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Guidelines
 
Insofar as there are still many unresolved issues in our scientific understanding of the Universe, there are many competing hypotheses. So here we entertain debates on which ones are the best. The site administrators aren't pushing their own theories here — they believe that all avenues have to be explored — so these are wide-open debates.
 
At present, the folders for each discipline are in varying degrees of organization, but here's the basic plan that we're following. We start with a few general-purpose folders.
  • Definitions
    • First we define the range of phenomena that will be addressed. It would be nice if every time we isolated a portion of the problem domain for analysis, we carved it at its joints. It doesn't always work out so cleanly, since some models lump things together in different ways. Still, we do the best we can, and theorists can always cross-link to other posts, if their models don't recognize the present grouping of data to be particularly useful.
    • We also mention the moderators, and their prerogatives.
    • If this doesn't suit you, start a new folder, and define it your way.
  • Documents
    • Here we provide a repository for papers that address the specified phenomena, to serve as reference material for the debates that will follow.
  • Discussions
    • This section is for free-form discussions of the issues, open to all registered users.
Where appropriate, we then formalize the ideas expressed in the previous folders, organized according to the Scientific Method.
  • Observations
    • First, the incontrovertible instrumented data that need to be explained are laid out, in a theory-independent way. Modeled data, or model-based massaging of data, should not go in this section.
  • Hypotheses
    • Next come the various attempts at explaining the data, starting with one item per model.
    • Within each model, the essential assertions are to be enumerated, with one item per assertion. The title of the assertion is limited to 256 characters. A more lengthy description of the assertion can be given in the body of the post.
    • Comments, questions, and criticisms specific to assertions made by a model can be added as sub-topics, and the theorist might respond with rebuttals under those criticisms.
    • Even if one model appears to be out-performing all of the rest, all models that have been developed will persist here. In any major ongoing theoretical endeavor, all avenues have to be explored, and even the blind alleys need to be documented in a complete map of the territory. And sometimes, a blind alley doesn't turn out to be so blind after all, when later discoveries create new possibilities. Capturing and preserving previous explorations of what seemed to be a blind alley at the time makes it easier for the next generation to take the next step if a new opportunity opens up. Furthermore, even if it stays a blind alley, it's a utility to future generations to have everything mapped out, because they'll do the same thing we're doing — they'll rethink everything whenever an anomaly is found. If theoretical work (even of the dead-end variety) is documented, they can easily zip through, instead of laboring through what they think is a new discovery, when really it's the same blind alley that was explored a decade earlier. So all avenues have to be explored and documented.
  • Predictions
    • If a model makes a prediction, it should be listed in this section, along with the date.
  • Conclusions
    • Here we draw our conclusions on which models seem to be performing the best.
    • When feasible, the performance of the various hypotheses in explaining the observations can be summarized in a table, where each row is for an observation, and then there are columns for each hypothesis. The performance can be designed using Ralph Juergens' ratings style:
      A. predictable on basis of theory
      B. permissible in terms of theory
      C. permissible, but difficult to explain
      O. apparently irrelevant in terms of theory
      X. evidence precludes theory
    • On the basis of the ratings table, the hypotheses can be given a numeric rank, using QDL's ranking feature.
    • These rankings can then show up in a ranking summary, which gives an overview how a model performs across a variety of topics.
This method begins in a divergent form, breaking the problem domain into so many groups of related phenomena, and then iterating through the models, to evaluate how each model explains each phenomenon. Criticisms and rebuttals branch off of each model assertion, resulting in a tree-like structure, with the best points being the many leaves.
 
Once all of that has been laid out, the convergent phase can begin.
 
  1. In the Conclusions section for this particular range of phenomena, we summarize how well each model is standing up to criticial review, and we state which one we think is performing the best.
  2. Such conclusions then feed into aggregate conclusions concerning the performance of models across multiple groupings of phenomena. And again, we state which model we think is performing the best.
  3. This aggregation process, of lesser conclusions into greater conclusions, continues all of the way back to the top level. So we go from how to explain a specific phenomenon, to how to treat a group of related phenomena, to how to treat all of the phenomena related to a particular kind of thing, to how to structure the scientific discipline in question, to the best scientific paradigm in general for future research, given its scope, accuracy, simplicity, and promise.
For example, the structure is like this:
  • Science
    • Astronomy
      • Solar Theory
        • Model 1
        • Model 2
        • Conclusions — Best Solar Model
      • Planetary Theory
        • Model 1
        • Model 2
        • Conclusions — Best Planetary Model
      • Conclusions — Best Astronomy Model
    • Geophysics
      • Earthquakes
        • Model 1
        • Model 2
        • Conclusions — Best Earthquake Model
      • Hurricanes
        • Model 1
        • Model 2
        • Conclusions — Best Hurricane Model
      • Conclusions — Best Geophysics Model
    • Conclusions — Best Scientific Paradigm
This is not to say that any of these conclusions (large or small) are, or ever will be, final. We suspect that every level of understanding achieved by humanity will provide new capabilities, which will bring us into contact with new information, and cause new problems, necessitating new solutions. Thus it will always be a shifting platform. Nevertheless, it is a platform worth studying, and this format allows us to inspect every piece of it. And when advances are made at one level, the implications can be chased throughout the rest of the levels, having already identified the parallel and hierarchical relationships among the various pieces.
 
Also note that "we" might not always agree in the conclusions that can be safely drawn at any of these levels. The site admins therefore encourage people, as individuals or as workgroups, to draw their own conclusions, all of the way back up to the overarching paradigm, and to post such conclusions in parallel with those developed by other workgroups. So you're welcome to add constructive criticisms to other people's conclusions, but some or most of your comments might be better represented in an explicit statement of your own opinions, in its own branch under the Conclusions folder, at the appropriate level. You're free the cross-link from the conclusions of others, if you agree, and want to see how those pieces fit in with what you've done. No world view is ever created from scratch — there is always overlap. By re-using components from other works, you save having to repeat what others have said, and you make it easy for people to find the implications of a low-level change. So if your overall theory rests on lower-level conclusions, and if the people maintaining those conclusions change their minds, they can inform you that you have to re-think how that piece fits into the rest of your model.
 
Finally, we should all note that the productivity of a debate is a direct function of the participants' familiarity with formal logic. We might all make a lot of off-hand comments, but as long as we understand the weight of our comments, given their logical forms, we can still communicate effectively. So if you see somebody using bad logic, who doesn't seem to know that it has no weight, you might paste a link to the definition of the fallacy in question into your criticism. (They're listed in this folder.) This will save you the time of having to explain the nature of the fallacy itself, and it will direct the offender to more info.

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