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Education Science

How Our Botched Understanding of "Science" Ruins Everything 795

An anonymous reader writes "Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry writes at The Week, "If you ask most people what science is, they will give you an answer that looks a lot like Aristotelian 'science' — i.e., the exact opposite of what modern science actually is. Capital-S Science is the pursuit of capital-T Truth. And science is something that cannot possibly be understood by mere mortals. It delivers wonders. It has high priests. It has an ideology that must be obeyed. This leads us astray. ... Countless academic disciplines have been wrecked by professors' urges to look 'more scientific' by, like a cargo cult, adopting the externals of Baconian science (math, impenetrable jargon, peer-reviewed journals) without the substance and hoping it will produce better knowledge. ... This is how you get people asserting that 'science' commands this or that public policy decision, even though with very few exceptions, almost none of the policy options we as a polity have have been tested through experiment (or can be). People think that a study that uses statistical wizardry to show correlations between two things is 'scientific' because it uses high school math and was done by someone in a university building, except that, correctly speaking, it is not. ... This is how you get the phenomenon ... thinking science has made God irrelevant, even though, by definition, religion concerns the ultimate causes of things and, again, by definition, science cannot tell you about them. ... It also means that for all our bleating about 'science' we live in an astonishingly unscientific and anti-scientific society. We have plenty of anti-science people, but most of our 'pro-science' people are really pro-magic (and therefore anti-science). "
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How Our Botched Understanding of "Science" Ruins Everything

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  • by amalcolm ( 1838434 ) on Monday September 22, 2014 @10:44AM (#47964339)
    ... half way through the summary
    • by JMJimmy ( 2036122 ) on Monday September 22, 2014 @10:48AM (#47964387)

      lol - I have to say though I feel rather vindicated. In the http://science.slashdot.org/st... [slashdot.org] discussion I was making this argument (though probably not as well) and got mocked for it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by i kan reed ( 749298 )

        Then again, kirk was fairly unambiguously Christian in at least a few episodes. In a way supported sorta arbitrarily to be totally true by the plot of at least one of those episodes(the "sun worshippers" one).

        • I would not disagree with your comment, but am perplexed as to its relevance.

          • Well, I mean, it's just odd to take a notably Christian Character, in a unremarkable Christian setting, and cite them as a model for atheism. I mean, I get you can isolate out that one element of his character, and treat it as a completely arbitrary and replaceable thing, but you know, the whole Theseus's Ship problem arises.

            If you start swapping out character traits, do you end up with same character or a new one?

      • If you made this argument, mockery is more than you deserved.

        So: religion and science could coexist if people weren't so stupid as to not understand what science is? And: religion concerns the ultimate causes of things by definition?

        • by JMJimmy ( 2036122 ) on Monday September 22, 2014 @12:53PM (#47965877)

          Religion and science can co-exist if people stopped attributing religious or anti-religious views to science. Science makes no claims about religion and they are not mutually exclusive. When atheists are asked "well, if you don't believe in religion what do you believe in" - they'll often erroneously say "science". Science is not a belief system though it may cause claims of religion to be called into question example: Jesus walking on water. To our current understanding of science this is not possible unaided. Maybe it was a hoax, maybe it was a divine being, maybe it wasn't a literal claim - science doesn't know, that's for people to examine or accept on faith (as part of a religion or otherwise).

          Science needs to be separated from anti-religious ideology.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If it was easy, everyone would do it, and we would have done it a lot earlier than we did.

      Science represents one of the greatest achievements of mankind. It requires the brightest of our highly-evolved brains. People of average intelligence who's lives are filled with mundane day-to-day concerns simply cannot get their heads around proper Science. They don't have the time, the resources, nor the brain power to gain that understanding. It is impossible. But such people are the majority and so their beli

      • Have you met a lot of scientists? Many of them are amazing at jargon and obfuscation, but suck at most everything else. Many of them are very narrow and deep, making their work as obscure as it is hard. So yes, the cutting edge of science is hard, but that is only a fraction of what science is all about.

