Comment by Keith_Coffman on Reverse engineering of belief structures · 2014-09-04T17:24:43.515Z · LW · GW

What part of

Also note that you don't get to define the terms that I'm using - I do.

do you not understand?

I know I am using non-standard definitions in the context of this discussion in order to make my points more clear.

Your argument has boiled down to "MY definition of your words says that you are saying X, which is wrong" when I am in fact saying Y, which you have not responded to. I don't care about what you (or Google) say evaluating a claim is supposed to mean, because what we are discussing is what I mean when I say it. The "idle circularity" flows from your failure to acknowledge different uses of words in the context of this discussion and respond to my actual points. If you want to get somewhere, perhaps you should reread my definitions and actually consider what I am saying.

Comment by Keith_Coffman on Reverse engineering of belief structures · 2014-09-04T12:57:02.699Z · LW · GW

A conceived state of reality is something that happens in your head, not in writing or spoken aloud. The utterance of a claim is an attempt to convey this conceived state to someone else. You seem to be bordering on rejecting objective reality altogether; if there are no minds in the universe is a rock still a rock? In such a universe there would be no language, but you would agree that A still equals A, right? If you were alone and had no one to talk to, could you not still understand your surroundings via internal models of reality?

Edit: in short the fact that A=A, the concept that A=A, and the utterance A=A, are all unique things and to try to combine the latter two is unjustified.

Comment by Keith_Coffman on Reverse engineering of belief structures · 2014-09-04T04:07:03.674Z · LW · GW

The entire point has been that you have consistently said that you can evaluate utterances independently of contingent features of the speaker and context.

You are putting words into my mouth. Note that I have never even used the term "utterance" to this point in my statements. Also note that you don't get to define the terms that I'm using - I do. I'm glad that you listed these propositions in several point, since it makes this easier to deconstruct:

Let me state this in rough propositions:

  • a. evaluation is a judgement of aspects of things relative to criteria

  • b. a claim is an utterance

  • c. utterances can contain information about things and their aspects

  • d. utterance intelligibility depends on knowing contingent things about the speaker and context of utterance

  • e. ergo, evaluation of a claim must follow these steps: to judge aspects of things related to a claim requires utterance information, which requires utterance intelligibility, which requires contingent knowledge about the speaker and context of utterance

Here are my responses/restatements to/of each point:

  • a) In this context, I use "evaluation" to mean comparing a statement about reality with reality itself.

  • b) In this context, I use "claim" to mean a statement about reality.

  • b') Also critically important is that you understand that "a statement about reality" is a pure and independent concept, free of the burden of language. Perhaps a better phrasing would be "a concept of reality" or "a conceived state of reality" rather than a statement. A statement about reality is not to be confused with the utterance of a claim)

  • c) The utterance of a claim is an attempt to make a statement about reality.

  • d) The intended meaning of an utterance (i.e. the conceived state of reality in this case) often incorporates contextual and implied contextual information (e.g. when one says "It's raining," one also means that the statement pertains to here and now)

  • e) Ergo in order to evaluate an uttered claim one must: 1) fully understand the claim, incorporating all relevant contextual meaning, 2) evaluate the claim, i.e. compare the conceived state of reality with reality itself.

The second part of (e), comparing a conceived state of reality with reality itself, does not involve the context or the belief structure of the claimant; however, given that we are bound by language, you must necessarily go through step 1 to get to step 2.

For instance, take the claim

A = A

Now, if you aren't familiar with mathematical notation, then you could not understand the claim and therefore could not proceed to step 2 because you were unsuccessful at completing step 1. However, the agreement between reality and the conceived state of reality (which cannot be purely expressed as such, since we are bound by language/notation when communicating interpersonally) can be evaluated regardless.*

-* I realize that for some claims we do not have the knowledge/resources/possibility to check their correspondence to objective reality. Ignore this during our discussion to minimize unnecessary qualification.

