On a Way of Knowing

I have always defined science as the search for the explanation of what we observe in nature. Nature is science’s playing field – a field with boundaries, willing participants, methodologies, and rules. (A past post) Aiming at questions of what and how, science is a human endeavor leading us to new knowledge – thus science is not static, yet it continues to dive into ventures with an incomplete understanding.

Science is impersonal, yet uses a trained mind with passion and imagination to find patterns, structure, connections, and history within nature through senses and data so we can better understand ourselves, the natural world that is around us, and our place in this world.

Therefore, science requires a conscious mind that observes, inquires, organizes, interprets, understands, and a willingness to follow acceptable scientific methodologies while staying within nature’s boundaries – yet that does not mean that nothing exists outside of nature’s boundaries.

Science is a gift as it brings us new knowledge, yet knowledge that is only for a given point in time because it can change based on newer knowledge. Because of potential development of new knowledge, science must be willing to have what is current known to be proven wrong. Yet new claims must are also subject to verification. (Past Post #2)

Science gives us theories. Theories are a structure of ideas that explain and interpret numerous facts about a concept – thus, well beyond a personal opinion or a detective’s hunch. Scientists base theories on a large amount of evidence that has been extensively tested and observed in nature.

Science brings forth new issues causing us to face moral and ethical questions – whose answers to which science does not provide. Science is neither equipped nor competent to answer ethic and moral questions, let alone the metaphysical, philosophical, or theological questions as “what is the meaning of life”, “why am I here”, and “is there a god?”

Science is a way of knowing, but not the only way as it does not corner the way to truth. Philosophical, theological, psychological/emotional, ethical, political, and historical views provide additional perspectives, yet each discipline is selective and limited. Science is not in competition with the other fields as other disciplines apply science’s methodologies. Nonetheless, new scientific findings can be unsettling to other fields and society as a whole because it may cause instability in current foundations, including those of the past.

One can have a misunderstanding about science, but that does not mean science is wrong.

One can ignore science, but that does not mean science is wrong.

One can disagree with science, but that does not mean science is wrong.

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45 thoughts on “On a Way of Knowing

  1. Good post.

    I like to think that many issues have three P’s. P as in Science’s Physics, P as in Price via Economics, and P as in Politics. When Politics ignores the other two P’s, trouble is always created. I see the political realm is more detached from science than ever before. It seems to have come unhinged from pricing and economics too. The scientific method is sound, and I wish more politicals would pay it respect.

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    • Navar,
      Welcome first-time commenter. Knowing that you are a science teacher, I’m glad you visited this. You may also enjoy the links within the post as well. Plus, feel free to cruise around the Science category in the sidebar…. and it is ok to have your brain on shutdown mode at the end of a long day. Thanks for visiting.

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  2. “…while staying within nature’s boundaries – yet that does not mean that nothing exists outside of nature’s boundaries.”

    can you explain that? for example, what/where are nature’s boundaries? can you give an example of something – likely theoretical – that is outside those boundaries? is something that is outside those boundaries observable?

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    • Rich,
      That line is a teaser regarding science and theology. God is outside of nature’s boundaries, thus science cannot answer the “Does God exist?” question. Yet, the fact that science cannot answer the question doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist. Again, the question is outside of the boundaries. As I like to say, one cannot get credit for a touchdown in football by going behind the bleachers.

      The interesting question lies around the concept of miracles. Are they unexplainable, unexplainable based on the knowledge today, or God at work? Science cannot answer the latter, and would probably prefer the second explanation over the first. Here’s a post I did on miracles. https://afrankangle.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/on-miracles/

      Thanks for your good questions.

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      • i’ll check that out. next question is likely just semantic: if a miracle is explainable, does that erase the title of “miracle” for that event?

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        • i suppose that’s part of the definition of miracle – unexplainable. for me, everything has an explanation, but sometimes our science has either not caught up to the principles involved or we have not yet gathered the necessary clues. or, those are the same thing in different words.