        A lot of everyday science is NOT hard, it is just training yourself to approach the world with curiosity and with critical thinking (asking why, and being open to new answers). Kids are perfect candidate

    • No kidding.
      While there are some good points (certainly on the relation between politics & science, and how political & policy decisions get made using questionable science as grounds)
      A lot of this article/rant is just terrible 0_o.
      Certainly the religion part is just unbelievable. The statistical wizardry & magic is obviously preposterous, but the religious affairs are obviously beyond the realms of science, and are no obstacle in the quest for truth and understanding.

      • by meustrus ( 1588597 ) <meustrus@ERDOSgmail.com minus math_god> on Monday September 22, 2014 @01:05PM (#47966019)

        Alright, screw mod points this time. This is a discussion that needs more voices.

        This is an article about the definition of science. The fundamental point is incredibly sound, and explains a lot about anti-scientific culture by explaining something about pro-scientific culture: even the people who are pro-science don't really know what science is. Science is not the pursuit of truth. Science is, as he says repeatedly, "the process through which we derive reliable predictive rules through controlled experimentation". Nothing more, nothing less.

        Statistics is a dangerous thing that can prove anything. For example, running accepted statistics on the human population of Earth and population expansion rates (or the height of Twitter timelines [xkcd.com]) leads to the result that the human species will likely go extinct in about 800 years [wikipedia.org]. And most people will never understand how that result happened, whether it seems to make sense or not. Do you know what magic is? It's not fireballs and heal spells. Magic at its most basic is trying to affect the outcome of the future with some action you don't really understand. If I were to turn my cap before pitching a baseball, believing that doing otherwise may jinx the pitch, that would be magic. It is also perfectly meaningful for me to say that because I do not understand exactly what an LED is, or how it is made, from my perspective it is made of and from magic.

        As to whether "religious affairs are obviously beyond the realms of science, and are no obstacle in the quest for truth and understanding": real science, by definition, is outside the realm of religion. But the so-called "science" being criticized in the article is not. Science and religion are separate because science does not deal with Truth, and therefore no religious Truths are at risk. Even if we were to talk about something contentious like evolution, "science" does not tell us that evolution is True. Science tells us that we can ask the question, "Assuming that evolution is true, this other idea should also be true; let us find out". Asking that question has led scientists to predict practical applications [wikipedia.org] (though not nearly as many as the laws of Physics and Chemistry).

        The worst thing I am reading in these comments is basically "I don't understand the summary". If this is you, you are part of the problem. You think you know what science is, and this article is confusing because you're wrong and can't even recognize what you're wrong about. If you don't understand, you need to stop talking about science until you do. You are damaging the cause for science by treating it like a belief system, so just stop. The more that people like you claim that God is made obsolete by science, the more that everyone else thinks that science is just like another religion.

        • by lgw ( 121541 )

          The worst thing I am reading in these comments is basically "I don't understand the summary". If this is you, you are part of the problem. You think you know what science is, and this article is confusing because you're wrong and can't even recognize what you're wrong about. If you don't understand, you need to stop talking about science until you do. You are damaging the cause for science by treating it like a belief system, so just stop. The more that people like you claim that God is made obsolete by science, the more that everyone else thinks that science is just like another religion.

          Ever so much: this!

          I meet people frequently who believe firmly in evolution, but don't understand why it's a good model. They take in on faith, because it's what the wise men told them. They don't understand why frequently-made creationist claims are wrong. They have some vaguely-remembered examples of evolution that are actually false. C'mon, it's all there in the talk.origins FAQ, just takes a few hours of your time to make your belief in evolution founded in science, not in faith.

          But no one cares. I

    • by Dr. Manhattan ( 29720 ) <sorceror171&gmail,com> on Monday September 22, 2014 @11:02AM (#47964519) Homepage
      From TFA:

      So let me explain what science actually is. Science is the process through which we derive reliable predictive rules through controlled experimentation. That's the science that gives us airplanes and flu vaccines and the Internet.

