Thursday, January 30, 2014

Science Only

There are those who would claim that the scientific method is the only real way to find truth. But there are serious problems with this approach. There is no doubt that the scientific method is a useful method of arriving at truth. It has provided us with much reliable knowledge and is the basis of many useful technical advances. But it is one thing to say something is a reliable method for arriving at truth; it is another to claim it is the only method. Mathematics is undoubtedly a useful method for arriving at truth. But there are many facts that do not admit to mathematical treatment. Science is an attempt to produce generalizations about how the world works based on observation and experimentation. One can try to define it more broadly, but it then becomes meaningless, and the contention that it is the only approach to truth becomes meaningless. Now this approach only works with repeatable phenomena,  those that can be reproduced in the laboratory or be observed happening repeatedly. But there are many events in the world that are not repeatable in this way and therefore cannot be studied in this way. That Washington crossed the Delaware River is an example of this. We cannot determine this by repeating it in the same place, with similar people and equipment, under similar weather conditions. This might prove the event was possible, but cannot prove it happened. Now some may claim that someday all phenomena will be reduced to repeatable phenomena. This is an unproven assumption. But even if it is true, it is clear that they currently have not been. To cut ourselves off from whole categories of events simply because they are not treatable by a  particular method is questionable.

But there is a bigger problem. If science is the only way of arriving at truth, then science becomes impossible. For then every experimenter must repeat every experiment for themselves. Scientists would end up spending so much time repeating old experiments they would never make any new discoveries. Further, real scientific proof is based on the results being reproducible by independent researchers. But that means they have to be willing to trust that the results have been obtained by others. And you cannot prove this scientifically. Now if you try to add testimony to proofs used under the scientific method, at this point you enlarge it to include just about everything (including the testimony of those who claimed Jesus Christ rose from the dead). Now there is bad testimony, as there are bad experiments; each must be judged on its own merits. But if science means nothing more than a good argument, the term becomes meaningless. It is better to give a clear definition of the term and admit there are issues not dealt with by science. And to recognize we need to use other methods in those cases to come to reliable conclusions.     

No comments:

Post a Comment