Is science truth?

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WrenWyrd
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Is science truth?

Postby WrenWyrd » 07 Aug 2012, 12:11

As you may know I am not a skeptical druid (or maybe I'm an over-skeptical druid :grin:) but I would like to submit this to you:
http://trainradio.blogspot.ch/2012/03/d ... alone.html
It'a a radio show by former physics professor Denis Rancourt on the problems of popular science. Like me, he seems to be under the impression that the current domination of science functions like religion. I'm curious to know what you think of it.

Another favourite of mine "Evolution, Creationism, and Other Modern Myths" by Vine Deloria Jr.
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hops in the thicket, flirt-eye; shy, brave,
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Carol Ann Duffy

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DaRC
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Re: Is science truth?

Postby DaRC » 07 Aug 2012, 12:46

Hmmm perhaps we need to agree what science is first?

Do you mean the Scientific Method or the media misinformation that paraphrases scientists to create headlines?
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Re: Is science truth?

Postby Aphritha » 07 Aug 2012, 18:15

I really enjoyed that. It does seem as some individuals use what they term science as sort of a religion, spreading and insisting upon its truth with the same passion as those door to door religion peddlers! Few of them see it that way, however, and get offended when you point it out. :grin: I agree with the ideas of thinking for ourselves, rather than just accepting what is given to us, regardless of who is giving it.


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Re: Is science truth?

Postby treegod » 07 Aug 2012, 21:04

Yes, no, maybe.

Today I was thinking briefly on this subject and a phrase came to me which was "Facts remain independent of the theories that describe them."

The scientific method is not designed to be a religion, it is a way of investigating the universe in as objective way as is possible for a species riddled with biases.

But what the scientific community, individual scientists and non-professionals do with the information after that is something different. You can be sure that some people, emotionally at least, treat science as a form of religion, and others treat it as a tool for gaining and verifiying information about the world. We can also see that in some ways science can directly oppose "religious belief" and so there is the effect, at times, that science replaces religion.

Being a bit of a "scientific pantheist" what we discover about the natural world leaves me in awe. Emotionally the work of science can make me feel "religious". But I don't make it my creed, its not a doctrine, it is still a method of investigation..

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Re: Is science truth?

Postby DJ Droood » 07 Aug 2012, 22:20

"God Hates Facts"

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Re: Is science truth?

Postby WrenWyrd » 08 Aug 2012, 05:31

"Facts remain independent of the theories that describe them."
I would disagree. Facts are a construction you make of a phenomena you observe through a certain lense. I do not believe in "hard facts" as such. Science is always politically driven to a certain extent, always dependant on context. I think the problem is that researchers cannot be entirely separated from the facts they observe since they are using their senses, their understanding, and certain instruments that manipulate reality in order to draw conclusions. And the elephant in the room is: who is funding their research and which institutions will benefit from that?

I support research and enquiry, but I am strongly against scientists representing themselves as "truthers".
Hedge-bandit, song-bomb, dart-beak, the wren
hops in the thicket, flirt-eye; shy, brave,
grubbing, winter's scamp, but more than itself–
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Carol Ann Duffy

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treegod
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Re: Is science truth?

Postby treegod » 08 Aug 2012, 07:06

Facts are a construction you make of a phenomena you observe through a certain lense.
:-) But that's what I think about theories "Theories are a construction you make of a phenomena you observe through a certain lense."

What I mean is is that reality cannot be limited by the theories that describe them. Though theories be accurate, though theories can proved reliable, they aren't reality but only descriptions of reality. Facts and theories are not the same thing. Though many people might present theories as "facts".

Facts are what are, and theories are descriptions of what are. Though there should always be room in these descriptions for falsifiability, for doubt, experimentation and improvement, which is all part of the scientific method.
I do not believe in "hard facts" as such. Science is always politically driven to a certain extent, always dependant on context. I think the problem is that researchers cannot be entirely separated from the facts they observe since they are using their senses, their understanding, and certain instruments that manipulate reality in order to draw conclusions. And the elephant in the room is: who is funding their research and which institutions will benefit from that?
Right, not even science can be pristine from the complexities of human politics and economy. Nor does science require personal integrity, as long as the results are good...
I support research and enquiry, but I am strongly against scientists representing themselves as "truthers".
Or anyone for that matter.

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Re: Is science truth?

Postby Skogsvandrare » 08 Aug 2012, 07:59

Short answer: no, it is a way of attempting to find out what is true.

Longer answer: science is more a way of working with knowledge than anything else. You ask yourself "what do I actually know?" and "interesting notion, how can I test it?" and go in from there, in endless cycles that presumably allows you to asymptotically approach complete knowledge of the world. Which may or may not be what you call truth.
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Re: Is science truth?

