How reliable is static, post-event data? Is it enough to make conclusive claims of the nature of a thing if there is enough of it?
Statistics are an unavoidable reality in our world today. They are the data left over from a one-time event. In order to replicate such an event, data needs to be recorded. But in the event that happened, the protagonist, or “object of action” showed up, acted and left. The effects of the protagonist is all that is left to analyze. It is easy to look at the extensive effects and make conclusive claims about the object, but it still leaves the object itself unidentified. Science requires a theory, observation, and experimentation of a thing to make conclusive claims. Taking second-hand data and combining it with other second-hand data still leaves the actual object an undocumented mystery.
Of course, one example of this taking place is in psychology, where behaviors of people are observed and recorded, and then conclusions are made based on the static results of one test (and hopefully others in collaboration). But this means that people themselves are left unobserved in their intrinsic nature. The potential for different decisions is enormous, and trying to predict a consistent outcome from a person, in any kind of consistent way is illogical. Of course, because people are habitual, there is some merit for case studies, but only within the context of habit, and cultural norms. They are conclusions of prediction. While this is not a 100% certainty, most people are comfortable with the high likelihood of results case studies have found. Many of these case studies are done using commonly-understood behaviors of people, and simply documenting them for more analysis. There’s certainly room for that.
But here is another example: what if an unidentified flying object entered Earth’s atmosphere, landed, and out came a foreign life form. What’s interesting is today, this could actually mean man-made robots, since much development is being made in the space and robotics industries. But either way, say foreign life forms landed on Earth and interacted with a group of people. They collected some information, and then departed in the same way they came. The event was of course well-documented. The size of the spacecraft was noted, the velocity of entrance recorded, the appearance of the life forms described and perhaps even sketched for later reference. The whole communication process was transcribed. What is missing here for us to make conclusive statements about the creatures who visited us? What is missing in order to make concluding records of the life forms? A cultural study of their origins. Their conversion with the group could have been completely staged to test the group externally.
Another example is like studying wind. Wind itself is not matter, it is energy that circulates gasses (also invisible) that then produce effects that we can observe. We witness the effects, but not the energy. So we call it energy by indirect implication, and similar events in life. So actually, energy is really a foreign to in a explicitly scientific sense. Science cannot measure it directly, it has to measure it indirectly. This is the same concept with black holes, and dark matter (which are supposedly non-luminous). By making inferences according to things we know (at least we think we do), we suppose a logical opposite or proportion. It is common logic, if it isn’t one thing, then the only other option is it has to be the other. If we have fit it into our understood mathematical equations, then we can calculate it locally. This has, of course, led us to make sweeping claims of the cosmos on a grand scale, which we cannot physically observe. Sure, probes have been sent, and they can relay data, but probes are a filter that could offer bias data, due to computational errors, magnetic forces, gravitational forces, or frozen camera lenses. But we regard highly the results of the probe, because it produces real visuals that we can further add to examination of an anomaly. But how scientific is it if the actual object is be examined through three or even four filters?