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Science

Skepticism and science seem to belong together. But if we are going to be real skeptics we should also be skeptical of science. Different topics probably deserve different levels of examination, and science has a good track record of discovering the truth so it probably doesn't deserve the same scrutiny as more controversial subjects, such as UFOs. The biggest problem is that pure science doesn't really exist. All scientific work has elements of politics and other forms of human fallibility inherent in it, because it is done by scientists who are just people, like everyone else.

If we assumed scientists didn't make errors, and allow politics and commerce to interfere with their impartiality, is science beyond skepticism then? Not necessarily. I believe science is the best way to discover the truth about the real world, but it is hard to create a basic epistemology which supports this idea.

Perhaps the most important tool of science is empiricism. This means that we need to devise experiments or make observations and measurements to test whether our ideas are true or not. Many philosophers and theologians point out that empiricism might not be the best tool in every case. Maybe some things can't be measured. Maybe there is something beyond the physical, natural world, which science can't study.

My thoughts are this: if something cannot be measured, observed, or tested for in any way then for practical purposes it doesn't exist. Anyone who claims that we can never prove god doesn't exist because he's beyond science is wrong in my opinion. If god never interacts with our universe in any way then for from our point of view he doesn't exist. If he does interact with it then we can apply the principles of empiricism to demonstrate this. I can't see any way this argument can be refuted. If you can then feel free to leave a comment in the discussion system on this page, or email me.

So basically I'm saying that scientific method might not be perfect, but it is the best tool we have, and the best tool we are ever likely to have in the future. When I'm skeptical of science I mean I'm being skeptical of how science is being applied. If science is used correctly we will get to the truth eventually. Luckily science is self-correcting.

Maybe the most important aspect of scientific research is that it can be negated. All science should be able to be proven wrong. The reason some areas of knowledge aren't real science is because their hypotheses can't be tested and shown to be wrong. For example, intelligent design isn't science because its basic tenets aren't sufficiently well stated that we can test them (see note 1).

Summary

So in summary I am skeptical about the application of science, but not about science itself. I do have confidence that science when properly applied is self correcting, so as time goes by I have more confidence in existing theories. I have more confidence in evolution than cold fusion, for example, because it has resisted repeated testing for almost 200 years.

1.00

Crap-ometer

I find it impossible to find serious faults with science. Funding pressures and other human faults can produce errors, but science will correct these eventually. Therefore I give this a very low score on the crap-ometer!

Notes

1. See the entry in my skepticism section of this web site which discusses intelligent design from a skeptical perspective. Here's the link: Skeptical examination of ID.

Sources of Further Information

There are many web sites with information on this subject. Below I have shown some which present both skeptical and neutral information.

Wikipedia, Philosophy of Science Some background on how science works.
Wikipedia, Empiricism The philosophy, history and science of empiricism.


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