The Scientific Method and Quintessence Analogs
Wolfram Math World: A null hypothesis is a statistical hypothesis that is tested for possible rejection under the assumption that it is true (usually that observations are the result of chance). The concept was introduced by R. A. Fisher. The hypothesis contrary to the null hypothesis, usually that the observations are the result of a real effect, is known as the alternative hypothesis.
Most science knowledge is statistically validated. The scientific method requires scientists and all others who claim to think rationally to answer knotty questions by means of repeatable EXPERIMENT or careful verifiable direct observation. In order to do this effectively, one must formulate a hypothesis, a statement of some putative principle that engages all the known implications. These implications must be rather direct. Circumstantial consequences are just that – circumstantial and cannot be used to PROVE a hypothesis by their mere existence. Those better “former” implications must suggest substantive experiments that will verify or confirm them or not.
It is good if there are direct elements of the principle and subservient implications of the hypothesis. It is better if a complete and utter negative statement of the hypothesis can be formulated. Then, the net algebraic sum of the original hypothesis and the negative hypothesis should be zero. Logically, the negative completely cancels the positive hypothesis. This negative hypothesis is called the “null” hypothesis because it would nullify the other if it proves to be true and it would tend to validate the positive (or alternative) hypothesis if shown to completely false. At least, it would fail to PROVE it false, if Null was shown to be true in some minor ways. Then, when Null is invalidated, if direct evidence can be found that tends to corroborate the original positive (alternative) hypothesis, we can begin to regard it as a good logical beginning. AND THEN, if this alternative hypothesis can be combined with statements of principle that have already been proven and the combined implications of such a joint statement can be so verified, as before, we have the beginnings of proof.
The result should always be a hypothesis or “theory” with predictive value. Or, when only observation is what may be possible, a good theory will predict the results of a program of detailed observation.
The key to this process is our ability to form an experimentally testable Null Hypothesis. The evidence FOR the positive statement of the hypothesis (the alternative) is insufficient in itself because circumstances may combine to fool our little experiments. We are human. If an appropriate robust Null Hypothesis cannot be formulated, the original hypothesis is unsuitable to merit the attention of the scientist. Such a defective hypothesis is termed “unfalsifiable” because no Null Hypothesis can be stated the confirmation of which would show the bad hypothesis to be “false”.
This is relevant to the debates about Dark Energy (DE), quintessence, Dark Matter (DM) and so on. Dark Energy is the reservoir of potential energy that is supposed to exist as an underlayment or foundation of the universe. Quintessence is supposed to be a new force field that is just another component of the universe. All fundamental force fields have an associated particle. So, if there is quintessence, there should be a quintessence particle also. Invisible, undetectable Dark Matter (as, for instance, enormous super-galactic clouds of invisible, undetectable WIMPs – weakly interacting massive particles) is supposed to account for the anomalous rotation velocity distribution seen in galaxies and galactic clusters. Also, DM is supposed to result in redshift effects in observation of galactic lensing and in the Sunyaev-Zeldovich counterbalanced redshift phenomena. It is also supposed to explain anomalous apparent offsets in the barycenters of colliding galactic clusters. These would be indirect effects of DM. They are all explainable by other means. The confirmed existence of such phenomena cannot prove the DE or DM hypotheses because they do not address any NULL hypothesis.
Do not forget, to call one’s self a scientist (even an amateur scientist), one must respect the scientific method. It is not a scientist’s dogma any more than it is dogma to follow the firefighter’s code; one must respect the power of fire – or else you die. One may choose to die physically, or else one may wish to perish intellectually. The scientific method assures logical life after the virtual death of a bad theory.
An unfalsifiable hypothesis has no business occupying the time of the scientist. Whole theories have often been constructed from elaborate systems of unfalsifiable hypotheses. Such theories are often fun to think about, even edifying and inspiring – but they certainly are not science.
There is a place for faith. But, if a person of faith needs experimental proof, he will have little of either. We all need faith. Psychologically, we all use some form of faith in some way. In times of trouble and sorrow, sometimes it is all we have. Psychiatrists recommend it. Psychologists say that the “normal” person is the one who can “delude” himself to this self-assessment successfully all the time. In other words, normal people “lack insight”. Facetiously, they say that if we had true insight, we would all be permanently severely depressed!
God loves us, some believe. Mere belief makes it so. Existentially, epistemologically and eschatologically, if we can say sincerely that a principle of human conduct or relations should be timelessly true for everyone, then it is so. The Human Condition IS what we can sincerely say it should be. “Things” ARE as they “should” be. This is called Primary Christian (or Buddhist, Hindu, etc.) existentialism. All men and women of faith are Primary Christian (or Jewish, Hindu, Muslim or whatever) existentialists. Scientists must not be professional existentialists. They must be “positivists” or “logical positivists” (A.J. Ayer), at least in their professional (or amateur) dealings.
All true scientists hew to a strict code of honor as well as to the scientific method. Verifiably and repeatably confirmed experimental or observational Truth is NOT just a buzzword. Such Truth is meaning. Truth is the scientist’s life. Truth is noble. To the scientist, Truth is not relative. Truth does not evolve. Truth is an absolute ideal – there is only one truth, that is, it is unique. Our understanding of truth, however, does evolve. Understanding is indeed relative and it can be flawed. But, it hews to the above stated ideals in all cases. Otherwise, it is fatuous pompous propaganda: good for politicians and some clerics, but not for the scientist.
In a very real sense, to the scientist, the ideal of “Truth” is the next best thing to God.
Cosmologists are always wrong, but never in doubt. – Lev Landau