On science

What is science?

Science is a way to order, validate and invalidate information, thoughts and ideas. Rather than being a mere collection of facts, science is a way of how to look at things and thus a way of thinking.

Science relies on two assumptions:

  1. There exists at least one reality which is distinct from complete chaos, that is, there is some kind of order to it.
  2. Sensory perception correlates with at least one of these orderly realities.

If you think these assumptions don't make much sense or that different assumptions (or none at all) will lead to a more fruitful pursuit of knowledge, then science may not be the right thing for you. However, do consider that many ideas that emerged from science may be universal enough to cover systems based on different assumptions.

In logic, assumptions like these are called axioms. They are reasonable yet very hard or impossible to prove statements that anchor our reasoning and form a foundation of a body of knowledge. Every field of study has its sets of axioms, and most if not all disciplines just implicitly assume the above axioms of science without ever treating them at all. Usually, depending on discipline, more axioms are added to broaden the foundation upon which knowledge can be built up. In the field of logic, it has been shown that a set of axioms must never contradict itself, for if it does, literally anything can be proven true, and that is not a very good system of finding out what's right. Thus, in the pursuit of knowledge, it is always good practice if not a necessity to know exactly what axioms your knowledge is based on.

Equipped with the above assumptions, we now get to the core of science. Science is the activity of describing the order in the universe and trying to validate or invalidate such descriptions. Given assumption one, such an order exists. Given assumption two, we can at least partially and statistically verify the truth of our description of this order by using our sensory perception. Thus, science is a valid pursuit of knowledge.

Science is usually practised by coming up with laws that predict a certain behaviour of objects in the world. In experiments, these objects are then prepared and observed and if they indeed reliably and repeatedly behave as predicted by the law, the law is considered to be true. Other people can then verify the law with their own experiments, so that nobody has a monopoly on truth.

Due to its descriptive nature, science is not subject to emotions. It transcends not only cultures but species. Any animal capable of logical thought can conduct certain forms science, though much less advanced than human science. Smart animals like certain birds and mammals regularly discover non-obvious causal relationships and act accordingly. Indeed, even an alien species inhabiting a distant galaxy - if such beings exist - could have discovered science independently from us or might do so in the future.

What is not necessarily science?

It is important not to confuse the results of science with the activity of science itself. For example, when physicists find a new particle and write a scientific paper about it, then this paper is most likely a result of science, but that does not mean that the paper itself is science. Science is the power-tool, and the paper is one of its products. Unfortunately, this valuable distinction is often sacrificed in favour of an easier to use language. Nevertheless, while hard work and ingenuity might have gone into this paper, that does not mean it is free from falsehoods and thus, a thinking and doubting mind is necessary to interpret the results of science.

Furthermore, there is a variety of things that may present themselves as science or results of science but aren't necessarily:

  • What schools and universities teach
  • What textbooks contain
  • What people who call themselves scientists are saying
  • What scientific papers contain
  • What doctors and professors are saying
  • What the authorities are saying
  • What Wikipedia or other encyclopedias contain
  • What your friends are saying
  • What your co-workers are saying
  • What a random stranger on the internet is saying
  • What you are saying

The concept of science, which gained considerable respect throughout history, is often abused for political or personal gains. Motives like these, especially if money is involved, lead to fraudulent claims about what is and what is not science. Thus, a critical and doubtful mind is of utmost importance when ingesting the fruit of what is claimed to be science.

What is not science?

Science does not determine your life goals. Science is a way to find out what is, not what ought to be. However, it will be a very useful tool to help you along the way once the goals are set.

In the same vein, science does not determine where we want to be heading as a society. Thus, science is in essence apolitical, though the gained knowledge can help us make wiser decisions based on facts.

Why do I care and why should you?

Science is not just for particle physicists. The knowledge of what science is and how to think scientifically is of civilisational importance. Our future will be fundamentally shaped by how well each individual human being understands these concepts. Science enables people to gain a solid foundation of knowledge which is crucial both on an individual and a societal level. Science hardens its practitioner against deception and vastly improves their problem solving skills. For all these reasons, it is up to every individual to learn about science and to teach what science is to others.

Post comment

* required field


(no comments yet)