The Scientific Method Doesn’t Prove Diddly—
Never Did, Never Will:
A Brief Note on “Proof” and “Evidence” by Jim Nolan
OK, so here is a quick reminder to those of us in the social sciences (this includes Counseling and Art Therapy). When you read an article, or have a deep conversation at Java Joes or Tribes, and somebody says “Well, they have proved that empathy is critical to therapy…” Or “Science already proved that Art Therapy is effective with war veterans…” Or “Research proves that talk therapy is as effective as medications, used alone…”—then you know the person writing the article or making the argument does not know how science works, and you are being buffaloed. Plain and simple.
The writer might intentionally be buffaloing you, OR they might actually be buffaloing themselves. I don’t really care. What DOES matter to me is that Science does not even claim or intend to “prove” anything, and surely does not. I get that this is subtle, but it is huge.
Research “fails to disprove” a hypothesis. I know, that is weird, but that is what it does.
And Evidence is not Proof. It just isn’t.
Here is some appropriate language for discussing research findings: “Evidence suggests that…..” Or “Some research studies strongly support the notion that…” Or “Multiple clinical trials lend support to the claim that…” Or “Research does not allow us to rule out the possibility that…”
Research lends support, fails to discredit, suggests, does not support, and so on.
But if your buddy (or your instructor) tells you that something has been proved, well, now you know.
(If you are interested in a more in-depth explanation, here is a website): http://agbiosafety.unl.edu/science.shtml