Scientific truth whether they understand it or not


#1

"Science is true whether or not you believe in it”

"During the interview Neil deGrasse] Tyson stated, ‘Once science has been established, once a scientific truth emerges from a consensus of experiments and observations, it is the way of the world.’

And, he went to say, ‘What I’m saying is, when different experiments give you the same result, it is no longer subject to your opinion. That’s the good thing about science: It’s true whether or not you believe in it. That’s why it works.’

Stated another way, you can believe the world is flat; you can believe that the Earth is only 6,000 year old, and you can believe that evolution is not real. However, believing in something does not necessarily mean it is true."
itwire.com/science-news/space/63411-science-is-true-%E2%80%9Cwhether-or-not-you-believe-in-it%E2%80%9D

This is just one of a slew of articles around this general topic. I am a former atheist of 30+ years. I understand this thinking, but it is simplistic. I supervise a lab. I have done this work at universities and corporations for the last 15 years. I have taught research methods and analysis at several universities. I have been on many dissertation committees where I helped scientists understand their own research.

If a doctoral student (and sadly, sometimes faculty) in the sciences don’t understand science, I’m afraid that the simplifications offered by science journalists, bloggers, and amateurs have very little hope of conveying the nuances and limitations of scientific “truth” derived from the scientific method.

I don’t like the language wars, but I have been using the term “scientism” to refer to people’s unquestioning and uninformed belief in the pronouncements of “science.” I had a discussion with a doctoral student once. He proposed that “science” is objective because I asked about the subjective elements of his proposed research. Aside from the technical details of setting thresholds for a declaration of support or failure to support a hypothesis (these are often arbitrary, but not subjective), I had one question: “why did you decide to study this, not something else.”

To me, scientism, places the objective knowledge of science above all others. This is wrong because the selection of the truths we seek using the scientific method are subjective. Choices to publish or not publish a finding are subjective. A peer-reviewed, published article is much closer to being considered “truth” than a paper offered at a conference with no peer review. The public has left the discernment of truth to a false priesthood of scientists. The good ones don’t want the role, the publicity hounds pander to the uninformed crowds looking for “objective” validation of their prejudices. I find it ironic that I have this very argument applied against my Catholic faith.


#2

Over time, science seems to converge to theories that actually work. Individual scientists may have agendas that are completely opposed to the truth. Governments may have agendas that set back the progress of science by years or decades. But science always seems to win in the end.


#3

Barish,

What a fascinating post! I’m so glad I read it!

I once (unwisely) tried to defend my faith on Facebook when the claim that ‘Religion has caused more harm than good’ was put forward. I won’t bore you with the details but it quickly descended into atheism and science. I left the conversation when the lady I was debating uttered (typed) the astonishing words “I believe in Science!”

If you don’t mind; I’m going to ‘follow’ your posts. I’d very much like to read anything else you have to say on this topic.

Have a lovely day!

Jenny


#4

Thanks for the post. I have to add, though, that I was amused by the whole “that’s the good thing about science” being applied to “science is true whether you believe it or not”.

I mean, you could possibly correct “science is true whether you believe it or not” to become “the laws which science is trying to discover are true whether we believe it or not (and in fact whether science has discovered them or not or whether it has appeared to discover something else or not),” and as the OP mentions, problems arise when people aren’t careful with that statement.

But why the “that’s the good thing about science”? Other than statements that are about my beliefs, is there anything whose truth depends on what I believe? Surely the same can be said for religion, philosophy, etc etc.


#5

Iron Donkey, your thoughts resonate with mine on the issue.


#6

Not every scientific “Theory” is true.


#7

You are wrong.

Science gives us AIDS and nuclear weapons.

God wins in the end because He is the end.


#8

Science gives AIDS…?


#9

Me too!

I have a sister who decided she is not Catholic any more, she believes in Science.


#10

Science is merely the study of God’s creation.

There is no way that science could have given us “nuclear weapons” if God did not create the laws of science.

Science did not “create” the laws of the physical world, science discovered them.

God gave us the physical and mental ability to pursue science and as I said, science is merely the study of God’s creation.


#11

I work in the media and, God knows why, have developed a strong desire to study it and the messages it sends. It seems ‘experts’ can be found to justify many things. If questioned about science, I got this reply from a relative in College: “Why would they lie to me?” And that’s part of the problem. When I was younger I accepted scientific pronouncements as fact without thinking about it: For example: “If a planet is the right distance from its sun and has the building blocks blocks of life (amino acids) and water, then life will develop there.” Recently, it occurred to me that they don’t know that. I was being too trusting in some cases.

Religion, according to some, is either fantasy or a neurological development that helped man survive. Our Catholic faith has been the target of those who believe something should be done while the Teaching Authority of the Church tells us, using right reason and Divine Revelation, that it should not be done. Essentially, the Church is limited to faith and morals. Science does not need religious claims, but there is some science that does play into the goals of some to make this or that legal or acceptable. Science can affect people’s behaviors, and that is my primary area of concern. Sadly, it can also be manipulated.

hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674047143

Peace,
Ed


#12

Man’s knowledge comes with an awful price. If I look past the brief expression and hyperbole here, there is wisdom. Sometimes it seems that every advance for good can be twisted to exploit our fellow men. Science cannot teach us morals, nor can it guarantee that power will be used to better mankind. It seems that the province of religion is faltering in the race with science. We have developed power without restraint. People who reject science because they are repulsed by the possibility of evil only allow people with ill intent to gain power unchecked.

Going back to the first post, the topic of study is purely subjective to the scientist. The morals and (non)religious views of the scientist certainly effect the field of study they enter and the topics they research. I don’t think that religious people should abandon the pursuit of knowledge in a misguided attempt to be loyal to God. As Tom Baum put it “Science did not “create” the laws of the physical world, science discovered them. God gave us the physical and mental ability to pursue science.”


#13

However, just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should. Too many people don’t know their history. Science without morality brings us things like the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, radiation testing and Nazi medical experiments. I would wager that more people have been tortured in the name of science than have been killed in the name of religion.


#14

I like Karl Popper’s suggestion that the scientific method doesn’t prove the truth. It just proves the hypothesis is not untrue… yet. It will be false when the first experiment asserting the truth of the hypothesis fails.
This makes more sense as it confines the provable assertions to within the limitations of the scientific method utilized.
Every scientific hypothesis relies heavily in the framework of its postulation, on many as yet unproven but reasonable assumptions of more basic assertions of reasoned likelihoods.
Works for me but it appears I am mostly empty space bound together by strings of energy dependent for their place in time and space on the observer, so don’t expect much.
On the other hand such knowledge makes me feel a lot lighter… I think I’ll go and have a bun…


#15

First, Barish, thank you for your posting. It is heartening to hear from a scientist who does not believe that science has cornered the market on unbiased Truth. Second, about your sister, Qui, challenge her to read “Case for a Crator” by Lee Strobel. Ask her to discuss her objections with you once she is finished.
I doubt that she’ll have the courage to challenge her world-view, but it’s orth a try. God bless, Rob :wink:


#16

Case for a Creator? I read that. It’s really good. I gave it to my 26 year old son. While he’s not a “scientism” worshipper, he hasn’t read it yet. And he’s a reader.

It’s hard to get people to read these things.

I think “intellectualism” is very much the vogue these days, it’s the new religion. But where does that leave intellectually challenged people? They have worth too.

Just keep me in my prayers. I’m dealing with several family members who are into “scientism.” It’s very hard.


#17

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