1. Joined
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    22 Jun '08 06:05
    This forum is about science. But often when we discuss scientific things I have the impression that we are talking about different things. Like the very word 'science' means different things to different people. If so, no wonder we cannot agree with each other.

    But is there a clear definition about the word 'science'? Is there things that definitely falls within this definition, and other things that definitely falls outside this definition? Or is everything only a degree of science?

    What is the strict definition of "science"?
    Please feel free to give us your thoughts. Even religious people are invited in this discussion.
  2. Illinois
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    22 Jun '08 06:51
    Originally posted by FabianFnas
    This forum is about science. But often when we discuss scientific things I have the impression that we are talking about different things. Like the very word 'science' means different things to different people. If so, no wonder we cannot agree with each other.

    But is there a clear definition about the word 'science'? Is there things that definitely fa ...[text shortened]... feel free to give us your thoughts. Even religious people are invited in this discussion.
    My basic understanding of science is that it is a method or tool used to understand how stuff works, basically. Scientists are those whom specialize in the scientific method. Hypothesis are rigorously tested through experiment and observation. Theories are developed to explain a given phenomenon. Extensive peer review is involved. The worth of any given theory is determined by its level of falsifiability; the more a theory can be tested the better. If a theory isn't falsifiable, then it is relegated to the dustbin essentially. Theories are tested and refined down through the ages, taking two steps forward and one step back; each generation building on the knowledge of the many generations before; theories can be entirely discredited and replaced, etc. This whole shabang is called, "Science."

    Some people, I think, base their entire world-view on "science," i.e., if God hasn't been proven, then God doesn't exist. Period. But I don't think science, as a method, lends itself exclusively to a specific worldview, strictly speaking. The limitations of falsifiability make it impossible for science to adequately address certain issues, at least directly. It is a powerful tool for acquiring sure knowledge of a great many things, but not everything. For instance, science is quite useless in giving me an overall impression of my wife's personality.

    Say I gathered the best psychologists in the world and had them all study my wife's personality intently for several years. I might gain some cursory insight, a coded personality description which gives some degree of understanding of what type of person she is. However, none of it could replace the first-hand knowledge I could gain by actually getting to know her myself, given the fact that all people are unique.

    Science is great when you consider the bedrock of stuff we know now because of it, which as Carl Sagan pointed out, is a relatively insignificant bit. The world is overrun with theories and superstitions, but at least we know for sure a small portion of our universe. In this respect, science strikes me as tool, like a shovel is a tool, with just as much significance in itself. It can sit their idle leaning against the wall, or it can be employed - it all depends on what we do with it.
  3. Standard memberThequ1ck
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    22 Jun '08 08:08
    Originally posted by FabianFnas
    This forum is about science. But often when we discuss scientific things I have the impression that we are talking about different things. Like the very word 'science' means different things to different people. If so, no wonder we cannot agree with each other.

    But is there a clear definition about the word 'science'? Is there things that definitely fa ...[text shortened]... feel free to give us your thoughts. Even religious people are invited in this discussion.
    It's the art of describing things
  4. Melbourne, Australia
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    24 Jun '08 04:49
    Originally posted by FabianFnas
    This forum is about science. But often when we discuss scientific things I have the impression that we are talking about different things. Like the very word 'science' means different things to different people. If so, no wonder we cannot agree with each other.

    But is there a clear definition about the word 'science'? Is there things that definitely fa ...[text shortened]... feel free to give us your thoughts. Even religious people are invited in this discussion.
    Science has two forms:

    The first, is the noun - science as a bunch of facts about the world around us and how it works.

    The second, is the verb - science as a process by which we understand the world around us and try to answer questions that we have about things.
  5. Joined
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    24 Jun '08 11:563 edits
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    My basic understanding of science is that it is a method or tool used to understand how stuff works, basically. Scientists are those whom specialize in the scientific method. Hypothesis are rigorously tested through experiment and observation. Theories are developed to explain a given phenomenon. Extensive peer review is involved. The worth of any g eaning against the wall, or it can be employed - it all depends on what we do with it.
    Nice post. The first bit is a reasonable description. The second bit I'm not sure I agree with entirely. There is one important slip I think you made: you said that for some people "if God hasn't been proven, then God doesn't exist.". But the scientific method does not and cannot 'prove' anything. I think it's more "if God cannot even theoretically be disproved then any speculation as to his/her/their/its existance or nature is pointless.

