What is Science?


Ever since homo sapiens began to wonder about the world in which he[1] lived, he strove to put order to the chaos that was his daily life[2].  This probably began as noticing certain patterns and may have been somewhat instinctual, but the key difference between animals and him is that he not only tried to take advantages on these patterns, but wanted to understand “Why?”

The first step is to answer “Why?” is to try to put reasoning behind the patterns.  “Light” and “dark” were most likely the first things noticed, but the question of “Why?” was the next great leap.  With limited knowledge and experience, reasoning was not a strong suit – the reason became “Because.”  “Because” naturally leads to another “Why?” question, and as anyone who has dealt with a 2 year old knows, this quickly devolves into an infinite regression.  Until the “Authority”[3] ends the questioning with “Because I say so.”  The “Authority” ends the questioning simply because he does not have an adequate answer to the reasonable[4] “Why?” and his edict becomes “Established Truth” or “Generally Accepted Because”[5].

Science, in my estimation, is the search for the “Generally Accepted Because” of how the world and observable universe works.  Science is not an appeal to “Authority”[6] unless the “Authority” is the collected data and reasoning used to draw a conclusion.  The “Authority” is, or should be, a neutral observer and should welcome questioning of the “Generally Accepted Because”.  If the evidence supports the “Generally Accepted Because”, the “Generally Accepted Because” becomes stronger; if the evidence erodes the “Generally Accepted Because”, it leads to either a modification or replacement of the “Generally Accepted Because”.

Next: The Scientific Method

[1] Throughout this discussion, I will use the term “he”.  Not to be sexist, but to use the widely accepted literary convention that when the gender is not known, to revert to the masculine pronoun.  I find that using “he/she” or “(s)he” is stilted and does not generally read well.  And I’m old.

[2] I may be old, but I’m not that old.

[3] Or “adult” in this example.

[4] At least in the eyes of the questioner.

[5] There is a distinction between an “Established Truth” and a “Generally Accepted Because”.  An “Established Truth” is immutable and cannot change; a “Generally Accepted Truth” can evolve over time.

[6] An appeal to “Authority” is when others rely upon and direct any additional inquiries to the “Authority” and he ends the discussion with “Because I say so”.  That is not Science; that is faith.

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