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September 02, 2004

The Goals of Science

Discussions begin with definitions. Despite popular impressions of science, it is not the goal of science to answer all questions, only those that pertain to physical reality (measurable empirical experience). Also, science cannot possibly address all possible questions, so the choice of which questions to answer becomes important. Science does not and can not produce absolute and unquestionable truth. Rather, science consistently tests the currently best hypothesis about some aspect of the physical world, and when necessary revises or replaces it in light of new observations or data.

Science does not make any statements about how nature actually "is"; science can only make conclusions about our observations of nature. The developments of quantum mechanics in the early 20th century showed that observations are not independent of interactions, and the implications of wave-particle duality have challenged the traditional notion of "objectivity" in science.

Science is not a source of subjective value judgements, though it can certainly speak to matters of ethics and public policy by pointing to the likely consequences of actions. However, science can't tell us which of those consequences to desire or which is 'best'. What one projects from the currently most reasonable scientific hypothesis onto other realms of interest is not a scientific issue, and the scientific method offers no assistance for those who wish to do so. Scientific justification (or refutation) for many things is, nevertheless, often claimed.

Posted by Blogorithm at September 2, 2004 01:04 PM


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