Sunday, November 29, 2009

What is science?

Is it immutable truth? Not so. As Stephen Hawking explains, "No matter how many times the results of experiments agree with some theory, you can never be sure that the next time the result will not contradict the theory."

At best, science is nothing more than the closest correlation known between natural phenomenon.

Yet many assume that science is law; that science is without bias or error. They assume this to be so since that is how science is portrayed in most schools and universities. Once scientists speak, alternate theories or ideas are to be cast aside -- they are now archaic and foolish.

But such is not science. Science proves nothing, and so must be always open to retesting of old theories. Science is never settled -- in spite of what Al Gore states.

Consider a tool used in scientific investigations: statistics. There are two layers to statistics, there is probability and there are statistical equations.

The concept of probability is still open to debate -- learned and reasonable minds do not agree on what constitutes a true probabilistic statement. Yet scientists (as well as many others) plug datasets into statistical equations and claim the results to be truth.

However, this is akin to entering an address into the name field of a computer program and claiming that, since the program didn't error, what you entered must be a name.

Just because the equation, program, or model can process the data, does not mean the results are true.

Consider this syllogism: All readers of this blog are Steelers fans. You are a reader of this blog, Therefore, you are a Steelers fan.

The syllogism is correct as far as logic is concerned -- the conclusion follows from the major and minor premises. But the major premise is likely not true -- I'm almost certain that at least one reader of this blog is not a Steelers fan. If the major premise is not true, there is no way to claim that the conclusion is true (based on the major premise, of course).

Logic works, but does not always provide conclusions that are true -- meaningful in a real world sense.

Once you go beyond the trivial, science isn't even close to being settled (true science, that is). And the more we learn, the more we realize we don't know.

Earlier this year, Jym Ganahl (a trusted, local meteorologist and TV weatherman) spoke at a meeting I attended. He noted that, as a group, meteorologists do not support the supposed science of human-induced global warming. Oh, sure, climate is changing -- it always is. But there is no proof that man is causing that change.

The global warming debate is not settled -- sorry Al. Although the climate change debate is settled -- our climate is changing, it always is.

Finally, a letter in today's edition of The Columbus Dispatch claimed that science is truth -- and this coming from a writer who identified herself as a former scientist. When you read such nonsense, consider Hawking. Science can never define truth. Never.

Note to my Christian brothers and sister: There is only one Truth, and it is found in the Bible. Do not be taken in by the allure of science (or, as FA Hayek termed it, scientism). Science is not truth. And that is a statement that any good scientist (typically defined as a scientist that is not dependent on the state for funding and support -- he who pays the piper ...) would accept.

Note: Read Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn, FA Hayek, Richard von Mises, Ludwig von Mises, et al, to enrich your understanding of science. At a later time, I will address the apriori sciences. From these, truth can be ascertained -- truth that is supported by the Bible, of course.

PS: Since I am my own editor, I tend to revise posts after some time and thought. As someone born in Pittsburgh, it is really hard for me to write Steelers fan instead of Steeler fan. If you are from western PA, you would understand.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am not a Steelers fan.

Jim Fedako said...

6:51 --

Sorry. I can't help you with that choice ;-)

Paul said...

Good post - I couldn't agree more with this statement: Science proves nothing, and so must be always open to retesting of old theories. Good thing we didn't declare science to be complete at the 'discovery' of the four elements.

There is always one more question in science. That doesn't mean science has no value - it helps us capture and organize our collective experiences and reasoning so that as one learns, we all can benefit.

But to believe that science captures the ultimate Truth about anything is wrongheaded. Science can be embraced as a way to learn more about the majesty of God's creation, and therefore enrichen the journey towards God - which is my intention - or as justification to walk away from God.

Anonymous said...

Jim,

I read the same letter to the editor and laughed. One must wonder what that person is recieving from the state, or will lose from the state if Globing Warming is found to be innacurate, to prompt such a letter. The other letter to the editor was much more appealing to me. Frankly, we are very small in the grand scheme of things.

Our time on this planet averages 70 years/person. The planet has been evolving for MILLIONS of years. To think that we, as such small individuals, can impact something so large as the Earth, which is a small part of God's Kingdom, is humorous to me. Clearly, Global Warming is about power and money, the very things God warns us about.

