Thursday 19th October 2017
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Science

In my opinion, knowledge in general, and science in particular, make complexity simple.

To know is to make something complex simple without losing its complexity in the process, but rather including it. Otherwise, it would be over-simplification.

Think of the relativity formula E=mc2, or the gravitation equation G=m1 x m2/r2, i.e. the gravitational force between two bodies is equal to the product of the two masses divided by the square of their distance (or is directly proportional to the product of the two masses and inversely proportional to the square of their distance).

In these beautiful, mathematically elegant, supremely simple equations is enclosed the explanation of the entire universe. (One, Einstein’s, is obviously displacing the other, Newton’s, except that classical mechanics can still be used in everyday use, not for the infinitely great – relativity rules there - or infinitely small – quantistics rules there).

Or think of the concept of evolution by natural selection, Darwin's theory. Here again a relatively simple mechanism can explain the infinite complexity of the phenomena and manifestations of life.

I think this is the best definition of knowledge: simplifying the complex by (or rather while) maintaining its complexity.

Another way in which science does simplify but does not oversimplify is this: its explanations do not apply to anything else but the specific domain to which a particular theory or hypothesis refers. That theory does not say anything at all about anything else, except the obvious logical consequence that any other theory must be compatible, i.e. non-contradictory, with the theory in question: otherwise one or both are false. This, however, leaves the field open to an infinite number of possible doctrines, hypotheses, theories and explanations which are compatible with our theory and about which the theory says nothing.

This means, for example (and this is an important example), that, since all scientific theories and science's natural laws are compatible with both the statement that the universe was created by God and the opposite statement, they do not say anything about either. That is the reason why science and religion are two entirely separate domains that cannot be compared, given as alternatives to each other or in any way encroach on one another's territory.

Science and religion have a role to fulfill entirely different human goals: knowledge of nature and its practical applications the former, spiritual needs and moral guidance the latter.

They also differ profoundly in the methods they use. To compare them or parts of them would be like comparing a work of literature with a sculpure, or a piece of music with a painting.

People who say that science has won against religion and made it redundant or even shown its damaging effects are just as fundamentalist and fanatical in their approach as people who think that religion must rule over science.

The Science section of this site deals with the questions of what science is and what distinguishes a scientific theory from a non-scientific theory.

Such questions, which are typically the subject of philosophy of science (also called epistemiology or logic of science), are of interest to the general public in these days of concern for health, a good diet, the environment and similar.

The question of what constitutes science and how to recognize pseudo-science is also central to the theme of this site. On one hand, answering whether animal experimentation is scientifically a valid method of biomedical research requires a clear view of what is science.

On the other hand, matters of human health, nutrition, environment, which are more and more publicly debated and covered in the media often without a sound scientific basis, are matters of science and need to be addressed as such.

 

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SCIENCE