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stoneunhinged
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A while back I posted a topic called, "Do you believe in science"? Ever the poor communicator, I didn't get to the heart of the matter.

What *IS* science?



(I contend that the world has become very confused about what constitutes "truth" or "knowledge" or "facts". The Unhinged can't clear this up for anyone. But he can point out that y'all are confused. You are.

Still, I love you. I'm a weird guy.)
Salguod Nairb
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funsway
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Weird can be good, especially in a world in which "being bored" is a self-inflicted disease.

"Science" is a label like "technology" to be applied to anything for which you cannot find a person to blame for a mistake.

In the abdication of responsibility game, saying "the devil/god made me do it" is passe' -- safer to say, "can't argue with science" or "technology made me do it."

data, fact, information, believing, certainly, certitude, knowledge, understanding --

a transitional track that is very scientific, but it easier to just say "found it on FaceBook" as a superstition.

no confusion -- just delusion
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst

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TonyB2009
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Science is a method of arriving at an understanding of the world. It is a process that allows us to gather facts, form theories, then test those theories and either reject, accept or modify them, always leaving the door open for further change as more facts become available.

We have been doing science for less than half a millennium and look how far it has got us, but in the technological spin-offs, and in the advancement of knowledge. Religion and superstition and magical barely got us out of the caves after tens of thousands of years.
0pus
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Way back in my halcyon days of academia, I studied Physics (and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in it).

I have done some personal introspection into what science is, and my opinion is that it is an attempt to comprehensively describe the world. That is all.

It is a quest for determining how.

It is not a search for truth.

It is not a search for why.

And, being a quest for how, scientists build models intended to be accurate descriptions - if the models are good ones, they are usually predictive (that is, they often describe things that were not observed before the model was developed).

Scientists operate under certain rules for constructing their models, rules like a simpler model is usually better than a more complicated one (e.g., planetary epicycles were ultimately rejected in favor of a heliocentric model of the solar system; both were acceptable models, but the epicycle model was much more complicated and subject to continuing refinements).

Scientists are human, though, and are often reluctant to change: as a result, real game-changing breakthroughs are often rejected at first. Eventually the stronger model prevails. But again, there is no search for the true model - there are just revisions and refinements that describe more things, or describe existing things better.

These things are often spoken of in terms of proof and truth, and I think much of that is due to non-scientists and anti-scientists asserting premises contraindicated by the evidence and scientific predispositions.

For example, scientists use carbon dating techniques to date things (like fossils) from the earth's distant past. This technique is built on a number of conclusions drawn by scientists as described in their models. And if these models are accurate, we can calculate the age of dinosaurs, etc. Anti-science crusaders may argue that carbon dating is bogus, but they normally have no credible basis for rejecting the model. Rather they argue that it is all theoretical, and it is, but the normal understanding of theoretical is insufficient to describe what it really means, at least to scientists. I just looked up the synonyms and antonyms for the word theoretical in Merriam Webster online. It gives the following synonyms for theoretical: academic, conjectural, hypothetical, speculative, suppositional; it gives the following antonyms: actual, factual, real. The anti-science folks believe that scientific descriptions, because they all fall out of theories, are not actual, factual or real; and because they can make up stuff too, they feel fully equipped to reject scientific theories and replace them with their own theories.

So, when you ask, "Do you believe in science?" my answer is, "Yes. I do."

But science is not a search for truth, or even causality; it describes (or attempts to describe) what is. That is all. I do not think science even attempts to do anything else.

For truth, you need to resort to philosophy.
TomBoleware
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Well said 0pus.

Tom
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rockwall
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Nice post Opus, but I would make a minor change.

Instead of "The anti-science folks believe that scientific descriptions, because they all fall out of theories, are not actual, factual or real;",

I believe you should change it to, "Some folks believe that scientific descriptions, because they all fall out of theories, 'may not' be actual, factual or real;"

First off, no need to label someone who may question 'scientific fact' as 'anti-science', and secondly, using your example, they may not necessarily believe carbon dating is bogus, they may simply believe that it 'may' not produce accurate results since it is theoretical.
0pus
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Exactly my point.