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  3. Hi,
    Very well written, we certainly would be lost without science, it is a field that is always growing, expanding, as more is discovered the more we learn. The amount of times the history books have been changed over the years because of the knowledge through science we have discovered, and yet these same changes will no doubt change again as even more knowledge is accumulated.

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    • Frances,
      Welcome first-time commenter. Thanks for the kind words. Science is something that affects all people, yet there is so much that people don’t understand about its process and role in life. This blog bounces around various topics, so hope you return. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

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    • Spiced,
      I recall you mentioning that you had trouble with science in school. That’s ok … after all, everything isn’t for everybody. BTW … go back to yesterday’s post and see the comment from Des. Thanks for visiting.

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  4. Interesting post Frank…as usual.

    As you may know I’m an admirer of science. In it, as well as in nature itself, I find all the awe, wonder, and beauty which one may experience while viewing a great work of art or hearing an incredibly moving piece of music. I, personally, find the questions science strives to answer far more interesting than the subjective and universally unanswerable questions such as ‘what is the ‘meaning’ of life?’. Though I do enjoy philosophical debate, I won’t assume there is any one meaning or purpose of life which applies to everyone.

    One of the ethos of science I find particularly compelling is the low value it applies to eye-witness accounts. I also find it quite ironic, as well as troubling, that our court systems place such high value on these accounts. We’ve no shortage of people who’ve been convicted based on eye-witness testimony only to later be proven, through science, that they could not possibly have committed the crime.

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    • Alex,
      Now there is an interesting thought as I have never thought about what you mentioned in terms of eye-witness accounts. Fascinating thought! On the other hand, when one thinks about the scientific processes, that’s a no-brainer … but still an intriguing comparison between science and law enforcement. Thanks for visiting and sharing a value nugget!

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  5. Excellent post Frank, and great discussion in the comments.
    I find I appreciate most the cutting edges of science that are developing new tools and ways of questioning and investigating.
    I’m excited to find the discoveries science will bring us next.

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    • Guapo,
      Agree as the post had many good comments! And yes, new tools bring us new findings and new questions – both of which are exciting. Thanks for the kind words and for commenting.

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  6. So well said! I am in agreement with you all the way…but I never could have articulated my thoughts on this complex subject with the clarity you demonstrate. The dialogue/debate over the role of science, theories and “what is truth” so often breaks down into the strangest oppositional stand-offs, and all I ever want to do is just talk about what we think…not what I know! I really enjoyed reading your very well-reasoned considerations., Frank. Debra

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    • Debra,
      I finding it interesting how the word “theory” throws people off the track. Whereas many think that it has the same meaning in science as their casual use of the word – hence, Houston we have a problem. It’s not to say that science doesn’t make mistakes, but its own process serves as a cleansing mechanism – and long before it gets to the theory stage. Thanks for your kind words and for taking the time to comment.

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  7. Frank, Science is Satan’s tool. Surely you know that by now. Sheesh.

    Seriously, this is so well done — beautifully written. I wish we could get more people to lose their fear of science and appreciate and explore its wonders.

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    • Elyse,
      Many thanks for the kind words. One doesn’t have to be good at science to understand it processes and role in science – including how to define theory! Meanwhile, your opening line is priceless! Thanks for commenting.

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  8. I think the key problem of late is people often want a certain result with respect to scientific questions. I don’t want to believe in Global Warming because it might imply I have to be less comfortable in some way (drive a smaller car, or pay a carbon tax, etc.). It’s fine to have values on these things like big cars and perhaps personal choice and conclude you rather have those things than habitat for Polar bears or less flooding in Bangladesh. It also fine to conclude the warming is happening, but I think we can better accomadate it than relieve it, by accomodating the warming It’s not so fine to maintain there’s no such thing just because your more comfortable with certain facts than the truth.

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    • Bruce,
      I like the point of people wanting a certain result; therefore, if science doesn’t deliver that result it must be wrong. I put that on the same line as the old adage about statistics: determine what you want to say, then go find the stats to back it up. Thanks for visiting and sharing your insight.

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  9. Pingback: Flashbacks: On Science | A Frank Angle

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