    I quite like this, very basic, description of the scientific method. It's shown as a flowchart but that's too hard to draw here:

    1. Start
    2. Get and idea
    3. Perform experiment
    4. Does the evidence suport the idea?
    4a. No -> Bad idea -> discard idea and goto 1
    4b. Yes -> Theory created
    5. Use theory to better understand the universe
    6. Discover new evidence
    7. Can the theory be modified to explain the new evidence?
    7a. No -> Revolution! Discard idea and goto 1
    7b. Yes -> Improve theory and goto 5

    7a, I think, is not quite right though. Taking Newtonian physics as an example, Einstein showed it to be wrong but it does not need to be discarded. It just needs to be realised that it is not accurate at very high speeds. It is fine for sending men to the moon.

    Science, effectively, gives models of the universe. You choose the simplest model for your domain that provides the accuracy of predictions that you need. If there is no model which predicts accurately enough then you need a new theory.

    This next bit is unashamed religion-bashing, for which I apologise but I really can't resist. Next to the Science flowchart, there's a 'Faith' one.

    1. Start
    2. Get and idea
    3. Ignore contradicting evidence
    4. Keep idea forever
    5. End

    --- Penguin.
  6. Cape Town
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    24 Jun '08 12:51
    Originally posted by Penguin
    7a, I think, is not quite right though. Taking Newtonian physics as an example, Einstein showed it to be wrong but it does not need to be discarded. It just needs to be realised that it is not accurate at very high speeds. It is fine for sending men to the moon.
    As you correctly point out, Newtonian physics is in fact not really wrong for low speeds, and in fact fits 7 and 7b, as Einstein's relativity is a modification of Newtonian physics.
    I don't think you can get a man to the moon without Einstein though. The effects of relativity would certainly show up.
  7. 42.4º N / -71.2º W
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    24 Jun '08 13:35
    Originally posted by FabianFnas
    This forum is about science. But often when we discuss scientific things I have the impression that we are talking about different things. Like the very word 'science' means different things to different people. If so, no wonder we cannot agree with each other.

    But is there a clear definition about the word 'science'? Is there things that definitely fa ...[text shortened]... feel free to give us your thoughts. Even religious people are invited in this discussion.
    Science is the use of the hypothetico-deductive method to get from a state of less knowledge about X to more knowledge about X. The function of the method used is to separate truth from fiction at a probability of 0.05 or less. This is at least the standard alpha in the kind of science I do.
  8. Illinois
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    24 Jun '08 16:591 edit
    Originally posted by Penguin
    Nice post. The first bit is a reasonable description. The second bit I'm not sure I agree with entirely. There is one important slip I think you made: you said that for some people "[b]if God hasn't been proven, then God doesn't exist.". But the scientific method does not and cannot 'prove' anything. I think it's more "if God cannot even theoretically be a
    3. Ignore contradicting evidence
    4. Keep idea forever
    5. End

    --- Penguin.[/b]
    But the scientific method does not and cannot 'prove' anything. I think it's more "if God cannot even theoretically be disproved then any speculation as to his/her/their/its existance or nature is pointless.

    I agree, but just because the scientific process is inapplicable to unfalsifiable theories doesn't necessarily mean we ought to forgo religious faith altogether, and there are plenty of religious scientists of one faith or another to prove that so. I think William James argued successfully that radical empiricism promotes a certain skeptical timidity where the fear of being duped becomes one's prime motivation, e.g., those who say "it is wrong always, everywhere, and for every one, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence." But, as William James pointed out, "a rule of thinking which would absolutely prevent me from acknowledging certain kinds of truth if those kinds of truth were really there, would be an irrational rule." Every person has the right to believe. My point was, the scientific method itself doesn't necessarily preclude faith.

    1. Start
    2. Get and idea
    3. Ignore contradicting evidence
    4. Keep idea forever
    5. End


    How does (3) apply to unfalsifiable claims?
  9. Joined
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    24 Jun '08 18:22
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    [b]But the scientific method does not and cannot 'prove' anything. I think it's more "if God cannot even theoretically be disproved then any speculation as to his/her/their/its existance or nature is pointless.