Comment by Keith_Coffman on Reverse engineering of belief structures · 2014-09-04T00:49:41.066Z · LW · GW

You are misrepresenting the statement-response structure.

I simultaneously say two things:

1) You must understand a claim to check it, else you wouldn't know what to check. (we both agree here, I think)

2) Given that you can understand a claim, it can be checked

You say "Hold on, you can't understand a claim without the context!" And I agree. In the practical reality that we must face on a daily basis, you can't really ever avoid the fact that we must communicate via language and we also often imply some additional details, such as time/location.

Let's say I claim "Il pleut." (in French it means "it's raining").

There are several things in the context that matter: a) You need to either speak my language or have it translated into your own. b) In context, the claim is really that "It's raining in this area at this time" (this is important, as it might not be raining elsewhere or in the past/future here).

Even if you didn't know what I said, it is in fact either raining at this place and this time or it is not. You need not understand my claim in order to see if it's raining. However, you also wouldn't check in the first place because you didn't know it was claimed.

What I've been trying to do this whole time, which you seem not to have grasped yet, is that I am separating the truth of the claim (a statement about reality) and the baggage that we must actually deal with when we communicate such a claim to each other (hence my distinction between understanding a claim and checking a claim).

Do you follow me?

Comment by Keith_Coffman on Reverse engineering of belief structures · 2014-09-03T17:52:47.808Z · LW · GW

You can't check a claim independently of understanding it, for which contextual knowledge is necessary. It's as simple as that.

I know you can't check a claim without understanding it. I've said as much (the qualifier you keep mentioning). My point is that, given you do understand it, you can check it.

I am also confused as to why your think all claims are empirically verifiable, i.e. if X is Y and Z is X then Y is Z. Most language is not world-referent.

I don't think that all claims are empirically verifiable - that was my mistake in writing. However you still haven't explained how someone's belief structure could affect objective reality (outside of their own state of mind).

Comment by Keith_Coffman on Reverse engineering of belief structures · 2014-09-03T17:27:25.711Z · LW · GW

I think I see where things aren't matching, and aside from your last comment I think it's a matter of definitions rather then concepts.

Firstly, when I say "evaluate a claim" I mean checking that it matches with objective reality - NOT understanding what the claim means in it's linguistic context. If I managed to translate "barkbark22" into something I understood, I could then evaluate it. If you want to say that my definition of the phrase "evaluate a claim" is faulty, fine, but you should now understand what I mean by it.

Secondly, I think that the statements "how someone arrived at a conclusion" and "how someone formed their belief" are equivalent, and at the very least I have been using them as such. Likewise, if you think this is wrong, you at least know what I'm saying now hopefully.

As for verification of a claim's truth being empirical, I don't see how someone's belief structure could affect objective reality, unless the claim specifically relates to someone's state of mind (such as "I am angry").

Comment by Keith_Coffman on Dark Side Epistemology · 2014-09-03T17:07:22.860Z · LW · GW

My point was not really related to your discussion, I just wanted to clarify on your paraphrasing of "scientists think it works, so who cares what philosophers think."

I think it is slightly silly to worry about who thinks it works when the fact of the matter is that it works - this is not a point directly against your comments, just a point of clarification in general.

Comment by Keith_Coffman on Reverse engineering of belief structures · 2014-09-03T13:45:28.566Z · LW · GW

Each reiteration of "how someone formed their belief" is an attempt on my part to clarify the meaning, since you yourself just said that it is "extremely ambiguous." The concept I am attempting to convey remains the same, however.

I will bring in a quote by Shakespeare: "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Language is the means by which we communicate information interpersonally. Language is important, as it is imperative that the sender and the receiver internalize the same concept. However, the rose and how it smells is independent of the language; when I say "evaluate a claim" I mean you go and smell the rose yourself, with the underlying qualifier being that you know they are talking about a rose in the first place.

