MadSci Network: Other

Re: How do schools portray science? How would you explain science?

Date: Tue Oct 23 10:46:37 2001
Posted By: John Balbach, Physicist
Area of science: Other
ID: 1001098926.Ot

How would I explain science?

I would say that science best defined as an attempt to explain the world around us; an attempt that relies on experiment for confirmation. This differentiates it from faith in that science only makes statements that are testable and based on previous experimentation. Implicit in this is the willingness to make the experimental evidence available to the public, so that others may come to the same conclusions through science, rather than through faith.

It is not possible for each person to test each and every theory that exists, so even scientists must bring an element of faith to their work. As a scientist, I rely on the openness of the scientific community to catch errors and to test conclusions in a efficient manner. This is why it is best when there are disagreements in science. It forces a greater number of people to collect and analyze a greater amount of evidence than would otherwise be the case. In most cases, disagreements arise only when experiments differ from what might be referred to as "intuition". I have been personally involved in a number of controversies (minor, to be sure) where the side that relied on experimental evidence prevailed. Of course, in my field of study, controlled experiments are possible and so experimental evidence is usually easier to interpret. In the case of differing experimental results, the experiments themselves must be carefully examined.

Judging from what I read, most people believe that science is capable of answering any question or solving any problem, believe that all scientists agree, and that scientists use no morals in their thirst for knowledge. I don't know if those attitudes are taught in schools, but they do seem to be the underpinnings of the public debate on scientific results.

There are scientists who are right now trying to undermine the accepted laws that most scientists use to guide their thinking, like quantum mechanics, relativity, evolution, the atomic model and even the model of the solar system. Most people (and "mainstream" scientists) think of these scientists as crackpots, but the work they do is important. It is only through constant questioning and experiment that our world view maintain any usefulness. These scientists are not disbelieved because they maintain a contrary view, but rather because they are not able to prove their contrary view to the satisfaction of other scientists. This has been done before, so it is possible, but it is hard.

I've rambled quite a bit, and I think I have given you more than you asked for, but less that I probably needed to say. Please ask me for more clarification of anything I've said here.

Current Queue | Current Queue for Other | Other archives

Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Other.

MadSci Home | Information | Search | Random Knowledge Generator | MadSci Archives | Mad Library | MAD Labs | MAD FAQs | Ask a ? | Join Us! | Help Support MadSci

MadSci Network,
© 1995-2001. All rights reserved.