Science: What it Is

Science is a Verb

Science is an active and systematic way of building knowledge upon knowledge. We call it “the scientific method:”

The steps of the scientific method go something like this:

  • Make an observation or observations.
    Ask questions about the observations and gather information.
  • Form a hypothesis — a tentative description of what’s been observed, and make predictions based on that hypothesis.
  • Test the hypothesis and predictions in an experiment that can be reproduced.
  • Analyze the data and draw conclusions; accept or reject the hypothesis or modify the hypothesis if necessary.
  • Reproduce the experiment until there are no discrepancies between observations and theory. “Replication of methods and results is my favorite step in the scientific method,” Moshe Pritsker, a former post-doctoral researcher at Harvard Medical School and CEO of JoVE, told Live Science. “The reproducibility of published experiments is the foundation of science. No reproducibility – no science.”
  • The hypothesis must be testable and falsifiable, according to North Carolina State University. Falsifiable means that there must be a possible negative answer to the hypothesis.

__ Source

Science is based upon induction, which can never provide absolute certainty for a hypothesis. We can only provide higher and higher levels of probability, as a hypothesis survives increasingly refined testing.

Science is not a fixed body of knowledge at all, but is constantly being jostled, juggled, and overturned. Claiming that a particular area of science is “settled” is contrary to the spirit and reality of how science is done. Particularly when done in scientific fields that are still in relative infancy.

… no amount of correctly predicted effects can prove a hypothesized cause. Attempts to do so commit the fallacy of “affirming the consequent”—in other words, scientific theories are always underdetermined by the available data…

Examples of … overturned hypotheses litter scientific history across many fields: the spontaneous generation of life, bad air and the imbalance of four essential humors causing disease, embryos arising from homunculi, Pasteur’s theory of how vaccines work, Mesmer’s imponderable fluid that regulated human health, and so on.

So, what really strains credulity more? To insist that we know that electrons, atoms, black holes, and dark matter are real because of how many observations we can explain and predictions we can make by positing their existence? Or to simply admit that science cannot support a claim of absolute truth regarding the abstract, unobserved scientific objects and laws that are posited to govern this world?

One could argue that we live in a time of sound bites and simplicity that cannot tolerate nuanced thinking. If scientists don’t bang the gong of “truth,” then it may only hasten the dismissal of science as just another opinion. However, I would argue that this position does not give the intended audience enough credit, and that claiming absolute truth ultimately does more harm than good, not only for the interface of science with the public, but for the practice of science. __

If we do live “in a time of sound bites and simplicity that cannot tolerate nuanced thinking,” the need for islands of rational thought is strong. Modern civilisation holds great promise for the future if it can push past the current bottleneck of politically correct groupthink into a “next level” of clear and powerful thinking disciplined by time tested rules of evidence, reason, and reproducibility of experimental results.

If you have been paying attention, you know that various fields of human knowledge — even some “scientific” fields — have been suborned to serve political causes. The problem is of long standing, and deeply entrenched in academia, government, the media, corporations, foundations, and non-government activist and charity groups. For now, we should be aware of the problem and take steps to counter it when it becomes a problem.

Just know that what is referred to as “scientific knowledge and findings” comprise a mixed bag of fact and fiction. We need to pay attention to new claims from scientific labs and centres, but always with a sceptical eye.

Here are some science oriented websites that have been rated in “the top 10” for this past year:

  1. Ars Technica
  2. Science Magazine
  3. Nature News
  4. Quanta Magazine
  5. Gizmodo Science
  6. New Scientist*
  7. Science News
  8. Live Science
  9. Forbes Science
  10. Cosmos

See Source for more links

Remember, you can not learn scientific principles from journalistic descriptions of scientific work. You can only get a brief simple sketch — which as often as not will be a bit misleading. If you are serious, you will learn to read the research itself. If you are really serious about a specific area of scientific research, you will learn to test the results for yourself — as did Canadians Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick.

Science thrives by fostering what Feynman called a culture of doubt, not of consensus or signaling. __ Quillette

A contrarian view of “science and evidence”

Why Most Published Research Findings are False

The Unfolding Research Crisis

Science Holds a Truckload of Bullshit

Science is full of surprises, including this story and this one.

Scientific complacency is an oxymoron. When a field of science becomes so infiltrated and controlled by corrupt political influences as to become complacent, it is ripe to be overthrown when reality finally breaks through its entrenched lines of defence.

Science is best seen as a verb — not a noun. Using the word “science” in place of the more apt word “knowledge” is lazy and deceptive. It confuses cause with effect, and elevates impostors to the place of the real things. The term “scientific knowledge” is an appropriate term to use in describing the successful outcome of a series of well designed and executed experiments with reproducible findings when testing a meaningful and falsifiable hypothesis. Using the word “science” in place of “scientific knowledge” is an unfortunate failing if it becomes a habit.

This entry was posted in Philosophy, Science and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Science: What it Is

  1. Pingback: Cantandum in Ezkhaton 12/15/19 | Liberae Sunt Nostrae Cogitatiores

Comments are closed.