      No - engineering "gives us airplanes and flu vaccines and the Internet". Science gives us the theoretical (in the scientific sense) frameworks and tools that engineering can apply to do that. The author shows at least as much confusion as those he decries, and he does it from the start.

      • Reminds me of that old joke/cliche:

        "In theory there isn't any difference between Theory and Practice.
        In practice, there is."

        * Science = Theory
        * Engineering = Application

      • Engineering and science are linked, at least. Science could be described as a sort of "engineering of our understanding". It's improved through a lot of trial and error, and we pick a solution that "works" in providing predictive results.

        Also, engineering is generally performed with some level of scientific understanding. The first airplane may have been a bit stumbled-upon, built without understanding exactly all of how it worked. However, the Wright brothers were working within a certain level of sci

      • by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Monday September 22, 2014 @11:43AM (#47964967) Homepage Journal

        From TFA:

        So let me explain what science actually is. Science is the process through which we derive reliable predictive rules through controlled experimentation. That's the science that gives us airplanes and flu vaccines and the Internet.

        No - engineering "gives us airplanes and flu vaccines and the Internet". Science gives us the theoretical (in the scientific sense) frameworks and tools that engineering can apply to do that. The author shows at least as much confusion as those he decries, and he does it from the start.

        Yes. That quote describes the philosophy known as "empiricism", which asserts that the epistemological purpose and process of science is to derive methods for prediction, as opposed to creating explanations. The modern, Popperian and post-Popperian, understanding of science is that it is based on the philosophy of falsifiability, and is a process of conjecture and criticism, with the goal of creating expanations for how the world works. The explanations do enable prediction, but they're deeper than that, because rules of thumb that provide accurate predictions can exist without explanations of the underlying phenomena, and such rules of thumb are strictly less valuable and less useful than explanations. The most essential difference, though there are many, is that explanations explain their own "reach", making clear the set of phenomena to which they apply, while rules of thumb don't, regardless of their accuracy.

        Also, some of the criticism takes the form of experiment, but not all, and in fact not even most. Most conjectured explanations are discarded after only a little analysis, because that's all it takes to show them to be inconsistent with what's already known, or to show them to be bad or shallow explanations for other reasons. Controlled experimentation, per se, isn't even necessary. This is a good thing because in some areas of science, for example, astrophysics, we don't have the ability to experiment on the objects of study. Yet we can still theorize, criticize, examine evidence and move gradually towards ever more accurate and deeper explanations.

        The explanations provided by science are, as you say, what make engineering possible, but science is the process of creating ever-better explanations of the universe, not merely of producing reliable predictive rules.

    • That was a SUMMARY?!
      • Alright, screw mod points this time. This is a discussion that needs more voices.

        The worst thing I am reading in these comments is basically "I don't understand the summary". If this is you, you are part of the problem. You think you know what science is, and this article is confusing because you're wrong and can't even recognize what you're wrong about. If you don't understand, you need to stop talking about science until you do. You are damaging the cause for science by treating it like a belief system, s

  • I guess all we know about the sun is not scientific because we didn't do experiments on the sun and another star that is approximately equal....
    • Doing experiments on something does not require physical presence. And most of what we think we "know" has not been proven yet in a scientific manner. It's likely provable, but could be completely misunderstood and only the observable effects are common between what we think we know and what is provable.

    • Re:So educational! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sixoh1 ( 996418 ) on Monday September 22, 2014 @10:59AM (#47964495) Homepage

      Excellent trolling, refute the summary of an article about poor understanding of the meaning of science with a Popperian negative-proof [wikipedia.org] masquerading as a strawman. Either you are a grand-master of hyperbole, or you don't bother to read to comprehension before declaring something invalid. Irony, since that's pretty much exactly the OP - many humans really love to declare themselves aligned with SCIENCE! Yet few are actually consistently able to operate scientifically.

