Double Helixes and Double Crosses (was: Favorite NON-fiction)

Michael Barr barr at barrs.org
Wed Jan 29 07:48:48 PST 2003

Obviously what this discussion proves is that there is no such thing as
"The scientific method" since methodology differs from discipline to
discipline, from investigator to investigator, and even for a single
investogator, from instance to instance.  As a mathematician, my research
is carried out in a totally different way from that described below for
one overwhelming reason: what is is and will ever be.  If you are working
one setp ahead of the bulldozers, then you just try to gather data at
random and worry about interpretation later.  I never have to do that and
much of my research is concentrated on guessing the crucial distinctions
between different problems.  


On Wed, 29 Jan 2003, Fides wrote:

> Gaertk at aol.com wrote:
> > And to answer Andrew's comments, I expect archaeologists to 
> > try to follow this methodology too.  Obviously, devising 
> > experiments is very difficult for them (and control groups
> > are out of the question; you get what you dig up), but that 
> > just places more importance on the other steps (analysing
> > other's data, both before and after).
> It depends which bit of archaeology you talking about. Modern 
> Archaeology tends to follow the pattern:
> 1. Gather as much data as you can before the site is destroyed or gather 
> as much non-destructive data as you can, work out how much destructive 
> data you can afford to gather (prehaps intentionally leaving some places 
> undisturbed in case future developments have better techniques and 
> equipment available) and based on previous work/gut instinct/accepted 
> method decide which areas to sample data from out of the site you have 
> permission to work.
> 2. Form hypothesis based on current knowledge/work on existing hypothesis
> 3. Clean up catalogue off finds. As money/permission allows perform 
> further tests on as many pieces as possible.
> 4. Anaylyse data. Revise hypothesis and compare with other equilivent sites
> 5. Publish site report of basic details and conclusions
> 6. Work on wider theories based on site reports
> 7. Revise theories as new site reports become available. If necessary go 
> back to reexamine artifacts (if available) or original data.
> 8. Possibly test out theories to see if you can build a bridge/make a 
> kiln/forge metal/brew beer in the way you think they did.
> 9. Publish theory for peer review.
> Most of the work done in stage 1 (in the UK/by UK teams) is rescue 
> archaeology so it is a matter of getting as much data as possible before 
> the site becomes a hotel or a road or rabbits eat it or it falls off a 
> cliff or whatever. It also means that you can dig sites you wouldn't be 
> able to otherwise with out offending anyone (especially if there are 
> bodies involved) since people are often willing to allow you some 
> measuring in return for the care you are taking removing the stuff that 
> would otherwise get bulldozed.
> Stage 1 is carried out by many people, possibly over a number of years 
> (especially if it is University run), although under the direction of 
> the site manager and stage 3 is also often done by different people many 
> of whom specialize in specific areas. It's not uncomman to have field 
> archaologists who just dig up the stuff and other archaeologists who 
> actually analyses it. Historians and others also get in on the act 
> around stage 5 (why go sit in a cold, muddy field with no toilet for 
> miles when someone will do it for you) and Archaeologists might well let 
> others take it from there except in the very specific area they are 
> looking at. Getting to stage 5 can take years (there is massive amount 
> of unpublished results out there just because people don't have the time 
> to sort them out)
> Obviously the above is something of a simplification but hopefully not 
> so much of one as to make it a lie.
> ;-)
> Fides