Part One: Section three

If experimentation reveals that we have accurately determined the causal agents, Step 5 then is replication (where each step of this study is directly duplicated to double-check and verify these results, and then similar studies are conducted that systematically manipulate the key IVs and DVs to determine how generalizable these results are; i.e., how broadly our findings can be accurately applied. These two forms of replication are called direct replication and systematic replication, respectively.) Replication tells us whether our original findings are real, and to what kinds of drinking, and what kinds of people, and what kinds of consequences we can apply our results. For example, we might find that both depression and family conflicts are real causes of drinking behaviors, but depression is much less of a factor for young drinkers, and that family conflicts are much less of a factor for elderly alcoholics living alone. We might also find that the primary consequences of such drinking behavior are worsened depression, more family conflicts, and several additional health problems.

Finally, Step 6 of the scientific method is to take our cause:effect results from these studies and do three things with them: (1) Disseminate these results to the scientific psychology community for critical review and comment. (2) Integrate these results into current theories of the causes and consequences of alcohol drinking, and modify those theories accordingly. And (3), perhaps most importantly, apply these results to therapeutic interventions for Maud and people like Maud with drinking problems.

Step 7 is to follow up on Maud’s and similar people’s treatments to see how effective they are (using what are called efficacy studies). This same method could have been applied to the other examples above, or any other aspect of human cognition, emotion, or behavior. Only when such rigorous research into the causes and consequences of some human psychological phenomena is accomplished, followed up with systematic and thorough statistical analyses, experimentation, and replication, and then followed through with treatment hypotheses, testing, and efficacy studies, can the best answers to psychological cause and effect questions be found. The strength of science is in its methodology. Only the scientific method goes to these great lengths of rigor, objectivity, thoroughness, and follow-through in search of answers; no other method comes close! (Once completed, others can use these results without going back through all these steps.)

Thus, scientific methods are best because they are the most rigorous, objective, systematic, thorough, testable, verifiable, replicable, and self-correcting ways to investigate anything! (The best aspects of all the methods of gaining knowledge ever used in the history of our species have thus been boiled down to their best elements, and combined into what we now call the scientific method.) Likewise, unscientific methods are inferior because they produce unnecessary errors (e.g., more “false positives” — leading people to believe something that isn’t true — and “false negatives” — not believing something that is true). Unscientific methods lead to unreliable evidence and invalid “understandings” because they are often haphazardly done, subjective, unsystematic, incomplete, untestable, unverifiable, and not replicable. Unscientific methods lead to more and more serious errors of fact. Poor methodology leads to unreliable evidence, invalid knowledge, and false understandings. Wrong understandings lead to wrong decisions about what’s best to do, and the more important the issue about which those decisions are made, the greater the damage such errors of understanding and decision-making can produce.

imgresUnfortunately, just because unscientific information and theories are neither valid nor useful, that doesn’t mean they aren’t popular, especially among the more scientifically illiterate, less knowledgeable, and more gullible members of the public, including celebrities, social leaders, and political officials. One of humanism’s and humanity’s biggest problems is overcoming the invalid “knowledge,” misleading propaganda, and bad decisions based on supernatural and paranormal beliefs — which we may call “dangerous nonsense” — so widely advocated by powerful people and factions in America today. By many measures, the U.S. is the most superstitious, religious, and backward society in the modern world, and we pay a high price for those false beliefs every day.

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