Sunday, August 1, 2010

Science and "truth"

... this post ought be considered a continuation of previous.

Herein will be engaged the "evolution vs. Creationism/Intelligent Design" debate... tho' obliquely.

Bold statement: Science makes no claim to truth.
Rather, science claims only "predictability" and "falsifiability".
To be generally accepted, a scientific theory must predict observations that are, in fact, observed.
To be generally accepted, a scientific theory must be subject to falsification.
- that is to say, it is possible to conceive of observations (experiments) that could produce results which contradict the predictions of the theory.
[If, for example, a fossil T. Rex is discovered with a human in its stomach, that'd pretty much falsify current scientific biological theories of the history of life on earth!]

Ultimate "truth" lies outside science.
Who knows, maybe G-d created the universe yesterday to look exactly like it does today - with all our memories, our prior measurements, our inferences intact.
Could be true.
This is the basis of The Matrix movies.

Avoiding biology: Two physical theories of the world today predominate in science - quantum mechanics (quarks, muons, the "god particle"), and general relativity (Big Bang, gravitational lenses, Hubble Telescope). Both do phenomenal jobs in their respective areas - the very small (quantum mechanics) and the very large (general relativity).
They are mutually inconsistent.
They can't both be true descriptions of the universe.
In their respective realms, they work: both are predictive, both are falsifiable.
Both suggest experiments and observations.

The fact that they are mutually inconsistent impels the 'string theorists'.
Let's find a unified theory that equally well accounts for known phenomena in both spheres (the small and the large), and that IS internally consistent.
Note: whatever replaces quantum mechanics and general relativity MUST do at least as good a job accounting for known phenomena and predicting future phenomena (e.g., suggesting experiments and observations) as current theories.

Again: science makes no claim for "truth" - it just seeks what seems to work, for now. Long ago, one of my statistics professors noted that Newtonian mechanics would have failed had sufficiently accurate measurements been available: planetal orbits are not, in fact, orbits! - no planet re-enters its previous path, ever!
Nevertheless, Newtonian mechanics landed a man on the moon in 1969! (... and freshman physics students are still taught that F=ma.)

Science claims only to work.
... and to explain, based on best currently available information, how the world works, without invoking supernatural causes.

Is Darwinian evolution "true"? - almost certainly NOT!
Is it the best scientific theory currently available? Yep!
It makes predictions... it makes predictions it didn't even realize it made!
- DNA confirms birds, reptiles, mammals... all are related.
Darwin never conceived this prediction.
Missing links and "transitional forms" - found almost daily!
[Of course, if you read the conservative Christian tracts opposing evolution, you'll realize that what they mean by "transitional form" differs significantly from the biologist's expectation: the conservative Christian is looking for a man-fish in the fossil record!... honest (i threw away the tract; now wish i'd kept it!)]

Again - (I'm getting very repetitive!): science qua science does not claim "truth"!

If you want "truth", ask G-d to speak to you!

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