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William L. Siler, Ph.d.
05-06-1993, 01:59 AM
I recently asked for help in answering the question: "What is
good science?" I received fewer responses than I had hoped but
the responses I received were well-considered and carefully
posed. I thank those who responded for their time and the
thoughtfulness of their replies. In addition, I apologize for
the delay in sharing these replies with each of you.

I have included the complete text of each reply with this note.
I have not presented an interpretation of the replies, though I
have several new questions. I will pose those questions at a
later time. Many of those questions relate to themes presented
in several of the responses: 1) the vague nature of the qualifier
"good"; 2) the process of science versus the product of science;
3) the purpose of science; and 4) scientists as a
social/political body. I look forward to continued discussion of
the issues raised in the following responses.

William (Bill) L. Siler, Ph.D.
silerwl@sluvca.slu.edu

1) T.Yamaguchi
takami@numazugw.cc.u-tokai.ac.jp

Hello,

The question you raised always interest me too.

My working definition should be definately influenced by my
peculiar career, starting general surgen, entering into the
field of cardiovascular flow studies, and currently teaching
medical engineering in a school of engineering.

I believe the good science is such that you understand yourself
better by its aid. The word "understand" can contain at least
two meaning, bilogically or physically, and philosophically.
Eventually, the destination is to know ourselves, and this
should be the value of our life.

Unfortunately, my English skill is not good, and I wonder if I
could convey what I think in the above sentences. The above
idea is partly from Greek idea and also in part from Buddhism
idea. Particularly in a sutra (bible) of Buddhism, there is a
phrase that "the universe recognizes the universe". Also the
same sort of idea can be found in Heidegger.

Yours

T.Yamaguchi M.D. Ph.D.

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2) M. Grabiner
grabiner@bme.ri.ccf.org

Bill,
Fundamentally, good science can be described as that which
subscribes faithfully to the scientific method. However, GOOD
science is generated by solid hypotheses that ask important
questions. Of course, "important" seems to be measured in the
eyes of the beholder (of grant monies). Mark

************************************************** ***************

3) Z. Faulkes
zenf@uvvm.Uvic.Ca

Hmmm, I think this may fall into the "can of worms" category.
I've been thinking about a variation of this question for a
while. The way I'd phrased it was, "what constitues good
evidence?" I haven't come to any final conclusions yet, but I'd
sure appreciate talking about it to someone.
The book which set me thinking about the nature of evidence
might be useful to you as well. It's _Anatomy of a Controversy_
by A. Wenner & P. Wells (1990), published by Cambridge University
Press (I think). There, they pick apart a controversy over
dancing by honey bees and whether or not bees use those movements
to communicate information. They argue that the sort of evidence
you will accept is dependent on your philosophical background
(e.g., whether you're a positivist or a Popperian or a
relativist, etc.)
A short (somewhat flippant) answer is to turn it around and
ask, say, "what makes a good movie?" It's not just a matter of
taste. There are certain standards of storytelling and
conventions of cinema that should be met. But, like science,
they're hard to recognize to someone who isn't in the field. For
example, in movies there's a general photographic rule that you
can't "cross the axis." That is, you can't show someone running
from right to left in one shot, then show them from another
perspective running left to right. It's just wrong to do so; it
doesn't communicate clearly. I think there are similar
conventions in science; having an experimental control, for
example.
I'll end here, but I'd like to continue this discussion.
>>>Zen Faulkes!