    • by Sique ( 173459 )
      We do experiments with the Sun everyday. For instance we put up calendars and models of the movement of Sun and Earth, which predict that Sun and Earth tonight will be in such a position that the day-night-terminator will cross San Francisco, CA at 6.06 pm. It's a valid prediction, which can be tested very easily for people being in San Francisco tonight.
  • by ZombieBraintrust ( 1685608 ) on Monday September 22, 2014 @10:47AM (#47964355)
    Lets leave the crazy rants to the comment section.
    • To paraphrase.
      "It's just the pursuit of truth, which math, peer review, and jargon have no bearing on! But my deity is totally acceptable to science. Because reasons."

      Standards and practices that help identify and formalize truth hit people with set dogmas kinda hard*. It makes it hard for you to inject your "capital T Truth" into genuine findings.

      *Yes yes, I have dogmas too, but I'd like to believe they're amenable to change, with enough evidence and reason.

    • by magsol ( 1406749 )
      I have literally no idea what the summary even said.
      • by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Monday September 22, 2014 @11:14AM (#47964663) Homepage Journal

        They said, "here's an article about how science works, let me interject my unrelated opinions about how mainstream science is totally oppressing my opinions."

        It's a markedly common sentiment, and only varies on what particular crazy beliefs are being rejected by those institutions. And no, I'm not just mocking global warming denialism, or creationism. You also see the same argument from alt-med, time-cube-lite theories, or "racial realists".

        • RTFA. Mr. Gobry is (shortly) criticizing the attempt to "scientifically" predict the effects of specific climate change policies only as an example of a public policy debate that has the word "science" thrown around a lot even though nobody has done any real "science" on the proposals. He also criticizes Aristotle [wikipedia.org], Richard Dawkins [wikipedia.org], Jerry Coyne [wikipedia.org], Neil DeGrasse Tyson [wikipedia.org], Jenny McCarthy [wikipedia.org], the Brookings Institution [wikipedia.org], and Ezra Klein [wikipedia.org].

          Mr. Gobry does not discuss opinions of his which are disputed by mainstream science. H

    • by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Monday September 22, 2014 @11:40AM (#47964925)

      As much as it may hurt _your_ beliefs, GP raises a point that many other "scientifically" minded people have been raising for some time. We can rarely have rational debate about numerous topics, which means that some of our "science" is really just bias. They even provide an example, which I think is a great one.

      Science has not answered the question of whether or not the Universe requires something in order to exist. Philosophy has attempted to answer that question for over two thousand years, and any honest Philosopher will tell you the same thing. "There is no proof, but it's a rational conclusion to believe that something did cause the Universe to exist. At least as rational as the thought that a Universe could spring up out of nowhere from nothing."

      Many atheists can't, or refuse to, separate Religion from the Philosophical question regarding the origin of the Universe. The second argument from the same or similar set of atheists is a claim "the question does not matter". The former does not follow the Socratic Method or Scientific Method. The latter is about as unscientific as you can get, discouraging investigation and discovery (No, it's not about _you_ it's about discouraging others from pursuing the question). In reality, this one question is an exceptional question for training the mind to think critically, debate, and begin to question ethics and morals.

      The question regarding the origin of the Universe is just one question where bias takes charge and science is put in the background. Vaccines, GMO foods, and Global Warming are other areas that are so entrenched with bias that it is nearly impossible to debate any of these topics rationally.

      Anyone that dares to challenge the status quo is attacked and ostracized. If they have arguments that are really good, they are ignored and black listed from media. Society has gone through many phases just like this one previously, as a true Philosophy I study everything including History.

      I can almost assure you that this post will be censored by people with mod points, and I will receive plenty of attacks (most likely from the anonymous cowards). Not because this post is offensive, in fact I was very cautious in wording, but because it challenges the status quo.

      • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland@yahoo . c om> on Monday September 22, 2014 @01:39PM (#47966411) Homepage Journal

        to believe that there is a "Philosophical question regarding the origin of the Universe." Is, in itself, a religion.

