Posted by & filed under Snippets.

Why this snippet?

I came to this information via a Teal for Startups reference to Group Smells which in turn led me to Cargo Cult science – and why transparent, authentic experiments matter. I want to remember it because FASST is an experiment in using holacracy to enable collaboration and knowledge creation – and this explains why that matters. See also the final paragraph ref promoting one’s research to secure funding.

The snippet

Cargo cult science

(my itatlics)

(snip)

Richard Feynman  cautioned that to avoid becoming cargo cult scientists, researchers must avoid fooling themselves, be willing to question and doubt their own theories and their own results, and investigate possible flaws in a theory or an experiment. He recommended that researchers adopt an unusually high level of honesty which is rarely encountered in everyday life, and gave examples from advertising, politics, and psychology to illustrate the everyday dishonesty which should be unacceptable in science. Feynman cautioned,

We’ve learned from experience that the truth will come out. Other experimenters will repeat your experiment and find out whether you were wrong or right. Nature’s phenomena will agree or they’ll disagree with your theory. And, although you may gain some temporary fame and excitement, you will not gain a good reputation as a scientist if you haven’t tried to be very careful in this kind of work. And it’s this type of integrity, this kind of care not to fool yourself, that is missing to a large extent in much of the research in cargo cult science.

An example of cargo cult science is an experiment that uses another researcher’s results in lieu of an experimental control. Since the other researcher’s conditions might differ from those of the present experiment in unknown ways, differences in the outcome might have no relation to the independent variable under consideration. Other examples, given by Feynman, are from educational research, psychology (particularly parapsychology), and physics. He also mentions other kinds of dishonesty, for example, falsely promoting one’s research to secure funding.

Personal note

Comments like the paragraph above make me glad that, early on, I decided against spending/wasting my time trying to get external funding. I  followed my own curiosity, as a life-long-learner, paying my way via “the day job”, and discovering mismatches between reality and my previous assumptions. it has been about reality checks and discovery and finding patterns (alongside doing my best to help my friends with what they were trying to do).