DIANETICS: The Scientific Method

Reference: Hubbard 1950: Dianetics TMSMH

These are some comments on Appendix II, “The Scientific Method” from DIANETICS: THE MODERN SCIENCE OF MENTAL HEALTH.

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Appendix II
The Scientific Method

The following is a summary of the article by John W. Campbell, Jr.:

The Scientific Method is, while based on certain readily cited rules, far more than those rules. It must be lived up to to be fully understood. It implies that a scientist’s best friend will review his work starting with the premise that it’s all wrong and do his best to prove it’s wrong. The triumph comes from producing a new theory that stands up, and is useful, even when the most knowing make deliberate attempts to find a flaw. The critical rules are

  1. Argument by appeal to authority is of no value whatever.
  2. The observation, not the observer’s report, are the important data.
  3. No theory, however well-established or long-held, can stand in the face of one relevant, contradictory fact.

Appeal to authority can be hidden  under phrases like “Everybody knows,” “of course,” “naturally”. Saying a thing is “theoretically impossible” is, actually, appeal to the authority of present theories. So far as the Great Name argument goes, those are easy to spot, and their value comes into focus very quickly if you simply substitute an arbitrary name for the Great Name. It is the scientist— who operates on the principle that he doesn’t already know all the answers—who is out looking for new and better answers.

Ideally, the scientific method follows seven steps:

  1. Make a series of careful observations.
  2. Combining all relevant data, from all relevant experiments, formulate a hypothesis.
  3. Using the hypothesis, predict new facts.
  4. Perform an experiment and make observations on these predictions.
  5. As a result of the experiment, discard the hypothesis, or advance it now to the status of “Theory.”
  6. Make further predictions, further experiments, and collect more observational evidence until a contradictory relevant fact is found.
  7. Discard the old theory, take the new total of observational data, and form a new hypothesis.
  8. Go back to step 3.

Notice that each time round that cycle the new hypothesis shows how to get new data, new experimental evidence, new information. The process is not circular; it’s an expanding spiral, and each sweep around it covers a broader and broader field of understanding.

But the most important step of all is Step Seven. It’s so easy and comfortable to believe that the old theory is Truth, and doesn’t and won’t ever need changing, even if it doesn’t work all the time. The true scientist starts off with any theory and finds it useful only so long as it works. If it no longer works, it should be discarded, and a new, better one fashioned.

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