Theory of Knowledge - ‘the Ultimate Protection Against Research Error and Bias Is Supposed to Come from the Way Scientists Constantly Test and Retest Each Others Results’ – to What Extent Would You Agree with This Claim

Topics: Scientific method, Science, Epistemology Pages: 5 (1547 words) Published: June 21, 2013
‘The Ultimate protection against research error and bias is supposed to come from the way scientists constantly test and retest each others results’ – To What extent would you agree with this claim in the natural and human sciences.

Human beings are inherently flawed creatures. Through faults in reason and sense perception we interpret the world not as it truly is. Both the Human and Natural Sciences are tools to understand the world and are a lens in which to comprehend ideas not readily available to us purely through common sense logic and sense perception. The implications made in the title are that the inductive scientific method, when removed from error and bias, provides unequivocal and unobjectionable objective truth. The inherent question implies that science provides this truth and the only hindrance is research error and bias rather than fundamental flaws in inductive logic. The title also implies that bias that arises from an individual knower’s perspective is lesser when the same ideas are scrutinised by a group of knowers. This Knowledge issue implies that bias by its nature is removed when scrutinised by more than one knower, but does not take into account collective bias also referred to as institutional bias. Whilst the testing and retesting of each others data does remove an element of uncertainty in the results and conclusions of the data, and repeatability is a fundamental idea in science, repetition does not necessarily remove all levels of uncertainty and bias in the results as implied by ‘ultimate protection.’

An unexamined individual’s perception and reason is clouded significantly by bias. Many knowers in the fields of the Human and Natural Sciences claim to try and remove all bias and subjectivity when forming conclusions and even collecting data ultimately a significant amount of error is still involved. One of the key principles of the scientific method is repeatability. The same experiment can be performed anywhere and yield the same data and outcome. Although there are problems when only one knower’s perspective is involved, particularly with Perception as a way of knowing. An individual’s perception of an event is affected by relevance, expectations, level of expertise with equipment and the observer effect. One of the biggest problems with perception within the natural and human sciences is confirmation bias and the objectivity of the results. Charles Darwin exemplified this high expectation of objectivity

‘Whenever a new observation or thought came across me, which was opposed to my general results I would make a memorandum… such facts and thoughts were far more apt to escape from the memory than favourable ones.’

Darwin was referring to the effect called confirmation bias, where the knower will look for evidence that confirms rather than contradicts their beliefs and will overlook all disagreeing evidence. Another problem with an individual’s perception is demonstrated by a famous quote from Galileo

‘the tickle is not in the feather.’

Galileo acknowledges that the tickle is not in the inanimate object but a knower’s reaction to the stimuli. Similarly an individual’s perception of raw data affects their comprehension of the data. The final problem with an individuals perception is poor self-evaluation. A similar situation can be found when finding typing mistakes or poorly phrased sentences when evaluating one’s own written work. This phenomena known as subjective perception is especially detrimental to the objectivity when interpreting results from raw data and forming theories. The present peer reviewed procedure that the scientific community follows attempts to remove individual bias and error through multiple perspectives.

The accumulation of all of these faults in an individual’s perception of science has led to the current system of peer review and repeatability. The consensus amongst the scientific community is that if something is reviewed from multiple...
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