Non-rhetorical questions: Can you smell a rose if you speak modern French? What if you speak 16th Century German? Does it smell difference based on the language you speak?

Furthermore, your ability to smell the rose doesn't depend on whether I claimed something about it based on empirical evidence (such as smelling it myself) or if I just heard it from someone else and believed it. These are very simple ways of coming to a conclusion, but it illustrates what I mean when I say it can be verified independent from the belief structure behind it.

Comment by Keith_Coffman on Dark Side Epistemology · 2014-09-03T12:48:05.420Z · LW · GW

Do scientists think it works, or does it work? The end result is a model for a particular phenomenon which can be tested for accuracy. When we use a cell phone we are seeing the application of our understanding of electromagnetism, among other things. It's not scientists saying that science works - it's just working.

Comment by Keith_Coffman on Reverse engineering of belief structures · 2014-09-03T04:50:34.918Z · LW · GW

I agree. I'm glad we finally got there. I have been saying your equivalent of "you have to find it intelligible" this whole time. You have to understand the claim to test it.

But you don't have to understand how they came to that conclusion. In case it's not clear, that's how I've been using the term "belief structure."

By the way, it would greatly help the discussion along if you answered all non-rhetorical questions, because that would help me understand where things aren't clicking.

*Edit: Upon rereading our discussion, it looks like you think the qualifier "you have to understand what the claim is claiming" contradicts the statement "you don't need to know how they came to the conclusion." The reason I keep repeating each is that they do not contradict; I want you to consider each statement carefully: "How they came to the conclusion" addresses the logic by which they arrived at a particular belief - such as A & B therefore C. "You don't need to know how they came to the conclusion " addresses whether C is correct. A & B are not involved in the evaluation; the only time context enters into it is understanding what C means.

Comment by Keith_Coffman on Reverse engineering of belief structures · 2014-09-03T04:29:26.165Z · LW · GW

Alright, since you could not verify the Earth being round without knowing my belief structure...

2+2 = 4

You don't know my belief structure. Is it true?

I'm not asking you if you know that off the top of your head, I'm asking if you could go out and check to see if it's actually true!

That's what I mean by evaluating a claim - can you verify it? I'm sorry, but it's asinine to say that you cannot verify it because you don't know how I came to the conclusion. You seem to be arguing something about sharing my language as maintaining your point. I'm past that. If you understand the claim, you can test it.

Comment by Keith_Coffman on Reverse engineering of belief structures · 2014-09-03T03:59:34.567Z · LW · GW

If it is divergent, then this

Let me distill this and see if you follow: We need to know what a claim is actually claiming - that can depend on context. Given that you do know what a claim is claiming, its veracity does not depend on context, nor the belief structure of the person behind the claim.

is what I meant. To provide an example, (which can quite often help in these situations):

I claim that the earth is approximately round.

You don't need to know how I came to that conclusion in order to evaluate my claim.

Had I claimed something a bit more complex, maybe related to the society that I currently live in, then you would probably need to know something about my society in order to see if my claim was correct. But you actually wouldn't need to know how I came to the conclusion - you just need to know what I'm talking about.

Comment by Keith_Coffman on Reverse engineering of belief structures · 2014-09-03T03:40:04.045Z · LW · GW

Let me distill this and see if you follow:

We need to know what a claim is actually claiming - that can depend on context.

Given that you do know what a claim is claiming, its veracity does not depend on context, nor the belief structure of the person behind the claim.

Comment by Keith_Coffman on Reverse engineering of belief structures · 2014-09-03T03:03:10.555Z · LW · GW

The meaning of a claim can, in fact, change based on the context. Moreover, the truth of a claim may change with time (for instance, the claim "Elvis is alive" was at one point true and is now false. Also note that, in the context of me making up a simple example of a claim to demonstrate my point, the meaning is likely referring to the famous performer Elvis Presley rather than any person named Elvis.

