Prove or disprove: A Nobel Prize winner’s approach to science
Whether the data prove you right or wrong, it's crucial to ask: what else is it telling me?
JIM ALLISON: The beautiful thing to me about the scientific method is as you said you pose up – there's a problem. You don't know the answer. You don't know how it works. You say I think it's this. And then you design experiments to test that and so the story goes. If the experiment supports it, fine. If it doesn't you reject that but very rarely does it work that way. Most of the time it doesn't really give you – well sometimes it does. Sometimes it gives you sort of an answer and you sort of understand it. Anyway, you keep going down. But at the end of the day that's essentially how it works. The part that's left out of that is that you can't ever really prove anything that way. You can design experiments that give you an answer that's consistent with your hypothesis. But it may also be consistent with another hypothesis and that's what you've got to do. Or even the opposite of your hypothesis.
So another way of looking at it that I do – and I teach everybody in my lab to the idea that you can prove something with science, just get rid of that. All you can do is fail to disprove. And if you try as hard as you can to disprove your hypothesis and you can't and nobody else can either then probably it's right maybe. We'll see. But that's what it is is getting rid of that ambiguity that allows you to really get someplace. And to do that is hard and it takes a long time. But you've got to just look at your data and you can't just say I'm going to look at it and it's told me this or it's told me this about my hypothesis.
Most of the time you'll get a partial answer but there's some answers in there and you need to just say what else is it telling me. That's what I try to teach people. Don't just say oh, it's this or this now and let's move on. No, you say what's there. What's the data. What is the data really. Look at every facet of that. Look at it like it's a stone and you hold it up and you look at it this way and you look at it that way and get everything out of it that you can. Then experiments come from that. That's the fun of it.
- In 2018, Dr. Jim Allison was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering an effective way to attack cancer through immunology.
- In his lab, Allison urges researchers to get rid of the idea that they can prove something with science. All they can do is fail to disprove.
- Jim Allison is the subject of Jim Allison: Breakthrough, a documentary narrated by Woody Harrelson that brings filmmakers and scientists together to tell the story of a Nobel Prize-winning cancer discovery that changed the world. In cinemas September 27th, 2019.
DocLands presents Jim Allison: Breakthrough (Official Trailer) www.youtube.com
- The Never-Ending War on Cancer - Big Think ›
- How Nobel Prize winner Jim Allison makes a major discovery - Big ... ›
The internet was built to resist an Orwellian future. Now it's being weaponized.
- Research shows hierarchical groups are more likely to use the internet as a platform.
- This might be counterintuitive, as the original rise of the internet coincided with events like the toppling of top-down structures.
- Despite the strong belief that the internet is horizontal, these hierarchical systems achieve high levels of online participation.
Here are 10 physics courses you can take now with some of the best experts in the world.
- You can find numerous physics courses currently available online for free.
- Courses are taught by instructors with amazing credits like Nobel Prizes and field-defining work.
- Topics range from introductory to Einstein's theory of relativity, particle physics, dark energy, quantum mechanics, and more.
It's economists vs. climate scientists in this facet of the climate change debate.
- What climate scientists have called a Hothouse Earth emergency, has been called "optimal" by a leading economist.
- That optimal scenario is based on "the most unrealistic and dangerous assumption in the history of economics."
- Leading scientists warn strongly against the methods that economists use. "No amount of economic cost–benefit analysis is going to help us. We need to change our approach."