The evidence in favor of the accuracy of carbon dating is so strong to a scientific mind, that just pointing out that it is "theoretical" does a severe injustice to the evidential basis for the carbon dating model.

It is like saying computers "may" not work because they are based on things like Maxwell's equations, which are "only" theoretical.
NYCTwister
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On May 19, 2015, 0pus wrote:

For truth, you need to resort to philosophy.


Yeah, like that's worked so well thus far.
If you need fear to enforce your beliefs, then your beliefs are worthless.
The Hermit
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On May 19, 2015, TonyB2009 wrote:
Science is a method of arriving at an understanding of the world. It is a process that allows us to gather facts, form theories, then test those theories and either reject, accept or modify them, always leaving the door open for further change as more facts become available.

We have been doing science for less than half a millennium and look how far it has got us, but in the technological spin-offs, and in the advancement of knowledge. Religion and superstition and magical barely got us out of the caves after tens of thousands of years.


Depending on what you want to call science has been 500 years. When Babylonian astrologers mapped the heavens and recorded movements of planets, was that science? When shaman recorded herbs that treated sickness, was that science? Science has been built on thousands of years of research by different types of scientists. Many religious. Most of the groundwork for your 500 years was laid over thousands of years by those stupid superstitious magical 'scientists'. Gee and those Greek guys with their discoveries, hum that was thousands of years ago. A little credit where it's due.
NYCTwister
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On May 19, 2015, The Hermit wrote:
Quote:
On May 19, 2015, TonyB2009 wrote:
Science is a method of arriving at an understanding of the world. It is a process that allows us to gather facts, form theories, then test those theories and either reject, accept or modify them, always leaving the door open for further change as more facts become available.

We have been doing science for less than half a millennium and look how far it has got us, but in the technological spin-offs, and in the advancement of knowledge. Religion and superstition and magical barely got us out of the caves after tens of thousands of years.


Depending on what you want to call science has been 500 years. When Babylonian astrologers mapped the heavens and recorded movements of planets, was that science? When shaman recorded herbs that treated sickness, was that science? Science has been built on thousands of years of research by different types of scientists. Many religious. Most of the groundwork for your 500 years was laid over thousands of years by those stupid superstitious magical 'scientists'. Gee and those Greek guys with their discoveries, hum that was thousands of years ago. A little credit where it's due.


Sure, ZREO credit to the superstitious, religious part of their minds.

All the credit, and thanks, to the rational, logical. courageous part of their minds.

That good enough for ya?
If you need fear to enforce your beliefs, then your beliefs are worthless.
stoneunhinged
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On May 19, 2015, NYCTwister wrote:
Quote:
On May 19, 2015, 0pus wrote:

For truth, you need to resort to philosophy.


Yeah, like that's worked so well thus far.


It hasn't not worked, either.

Disagreeing about "truth" doesn't mean that truth doesn't exist. It only means that people disagree.

If all we want to consider "knowledge" is what people can agree on, then science has a good claim. Take, for example, global warming. We can all agree on that, right?

Like science has worked "so far". Sure, we have blu-ray players and iPhones. Well done, science.
NYCTwister
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On May 19, 2015, stoneunhinged wrote:
Quote:
On May 19, 2015, NYCTwister wrote:
Quote:
On May 19, 2015, 0pus wrote:

For truth, you need to resort to philosophy.


Yeah, like that's worked so well thus far.


It hasn't not worked, either.

Disagreeing about "truth" doesn't mean that truth doesn't exist. It only means that people disagree.

If all we want to consider "knowledge" is what people can agree on, then science has a good claim. Take, for example, global warming. We can all agree on that, right?

Like science has worked "so far". Sure, we have blu-ray players and iPhones. Well done, science.


We've gotten a little more than IPhones but I hear ya.

