|The Purpose of Science||Home|
| Science for me, and for the vast
majority of respectable scientists, is not about the secrets of nature or even
about truths. Science is simply the method we use to try and postulate a minimum
set of assumptions that can explain, through a straightforward logical
derivation, the existence of many phenomena of nature.
The Law of Conservation of Energy of physics is not truth. It is just an assumption that is valid in explaining a tremendous amount of natural phenomena. Such an assumption can never be proven since an infinite number of phenomena that can be explained by it does not prove its universal application. On the other hand, it can be disproved by just a single phenomenon that cannot explain the assumption. This disproving does not detract from the validity of the assumption. It just highlights the need or even the existence of another assumption that is more valid. This is the case with the assumption of the conservation of energy which was replaced by Einstein's more global - more valid - postulation of the conservation of energy and mass. Einstein's assumption is not true to the same extent that the previous one was not "true".
--- Eliyahu Goldratt, "The Goal" (2nd Revised Edition), North River Press, Introduction to the Revised Edition.
|Science is the century-old endeavor
to bring together by means of systematic thought the perceptible phenomena of
this world into as thorough-going an association as possible.
...For science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgments of all kinds remain necessary.
...Although it is true that it is the goal of science to discover rules which permit the association and foretelling of facts, this is not its only aim. It also seeks to reduce the connections discovered to the smallest possible number of mutually independent conceptual elements.
...Science is the attempt to make the chaotic diversity of our sense-experience correspond to a logically uniform system of thought.
...For the scientist, there is only "being," but no wishing, no valuing, no good, no evil; no goal.
--- Albert Einstein, "Out of My Later Years" (Revised Edition), Bonanza Books, pp. 24, 25, 29, 98, 114.
Science means, sometimes, a special method of
finding things out. Sometimes it means the body of knowledge arising from the
things found out. It may also mean the new things you can do when you have found
something out, or the actual doing of new things.
...Scientist take all those things that can be analyzed by observation, and thus the things called science are found out. But there are some things left out, for which the method does not work. This does not mean that those things are unimportant. They are, in fact, in many ways the most important. In any decision for action, when you have to make up your mind what to do, there is always a "should" involved, and this cannot be worked out from "if I do this, what will happen?" alone. You say, "Sure, you see what will happen, and then you decide whether you want it to happen or not." But that is the step the scientist cannot take. You can figure out what is going to happen, but then you have to decide whether you like it that way or not.
--- Richard P. Feynman, "The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist", Helix Books, pp. 5, 16-17.
|Science is the design or conduct of
reproducible experiments to test how nature works, or the creation of
theories that can themselves be tested by such experiments. Science is
also the orderly observation of events that cannot yet be manipulated,
and, ultimately, the testing of many different such observations as the
basis for theories to explain the events.
This makes science the one human activity that seeks knowledge in an organized way. It's not the knowledge that's organized, it's the seeking. Science doesn't guess, doesn't hope, doesn't wish, doesn't trust, doesn't believe.
It's the search that makes science so powerful and so exciting. Science does add to our store of knowledge, but some of the knowledge it adds turns out to hurt more than it helps. Science does lead to new products, some of which prove not to be so good, either. It's the seeking that makes science what it is.
Seeking is a uniquely humble human
experience. It doesn't say I know, it says I need to find out. It doesn't
declare one thing better than another, it merely describes each thing as
it finds it. It doesn't tell anyone how to do anything, it merely
discovers how nature does things.
When the Lord created the world and people to live in it - an enterprise which, according to modern science, took a very long time - I could well imagine that He reasoned with Himself as follows: "If I make everything predictable, these human beings, whom I have endowed with pretty good brains, will undoubtedly learn to predict everything, and they will thereupon have no motive to do anything at all, because they will recognize that the future is totally determined and cannot be influenced by any human action.
On the other hand, if I make everything unpredictable, they will gradually discover that there is no rational basis for any decision whatsoever and, as in the first case, they will thereupon have no motive to do anything at all. Neither scheme would make sense.
must therefore create a mixture of the two. Let some things be predictable and
let others be unpredictable. They will then, amongst other things, have the very
important task of finding out which is which."
--- E. F. Schumacher, "Small is Beautiful"