What is Science?


In my first two post I haven’t really touched on any of the three main points of my blog. So, i’m going to start from the beginning with what I mean by science. Science to me is the searching for an understanding of the natural world using rigorous tests to validate the data. This is a bit vague as I don’t define on which side the hypothesis needs to be formed. In most cases, if you remember the scientific method, the hypothesis is formed first and then it is tested. This is true for the most part. However, some times you have the data first and you have to get an understanding of the data before you can do that. Once you understand the data you are free to create hypotheses where you use the given data to test these hypotheses.

There is a great deal of debate over how science actually functions. There are three main philosopher’s of science, Thomas Kuhn, Imre Lakatos and Richard Feynman. The first two are basically related to creating paradigms or “research programs” which are similar but slightly different than paradigms. Basically a paradigm is something like Newtonian physics. This had a large set of assumptions and rules that were both confirmed by the data and had issues with the data. For instance Newtonian physics couldn’t explain the motion of Mercury. So, there is a shift from one paradigm to the next through a revolution. Basically, the support for the first paradigm is so degraded it gives way and another one replaces it. In the case of Newtonian physics it was replaces with relativistic physics, based on Einsteinian  principles. Research programs are similar but more than one can be going on at the same time. You could say string theory and m-theory, which are very similar and part of each other, but some people support only string theory and don’t agree with m-theory, while supporting m-theory means you support all of string theory, but there are also people that reject both theories. The large hadron collider is being used to test these theories.

I think science does have radical shifts between major though processes and it can be very disorientating for people within the field. They tend to fight these changes, as we all do. They are human.

Regardless, I feel that science illuminates truths of how this world works and improves the human condition. While it may not always directly intend to do this, there are spill over effects that make this happen. Astronomy is a science that in no way directly impacts humanity (unless they find an asteroid that will hit earth or alien life) there have been spill overs that have made life better for people.

Science is a noble pursuit that does have ambitions larger than itself. It attempts to be the fully objective observer, but it’s not completely. However, it’s the best thing we have. It will continue to get better the more we do it. It has created wonders for us, and I for one am deeply indebt to all the scientists out there. Thank you for your hard work and helping me appreciate the wonders of the world.

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