Max: Sir, I just heard your debate with Ironman. Would you mind if I will have a conversation with you about this subject too? I would like to ask you questions from another perspective then my predecessor was asking you.
Goliath: No, I don't mind. What is your perspective?
Max: Thank you. I am more interested in the validness of your assertion. It sounds so simple to me. An easy road to success. And when I hear that I always think 'Equo ne credite, Teucri' (Don't trust that horse, fellow Trojans). Is the relationship between a scientific question and a fact really that simple. That's it?
Goliath: Basically, yes.
Max: Basically? Ok. You said that only a scientific question can have facts as an answer. Think about the situation that a police officer is interrogating a suspect and he is trying to do fact finding. Is he then asking scientific questions? Like 'You said that you were in the pub at the moment of the murder? Can you prove it?'
Goliath: No, that is not a scientific question. Even when the police officer would ask a question like 'was there a rainbow at the scene of the murder or not?' is it not his intention to use the scientific method. If it helps, they will use a psychic to solve a murder. A scientist will never use such a medium to find an answer. A scientific question can only be answered when a proper scientific method is used.
Max: So, the concept of scientific is more than just a word? A scientific question is not only the investigation of the truthfulness of a factual assertion, but it includes also a proper scientific method?
Goliath: Yes, indeed. A fact should be comprehendable, comparable and measurable. Science must restrict its questions to those characteristics.
Max: But that is all there is? A question, a method and a fact?
Goliath: Yes, indeed.
Max: Results can only found using this method? There has never been a scientist who has unveiled facts in a different way then using this method?
Goliath: Oh yes, I have to say there are very famous examples of scientists who have discovered facts using other methods. We still know the Greek word Eureka.
Max: You mean that Archimedes was a scientist?
Goliath: No, of course not, but he could have been one if he would have lived nowadays. I wanted to give you an example of your time. That is all.
Max: Ok, thanks, but may I then conclude that a scientist does not have to use a scientific method to find new facts?
Goliath:Yes, that is correct. The answer of a scientific question is about the truthfulness and validity of a fact. You can find new facts using scientific research, but it is not the sole way.
Max: Then can facts be found independent of scientific questions, does it?
Goliath: Yes, of course. Facts are discovered or at least hypothesized without prior scientific confirmation. Scientific research has to confirm the facts, otherwise will it not be accepted by the scientific community.
Max: Allright, I hear two important aspects. To start with the first: 'it has to confirm the fact.' That implies that proper use of the scientific method might not be enough to confirm a fact. Otherwise could you have said '.. will decide about..'. Is that true?
Goliath: Correct. That is one of the great characteristics of the scientific method. If you want to prove something, then must you use a method that has the capability to find a wrong answer too.
Max: Really? I am glad that generals and surgeons do not think like that. You mean that the scientific method is needed to find facts, but that method can fail to find facts and even confirm events that are not facts and can deny facts being facts?
Goliath: Unfortunately, yes all that is true. Science is like a journey into the unknown, hence will have its ups and downs, it successes and failures. We need a method that can fail too, because what can we discover if we can only find answers that can already become answered by the current set of knowledge?
Max: And what did you mean with 'not accepted by the scientific community'? Is that important with regards to the establishment of facts?
Goliath: Oh yes absolutely. Science is an endeavour of a whole community. You can not be a scientist on your own. That is impossible. It is the scientific tradition and community which give science its power over the ages.
Max: How does that relate to the original statement about question and fact finding? Could I find facts that would not be considered facts, because I am not a part of the scientific community?
Goliath: That happens all the time and is quite common. Science has evolved so far that it is very hard for laymen to be able to make valid contributions.
Goliath: Yes, laymen. Why?
Max: The opposite of a layman is a priest. Sigh, let me give a brief overview:
facts can only be confirmed by means of scientific questions. A scientific question is a question answered using a scientific method. A method on which scientists are proud that it can fail. Scientists themselves will not always use that method to establish new facts. Non scientists however can never get their facts confirmed. Even not when they would use the scientific method. Furthermore has science evolved too far for laymen to understand and are facts not facts unless they are accepted by the scientific community. So, not only are facts confirmed in ways different then first suggested, they can only be confirmed by members of a certain group and facts are not accepted as a fact because of an answer on a scientific question – which was where we started with – but only after it has received recognition of a community guided by traditions. People not belonging to this group are called laymen and their contributions are neglected. Hmm. The story is some more complex then you pretended in the beginning, don't you think so?
Goliath: Oh yes, but now that we are speaking of it. The situation is even more elaborate. :-)
Max: Even more? But that is not relevant anymore. I know enough. You have more than enough inconsistencies in your line of reasoning, but you do not consider it a problem, because for every problem you have the same solution: the almost magical term scientific. In the old world we had a term to describe this kind of solution out of the blue. Do you know which term I have in mind?
Goliath: Please tell...
Max: Deus ex machina.