Thus we can see how there are a few things that we need to keep in mind when we address a claim, much as you have said above. However, the truth of the claim, given that you understand the meaning and you are evaluating it at a particular time, does not depend on the belief structure.

The reason I said "we shouldn't really care how someone formed their beliefs" is because the words that followed are "when evaluating the veracity of a claim," i.e. whether or not it is accurate. This is entirely independent of the person's reasons for making the claim.

Comment by Keith_Coffman on The Scales of Justice, the Notebook of Rationality · 2014-09-03T02:53:43.341Z · LW · GW

I think we should also separate the subjects of the psychology behind when this might happen and whether or not we are using scales.

It may indeed be the case that people are bad accountants (although I rarely find myself assuming these implied things, and further if I find that my assumptions are wrong I adjust accordingly), but this doesn't change the fact that we are adding +/- points (much like you're keeping score/weighing the two alternatives).

Assuming a perfectly rational mind was approaching the proposition of reactor A vs reactor B (and we can even do reactor C...), then the way it would decide which proposition is best is by tallying the pros/cons to each proposition. Of course, in reality we are not perfectly rational and moreover different people assign different point-values to different categories. But it is still a scale.

Comment by Keith_Coffman on The Scales of Justice, the Notebook of Rationality · 2014-09-03T02:41:30.071Z · LW · GW

I would call coming to conclusions like this a shortcoming of our rational thinking, rather than the weighing of benefits and costs to a decision. What HalFinney said is completely right, in that we very often have to pick alternatives as a package, and in doing so we are forced to weigh factors for and against a proposition.

Personally, I wouldn't have "factually incorrectly" jumped to the conclusion you stated here (especially if the converse is stated explicitly as you did here), and I think this is a diversion to the point that you are necessarily (and rationally) weighing between two alternatives in this particular example that you chose.

That being said, I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of evaluating claims based on their merits rather than the people who propose them - that's the rational way to do things - and rational people would indeed keep a notebook even if, in the end, it was going to end up on a scale (or a decision matrix).

Comment by Keith_Coffman on Multiple Factor Explanations Should Not Appear One-Sided · 2014-09-03T02:17:26.757Z · LW · GW

Sorry for following you around so much (I just read this article since you linked to it in our other discussion)

There are two main points, both of which have largely been said or touched on already in your discussion here:

1) When discussing an event or something "playing out," we are talking about a cause and effect. Despite the fact that many things in life have many factors, there are always positive causes for things, which may or may not have counteracting factors. When we want to describe an effect of interest, then the simplest way to do it is to list the cause(s).

2) There are several factors (that I've thought of off the top of my head) that play into what kinds of points you provide when you are presenting a cause/effect relationship:

The first (which DavidAgain mentioned somewhat already) is whether you are trying to describe something that has happened or something that will happen. When we don't know what the outcome of something will be, we must exhaustively weigh all of the factors that we know of and their possible interactions in order to come to the best conclusion about the result. (Really there are two variations on this: what action should be taken vs. what will happen given the current state of the world, but the concept holds in each). If, however, something has already happened, it is reasonable to focus on the causes, A) because we know that they ended up "winning" and B) because there may or may not be negating factors involved in the first place.

If I say something along the lines of "I went swimming today because I was hot," it is not dishonest/biased to refrain from mentioning the fact that I weighed this course of action against several reasons not to do so - the important, primary causation was relayed in the statement and satisfies most people to the extent that they care about the factors involved.

Another factor that might be relevant is how contentious the subject is; even if you are debating something in the past, such as why X happened (or offering a proposal for why X happened), if the conclusion to be drawn is not readily agreed upon then it is prudent to first make sure that all of the relevant facts are presented. On the other hand, if you're trying to teach/explain why something happened in a non-contentious atmosphere, then it may be reasonable to omit facts that are unimportant to maintain coherency and avoid getting bogged down in clutter that doesn't matter to the overarching point. Which category Diamond's book falls under is a bit unclear, but I still am not convinced that it was biased to provide causes without enumerating all of the pros/cons, given that you trust him to the extent that he is telling the truth when we says that the Fertile Crescent was a highly, if not the most advantageous locations for the start of agriculture.

