How Science Works: One Anomaly Versus A Mountain of Evidence

This is how science works. A thousand experiments cannot prove you right, and yet one experiment can prove you wrong.

Definitely not about to have a philosophy of science discussion with you.( But you really think if there were 99 lines of evidence in support of a young universe and one for an old universe that would refute YEC? Or one line of evidence for atheism that would refute Theism? False propositions can have supporting evidence.) But you need to interact with @jammycakes post more. You ignored 99.9 percent of what he said. He is more familiar with the literature than I.


This is not quite how it works in practice. You need a lot of evidence, not just a few anomalous results, to overturn a widely accepted previous theory or position. See the proton radius puzzle for example.


His response also ignores the role auxiliary hypotheses play in science. But like I said I’m not going to get into a philosophy of science discussion with him.

Yes, I’m aware it is a bit more nuanced than that (See also: Price, P., Examining the usage and scope of historical science—a response to Dr Carol Cleland and a defence of terminology, Journal of Creation 33 (2):121–127, 2019.) , but at the same time, who decides? You said,

You need a lot of evidence, not just a few anomalous results,

But who gets to decide what “a lot” means? Or “anomalous”? Sounds like that person (or group) has the real keys to the kingdom, don’t they?

Like the independent calibration of C14 back to 50K years proves a YEC 6000 year old Earth wrong. Got it.

Of course. Science is a communal activity whose content, standards, and future directions are shaped and formed by the community of scientists. This is why peer review (both in formal and informal venues) is important. As I said to @stcordova the other day, if YECs really think there is something wrong with some mainstream scientific beliefs, they should first gain expertise and reputation in the mainstream scientific community so that their criticisms are actually taken seriously.


I would like to state that context matters very much here, and I think that this blanket statement, while valid in many instances, is not so here. Let me explain and I’d like to see how you reply.

In a court of law, many lines of evidence can be put forth that suggest that Person A murdered Person B. As each line is reviewed, a determination can be made as to whether or not the individual line is compelling and convicting. Say for instance that three lines of evidence are put forth, and none of these lines are convincing. Person A is still considered to be innocent at this point. A fourth line of evidence is put forth and it is both compelling and convicting. It is now easy to see that Person A has murdered Person B. In this kind of situation, the context allows for the tables to be flipped in the way that you suggest, but it is due to the fact that while one appears to be innocent, there exists the possibility of guilt. Guilt is always a possibility in this context. A single instance of a lack of innocence can turn the tables completely.

In this conversation (above), you are discussing the age of objects. You are asserting that these objects are very young. Others are asserting that they are much, much older. To say, as you have, that one instance can similarly turn the tables is not true because of the context of the conversation. If you have one single instance of something shown to be young, oldness (age) is not precluded. Age is a scale and determined ages are datapoints. We take datapoints and apply trendlines to see where consistencies exist and how strong they are. Outliers do not falsify this kind of analysis at all. Especially one out of a hundred, as you assert.

To take this further, when the earth is found to be very old (4.5 billion years old), everything within it is either very young or very old. So, encountering things that are young says nothing about the overall age of the earth. In fact, it is only when one asserts the Young Earth position is this the case. If one does so, they are asserting that the earth, and everything on it, must be 10,000 years old or less, for instance. So, in this case, you (ironically) are correct. Finding something that is a billion years old, for instance, does falsify the YE position.


I’m sorry, but that’s total nonsense.

If you dismissed contamination as a “charge” that “represents an escape hatch” for “researchers to simply toss out” things in any other area of science, you would kill people. Would you buy medicines from a pharmaceutical company that took that kind of attitude, for starters? I think not.

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no! That is most certainly NOT how science works.

You CANNOT overturn a thousand experiments with just one contradictory finding. If you could do that, you would also be granting a free pass to astrology, homeopathy, feng shui, water divining, reading tea leaves, and tobacco companies trying to claim that smoking is good for you. You would effectively be giving everyone a free pass to create their own realities.

As I said, what you are arguing against here are the most fundamental, basic principles of measurement that apply to every area of science. You are not just arguing against scientific findings, you are arguing against the entire scientific method.


Wow that’s a long post with nothing to say. Ok here is the point. You still need to address the one anomaly.

No. You don’t address one-off anomalies until you have managed to reproduce them. Even when you do, your explanation has to be consistent with the other results: you don’t throw them out altogether on account of just a tiny minority of anomalies. And you don’t start proposing new laws of physics when the ones that you have provide perfectly good explanations already.


@jammycakes got it right. Nature is messy, and sometimes there are results that go against the grain. That’s why many important experiments, even those by leading groups in the field, are done multiple times to check reproducibility. For example, two independent groups (ATLAS and CMS) searched for the Higgs boson and got consistent results amounting to over 5 sigma, which made them confident to announce that the Higgs had been discovered. Similarly, gravitational waves were first discovered by using two different detectors located at very different locations. Even my own experiment, measuring the electron electric dipole moment, has multiple competitor experiments measuring the same quantity using different methods. If we ever find an unexpected result, I think most people will suspend judgment until one of these other groups confirm it.

On the other hand, the history of experimental physics is littered with anomalous results which were never reproduced nor explained, and simply abandoned. In 1982, Blas Cabrera detected what seemed to be a signal from a magnetic monopole. This result was published in the premier journal in the field. But no one since has ever been able to detect another monopole. Similarly, in 1986, Ephraim Fischbach reanalyzed data from an old experiment and claimed to have found evidence for the existence of a fifth force. This launched several experimental efforts over the next few years to reproduce the result. No conclusive evidence of the force was ever found.


Have you heard about these entire fields of study devoted to that very question, called probability theory, and statistics?


This is not right. science is just about demonstrating conclusions are accurate. one needs no community. In fact usually communities are wrong and science has moved forward by hypothesis by a few folks. thats why most of science accomplishment has wikipedia refereeences based on individual names.
Peer review is irrelevant. The peers are usually behind the curve.
in fct you should be saying SCIENTISTS who are studied in the relevant field!! Not scientists as a species.
YES YEC thinks there are wrong conclusions,YES REALLY, and no one does not need reputation to correct things. one only needs conclusions that are viable based on scientific boundaries and to debunk the other side.
We do this fine and dandy. They react to us more then us to them. We are the innovative ones because we already know conclusions based on biblical boundaries.

No, it’s about testing predictions.


What!? :joy::joy::joy::joy::joy:


Science does need a community.


The multiple independent clocks that God has built into nature check each other’s calibration and validate each other.


Do you think it is necessary to serve some form of apprenticeship, eg post-doc work, in order to fully enter the scientific community. The idea is that one cannot fully appreciate the practices of a scientific community from solitary book study; instead, one needs feedback and criticism of one’s work by a mentor.

Just to be clear, I understand that requiring this type of apprenticeship could be seen by some as a form of exclusion of scientific “heresy”. I don’t mean the question to be that kind of “gotcha”.

Edit: You may enjoy Collin’s Gravity’s Shadow. It is a sociological study of the early work of the community of scientists studying gravitational waves.


I agree these techniques can be used as part of the process. But I would have said sociology and philosophy of science are the fields of study that analyse how communities of scientists make those decisions.

Also, of course, scientists themselves have a process for continuous improvement, eg the ongoing discussions about tthe applicability Bayesian versus Fisherian/N-P statistics as well as those on p-hacking and how to avoid it.

I take PDPrice to be alluding to the issue of why we should trust science and scientific communities to deliver knowledge within science’s domains of inquiry. For me, that comes down to: it works in achieving its goals (explanation, prediction, control), and evidence of that success is transparently available to all.