Thursday, 2 July 2009

What is science?

I was pondering this question after reading this blog by Roger Pielke Jnr and in particular the excerpt from the article he cites:

And so perhaps we have now discovered the rightful place of science: not on a pedestal, not impossibly insulated from politics and disputes about morality, but nestled within the bosom of the Democratic Party.

and this:

But ownership of a powerful symbol can give rise to demagoguery and self-delusion.

"place"???

"ownership"???

Can "science" be owned, or have a place? Well, maybe if it was a proper noun; Science. So what is it? What is science, or Science? OK, definitions aren't hard to come by and you can probably dig up something along the lines of "scientific method", "hypothesis, experiment, results, conclusions, repeat" etc. but it doesn't help in the context in which that the word is used above; what the word means in everyday usage. So what do I think it means in everyday usage?

I think it means "beliefs founded on evidence".

Evidence is exactly what the majority of people understand it to mean. It is results of experiment, data etc. It is not conjecture, hypothesis nor opinion. And I like this definition because it has the following corollaries:

  • Belief not founded on evidence is "faith" - hence faith is "belief not founded on evidence".
  • There can be no indisputable "Science" (because evidence can never be complete nor infallible). This corollary also puts the phrase "the Science is beyond question" straight in to garbage disposal where it belongs.
  • Science cannot be owned or have any place. Beliefs can be held by anyone, anywhere, anytime.
  • There can be scientific consensus (this is quite controversial in the politics of climate Science). However, this simply means many people hold the same evidence-based belief. It does not make it correct (see the second corollary) and does not preclude others from seeking more evidence.

2 comments:

Fungus FitzJuggler III said...

Science is a powerful spin tool! So it does belong in bosoms....

Are you familiar with the Electric Universe? Plasma is 99.99% of the Universe, no dark matter, no black holes, no big bang. No Agw either.

Why is it being promoted as a "scientific" fact? Why are countries being manipulated in this way? Who has been paid off? What is their exit strategy? Keep down 4 Billion developing contry dwellers? Or substitute for a credit short banking system?

The world is now cooling so history tells us war is not far away.

Good blog.

Fungus FitzJuggler III said...

Watts up with that?