I am on the fence as to whether or not Jared Diamond was slightly biased in this case, but I think it depends on whether you look at his book from the perspective of a comprehensive argument/claim or a proposition of a different mechanism behind how things ended up the way they did which may or may not account for all of history in its complex entirety.

Anyway, I think trying to infer bias based on the presence of pros/cons is a difficult subject. I wouldn't go claiming someone is biased towards something for only presenting a positive message necessarily, even though this is often the case. Even in the example with the teams coming very close to a tie, the response to "why did they win" may have been correct, in that they had all of those factors in their favor and that those were enough to win (barely). I agree that in this case the guy was biased, but on the other hand they didn't ask him "what factors were involved and why did they favor Man City (somewhat)?"

That's about all I'll say for one response - I have a bad tendency of rambling on when I've already made the points that I really wanted to make.

(by the way DavidAgain I loved the way you said the things I was thinking with each consecutive response - I was vicariously participating in the discussion through your comments!)

Comment by Keith_Coffman on Reverse engineering of belief structures · 2014-09-02T20:43:38.958Z · LW · GW

I agree that it is largely off-topic and don't feel like discussing it further here - I would like to point out that the principle of indifference specifies that your list of possibilities must be mutually exclusive and exhaustive. In practice, when dealing with multifaceted things such as claims about the effects of changing the minimum wage, an exhaustive list of possible outcomes would result in an assignment of an arbitrarily small probability according to the principle of indifference. The end effect is that it's a meaningless assignment and you may as well ignore it.

Comment by Keith_Coffman on Reverse engineering of belief structures · 2014-09-01T16:40:13.351Z · LW · GW

I'm making a separate reply for the betting thing, only to try to keep the two conversations clean/simple.

Let's muddle through it: If I have a box containing an unknown (to you) number of gumballs and I claim that there are an odd number of gumballs, you would actually be quite reasonable in assigning a 50% chance to my claim being true.

If I claim that the gumballs in the box are blue, would you say there is a 50% chance of my claim being true?

What if I claimed that I ate pizza last night?

You might have a certain level of confidence in my accuracy and my reliability as a person to not lie to you; and, if someone was taking bets, you would probably bet on how likely I am to tell the truth, rather than assuming there was a 50% chance that I ate pizza last night.

If you you then notice that my friend, who was with me last night, claims that I in fact ate pasta, then you have to weigh their reliability against mine, and more importantly now you have to start looking for reasons that we came to different conclusions about the same dinner. And finally, you have to weigh the effort it takes to vet our claims against how much you really care what I ate last night.

So, assuming you are rational, would you bet 50/50 that I ate pizza? Or would you just say "I don't know" and refuse to bet in the first place?

Comment by Keith_Coffman on Reverse engineering of belief structures · 2014-09-01T16:26:19.281Z · LW · GW

There's a whole bunch of information out there - literally more than any one person could/cares to know - and we simply don't have the time (or often the background) to fully understand certain fields and more importantly to evaluate which claims are true and which aren't. In other words, reality is objective and claims should be evaluated based on their evidence, not the person who proposes them.

It would seem to me that these claims aren't consistent. I agree with the first claim, not with the second. It's true that experts' claims are objectively and directly verifiable, but lots of the time checking that direct evidence is not an optimal use of our time. Instead we're better off deferring to experts (which we actually also do, as you say, on a massive scale).

I think we are in agreement but my second statement didn't have the caveats it should have; I doubt you would disagree with the first half, that reality is objective. You disagreed with the second half, that claims should be evaluated based on evidence -- not because it's a false statement, but rather that, in practice, we cannot reasonably be expected to do this for every claim we encounter. I agree. The unstated caveat is that we should trust the experts until there is a reason to think that their claims are poorly founded, i.e. they have demonstrated bias in their work or there is a lack of consensus among experts in a similar field.