Serious question - What is the goal, the purpose, of a philosopher?
If you need fear to enforce your beliefs, then your beliefs are worthless.
0pus
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Quote:
On May 19, 2015, NYCTwister wrote:
Quote:
On May 19, 2015, The Hermit wrote:
Quote:
On May 19, 2015, TonyB2009 wrote:
Science is a method of arriving at an understanding of the world. It is a process that allows us to gather facts, form theories, then test those theories and either reject, accept or modify them, always leaving the door open for further change as more facts become available.

We have been doing science for less than half a millennium and look how far it has got us, but in the technological spin-offs, and in the advancement of knowledge. Religion and superstition and magical barely got us out of the caves after tens of thousands of years.


Depending on what you want to call science has been 500 years. When Babylonian astrologers mapped the heavens and recorded movements of planets, was that science? When shaman recorded herbs that treated sickness, was that science? Science has been built on thousands of years of research by different types of scientists. Many religious. Most of the groundwork for your 500 years was laid over thousands of years by those stupid superstitious magical 'scientists'. Gee and those Greek guys with their discoveries, hum that was thousands of years ago. A little credit where it's due.


Sure, ZREO credit to the superstitious, religious part of their minds.

All the credit, and thanks, to the rational, logical. courageous part of their minds.

That good enough for ya?




Now, this is where I start to get lost.

NYCTwister posts TWO prior comments and then makes a snide comment. I am lost. Is NYCTwister agreeing with The Hermit or with TonyB2009?

Does NYCTwister want to be critical with respect to a prior comment? Does that advance the discussion?
NYCTwister
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Quote:
On May 19, 2015, 0pus wrote:
Quote:
On May 19, 2015, NYCTwister wrote:
Quote:
On May 19, 2015, The Hermit wrote:
Quote:
On May 19, 2015, TonyB2009 wrote:
Science is a method of arriving at an understanding of the world. It is a process that allows us to gather facts, form theories, then test those theories and either reject, accept or modify them, always leaving the door open for further change as more facts become available.

We have been doing science for less than half a millennium and look how far it has got us, but in the technological spin-offs, and in the advancement of knowledge. Religion and superstition and magical barely got us out of the caves after tens of thousands of years.


Depending on what you want to call science has been 500 years. When Babylonian astrologers mapped the heavens and recorded movements of planets, was that science? When shaman recorded herbs that treated sickness, was that science? Science has been built on thousands of years of research by different types of scientists. Many religious. Most of the groundwork for your 500 years was laid over thousands of years by those stupid superstitious magical 'scientists'. Gee and those Greek guys with their discoveries, hum that was thousands of years ago. A little credit where it's due.


Sure, ZREO credit to the superstitious, religious part of their minds.

All the credit, and thanks, to the rational, logical. courageous part of their minds.

That good enough for ya?




Now, this is where I start to get lost.

NYCTwister posts TWO prior comments and then makes a snide comment. I am lost. Is NYCTwister agreeing with The Hermit or with TonyB2009?

Does NYCTwister want to be critical with respect to a prior comment? Does that advance the discussion?


NYCTwister simply disagrees that you need philosophy to find the truth.

NYCTwister also disagrees with the assertion that just because certain scientists were religious that their superstitions had anything to do with their search for the truth, or their finding any.

Please let NYCTwister know if he can be of further assistance.
If you need fear to enforce your beliefs, then your beliefs are worthless.
rockwall
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On May 19, 2015, 0pus wrote:
Exactly my point.

The evidence in favor of the accuracy of carbon dating is so strong to a scientific mind, that just pointing out that it is "theoretical" does a severe injustice to the evidential basis for the carbon dating model.

It is like saying computers "may" not work because they are based on things like Maxwell's equations, which are "only" theoretical.


A poor example in my estimation. Computers can be proven to work simply by turning one on. Carbon dating can't be 'proven' to be accurate. (I'm not trying to argue against carbon dating. I'm not a scientist by I don't have any reason not to believe that it's relatively accurate.)

However, it does appear that carbon dating is not 'quite' the exact science that some may wish us to believe.

http://www.nytimes.com/1990/05/31/us/err......ing.html
0pus
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Well, I wasn't suggesting we use carbon dating to time sprints.

