You Don’t Love Science. You Don’t Even Know What It Means.

So let me explain what science actually is. Science is the process through which we derive reliable predictive rules through controlled experimentation. That’s the science that gives us airplanes and flu vaccines and the Internet. But what almost everyone means when he or she says "science" is something different.

To most people, capital-S Science is the pursuit of capital-T Truth. It is a thing engaged in by people wearing lab coats and/or doing fancy math that nobody else understands. The reason capital-S Science gives us airplanes and flu vaccines is not because it is an incremental engineering process but because scientists are really smart people.

In other words — and this is the key thing — when people say "science", what they really mean is magic or truth.

What we now know as the “scientific revolution” was a repudiation of Aristotle: science, not as knowledge of the ultimate causes of things but as the production of reliable predictive rules through controlled experimentation.

If you ask most people what science is, they will give you an answer that looks a lot like Aristotelian “science” — i.e., the exact opposite of what modern science actually is. Capital-S Science is the pursuit of capital-T Truth. And science is something that cannot possibly be understood by mere mortals. It delivers wonders. It has high priests. It has an ideology that must be obeyed.

This leads us astray.

This is how you get the phenomenon of philistines like Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne thinking science has made God irrelevant, even though, by definition, religion concerns the ultimate causes of things and, again, by definition, science cannot tell you about them.

You might think of science advocate, cultural illiterate, mendacious anti-Catholic propagandist, and possible serial fabulist Neil DeGrasse Tyson and anti-vaccine looney-toon Jenny McCarthy as polar opposites on a pro-science/anti-science spectrum, but in reality they are the two sides of the same coin. Both of them think science is like magic, except one of them is part of the religion and the other isn’t.

What you probably mean when you say “I love science” is “I love my tribe.” Via How our botched understanding of 'science' ruins everything – The Week.

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1 thought on “You Don’t Love Science. You Don’t Even Know What It Means.”

  1. This guy completely lost me with his pot-shot at Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne… I don’t think either of them claim with certainty that a “God” does not or cannot exist, but the belief in the God of the Bible and the God or the Koran entail many testable, falsifiable claims about reality, including great floods for which there is no geological evidence, and a creation myth that flies in the face of everything modern biological science tells us about the likely origin of species. Sure, you cannot prove there is no God through experimentation per se, but you can not prove there is no telepathic frog on the planet Mars who feeds us our dreams every midnight. Dawkins and Coyne are both biologists who defend their scientific knowledge against the Ken Hamms of the world who would rather trust a 2000 year old book than a body of scientific knowledge on the origin of species. From there, their arguments about the existence of “god” in some general sense are more philosophy and logical reasoning than hard science.

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