What’s so great about science?

When most people think about science, they think of a large collection of facts they might have been force fed all through school. The Earth is round, evolution is the reason we have such diversity of life, the universe is approximately 14 billion years old, and so on. Underlying it all, is a method used to differentiate as much as humanly possible, between things that are likely and unlikely.

You may be shocked to hear, that science isn’t in the business of proving things true or false. The reason for this, is that science relies upon inductive reasoning. This is simply the use of reasoning that involves supplying evidence to make the conclusion more likely but not certain. A well known example of this, would be the observation that all the swans you’ve ever seen are white. This makes the conclusion that indeed, all swans are white, more likely, based on your evidence. However, a black swan is subsequently discovered in Australia and there goes your conclusion.

Using the scientific method, you would hypothesise (make an educated guess) that all swans are white, but rather than going out looking for white swans, you’d be better served by looking for swans that are not white. It only takes one case, to definitively say that your hypothesis is incorrect. You may notice I just said definitively, even though I previously said science isn’t in the business of proving things true or false. It simply happens, that the hypothesis in question was a simple statement that could easily be disproved, but never proved. You can find millions of white swans and that in no way stops a swan that isn’t white from existing somewhere, but it does make your hypothesis more likely to be correct. And we’ve come back full circle to probability.

So if you’re ever talking with someone, and they start going on about how science cannot prove this or that, I agree. This in no way undermines the usefulness of science in finding things out, it’s simply due to the nature of logic that determines the extent to which things can be known i.e. epistemology.

I’ll finish this with what I always like to say, based on the words of the late Richard Feynman: I can never know I’m right, but I can know that I’m wrong.

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2 thoughts on “What’s so great about science?

  1. unsuccessful experiment is a result too (proves the hypothesis is wrong), so it can avoid other people to follow the same method. good info, hope u maintain to provide more!

    Like

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