        The question will matter the moment you can tell us why there is a reason for the origin of the universe we currently live in.
        "There is no proof, but it's a rational conclusion to believe that something did cause the Universe to exist. "
        I philosopher probably would say that, but that would be an another example of why they are useless hanger ons to the historical coat tails of science.

        Yes, there is proof. We are walking around in it. And yes, atheists do understand the something caused it. But there is a lot of evidence showing it was a natural something, and zero evidence it was a bi-product of intent.

        "The question regarding the origin of the Universe is just one question where bias takes charge and science is put in the background."
        False. there is a lot of sciecne regarding the origin of the universe. What we have is a bunch os people who get their panties in a bunch when it's pointed out there is zero evidence to support theire belief.
        Lets see:
        "Vaccines"
        The science is well know. The vast majority of public debate isn't about anything debatable. It's one side making things up and the other using science. i.e. expermint, data, ect.

        "GMO foods"
        ON one side we ahve science, and verification from every major scientific health group in the world, that it is safe. On the other side you got FUD.

        " Global Warming"
        ON side has science, prediction, proof, the other side has people screaming nonsense.
        Science and bias isn't why we can't have a rational debate.
        How would you have a rational debate with someone who claims 2+2 = 5. No natter how many time you showed them it equals 4, they refuse to change? What do you do when the blame the status quo for not accepting his theory?

        "Anyone that dares to challenge the status quo is attacked and ostracized."
        False. challenge the status quo without good data is "attacked and ostracized." If you statement was true, science and out body of scientific knowledge wouldn't change, but it does change. Every day.

        I am replying because it is wrong. Being wrong is not 'challenging the status quo' it's simple just wrong.

    • by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Monday September 22, 2014 @12:17PM (#47965369) Homepage Journal

      Science is the pursuit of the subset of truth that makes predictions about the real world. Yet this simple definition seems to be lost on so many people. The worst offenders are the ones who think science is the pursuit of Truth in general, or about being right, or about explanations.

      As an example, consider "Creation Science", whose objective is to explain, not predict, information about biology. And because such explanation is, in the eyes of the public, a decently good explanation, people accept it. And hardly anyone calls them out for failing to make predictions, and thus not even being science. It's like if you have two weathermen, one predicts every day whether it will rain or not, and the other collects a list of every time the first weatherman made a mistake. The second one may be right all the time, but he's still useless. Thus "creation scientists" do not focus on the mathematics of sediments and sorting of dead things, or the impact a population bottleneck will have on current genetics, or their own mathematical predictions concerning radiometric dating, but rather on explanations for these, all of which shows that they themselves don't even believe what they're pretending to support.

      As for science and religion, consider this: many Christians will tell you that the core of Christianity is faith in God. And then they'll turn around and try to "prove" God's existence, demonstrating that they believe testing God is superior to having faith in God. But if the world with God and the world without God are indistinguishable from each other, only then can you say believing in God is an act of faith. Else you could scientifically test for God's existence, and then where would faith be?

  • by halivar ( 535827 ) <bfelger@@@gmail...com> on Monday September 22, 2014 @10:49AM (#47964393)

    We fell most smart when we are seen "liking" smart things. Hence the idiotic, pseudo-intellectual "I Fucking Love Science" Facebook posts that flood my feed with juvenile memes and puns. Liking smart people like Niel deGrass Tyson does not make you smart. Taking sides on a scientific controversy you do not fully understand does not make you smart (even if you happen to chose the factually correct side). These things are simply part of the cargo cult science has become.

    • Just to argue the flip side, isn't it better if people like memes/people based on real science instead of hearing people say "I love watching So-and-so communicate with the dead. They're really talented"? It might be a small step, but at least it's a small step in the right direction.

      • by halivar ( 535827 )

        But from the perspective of the lay speaker, there is no functional difference. Ignorance is cloaked in the illusion of holding secret knowledge. This becomes most dangerous when this "secret knowledge" is fetishized (I don't know if that's a real word, but it gets my point across) and we start burning heretics.