I guess the main thing I am trying to say that directly ties into your post is that we shouldn't really care how someone formed their beliefs when evaluating the veracity of a claim; when we should care is:

I don't agree with that. We use others' statements as a source of evidence on a massive scale (i.e. we defer to them. Indeed, experiments show that we do this automatically. But if these statements express beliefs that were produced by unreliable processes - e.g. bias - then that's clearly not a good strategy. Hence we should care very much of whether someone is biased when evaluating the veracity of many claims, for that reason.

Hold on now, you did read my bullets right? When we should care is:

  • When we suspect that a bias may have lead to a false reporting of real information (in which case we would want independent, unbiased research/reporting)

Notice that I actually did say suspicion of bias is an exception to the "not caring" statement. In other words, unless we have a reason to suspect a bias, (and/or the second bullet) then we probably won't care. There can be other ways of bad conclusions being drawn; the reason I mention bias is because it is systematic. If we see a trend of a particular person systematically coming to poor conclusions, whatever their reason, then our confidence in their input would fall. On the other hand, experts are human and can make mistakes as well - we should not dismiss someone for being wrong once but for being systematically wrong and unwilling to fix the problem. If we really care about high confidence in something, for instance in the cases where the truth of the claim is important to a lot of people and we want to avoid being mislead if there are a few biased opinions, we seek the consensus.

Now, can we get the consensus all of the time? Unfortunately not. Not even most of the time. So what's our next line of defense? Well, one of them is journalistic integrity; frankly I don't even want to go there, but if done properly there are people whose job it is to sort through these very things - but really let's not go there for now. The last line of defense is yourself and the actual work of checking on things yourself.

If a claim is important enough for you to really care whether or not it's accurate, then you have to be willing to do a little bit of digging yourself. Now I realize that the entire point of this post was to avoid just that thing and to have computers do it automagically; but really, if it is important enough for you to check on it yourself, rather than just trusting your regular sources of information, then would you be willing not to check just because a program said that this guy was unbiased?

That might be a bit of an unfair characterization of what you're discussing, but there is a distinction to be made between using online behavior to measure/understand the general population's belief structure and to check for bias in expert opinions.

I think the idea of understanding the population's belief structures would still be extremely useful in it's own right though, per my second bullet in the exceptions to the "don't care" statement - particularly if someone wants to change a lot of people's minds about something. If you have a campaign (be it political or social), then understanding how people have structured their beliefs would give you a road map for how best to go about changing them in the way you want. To some extent, this is how it's already been done historically, but it was not done via raw data analysis.

Comment by Keith_Coffman on Reverse engineering of belief structures · 2014-08-31T21:37:19.221Z · LW · GW

Interesting stuff. I am all for trying to improve peoples reasoning skills, and understanding how particular people think initially is a good place to start, but I'm a bit concerned about the way you talked about knowledge in here (and where it comes from).

If we learn that some alleged expert's beliefs are more often than not caused by unreliable processes, we are better off looking for other sources of knowledge.

Frankly, I wouldn't really look to any person as a source of knowledge in the way you seem to be implying here.

Here's how knowledge & experts work: There's a whole bunch of information out there - literally more than any one person could/cares to know - and we simply don't have the time (or often the background) to fully understand certain fields and more importantly to evaluate which claims are true and which aren't. Experts are people who do have the background in a given field, and they usually know what research has been done in their field and can answer questions/make statements with legitimate authority when speaking on the subject with which they are well versed. Once you have a consensus of opinion between many such experts, you have raised the authority of that opinion further because you've reduced the likelihood of one guy misspeaking, making stuff up, being dishonest, etc. Also note that experts talking on subjects outside of their field of study have no more authority than anyone else (though they often are well informed on other subjects) - this is where the argument from authority fallacy comes from, e.g. "Einstein said that the sky is green" ... so what?

