culture science

Science is more than this, and less

People often time rely on “science” when they look for something to base their opinions on. The trouble is that frequently there is very little actual science involved. Sure, logic is involved, as is the degree to which it makes sense, but that isn’t science.

What defines science from all of the other ways of forming opinions is the scientific method. In other words, you form a question, build a hypothesis around the answer you think of, and then you TEST THAT HYPOTHESIS. If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you know this is a reoccurring complaint I have with all of the “CO2 causing global warming” mess. There isn’t anything to test, therefore it isn’t science. I won’t go over all that again here, but I will add that there are some other things that have come under this concern of mine that until now I haven’t though of like that before.

It isn’t enough to gather data and “make sense” when it comes to the scientific method. Data is harder to interpret than we would like it to be, and “making sense” isn’t sufficient, hell, it isn’t even necessary for science. Take a look at quantum mechanics as done under the Copenhagen interpretation for science that doesn’t male sense…

It isn’t just global warming that suffers from this problem. I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise anyone if I told you that macroeconomics suffers the same fate, but for different reasons. There are plenty of testable hypotheses (unlike global warming) in macroeconomics, but there aren’t any ways of carrying out the tests. And like anthropologic global warming, arguments in macroeconomics amounts to sound and fury signifying nothing. Each “side” can point to a theoretical framework and data to back up it’s argument. But nothing is ever resolved because the arguments can’t be put to the test.

That’s not science, no matter how much the adherents yell about it. They are arguing beliefs, not science. Another realm that we see this is the creationism vs. evolution debate. It certainly looks like a faith vs. science argument at first blush, but i don’t think it’s that cut and dried. Certainly, creationists don’t make too much sense to a lot of people, but before you say that’s because Darwin has science on his side think about it. Does he? Really? Is the hypothesis that new species are created through natural selection ever been witnessed in action? Is there a way to test it? I’ve wracked my brain but I can’t think of a way to test it. That makes it belief and outside the realm of the scientific method. I’m not saying that it’s false, I certainly can’t come up with a more compelling idea, but I am saying that we should recognize it for what it is.

You might say that requiring the use of the scientific method is too limiting for science. I disagree. If science is to have any real meaning, it must be held to rigorous standards. The trick is that there are few things as straight foreword as Newton’s third law of motion, or even the General theory of relativity. Most things in our life are messy, complicated, and difficult to sort out. In short, they don’t lend themselves to the scientific method.

There’s nothing wrong in believing in something that can’t be proven scientifically, but please remember what that is. It is faith, not science. I wish more people realized that…

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