    I agree, but just because the scientific process is inapplicable to unfalsifiable theories doesn't necessarily mean we ought to for ...[text shortened]... ence
    4. Keep idea forever
    5. End[/b]

    How does (3) apply to unfalsifiable claims?[/b]
    I agree, but just because the scientific process is inapplicable to unfalsifiable theories doesn't necessarily mean we ought to forgo religious faith altogether, and there are plenty of religious scientists of one faith or another to prove that so.

    The fact that religious scientists exist doesn't prove anything but that scientists are just as likely to believe in religion. It isn't evidence that we need (or don't need) religion or that we should or shouldn't give up religious faith.

    I have no problem with people having faith, but our society shouldn't act based solely on anyone's faith.
  10. Joined
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    24 Jun '08 18:25
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    [b]But the scientific method does not and cannot 'prove' anything. I think it's more "if God cannot even theoretically be disproved then any speculation as to his/her/their/its existance or nature is pointless.

    I agree, but just because the scientific process is inapplicable to unfalsifiable theories doesn't necessarily mean we ought to for ...[text shortened]... ence
    4. Keep idea forever
    5. End[/b]

    How does (3) apply to unfalsifiable claims?[/b]
    1. Start
    2. Get and idea
    3. Ignore contradicting evidence
    4. Keep idea forever
    5. End

    How does (3) apply to unfalsifiable claims?


    Just because something is unfalsifiable doesn't mean there isn't any evidence against it. Granted, the evidence may not completely contradict it though.

    If not, then (3) is just a no-op.
  11. 42.4º N / -71.2º W
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    24 Jun '08 20:31
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    [b]But the scientific method does not and cannot 'prove' anything. I think it's more "if God cannot even theoretically be disproved then any speculation as to his/her/their/its existance or nature is pointless.

    I agree, but just because the scientific process is inapplicable to unfalsifiable theories doesn't necessarily mean we ought to for ...[text shortened]... ence
    4. Keep idea forever
    5. End[/b]

    How does (3) apply to unfalsifiable claims?[/b]
    The reason we ought forgo religious belief altogether is that belief in God is not supportable by the available evidence. No argument for faith has produced any evidence that he exists.

    Science is not inapplicable to the theory of God's existence. Your second James quote is a fine one, but it does not apply. Belief in science and the scientific method does not prevent one from acknowledging the existence of God. Application of the scientific method to the theory shows that there is no evidence for its truth. If evidence becomes available that irrefutably demonstrates the existence of God, then the theory is supported and we all move on.

    Unfortunately, such evidence does not yet exist, and a scientist must conclude that the theory does not fit the data, and update the theory.

    "The scientific method itself doesn't necessarily preclude faith". This is as true as "eggs themselves do not necessarily preclude faith" and is just as meaningless. We both know that it is application of the scientific method that precludes faith.
  12. Joined
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    24 Jun '08 21:21
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    As you correctly point out, Newtonian physics is in fact not really wrong for low speeds, and in fact fits 7 and 7b, as Einstein's relativity is a modification of Newtonian physics.
    I don't think you can get a man to the moon without Einstein though. The effects of relativity would certainly show up.
    That's interesting. I was under the impression that the whole moon program was done using Newtonian physics. Do you have a link or further information on this? I did not think either the speeds, the gravity or the distance required relativity to be taken into account.

    --- Penguin.
  13. Cape Town
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    25 Jun '08 07:42
    Originally posted by Penguin
    That's interesting. I was under the impression that the whole moon program was done using Newtonian physics. Do you have a link or further information on this? I did not think either the speeds, the gravity or the distance required relativity to be taken into account.

    --- Penguin.
    You could well be right. I know that the effects of relativity are quite significant for things like the GPS satellites etc and would almost certainly have a detectable effect on a moon mission. However if you have sufficient tolerance for variation then you can work around such inconsistencies. I think that the effects of relativity would have been detectable, but that it is quite possible that they did not negatively impact on the mission.
  14. Joined
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    04 Jul '08 09:17
    If I give some examples, would you please show how you would describe these in terms of science. Motivations preferred, but a number 1-10, where 1 is absolutely not science, and 10 is absolute science, will do nicely.

    (1) Astrology
    (2) Telepathy
    (3) Miracles
    (4) Psycology
    (5) BigBang theory
    (6) Theology
    (7) Languages
    (8) Feminism
    (9) Deja Vue
    (10) Intelligent Design
    (11) Believing in Fate
    (12) Faster than Light
    (13) Scientology
    (14) Afterlife
    (15) Free Will
    (16) Your own example
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