Thursday, December 15, 2005

Negative Arguments and the haka


+ OR -

Now…am I getting the right idea?

1. A negative argument is one which seeks to establish an alternative explanation by presenting evidence that the current explanation has a poor fit with reality. A negative argument is therefore an attempt at falsification of an explanation.

A negative argument is therefore a fundamental part of scientific endeavour and there is no shame in presenting a negative argument(s) A negative argument is not by definition a bad shoddy little bit of science that you drop secretly somewhere and do not want your name associated with.

A negative argument is often a different way of presenting a positive argument.
Your explanation has a bad fit with reality…but hey! My explanation really works nicely here!


2. A positive argument will therefore be one which seeks to establish an alternative explanation by presenting evidence that the alternative explanation has a better fit with reality.

3. Where we can limit rigorously a discrete number of possible explanations and then knock down until only one is left this is perfectly reasonable proof that the remaining option is true (providing the discrete number of options are really all the options available)

I remember from O-level physics the excitement of the experiment showing that the current bun model of the atom was wrong. (Rutherford found it pretty exciting too: “It was quite the most incredible thing that ever happened to me in my life” he is reported to have danced a haka!) Was that in one sense a negative argument….throw away the currant buns… and in another positive… we need a new idea…aha how about a small tiny nucleus plus electrons scattered around.

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