Should We Test Science? NYU Panel Investigates the Promise of Technology
Students may have to critically question a scientific claim that appears to have only partial empirical support, according to a panel of researchers at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. However, they shouldn’t attempt to test the validity of this question, if such claims are likely to go unchallenged because of the way the scientific method works.
“If a scientific claim has only partial empirical support, that’s not sufficient to discourage the claim as a whole,” said Angela Young, assistant professor of pediatrics and health psychology. “People assume that the scientific method is designed to test every claim that may be made or questioned but that is not always the case. Only randomly controlled experiments show causal connections between a claim and observed results.”
Young and her colleagues developed a rating scale using healthy students’ words to rate how important they find scientific claims to the scientific method and to perceived scientific relevance of claims that exist without probability of being true. Researchers created a scale between 0 and 100. The scale’s purpose is to encourage scientists and others to use the science of psychology to evaluate scientific claims.
“This scale is not designed to be used in school but rather with adults who are planning to publish, present their scientific work or take test or assessments to prove or disprove a claim,” said Young. “It provides information about how well the public does understand the importance of the scientific method and that how they believe scientific statements can influence the quality of their scientific claims.”
The research team analyzed four trends among young people in the online survey: 1) Does this scientific claim really matter? 2) Does this scientific claim lack empirical validity? 3) Does this scientific claim seem to be more relevant than others? 4) Does this scientific claim stand up to external scrutiny? The research team collected data from 1,533 healthy young adults ages 18 to 35 for the study.
“The student survey only included a small sample size but further studies might be useful to gain broader and more nuanced insights into questions and understand how people view scientific claims,” said Young.
The research team was led by Steve Landsburg, a professor of psychology and health psychology at NYU Steinhardt.
Other authors included Morgan A. Lawton, a research assistant professor in psychology at the University of Virginia.
New York University Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development