And the article says it is generally pretty accurate for dating up to 9,000 years ago.

But one of the underlying models upon which carbon dating is based asserts that the proportion of carbon 14 a living thing absorbs during its lifetime is related to the amount of atmospheric carbon available, and the amount of atmospheric carbon available (and the proportion of Carbon 14 in that available carbon) has not varied significantly over the period being measured. The uranium-thorium dating method has found that for things more than 30,000 old, carbon dating gives an age that may be 3,500 years less than the dating provided by the uranium-thorium method (perhaps because of increased atmospheric Carbon 14 during some of those periods).

I think that this simply displays the evolution of the scientific model; the discrepancies between the carbon and the uranium-thorium dating methods need to be reconciled, and I think that they will be.

I would like to point out, however, that the non-science/anti-science challengers normally assert that things are much younger/newer than carbon dating would indicate. This new data demonstrates, if anything, that things are even OLDER than carbon dating indicates.
The Hermit
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Quote:
On May 19, 2015, NYCTwister wrote:
Quote:
On May 19, 2015, The Hermit wrote:
Quote:
On May 19, 2015, TonyB2009 wrote:
Science is a method of arriving at an understanding of the world. It is a process that allows us to gather facts, form theories, then test those theories and either reject, accept or modify them, always leaving the door open for further change as more facts become available.

We have been doing science for less than half a millennium and look how far it has got us, but in the technological spin-offs, and in the advancement of knowledge. Religion and superstition and magical barely got us out of the caves after tens of thousands of years.


Depending on what you want to call science has been 500 years. When Babylonian astrologers mapped the heavens and recorded movements of planets, was that science? When shaman recorded herbs that treated sickness, was that science? Science has been built on thousands of years of research by different types of scientists. Many religious. Most of the groundwork for your 500 years was laid over thousands of years by those stupid superstitious magical 'scientists'. Gee and those Greek guys with their discoveries, hum that was thousands of years ago. A little credit where it's due.


Sure, ZREO credit to the superstitious, religious part of their minds.

All the credit, and thanks, to the rational, logical. courageous part of their minds.

That good enough for ya?


Almost. Trying to divorce modern science from ancient or to assume one is superstitious/bad and one is rational/good is not fair to the contributions. Also to chime in on the philosophy and truth issue - To ancient man all reality was spiritual. That's the difference in outlook from then and today. They looked for meaning in the heavens and saw the motions as providing some part of that. Today we only care about the motion, the fact. Ancient man was using science to find truth. We have segregated much of that approach. Philosophy is about the ultimate reality and what is or is not knowable. Science can describe effects, not ultimate reality. We will always be stuck with the fundamental question of what is knowable? How do we know we exist and what is that existence really? That is more the realm of philosophy than science. As to throwing away the religious part, how about St Augustine, Mendel? They were scientists and thinkers that were motivated by religion. Hard to separate them.
Payne
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On May 19, 2015, rockwall wrote:

However, it does appear that carbon dating is not 'quite' the exact science that some may wish us to believe.



Which is why scientists often use multiple methodologies for dating artifacts.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dating_meth......haeology
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stoneunhinged
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On May 19, 2015, NYCTwister wrote:
Quote:
On May 19, 2015, stoneunhinged wrote:
Quote:
On May 19, 2015, NYCTwister wrote:
Quote:
On May 19, 2015, 0pus wrote:

For truth, you need to resort to philosophy.


Yeah, like that's worked so well thus far.


It hasn't not worked, either.

Disagreeing about "truth" doesn't mean that truth doesn't exist. It only means that people disagree.

If all we want to consider "knowledge" is what people can agree on, then science has a good claim. Take, for example, global warming. We can all agree on that, right?

Like science has worked "so far". Sure, we have blu-ray players and iPhones. Well done, science.


We've gotten a little more than IPhones but I hear ya.

Serious question - What is the goal, the purpose, of a philosopher?


Serious answer: to be courageous.
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