forum 9: week of 12 March: Fisher and the design of experiments

Fragment of a discussion from Course talk:Phil440A
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What I got from reading about the experimental design in this reading and also some previous knowledge that i have from taken research methods is that there is always a possibility that your results could be due to chance or other factors not accounted for. You can set a high p-value or make your experiment larger or even increase the reliability by test-retest methods but though the the possibility of it being due to chance will get smaller and smaller you can never know for certain that your results indicate an actual effect. Another factor besides the possibility of the results being due to chance is that no matter how hard you try to control the noise and other third variables that could be contributing to your results you still could have not taken something into account without being aware of it and your results could have been the effect of that. That is why in science we take all these precautions but you can never KNOW for certain that your hypothesis is true and that is why you always say "based on the data we can conclude so and so" and can never say that it IS so and so way for certain. I think the experimental method yet again reveals the interesting aspect of knowledge in that we can never fully 100 percent know anything. we think we know but we can come to find out later that we were that one percent chance or there was another variable we didn't account for or some other factor that distorted our knowledge.

07:14, 16 March 2012