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I disagree.

One part of science is observation. Including observations which cannot be, or at least have not been, repeated. For example, consider a rare event in astronomy which has only been detected once. Is that science? I say it is. But it's surely not repeatable. (Even if something like it is detected in the future, is it really a "repeat"?)

Some experiments are immoral to repeat. For example, in a drug trial you may find that 95% survive with a given treatment, while only 5% survive with the placebo. (Think to the first uses of penicillin as as real-world example.)

Who among you is going to argue that someone else needs to repeat that experiment before we regard it as a proper scientific result?




> One part of science is observation. Including observations which cannot be, or at least have not been, repeated. For example, consider a rare event in astronomy which has only been detected once. Is that science? I say it is. But it's surely not repeatable.

First off, you can accept the observation at face value as an observation, but conclusions drawn from the claims which have no other support or means of verification should not be accepted and would not be accepted. Fortunately, most of the time even if something is initially sparked by a very rare occurrence, it will have some kind of implications that are verifiable by some other means other than just waiting for something to happen in space.

But even something that is rare and relies on observation, like gravitational waves, we have already been able to identify more than one occurrence.

> Some experiments are immoral to repeat. For example, in a drug trial you may find that 95% survive with a given treatment, while only 5% survive with the placebo.

What's more immoral, releasing a drug that's only had one test, even a striking one, on the public as a miracle cure that you have not truly verified or performing another test to actually be sure of your claims before you release it?

> Who among you is going to argue that someone else needs to repeat that experiment before we regard it as a proper scientific result?

That's how science works. If something is not independently repeatable and verifiable then science breaks down. Look at the recent EM drive. Most scientists in the field were skeptical of it, and once it was finally attempted to be independently verified the problems were found.

Independent verification is the cornerstone of science and what makes it different from bogus claims by charlatans.


> conclusions drawn from the claims which have no other support or means of verification should not be accepted and would not be accepted

I disagree. In all cases, even with repeated experiments, the claims are only tentatively accepted. The confirmation by others of Blondlot's N-rays didn't mean they were real, only that stronger evidence would be needed to disprove the conclusions of the earlier observations.

Astronomy papers make conclusions based on rare or even singular observations. Take SN1987a as an example, where observations from a neutrino detector were used to put an upper limit on the neutrino mass, and establish other results.

> "or performing another test"

This question is all about repeating an experiment. Repeating the experiment would be immoral.

There are certainly other tests which can confirm the effectiveness, without repeating the original experiment and without being immoral. For the signal strength I gave, we can compare the treated population to the untreated population using epidemiological studies.

But under current medical practices, if a drug trial saw this sort of effectiveness, the trial would be stopped and everyone in the trial offered the treatment. To do otherwise is immoral. As would repeating the same trial.


> But under current medical practices, if a drug trial saw this sort of effectiveness, the trial would be stopped and everyone in the trial offered the treatment. To do otherwise is immoral. As would repeating the same trial.

Then perhaps current medical practices should change. The benefits to those who were previously given the placebo should be balanced against the probability that the observed outcomes may not occur in other circumstances.


Are you for real? You would sacrifice people upon the alter of reproducibility?

Down that path lies atrocities. The system was put into place to prevent repeats of horrors like the "Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male".


I'd rather not sacrifice people on the altar of a single study, no matter how significant the results. Down that path lies atrocities, too, albeit of a quieter sort.


As I said earlier, there are alternatives which are both moral and can verify effectiveness without having to repeat the original experiment.

You chose to not verify, and insist upon repeating, thus likely consigning people to unneeded pain and even death.

I'll give a real-world example to be more clear cut about modern ethics and science. Ever hear of TGN1412? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TGN1412

It went into early human trials, and very quickly caused a reaction. "After very first infusion of a dose 500 times smaller than that found safe in animal studies, all six human volunteers faced life-threatening conditions involving multiorgan failure for which they were moved to intensive care unit." (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2964774/ )

Here's a publication of the effects: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa063842 .

Is it moral to reproduce that experiment? I say it is not moral, and must not be repeated even though it is possible to do so.

Can a publication about the effects still be good science even though medical ethics prevent us from repeating the experiment? Absolutely.

What say you?


I love that both of our replies used 1987A as an example...


> But even something that is rare and relies on observation, like gravitational waves, we have already been able to identify more than one occurrence.

But who didn't believe the original result? And does the same experiment observing multiple occurences really count as 'reproducability'?

We've only had ONE observed local group supernova within the past several hundred years (and that was within our lifetime, thankfully with several relevant detectors up and running). Should we ignore any result or conclusions from this instance?

No - if the data from the next supernova disagrees or reshapes the field - and it probably will, given the huge amounts of resources dedicated to studying it (see e.g. http://snews.bnl.gov/), this will just be evidence of scientific progress - reshaping your position based on experimental data.

Again, I think there is a certain amount of crosstalk with people who say that the "Entire community of scientists" has a problem, whilst actually meaning specific fields. Perhaps an ironic imprecision.


The point of science is to discover truth in a way that is objective and convincing. That's not to say there isn't other truth out there. I think people mixing 'science' up with 'truth about the universe' is causing some unnecessary cognitive dissonance.




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