    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      That's funny because Tyson is one of those people that spews this "Science equals Truth" nonsense. I want to throw things whenever I see someone on Facebook repost his nonsense.

      Science is today's best guess.

      "Truth" is for people that like to spend all day in church.

  • by Danathar ( 267989 ) on Monday September 22, 2014 @10:52AM (#47964417) Journal

    It really irks me that we teach more about the objects of Scientific investigation in school (Biology, Physics, etc) then the actual philosophy of Science itself. Sure, there is usually about an hour in HS that covers basic Scientific approach but then it gets left by the wayside.

    Schools should be spending more time discussing and learning the philosophy of Science itself.

    Just my 2 cents.

    • by srobert ( 4099 ) on Monday September 22, 2014 @11:07AM (#47964599)

      That's exactly why I suggest that teaching about creationism IS appropriate for a science class. If I were a biology teacher (and my approach were permissible), when the subject of creationism inevitably came up in the class, rather than dismiss it with the arrogant assertion that "this is a science class, we'll not discuss your religion here", I would, instead, follow up with a discussion of Popper's criteria. Then I might request a short essay discussing how well evolutionary theory or creationism met the criteria for a scientific hypothesis.
      That, in my opinion, is part of teaching science.

      • I get what you mean but not sure about that being a good idea. the religious would see creationism as validated no matter how much evidence you put in front of them. Maybe, if you really need to discuss it, stick it in a geography or geology class.
    • That's what labs are for. In chemistry lab, in physics lab in high school and college we absolutely asked questions, formed hypotheses, designed and performed experiments, recorded the results, analyzed them (including error bars and appropriate significant figures) and drew conclusions.

      But yes, for the most part, people who didn't pay much attention or have no real scientific education who Like Neil DeGrasse Tyson quotes on FaceBook see science as a body of knowledge that is queried.

  • by oodaloop ( 1229816 ) on Monday September 22, 2014 @10:57AM (#47964475)
    The only person with a botched understanding of science is the author. Science is the means by which we know what is true, and most definitely cover origins of things.
  • by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Monday September 22, 2014 @10:58AM (#47964483) Homepage

    Getting this out of the way.

    Science is the understanding of how the universe works. Faith, holds the supposition of why the universe exists both in its genesis and current state. The two don't overlap, and I personally find it rather funny when people try and debate a comparison to the two. To do so is like arguing about the hardness of fire. It makes no sense.

    • by guruevi ( 827432 )

      So why does the universe exist? Science tells us why (read an astrophysics text book) and it has very good reasoning and experimentation to back it up. Religions tell us 1000's of other answers which do not resemble either the scientific reason nor each other... so which one am I supposed to trust?

      Even if all we had was a computer model that told us perhaps this is "why" the universe exists at all today, it's better than any religious answer I've ever heard. Religion is a business trying to safeguard a coll

    • um... doesn't hardness hold an inverse relationship with density? and fire being pretty damn... not dense, would make its hardness pretty not.

      how hard is ice? how hard is ice cream? how hard is melty ice cream? how hard is water? how hard is water vapor? and you've got the continuum.

      just because you've never asked the question before, and the answer is stupid and pointless, doesn't mean it makes no sense.

    • To do so is like arguing about the hardness of fire. It makes no sense.

      If you can't make sense of the hardness of fire, maybe you should stick to religion. They have lower standards.

  • by definition, religion concerns the ultimate causes of things

    By which definition? Because it's most certainly none given by religious people. Otherwise there wouldn't be any Religion vs Science debate.

    There would be little to discuss if Religion said "Ok, evolution is real, but its ultimate cause is angels.".

  • Science is... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by radtea ( 464814 ) on Monday September 22, 2014 @11:04AM (#47964567)

    ...the discipline of publicly testing ideas by systematic observation, controlled experiment, and Bayesian inference.

    Science is not a "method". Feyrabend was more nearly right than he realized when he said the cardinal rule of science is, "Anything goes": we can use any clever tricks that pass the tests to change the posterior plausibility of an idea, and they do not have to adhere to some philosopher's notions of method.

