Note: Blog post subject matter is discussed in more detail on the Athalonz Podcast.
A Google search of the word “science” produces about 363 million hits. The hits related to definitions of science; to businesses that use the word science in their name; to products that claimed to be based on science; and to publications of scientific papers, journals, and/or magazines.
The volume of use of the word science is not that surprising since science effects almost every aspects of our lives. From our health, to our cars, to our homes, to our phones, to our recreation, to “fill-in the blank”, science plays a roll. Unfortunately, it’s used so often that its meaning has been convoluted.
The actual definition of “science” is the pursuit of knowledge. Knowledge about the world we live in (e.g., the physical sciences); knowledge about living things (e.g., life sciences); and knowledge about species interaction (e.g., social sciences). Some things humanity knows very well, other things humanity knows very little about, and still other things humanity’s knowledge is somewhere in between.
The things that we know very well, we call scientific laws or scientific facts. A scientific fact is an observed occurrence of an event that, no matter how many times the event occurs, the result is the same with no know exceptions. For example, if I drop a ball from 3 feet to the ground, it will always fall to the ground (it won’t go up); it will have the same velocity just before it hits the ground, it will always take the same amount of time to hit the ground, and it will impact the ground with the same force. The mathematical equations to determine velocity, force, and time of a falling object are called scientific laws.
To know more about the things that we know little about, we create hypothesizes as how they work and what they’ll produce. Then we test the hypothesizes by conducting experiments and/or studies. Experiments are most often done when studying the physical sciences (e.g., test whether, when we mix these chemicals together, ABC will happen) and studies are most often done when studying the life sciences (e.g., test whether taking supplement XYZ increases running stamina).
In the early phases of testing hypothesize, studies are relatively simple, small in numbers of test subjects, and short in duration. If we were to test the hypothesis that taking supplement XYZ increases running stamina, we start with a small group of people (e.g., 20) for a six week period. All of the participants would add a specific long distance running program to their daily lives. Half of the participants would take supplement XYZ daily and the other half would take a placebo (this half is the control group).
For an ideal study, we would use clones; then we know the only variable would be the taking or not taking of supplement XYZ. Since we don’t have sufficient cloning technology (not to mention the morality and ethical issues of cloning for testing), we select people that are of like age, of like health, of like life-style, of like physical activity, and as many other like traits as possible.
At beginning of the study, we would take personal data on each of the participants such as blood pressure, heart rate, long distant running times, and so on. At the end of the study, the same data would be taken. The data of the control group (those that did not take the supplement) would be compared to the group that did take the supplement (i.e., the test group).
If all of the participants in the test group had a greater level of improvement in their long distant running stamina than the participants in the control group, then the studies suggests that there is level of creditability to the hypothesis that taking supplement XYZ increases running stamina.
If 80% of the participants in the test group had a greater level of improvement in their long distant running stamina than the participants in the control group, then the studies suggests that there is some level of creditability, but less than if all had positive results, to the hypothesis that taking supplement XYZ increases running stamina.
As we approach 50% of the participants in the test group having greater level of improvement in their long distant running stamina than the participants in the control group, the study suggests that supplement XYZ has little to no effect on increasing running stamina.
If less than 50% of the participants in the test group had greater level of improvement in their long distant running stamina than the participants in the control group, the study suggests that supplement XYZ actually decreases running stamina.
Is this a scientific study? It depends on how the study was conducted and how is the study used. For a study to be scientific, it must follow the scientific method. Without getting into too much detail, the scientific method requires that the testing be unbiased and the results of the study be made publicly available for peer review.
With respect to unbiassed testing, this goes to both the subjects being tested and the persons conducting the test. In our supplement example, the control group would be given a placebo and neither group would know whether they were getting the supplement or the placebo.
As for the persons conducting the test, the more vested interest they have in the outcome of the test, the harder it is to prove they were unbiased. To ensure that the persons conducting the test are unbiased, they too must not know which participants are receiving the supplement. This is known as a double blind study.
Let’s assume that our study results indicated that 80% of participants receiving the supplement had a 2% increase in stamina, that the test was conducted in an unbiased manner, and that it was made publicly available for peer review. Basically, it followed the scientific method. The next question is “how is the study used?”
From a scientific standpoint, nothing can be taken from this study other than further study is warranted. Further study to expand the number and diversity of people in the study, to extend the length of the study, and to study if side effects occur.
From just one small study of like people, it is far too early to make any public claims that supplement XYZ will increase stamina for runners and any claims that do so turn “good science” into “bad science”. When such bad science claims are made, it sours many with respect to science, it makes people question the validity of science, and hampers the progress of those that practice science and use it in the right manner.
I am the CEO and Founder of Athalonz, LLC., I am a founding partner of the patent boutique law firm of Garlick & Markison, I am a survivor of child abuse, and I am an inventor on over 300 patents.
Athalonz is a technology company based on Mesa, AZ. It develops and sells athletic footwear, which incorporates its patented technology that leverages the laws of physics to improve athletic performance. Website: athalonz.com
Garlick & Markison is a patent law boutique firm that assists clients in building a patent business within their business using proprietary tools and techniques. Website: texaspatents.com
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