On Verification

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With people resisting vaccines returning to the news, I had to bump this post forward on my posting timetable.

Many definitions of science exists. Most, if not all, are variations on a theme. Mine is simple: The search for the explanation of what we observe in nature. Search, explanation, observe, and nature serve as the four key words defining science. I think of them as the what, why, how, and where of science.

To me, words as hypothesis, scientific method, controls, and others are important, but they also cloud a person’s impression with terms they lead them to misconceptions by over-generalizing.. But search, explanation, observe, and nature tells important aspect of what, why, who, and where of science.

That being said, the how of science is also important. From accurately recording data from direct observations to the following proper procedures in an experiment, the scientific process is a playbook with rules – and yes, there are officials that will examine what is done in order to verify the results and to make sure scientific standards are met.

The purpose of this post isn’t about hypotheses, data collection, and conclusions – well, not directly. This post examines an important aspect that many (if not most) people do not realize – verification.

Science is an appeal to the collective wisdom in order to build consensus. When a scientist or team of scientists announce a new discovery, a jury of their peers judge the claim. Not a collection of journalists, politicians, clergy, or random people off the street – a group of their peers. Geologists don’t judge information about a new vaccine. Neither do botanists, chemists, psychiatrists, physicists, or even the majority of biologists. Immunologists study the claim to either verify or discredit the new finding. Not just one group, but as many groups as possible. Not a group from the same lab, university, or institute, but by peers from all over the world.

In science, the burden of proof is on those making the claim – so it is the wisdom of the collective of specialists with PhDs that decide the validity. Verification is done at the geek level. Discrediting with evidence is part of the scientific process, therefore not a reason to find fault with science.

Verification is actually a continual process because something in the future may come forth to discredit what had been previously accepted. Verification is an important part of the scientific process – not a reason to find fault with science.

Continual verification is why science is based on evidence – and not on political, religious, cultural, or personal beliefs. The public should have faith in science because of faith in the process. If someone does not have faith in the process, they do not understand science. They are ignoring science in favor of a belief system outside of the scientific community. They are ignoring science as the poetry of reality.

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.