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Scholarly Politics and Human Foibles

In addition to fanatical perseverance and devotion to detail and wide linguistic and cultural knowledge, the successful archaeological decipher has required a high order of intellectual power of analysis, the courage to follow his or her intuition rather than the conventional wisdom, and the luck to come along at the right moment, which generally was when sufficient examples of the script to be deciphered had become available and accessible.

Champillion and Ventris had these advantages in abundance and to a lesser degree perhaps, did Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson, the decipherer of Babylonian cuneiform, and Yuri Knorozov, the Russian pioneer of the Maya decipherment in the 1950’s. Rawlinson never explained his decipherment properly, and now it is plain from study of his notebooks that he borrowed without attribution from the work of a humble scholar, Irish clergyman Edward Hincks. Read more

Peer Review

Scientific journals use a process of peer review, in which scientists’ manuscripts are submitted by editors of scientific journals to (usually one to three) fellow (usually anonymous) scientists familiar with the field for evaluation. The referees may or may not recommend publication, publication with suggested modifications, or, sometimes, publication in another journal.

This is an attempt to keep the scientific literature free of unscientific or crackpot work, it helps to cut down on obvious errors, and it generally improves the quality of the scientific literature. Work announced in the popular press before going through this process is generally frowned upon.

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Error and Scepticism

The Greek word ‘skepsis’, meaning ‘seeking’ and ‘skeptic’ is thus contrasted with dogmatic and in relation to some particular branch of science has reference to doubt as the truth of some assertation or supposed fact. The classic arguments for scepticism are that our senses are unreliable and that experts contradict each other.

Scepticism as a line of thought be be dated to Pyrrhon (365 – 275 BCE) and his school, although earlier roots might be inferred in the Sophists. Pyrrhon’s scepticism was essentially practically minded and aimed to imperturbability of mind. Scepticism was introdued into the Academy by Arcesilaus of Pitane (316 – 242 BCE) and formed the basis of Academic teaching until the headship of Antiochus (78 BCE). Read more

Objectivity

The state of being objective is to correctly represent reality. The term “reality” however can lack clarity. Science is a methodological attempt to resolve truths from ambiguity.

Empirical evidence based upon observations and experimentation in the physical world is conducive to the verification of scientific judgments. Adherence to the rules of deduction and the process of inductive reasoning implements the validity and soundness of scientific arguments and conclusions. Read more

Predictions and Experiments

A corroborated hypothesis is one that has passed its tests (i.e. one whose predictions have been verified). Consequently different scientists test the hypothesis. If further corroborated by subsequent tests, it becomes highly corroborated and is considered to become reliable knowledge. The technical name for this part of the scientific method is the “hypothetico-deductive method”.

The hypothetico-deductive method is named because one deduces the results of the predictions of the hypothesis and tests these deductions. Inductive reasoning, the alternative to deductive reasoning, was used earlier to help formulate the hypothesis. Both these types of reasoning are therefore used in science, and both must be used logically.

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Observation and Empiricism

The first observations could be data obtained from the library or information from your own experience.

Another source of observations could be from trial experiments or past experiments.  These observations, and all that follow, must be empirical in nature – that is, they must be sensible, measurable, and repeatable, so that others can make the same observations. Read more

Logic and Reasoning

The meaning of reason is to question, to call to account, to hold argument, discussion, discourse, talk or converse with another to employ reasoning or argument with a person in order to influence conduct or opinions; to think in a connected, sensible or logical manner; to employ the faculty of reason in forming conclusions.; to explain, support, infer, deal with by reasoning; to think out, to arrange the thought of in a logical manner.

Three categories of reason have been distinguished as evidencing, motivating and causally necessitating. In the context of evidencing, a reason for believing X is an item of evidence showing or tending to show that X is true. Read more