Welcome to the fashion show! Our first model has just stepped out on the catwalk and into the spotlights. Wow! Take a look at that! She’s dressed as an electron, orbiting the nucleus like a planet around the sun. That is one bold Saturnian ellipse!
The next model has just made her appearance. Wow! She must be Oxygen, because that sure looks like a 1s22s22p4! What a daring and probabilistic set of orbitals!
What’s this? Wow! The third model, I can’t tell if she’s a particle or a wave! It seems to depend on how I look at her! We’ve really gotta hand it to this fashion show designer for multiple representations of the electron!
A “model” is a hypothesis. It’s an idea that someone made up to try and explain something. It can be anything that anyone can think up. It is not science, even if it uses science words like “quantum,” “energy,” or “torque.” It’s nothing more than a story, fiction.
But you can do science on it by performing the scientific method to see if the model holds up to reality. You can design experiments that not only try to demonstrate the truth in your hypothesis, but also try to prove it false. Notice that you can prove a model false, but you can only demonstrate validity. Anything experimental that disagrees with your model means it’s wrong (at least to some extent) and needs to be upgraded. Information that agrees with your model does not prove it, only adds to the body of evidence for it.
Additionally, your model must explain all the things we already know, and make predictions that can be tested. If this model is true, then when I do such and such, I would expect to see this result and not these other results. Great! Do that very such and such you talked about and see if your model predicted the results correctly!
Usually the way it works is that you start with a rough model and update it with every new (and repeatable!) experiment to account for the new information. You always include controls in your experiments – this is what we would expect to see if the experiment works, and this is what we expect to see if the experiment fails – then compare your results to these controlled standards.
Models that get quite refined to the point that they stand up under experimentation in as many ways as possible become theories. This means that the body of evidence in their favor has grown large. No matter how much data in favor of a theory however, science never claims “proof.” It is always acknowledged possible that more information will require upgrades to the theory. At this point, new information usually only tweaks small details. Occasionally there will be a whole paradigm shift, but the updated theory usually contains the old theory, plus new information.
Science talks about levels of certainty and accuracy. The solar system model of an atom is over-simplified and not very accurate, but it is a useful depiction in certain settings, such as grade school. The orbital model of the electron density around the nucleus is much more accurate and therefore closer to the truth. There is a huge body of experimentation verifying that an electron can act both as a particle and as a wave under known conditions and so we have a high level of confidence on that matter.
What is Scientific?
As a PhD scientist, I’m adamant about using scientific terminology correctly and being able to critically identify what is and what is not scientific. In summary, to be scientific, one must not claim “proof;” one must not (incorrectly) use scientific words as a substitute for performing the scientific method; one must indicate the level of certainty of their model and what this certainty is based on; one must be willing to try to falsify their model; one must run controlled, repeatable experiments; the model must have testable predictive power; and one must update their model based on new data.
Someone promoting a model without doing these things is promoting a story. Just a story. If they tell you it’s more than that, they are not someone you should trust to give you reliable information with an objectively high level of certainty.
Likewise, it’s important to accept “spiritual” models that are verifiable. For example, there is a growing body of evidence supporting the model that meditation provides health benefits. It is also beginning to look like a number of (not all) spiritualist models that have been written off by the scientific community as “woo-woo,” such as certain psychic abilities and experiences, will find validation in natural explanations involving our unconscious brain processes.
Those unwilling to sort out the gems of science from the non-science in these matters will miss out on the benefit of natural human capabilities. Those unwilling to accept the ever growing volume of natural explanations found for phenomenon once considered supernatural, dilute their ability to navigate the world with critical thinking to avoid being duped and defrauded by charlatans.
Is Jungian Typology “True?”
The Jungian Typology theory of personalities is also just a model. Jung gathered huge masses of information from a large and diverse number of patients and friends to find the patterns he outlined. He performed what controls he could to check if he was inducing the effects he was observing. He was very clear that his model was empirical and he did not claim that it explained everything. Many other individuals and societies have also drawn similar (though more primitive) conclusions to his, throughout times and cultures. It appears from this historical and empirical method that there is some level of truth and usefulness in this model.
Neuroscience is finally growing into a field that can produce experimental knowledge about the brain, consciousness, and unconsciousness. As this information is revealed through scientific experimentation in the next decades, we will see how much of this model is validated and how much needs to be upgraded.
I am working with my version of this model as I have developed it through my experience and observation, taking guidance from others who have studied it extensively. I am continually updating my model as I observe and collect more information. I will continue to update my model for consistency with scientifically controlled experimentation. The whole while, I will teach it to others as truthfully as is possible at the time. There is no need to wait until every detail is elucidated before enjoying the benefits of what we do currently understand!