    Science is a discipline, and like any other discipline has to be practiced to get good at it. Methods in science are like katas in fighting disciplines: valuable training devices, but not anything like sufficient to win a real fight.

    Furthermore, as a discipline, science does not explain anything and has no content: the sciences (biology, physics, geology...) do, but not the overarching discipline of science itself.

    The discipline of science can be practiced by anyone, although history has shown that education can help (try inventing any fighting discipline on your own and you'll see how much better off you'd be learning from someone else.) The scope of science is unlimited, and it is the only way of creating knowledge. It is not "scientism" to practice the discipline of science when testing ideas about human behaviour or society: it is just science.

    Because science is Bayesian, it does not produce certainty. Bayes' rule cannot generate a plausibility of 0 or 1 for any proposition, and it identifies anyone who assigns a plausibility of 0 or 1 as being in a state of sin... err... error.

    A proposition that has 0 or 1 plausibility cannot have its plausibility changed by further applications of Bayes rule, so it is beyond correction, opaque to any further evidence, cut off from the world it claims to apply to.

    The technical term for a belief held in such an erroneous fashion is "faith".

  • by wytcld ( 179112 ) on Monday September 22, 2014 @11:06AM (#47964583) Homepage

    religion concerns the ultimate causes of things and, again, by definition, science cannot tell you about them

    To whom here is this not obvious nonsense? In systems of geometry we have axioms "by definition." So if you're doing a problem in Euclidian terms, parallel lines don't meet in space. But if you're doing the problem in real, relativistic space rather than an Euclidian idealization, lines that start out parallel locally, and each continue absolutely straight, sometimes do.

    Science is not any single geometry, and so has no fundamental set of definitional axioms. There are descriptions of the scientific method, by Popper and others, that generalize about falsifiability and so on. But even those don't exhaust the space of possible science, let alone establish axioms for it. The branch of physics called "cosmology" very properly, and fruitfullly, is concerned with the origin of the universe; and there is a branch of biology concerned with the origin of life. There is no axiom accepted by science that forbids scientific inquiry into origin questions.

  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Monday September 22, 2014 @11:06AM (#47964585) Homepage
    When they attempt to use science to prove things that real science shows is false.

    When they try to use the scientific method to prove intelligent design, global warming is a hoax, or that vaccines cause autism. My favorite "Big Pharma" conspiracy (as offered up by cracked.com), is that:

    Big Pharma has secretly funded Jenny McCarthy to create the anti-vax movement because they make pennies on vaccines, but thousands on treating people that get the actual disease.

  • This is how you get the phenomenon ... thinking science has made God irrelevant, even though, by definition, religion concerns the ultimate causes of things and, again, by definition, science cannot tell you about them.

    WTF is this drivel?

    This reads like a thinly veiled plug for religion.

    Hell the article contains the word "philistines". Seriously, what the hell is this crap?

  • by Illserve ( 56215 ) on Monday September 22, 2014 @11:10AM (#47964637)

    I read the summary and thought that this article might be on to something, but on reading it I don't think the author really understands science at all.

    Here are some excerpts that I find particularly disagreeable:

    "Science is not the pursuit of capital-T Truth. It's a form of engineering "

    Absolutely not. Science is indeed in pursuit of Truth. The author criticizes Aristotle's form of "research", quite rightly, but then throws the baby out with the bathwater when he says this.

    "Because people don't understand that science is built on experimentation, they don't understand that studies in fields like psychology almost never prove anything, since only replicated experiment proves something and, humans being a very diverse lot, it is very hard to replicate any psychological experiment."

    This is factually incorrect. There are many Psychological phenomena that can be reproduced reliably. The Stroop effect, the Simon effect, visual illusions..

    "What distinguishes modern science from other forms of knowledge such as philosophy is that it explicitly forsakes abstract reasoning about the ultimate causes of things"

    This is completely incorrect. A core goal of science is to understand the cause of things by developing abstracted understandings of them (i.e. theories).