I suspect you know all of this already (I don't mean to come off as lecturing too much, just reiterating some baseline stuff)

After all that rambling about experts, the important thing to take away is that the knowledge (and by knowledge in this context I mean being aware of information which corresponds with reality, i.e. the truth) doesn't come from the experts; experts are just the people who go about investigating the truth and report back to the rest of humanity what they've found. In other words, reality is objective and claims should be evaluated based on their evidence, not the person who proposes them.

All of the examples you've used deal with things which actually do have an objective answer, whether or not we have or feasibly can test them empirically. (also, as a side note, that bit about the 50% chance of being true is ridiculous even if you don't have any knowledge going into it - you would simply say "I don't know if these claims are true")

People definitely have biases, and we should be particularly cautious when dealing with any claims that are related to contentious issues. Further, I'd like to stress the point that just because a large majority of the experts in a field say something it doesn't make it true - but it does mean that we should believe that it is true until new information says otherwise, because frankly an expert consensus is one of the highest certainties we can come up with as a species.

I guess the main thing I am trying to say that directly ties into your post is that we shouldn't really care how someone formed their beliefs when evaluating the veracity of a claim; when we should care is:

  • When we suspect that a bias may have lead to a false reporting of real information (in which case we would want independent, unbiased research/reporting)

  • When we want to change someone's mind about something

  • When we want to keep someone's faulty & infectious belief structure from propagating to other people (ex. Dark Side Epistemology) by teaching other people critical thinking/rationality and common mistakes like said structure.

Still, figuring out how people think has always been an interesting area of science that is worth pursuing, and the tools/sample size have gotten a lot bigger since the time of case studies. I hope you find more interesting stuff to share.

Comment by Keith_Coffman on Dark Side Epistemology · 2014-08-31T16:13:03.214Z · LW · GW

The "rules" of science, if they exist, are subject to change at any time.

Here's a rule of science: Your hypothesis must make testable predictions. It must be falsifiable. Is that "subject to change at any time" ? I bet there are more.

While it may not perfectly describe how actual scientists do their work all the time, the scientific method is a description of the process of how we sort out good ideas/models from bad ones, which is the quintessential goal of science (the "advancement of science," if you will).

Just to be clear on what we are discussing, here is the Oxford English Dictionary definition (I don't like using dictionaries as authorities; I think it's stupid. this is just to have a working definition on the table): "A method or procedure... consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses."

In order for the scientific community to take a claim seriously, there are certain expectations that must be satisfied such as a reproducible experiment, peer reviewed publication, etc. When a hypothesis is proposed (assuming it has already met the baseline requirement of making testable predictions), it is thrust into the death pit of scientific inquiry where scientists do everything they can to test and falsify it. While the subject matter may span vastly different areas of science, this process is still generally followed.

Scientists who do science for a living may have gotten good at this process, so much so that they do it without belaboring each element as you would in a middle school science class, but they do it never the less. It is true that in the past, bad science happened, and even today lapses in scientific integrity happen; however, the reason science is given the authority that it is is due to it's strict adherence to the above process. (Also, as a disclaimer, there are many nuances to said process that I glossed over; I just wanted to get the general idea.)

If I may go out on a limb here, it sounds to me like the chaos you are talking about is the unavoidably arbitrary nature of observation of phenomena and the unavoidably arbitrary nature of proposing hypotheses. Often times throughout history we have encountered entirely new areas of science by sheer accident. Likewise (unless they are making a phenomenological model) scientists have no better way to propose hypotheses than to guess at what the answer is based on observations that they currently have and then make new observations/experiments to see if they were right.

So I definitely agree with you on the chaotic nature of our stumbling across new phenomena on on our quest to understand reality, but to say that the process we go through to establish scientific knowledge is not systematic seems a bit extreme.