when it made the jump.” 

Let’s look at this speculation, presented as science, using the criteria listed above.

The idea is that measles virus was FIRST in cattle. It then somehow modified and began to infect people. How could this be scientifically determined? The first, and most essential factor, is that we are bringing in time. The assumption is that the virus somehow came into being in cattle and was not it people at that time. As there was an association between cattle and people the virus developed the ability to infect people. 

If we are to scientifically determine that, here is what we would have to show:

First, do a survey for the presence of the virus in both cattle and human beings. For the premise of ORIGIN (from cattle) we have to show that the virus is indeed found in cattle and never in people. And we have to test a sufficient number to have some confidence — hundreds?

If we find the virus in both people and cattle, at the same time, we cannot say where it started. It is certainly possible it started with cattle but it is just as possible it started with people and then crossed into cattle. I think you can see the difficulty here. There is no way we can, at least at present, go back in time and do such tests. And we know the people living then did not even have any idea of what a virus was so they could not have done such testing themselves. 

A further piece of evidence that the speculation may not be not correct is the nature of the two diseases. We know what measles is like, especially as a skin eruption. The rinderpest disease in cattle is not like that. The symptoms in cattle are fever, loss of appetite, nasal, and eye discharges. Then, as it develops erosions appear in the mouth and inside the nose and genitals. There is often diarrhea, and they die, usually, within a week or so. This is not how measles looks. Well, of course, the virus could change, theoretically, but it would be nice to have also scientific evidence that such a change in disease pattern happens. 

CONCLUSION
We could go on and on with examples, but I want to touch on this with you as it is a very important topic in today’s world. We are inundated with speculation, presented to us as if it were scientific — implying there were studies, research, carefully done, that substantiate what is being said. Problem is when you look into any background material it very often does not support what is being said or is another layer of speculation itself. 

I used this example of blaming cattle for the presence of measles because it is such a clear example. The hypothesis, as stated, obviously cannot ever be scientifically proven — unless someday we develop a time machine and have the desire and interest to go back in time and do these tests. I think, if it were me, there would be more interesting things to do with the machine, don’t you?

I hope this gives the idea. As you hear these various statements just ask yourself if such a thing as being claimed is even possible to be determined scientifically. It does help to sift through it.