Does science have a clear definition?
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29-10-2012, 01:45 PM
RE: Does science have a clear definition?
This is pretty weighty so I'll have to address each paragraph by its self.

(29-10-2012 12:28 PM)I and I Wrote:  What society thinks does matter, science has often been used by society to advance society or kill another society (weapons). Society also determines what questions are asked, a society of hunter gatherers wouldn't ask the same questions as we would today.

I'll address this in the conclusion.

(29-10-2012 12:28 PM)I and I Wrote:  Again the issue in the topic is whether or not there is an absolute truth. Galileos discoveries certainly weren't absolute, they were then added on to by other scientists who came along and stated the planets revolve in an elliptical orbit.

Yes I think there is absolute truth.

I compare it to a computer program where if we have the source code we know everything that can and will happen in that program.

If we cannot get to the source code we instead have to come up with ways to explain it's behavior. We allow room to be incorrect because no matter what we come up with the program might do something that we'd have to adjust our ideas to encompass.

In other words with out the blue prints of the universe we always have to leave room in every theory to be wrong, either partially or wholly.

(29-10-2012 12:28 PM)I and I Wrote:  We can learn from older beliefs which ones to weed out, but ultimately we humans are the ones weeding out what we deem false or true claims, and we humans are historically shaded by our current beliefs, prejudices, notions that may or may not be true in the future.

Of course that's what the development of the scientific method aims at trying to minimize. It is designed to minimize biases, current beliefs, prejudices and absurd notions.

(29-10-2012 12:28 PM)I and I Wrote:  People a couple of hundred years ago made up bullshit science to prove that a race was inferior their false beliefs, shaded they used the same criteria for science as mentioned earlier and now to us today it is not considered a truth that one race is inferior to another. What they thought certainly did matter to many people.

I don't know how true that is, but I do know based on my on knowledge of eugenics, lobotomy, and other things is that when a society leaps on a new piece of knowledge with out properly understanding it's underlying causes. The results can be measured in human suffering.

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The atheist is a man who destroys the imaginary things which afflict the human race, and so leads men back to nature, to experience and to reason.
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29-10-2012, 01:47 PM
RE: Does science have a clear definition?
A really cool thing to watch.

Member of the Cult of Reason

The atheist is a man who destroys the imaginary things which afflict the human race, and so leads men back to nature, to experience and to reason.
-Baron d'Holbach-
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31-10-2012, 08:40 AM
RE: Does science have a clear definition?
Science is a process of:
1. Forming hypotheses consistent with known facts
2. Determining the predictions of each competing hypothesis as it relates to unknown facts if it were true
3. Test the predictions
4. Discard or modify hypotheses whose predictions are inaccurate

Our scientific knowledge essentially amounts to the set of hypotheses that we have made, which have excellent demonstrated predictive power to describe previously unknown facts, and which have not yet yielded false predictions for cases we are able to test.

Science at a fundamental philosophical level cannot produce "true" information. The classes of information that science can effectively produce are:
1. A set "false" hypotheses whose predictions have been proven false
2. A set of "unfalsifiable" hypotheses that do not have useful predictive power, either because they make no predictions about unknown facts or because those predictions are not feasible to test yet
3. A set of "tenatitively true" hypotheses with proven predictive power that are yet to be falsified
4. A set of "unexplored" hypotheses that noone has yet had the imagination to propose or the resources to explore
Set (3) is what we would normally describe as "scientific knowledge". Set (4) is the set that is yet to be explored by science. It may well be that hypotheses in the fourth state will one day come to displace those in the third set.

The god hypothesis in general appears to remain firmly in set (2), yielding no testable predictions about unknown facts. Many specific god hypotheses can be found in set (1). The set of hypotheses that form the backbone of the theory of evolution are in set (3). We are able to make predictions based on these hypotheses and verify them in fossil record, in modern DNA, in modern populations, etc. Likewise, the subset of quantum that we would describe as scientific knowledge has come about through a series of predictions that have proven reliable.

Note that a new hypothesis isn't able to displace a "tentatively true" hypothesis until it agrees with all existing facts and also makes predictions that are consistently proven accurate and reliable and differ from the predictions of the old hypothesis. When this occurs our scientific knowledge changes. The old hypothesis moves to the "false" set and the new hypothesis is accepted as provisionally true.

Does this mean that the old hypothesis was never valid scientific knowledge or that the new hypothesis is to be viewed with suspicion and derision? No! The old hypothesis was consistent with a large set of facts, and successfully predicted new facts at the time of its inclusion into our scientific canon. The new hypothesis is consistent with all of those facts, plus it successfully predicts even more. The known facts covered by our scientific knowledge increase every time this kind of displacement occurs. The new hypothesis is "more true" in the sense that it covers the facts that the old hypothesis covered, plus additional facts that were not covered. The old hypothesis continues to be a reliable model covering the previously known facts and is no less true than it used to be - its just that we understand its limitations better. We can't apply it to cases where the new hypothesis's predictions differ significantly.

For example, we know that the hypotheses of Newtonian physics are false. They have been displaced by relativity that provides accurate predictions in high mass and high speed scenarios. However, we still use and teach Newtonian physics because:
1. It is accurate for speeds likely to be encountered
2. It is a useful intermediate level of understanding as we move students towards an understanding of relativity
3. We know its limitations so can be sure not to apply it in cases where relativity is more applicable.

Although various techniques, models and tools are used in science - the fundamentals of the scientific method wherever your find it are hypothesise -> predict -> test -> modify or discard if false. Knowledge is added to the cannon when new hypotheses explain all known facts and produce reliable predictions about previously unknown facts.

Whatever the field of scientific study the most established hypotheses have made astounding and unlikely predictions that have proved true and continue to prove reliable and repeatable. Each one bears the insignia of "Prove me wrong, I dare you - and if you do you'll get the Nobel prize". Every true researcher has skin the game and is looking for a way to overturn some previously held hypothesis. Those that have stood up to this pressure are pretty well reliable for any problem we mere mortals might want to throw at it.

Give me your argument in the form of a published paper, and then we can start to talk.
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