Postby Al Hakim » 08 Aug 2012, 21:14

Have you ever heard about the discovery of the rogue waves on the high seas? Most seamen were believed to yarn a lot when they reported giant waves because there existed a mathematical formula which said that a wave higher than 15-20 m can not occur more often then once in ten thousand years. At an off-shore-rig in the North Sea the were finally able to measure even higher waves several times per year. That was the proof that rogue waves occur more often than science had predicted, and it also proved that mathematics were wrong.
I like this failure of science as it clearly shows that there is nothing beyond nature. And this is my conclusion:
Always do distrust so-called scientific reasons. There is more than one truth in the living world! But with all features like a strict belief in its own perfectness, punishment of heretics and creation of internal rules science clearly resembles a religion. :tiphat:

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Re: Is science truth?

Postby treegod » 09 Aug 2012, 09:24

failure of science
I think in this instance I wouldn't call it a failure of science (unless the advocates of the formula had their hearts set on it, like priests with the bible).

I've heard it many times, here and elsewhere, that the strength of science is its falsifiability. All theories and all formulas should have room for further testing, and for being disproved. The formulas described the limit of knowledge. The actual "scientific" bit was the objective observation of the waves, which exposed the falsifiability of the formula. Good scientists would then readjust their formulas to fit the evidence, formulas that still leave room for doubt and rigorous testing, not keep the outdated formula.

A good scientist should agree with this statement: Always do distrust so-called scientific reasons.
Science is more a matter of doubt and testing than trust and belief. At least in theory it is. :whistle:

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Re: Is science truth?

Postby Skogsvandrare » 09 Aug 2012, 10:54

failure of science
I think in this instance I wouldn't call it a failure of science (unless the advocates of the formula had their hearts set on it, like priests with the bible).
I agree. The models for wave behaviour were incomplete. Later data showed this. The models where (presumably) improved.
I've heard it many times, here and elsewhere, that the strength of science is its falsifiability. All theories and all formulas should have room for further testing, and for being disproved.
Defintely. Basically, if there is no way to falsify a hypothesis it is by defintion not scientific. Basically a scientist never -- ok, the pure math folks may diasagree -- never show something to be correct, they show that they have failed to disprove even when trying reasonably well (in statistical sense). Of course, after a while there is such an huge amount of data that all agree with a model that one comes to accept it as a fact, but...
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Re: Is science truth?

Postby Explorer » 09 Aug 2012, 10:59

I like this failure of science as it clearly shows that there is nothing beyond nature. And this is my conclusion:
Always do distrust so-called scientific reasons. There is more than one truth in the living world! But with all features like a strict belief in its own perfectness, punishment of heretics and creation of internal rules science clearly resembles a religion. :tiphat:
It only clearly shows that you do not understand what science is.

Disproving a theory is not a 'failure' in science, but a 'succes', because it increases our knowledge.
Holding on to idea's that have been disproven is in the domain of religion, not of science, it increases your faith, but decreases our knowledge.

Error 1 is to mix up the scientific method (which is rigid, dogmatic and inflexible) with the theories that are investigated with it (which are flexible, adaptable, discardable). And if you think for a few minutes about that paradox you may discover why both these apparent opposites are needed.

Error 2 is to think that science opposes religion. Science and Religion are in different domains. Science only works for that area of nature where testable experiments can gain objective knowledge. Relgiion works in the domain of meaning and personal truths. If you mix that up you get garbage.

Unfortunately, almost everybody mixes it up, scientists, religious folk, and even druids who should no better (because we learn about this in the ovate grade).
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Re: Is science truth?

Postby DaRC » 09 Aug 2012, 12:37

failure of science
I think in this instance I wouldn't call it a failure of science (unless the advocates of the formula had their hearts set on it, like priests with the bible).
I agree. The models for wave behaviour were incomplete. Later data showed this. The models where (presumably) improved.
The issue here is that scientists, when called upon to verify the sailors claims, assumed that the fallibility was with the sailors not with their models. It took a lot of effort to persuade the scientific community that their models had holes in them. Meanwhilst some skippers careers had been massively damaged as the insurers would take the scientists view and blame the skipper...

However, the rogue wave model has now been used to identify dangers spots to shipping
http://failuremag.com/feature/article/s ... gue_waves/

In a funny piece of synchronisity I was looking up quotes around Yoga and came across this:
" In theory, practice and theory are the same. In practice they are not. " Yogi Berra
I would trust a skippers view of the sea over a scientists - the skipper (as they say) has skin in the game, the scientist doesn't.
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Re: Is science truth?

Postby Explorer » 09 Aug 2012, 12:55

The issue here is that scientists, when called upon to verify the sailors claims, assumed that the fallibility was with the sailors not with their models. It took a lot of effort to persuade the scientific community that their models had holes in them. Meanwhilst some skippers careers had been massively damaged as the insurers would take the scientists view and blame the skipper...
Persuasion is not a valid method to disprove a theory, experimentation is.
Ofcourse a scientist would assume that their pet theories are correct. It is the job of other scientists to prove them wrong, that is how it works.

