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Science: What is its value?

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posted on Jun, 20 2004 @ 12:39 AM
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A warning: This is mostly a brain storming / rough rough draft of a paper that I might attempt to flesh out.

Question 1: Does science necessarily find truth?
Answer 1: No. Science is inherently self correcting. The ideas that are given to us by the scientific method change all the time -- that is, science tends to be in a more historical method of finding truth: "What is true depends on the time." New discoveries overthrow old explanations of events, and as a result, what is thought to be true (With respect to science) is always negotiable.

Why is this? The scientific method has a horrible draw back that is not very well known about outside of philosophy circles: the problem of induction. As most know, the heart of the scientific method is the experimentation and the observation thereof. Let me give a mathematical example of the problem, then apply it to the typical science experiment ...

Let a function, say f(x) exist. Now, we notice that every time we insert an even number into the function f(2), f(4), f(6) .. and so on, the output is 1.
Can we then conclude for all even numbers of x that f(x) = 1? The answer is no; it could be the case that the number just after the last one we tried would give a different value. That is, supposing we went up to f(100000),
f(1000002) could output 2 (we wouldn't know -- we didn't try it). The point being, we can never be with a certainty about f(x) until we tried all possible even numbers (an infinite amount!).

Some would say this is obvious, but how does it apply to science? When science tests a variable within an experiment, it only does so a finite amount of times. That is, there could exist an experiment where the same observation isn't made. This is the heart of why science must be self correcting; it is always possible for a future observation to be different.

Question 2: If science doesn't find truth, then why do things built with scientific principles work?!
Answer 2: It is simple, really. Just because something works at doing a task doesn't mean the ideas behind its mechanism is true. For a quick analogy, consider a possible scenario where every time a person leans on a specific wall a light turns on. This occurs with all people on this particular wall. Is it true that leaning on a wall will turn on this light? Not exactly; for all you know, the light turns on because of a specific motion (say a human leaning motion) that is programmed to turn on the light.

Bringing this all together: Consider the Newtonian concept of gravity. While it might be a phenomenon related to the distance and masses of objects, for all we know there could be little faeries pulling us down that happen to correlation with masses and distance. The truth is not known, even though the equations work!

Question 3: Okay, so science doesn't give truth. It only "works." Do you have any other problems with it? In short, science is silly in some regards. Most sciences can be considered a specialized part of physics; i.e. what is biology but particles in motion? What is chemistry but particles in motion? etc. The fundamental idea behind physics is "force."

What is a "force?" Existentially, a force is a "push or pull." However, having spoken with a couple of physics professors, I have been corrected. More precisely, a "force" is more of an abstract concept. Why is this? All things in the physical universe (according to the physics professors) are matter and energy (not to mention matter and energy are related). The common thing both matter and energy have is mass (even an electron has mass), and if they have mass, then they have weight. (weight = mass * accel. of gravity).

A "force" does not have mass. It can not be weighed. It can not therefore be matter or energy. It can not therefore be in the universe. The contradiction is apparent: Physicists talk about forces in the universe when it can not exist in the universe. Silly? I think so.

Question 4: It may be silly, but it still works. What's your problem?
Answer 4: By "works" I assume we all mean technology that uses the scientific method's conclusion work. Let me point out something odd: Technology (and the science behind it) comes to maturity the quickest in warfare research.

The every day technology that we use now have some interesting backgrounds: The wrist watch was first developed to time cannon fire, for example. What does this mean? What "works" may not necessarily be the best for mankind. Considering human nature, (especially at the point we are at right now), do we really want an atomic bomb to work? Do we want machine guns to work? Do we want steel to become harder for better sabres?

For any reader of Gulliver's Travels, it is here one might focus their attention to the philosopher king that would not allow gun powder in to his kingdom. The same point is reached: technology is not necessary for happiness (as the horses point out), nor should humans necessarily be trusted with technology.

Question 5: What about medicine?
Answer 5: Medicine never necessarily needed the scientific method. The scientific method was first really brought up by Descartes ("Discourse on the Method"), and there existed medicine before then. Not to mention, before then (and even now!) people were claimed to be healed from methods outside of current scientific research.

My conclusions on science follow as a consequence:

1. Science does not necessarily give us truth.
2. Technology that results from science is not necessarily good for us.
3. The value of science depends on how much value one places on truth, and how much value one places on "what works."




posted on Jun, 20 2004 @ 01:14 PM
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A "force" does not have mass. It can not be weighed. It can not therefore be matter or energy. It can not therefore be in the universe. The contradiction is apparent: Physicists talk about forces in the universe when it can not exist in the universe. Silly? I think so.


a force is something applied by something with mass / energy - its a description of what something is doing - you cannot have a force that just exists without something creating the force - therefore a force can and does exist

thanx



posted on Jun, 20 2004 @ 01:20 PM
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hmmm... although what you are trying to put foward is questionable, it has some valid points.

However, science is a way of acquiring knowledge. To do science, one must follow a specific universal methodology. The central theme in this methodology is the testing of hypotheses and the ability to make predictions. The overall goal of science is to better understand nature and our Universe. So science is a way of finding the "truth", or whatever you call it, taking in all possible possiblities, otherwise their theories can be debunked. But science is the best effort of the human race of understanding their surroundings...



posted on Jun, 20 2004 @ 09:52 PM
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a force is something applied by something with mass / energy - its a description of what something is doing - you cannot have a force that just exists without something creating the force - therefore a force can and does exist

thanx


You say a force is "something" applied by x,y,z. What is that "something?" It's a tricky question: because that something isn't mass or energy.



posted on Jun, 20 2004 @ 09:59 PM
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Originally posted by freedom_88

However, science is a way of acquiring knowledge. To do science, one must follow a specific universal methodology. ... So science is a way of finding the "truth", or whatever you call it, taking in all possible possiblities, otherwise their theories can be debunked. But science is the best effort of the human race of understanding their surroundings...


Is science really the best effort of the human race of understanding their surroundings? In this day and age, the ideas behind deductive logic are beginning to slip. In a more understandable way, the truths of mathematics are not discovered scientifically.

Mathematics, for an example, uses the concept of "proof." It doesn't need evidence or experimentation.

As a side note, science has debunked its old theories before. A theory is not an end-all in science (due to its self correcting nature).

It is almost a mini-rant of mine that children will learn the scientific method in schools before they learn the basics of deductive logic. It's something that could be changed.



posted on Jun, 20 2004 @ 10:10 PM
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I thought I should note a difference between "proof" and "evidence" (sometimes they are equated).

Proof that I exist:
1. I think.
2. Nonexistant things can not have the quality of thinking.
3. Therefore I must exist.

Evidence that I exist:
I see myself in the mirror.

A proof, generally, is a sound valid argument. That is, the conclusion will always be true if and only if the argument both follows and the premises are true.

Evidence is usually an observation used to imply something.



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