    I know nothing about this author, but from the article, I suspect that he is trying to reconcile his beliefs in science and religion by convincing himself that science cannot answer the big questions, it's just for making airplanes and computers. I could be wrong of course (--- very important scientific principle)

    • No, science is not the pursuit of Truth, that would be philosophy down the hall.

      You are definitely part of the problem.

      • No, science is not the pursuit of Truth, that would be philosophy down the hall.

        Actually, science is the pursuit of Truth. Unfortunately, what we get from that pursuit is not Truth, but a useful approximation that works well enough for practical use within the limits defined by the parameters of the experiments. When your use moves outside those limits, the approximations may or may not hold, and experimentation to discover why this happens let us extend those approximations further.

    • Well he is on to something and has a good point.

      There is a real problem with the public's perception of science. From a sociological point of view, it very much does resemble a priestly cast like religion.

      Let me give you a rather mundane example. Transit is a big issue in my home town of Toronto. Now there is a very real debate to be had here in terms of subways, rapid bus, LRT, regional rail...

      But there is a certain class of citizenry that takes it's beliefs from the people who 'claim' science by stating t

  • Science is a methodology bent on correcting itself; Anything you like can go in the front of the process.. a hunch, an observation, a bit of math, some statistics suggesting a previously unknown pattern, etc. The process, done correctly anyways, will whittle away at it until the truth remains. As NDT suggested, science is not a noun, but a verb.
  • I agree completely. Many people have lost the idea that science is not a "point of view" (with its own beliefs and ideology) but a "process" which allows one to arrive at possible answers after investigation and examination of related evidence.

    I remember my physics teacher used to tell us "How many people here know what 'gravity' is?" All hands would raise up. He would laugh. Then he would say, in his best "fake surprise" face: "Wow! I must be the only physics professor in the world who has a whole class th

  • Wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by a whoabot ( 706122 ) on Monday September 22, 2014 @11:23AM (#47964751)

    The piece is mumbo-jumbo. Yes, Bacon eschewed the "Aristotelian" search for final causes. Does that mean that Baconian science doesn't try to determine the truth? Of course not.

    The history of philosophy/history of science done in this piece is clap trap. He says that Galileo used experiment, whereas Aristotle did not. And that's why Aristotle thought that "heavier objects should fall faster than light ones". Supposedly. The problem: Aristotle didn't use "abstract reasoning" to come to that incorrect conclusion. He just didn't control his variables adequately. Not controlling variables adequately can happen to the very best of experimentalists.

    "Science is not the pursuit of capital-T Truth. [...] Scientific knowledge is not "true" knowledge, since it is knowledge about only specific empirical propositions"

    So how does this argument run? Scientific knowledge is knowledge about specific empirical propositions. Therefore, scientific knowledge is not "true" knowledge. Therefore, science is not the pursuit of capital-T Truth? That's a terrible argument. This seems like just a case of begging the question from the author where he has an unargued "definition" of what "Truth" is. Why anyone else is beholden to this definition, of course, is a mystery.

    "Bacon, who had a career in politics and was an experienced manager, actually wrote that scientists would have to be misled into thinking science is a pursuit of the truth, so that they will be dedicated to their work, even though it is not."

    I highly doubt Bacon ever said this. Of course, there is no citation to check. I think the author has confused Bacon's model of Bensalem, where he has the houses of specialists hide their operation from others, so that the others don't come to conclusions based on partial understandings, before the work of the specialists is completed.

    "by definition, religion concerns the ultimate causes of things and, again, by definition, science cannot tell you about them"

    Who made these "definitions"? No one in sight.

    "This is how you get the phenomenon of philistines like Richard Dawkins"

    Oh I see, Dawkins, a great evolutionary biologist, is a philistine. The evidence? I guess because the author disagrees with Dawkins about God. No argument is given.

Moneyliness is next to Godliness. -- Andries van Dam

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