The 'scientific community' is not some sort of grand priesthood guarding some kind of sacred truth. It is not like religion.
It is more like a group of squabbling druids, all trying to shoot holes in each others theories, in favour of their own. It is self cleansing in that way.
(I work in the scientific community).
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence

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Re: Is science truth?

Postby Explorer » 09 Aug 2012, 17:34

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence

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Re: Is science truth?

Postby Al Hakim » 09 Aug 2012, 20:09

Persuasion is not a valid method to disprove a theory, experimentation is.
Of course a scientist would assume that their pet theories are correct. It is the job of other scientists to prove them wrong, that is how it works.
...
The 'scientific community' is not some sort of grand priesthood guarding some kind of sacred truth. It is not like religion.
History shows indeed that many scientist were so convinced of their theories that they would not allow anybody (particularly a non-scientist) to interfere. That had nothing at all to do with science but with a certain attitude of intolerance. This is valid until today: Fundamentalist scientists would not acknowledge other than their experimental views. Humanist arts however dispute things differently: There are no black or white aspects only but many different ones that may even be contradictory. And all of them can be valid if the argumentation is logical.
Science had had its major break-through in the late 19th century and had hoped - in vain - they could explain everything in the world to make religion or belief superfluous. We now know that they cannot.

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Re: Is science truth?

Postby DJ Droood » 10 Aug 2012, 03:28

I am impressed with how religion just landed an SUV on Mars...oh no wait, that was science...religion was busy quaying up for Bible-based fried chicken sandwiches.

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Re: Is science truth?

Postby DaRC » 10 Aug 2012, 12:39

The issue here is that scientists, when called upon to verify the sailors claims, assumed that the fallibility was with the sailors not with their models. It took a lot of effort to persuade the scientific community that their models had holes in them.
Persuasion is not a valid method to disprove a theory, experimentation is.
Of course a scientist would assume that their pet theories are correct. It is the job of other scientists to prove them wrong, that is how it works.
Unfortunately, in the real world - away from the scientific ivory towers - someone has to be persuaded to pay for scientific research. Science is also used in legal debate and, on occasion, members of the scientific community have not clarified the difference, either willfully or via ommisssion, between theory & fact or were unwilling to consider that their 'facts' were in fact :whistle: theory

It's, perhaps, too easy for the scientific community to shrug their shoulders and say that it
is not some sort of grand priesthood guarding some kind of sacred truth.
when there are interests in the wider society that want to regard scientific knowledge as some kind of inviolable truth.
Within the scientific community, I would suggest, there needs to be more awareness and caution with regards to that bigger picture.
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and to live a life without shame. (Havamal 68)
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Re: Is science truth?

Postby Explorer » 10 Aug 2012, 13:51

Unfortunately, in the real world - away from the scientific ivory towers - someone has to be persuaded to pay for scientific research. Science is also used in legal debate and, on occasion, members of the scientific community have not clarified the difference, either willfully or via ommisssion, between theory & fact or were unwilling to consider that their 'facts' were in fact :whistle: theory

It's, perhaps, too easy for the scientific community to shrug their shoulders and say that it
is not some sort of grand priesthood guarding some kind of sacred truth.
when there are interests in the wider society that want to regard scientific knowledge as some kind of inviolable truth.
Within the scientific community, I would suggest, there needs to be more awareness and caution with regards to that bigger picture.
You guys seem to keep mixing up what-science-is with the role of science in the community. That makes things rather confusing.

I have explained a bit about what science is, because some people don't seem to have a clue.
That is not a matter of opinion, but a matter of understanding.
And perhaps that understanding is needed by the larger public to have a better understanding of what 'scientific knowledge' is, and what it is not. To prevent the confusion that you are mentioning. And the solution to that is better education IMHO.

The role of science in society is a matter of opinion.
I am passionately for scientific investigation in the area's where it advances our knowledge.
But I agree that there are shady area's also, especially where science, commerce and politics go hand in hand. Like in the pharmaceutical and medical sciences.

My opinion is, that as long as there are still people believing that trees can talk, crop circles are made by aliens, and a galactic alignment or Pluto influences life on Earth, then the role of science hasn't been nearly large enough.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence

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Re: Is science truth?

Postby treegod » 10 Aug 2012, 15:17

Favourite quote on science:

"I am an old-fashioned scientist who believes, as Freeman Dyson put it in his book Infinite in all directions, that the ethic of science is based on a fundamental open-mindedness, a willingness to subject every theory to analytical scrutiny and experimental test. The Royal Society of London in 1660 proudly took as its motto the phrase "Nullis in verba" meaning "No man's word shall be final". There is no place for infallibility in science. I was also brought up to believe that science was serious but not sacrosanct and that creative science required a sense of wonder and a sense of humour." James Lovelock, Healing Gaia


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