My roommate is taking a class at WVU this semester. Some sort of undergrad biology, as far as I know. When I saw him at work this morning, he was trying to figure out a hypothesis for his lab report. I asked him what the deal was, since he said the experiment was already done. He was trying to find a hypothesis that he could disprove, so he could write a “good lab report”.
Some background: His lab was to compare the germination times of barley seeds and establish whether applying a nutrient bath to the seeds made them sproud earlier. The orginal hypothesis was that “the seeds with nutrients would germinate earlier”. Now here’s the problem: none of the seeds germinated.
So, his point was the original hypothesis couldn’t be disproven by the data, but he was arguing that by playing linguistic games he could fashion a hypothesis that the data “disproved”.
By this point you’re probably wondering why I even give a fuck. Well, it plays back into my earlier posts about objectivity. In the study of something like biology, where the scientific method is (or at least sure as hell should be) deeply entrenched, there’s no point in trying to fake up data or a hypothesis in an attempt to make yourself look good.
But that’s essentially what he’s trying to do by finding a hypothesis that will make a “good lab report”. During our discussion, I pointed out that the entire point of a lab report is to recount the objective details of an experiment as accurately as possible. In this regard, writing a lab report that essentially says “None of our seeds germinated, and thus the experiment was inconclusive.” is not only perfectly valid, it’s the right thing to do. This would be the proverbial “good science” thing to do, given such results.
He countered that the point of the exercise isn’t “good science”, it’s “good lab report”. Now, I’m not one to advocate a “I stand by my principles unto death” approach to course work. But there’s two mitigating factors here — 1) any reasonable professor should accept the “good science” version of the lab report and 2) he’s taking this class for fun, not credit!
So I’m quite frankly baffled by his willingness to subvert reality on what is essentially a whim. If there were some significant investment on the line, and placating the professor was the only way to secure a good return on that investment, I might cut him some slack. But that simply isn’t the case.
Now, I’m sure he sees things differently than me. Maybe he has a damn good reason for doing things this way. But until I figure it out, he’s still wrong.