Ralph

Jim Fedako said...

Ralph --

I believe in a young earth. I'll have to save that for a later post.

But to insinuate that Al Gore is all about money and power ... you are off the deep end.

Jim Fedako said...

Paul --

Finally, something where we agree ;-)

Steve Scott said...

Oakland Raiders fan here.

Anonymous said...

To say that we are too inconsequential to have an impact is almost egotistical in some sense. A termite is small in comparison to a house but termites can and do have quite an impact.

Man has already demonstrated his ability impact Earth. We have polluted waterways to the point that they become dead zones. We have transported non-native species of plants and animals that have had major impacts on the ecology of whole continents.

Anonymous said...

"Man has already demonstrated his ability impact Earth. We have polluted waterways to the point that they become dead zones. We have transported non-native species of plants and animals that have had major impacts on the ecology of whole continents."

Again--you're confusion of "ecosystem" and "biosphere" leads your understanding astray. The earth is so incredibly enormous and complex that we have no incremental influence over it. The earth produces in a single year many times more CO2, hydrocarbons, sulfur and other "greenhouse" gasses than man has emitted or introduced into the atmosphere EVER. I know just how incomprehensible that FACT is, but it is true.

Anonymous said...

I agree about science but the bible being truth? Give me a break. A book written by men 2000 years ago copied and translated over and over? Don't get me wrong, you're entitled to believe in any religion. Part of what's great about this country. But it's not truth any more than is the koran (sp?). Believing in something does not make it true. And there are people all over the world that think that their non-scientific religious beliefs, although very different from yours, are in fact the truth. My god is better than your god, so to speak.

And Ralph, isn't the earth only about 5 or 6 thousand years old if the bible is the truth? How can the bible be the truth if the earth is millions (it's actually billions) of years old?

Jim, if you're going to tell us that the earth is 5000 years old, please do so in this or in another post. I need a good laugh today.

Anonymous said...

It is not how much of a particular matter is produced during natural processes, it is the amount that is introduced through non-natural means.

Nature is a balancing act. As we see over and over, it can be influenced by outside forces. For global warming, we are the outside force.

You are willing to bet that we cannot change nature's course. I am not willing to take that bet.

Jim Fedako said...

1:10 --

I am not about to claim that the earth is 5000 years old. But, based on what I've read, I'd claim that it is less than 10000 years old.

Have your laugh. But, keep in mind, the global warmists also laugh at me.

Anonymous said...

"It is not how much of a particular matter is produced during natural processes, it is the amount that is introduced through non-natural means."

Nonsense.

"Nature is a balancing act. As we see over and over, it can be influenced by outside forces. For global warming, we are the outside force."

More nonsense. What "outside forces" are you referring to? The Sun? So...you claim equivalence between mankind's influence on the earth (micro) with that of the Sun (macro)? My goodness...

"You are willing to bet that we cannot change nature's course. I am not willing to take that bet."

That's because you are terribly ignorant and wrong about environmental science.

Anonymous said...

In support of Ralph, I'd like to add the following fact:

At one point in time, the very part of the earth that I call my home was covered by a HUGE GLACIER! Today I look around and I see no ice. The glacier receeded long before God created man, long before Jesus, and long before Jim's blog.

A simple conclusion is that Global Warming is a natural occurrance and one much greater than any of us collectively or individually.

Ralph's Brother - Roger

Anonymous said...

The receding Bering glacier has revealed an ancient forest and receding glaciers in Greenland are revealing the remnants of ancient villages, among other examples from other glaciers retreating. The hucksters of AGW would lead us to believe that glaciers--indeed all of nature--have been in a state of permanence--suspended animation--forever. They were here when the earth was formed and have remained pristine throughout the ages. What we see from the reams of evidence--evidence that we now know they labor greatly and unethically to hide--is that climate change is cyclic. Their beloved, receding glaciers have revealed their folly, but the media and the bobbleheads (some posting here) refuse to admit obvious contradictions or apply simple logic to their wacky beliefs.

Anonymous said...

Roger Roger!

It appears that one country seems to always get it "right."

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091202/ap_on_re_as/climate_australia

Tip your glass of Fosters to Australia!

Anonymous said...

"Believing in something does not make it true" says the anon. poster who believes Al Gore.