The Instigator
enso
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Puck
Con (against)
Winning
42 Points

Science suffers from a fundamental flaw when describing reality.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/12/2009 Category: Science
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,699 times Debate No: 10434
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (7)
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enso

Pro

There is one assumption that must be granted for this topic to be debated successfully: Science claims it is discovering truths about reality.

Here is my argument:

Science cannot describe to us the true nature of reality. To paraphrase Richard Rorty, the idea that the truth is 'out there' (i.e., outside of our own mind) is a hold-over from the theological world view. Most of our existence as a species has involved an existence in which an external power held a monopoly on truth. Science has since (thankfully) replaced the theological world view as the two paradigms are mostly incompatible and science and its method have proven more correct in describing reality. However, science is wrong when it claims, similar to its theological ancestor, that it can provide truth.

Scientists often speak as though their findings are somehow describing reality. They are wrong. They are not describing reality but only their understanding of reality given the tools they use. For example, for hundreds of years Newton's laws of physics were thought to describe some fundamental truth of our reality. Why? Because they worked. They worked so well, in fact, that they helped us successfully launch spacecraft into orbit. Then came Einstein. Einstein showed that Newton was 'wrong.' The Einsteinian view of reality is today more correct than the Newtonian. However, it is my contention not only that the Einsteinian view of reality will one day be overturned (given our species has enough time and resources available to it) but that it has not, in fact, discovered any fundamental truth about reality.

The scientific method does not discover any truth about the world around us. It merely succeeds in fitting a framework around a particular subject which it then calls truth. If the history of science is any guide, the frameworks created by science will be modified, changed, and eventually overturned, for new, more fashionable frameworks that work better.
Puck

Con

"Scientists often speak as though their findings are somehow describing reality. They are wrong. They are not describing reality but only their understanding of reality given the tools they use. For example, for hundreds of years Newton's laws of physics were thought to describe some fundamental truth of our reality. Why? Because they worked. They worked so well, in fact, that they helped us successfully launch spacecraft into orbit. Then came Einstein. Einstein showed that Newton was 'wrong.' The Einsteinian view of reality is today more correct than the Newtonian. However, it is my contention not only that the Einsteinian view of reality will one day be overturned (given our species has enough time and resources available to it) but that it has not, in fact, discovered any fundamental truth about reality."

To claim in essence, that before we can know anything, we must first know everything is an absurdity. The partner, that we can know nothing of reality, nor will we, is equally so and addressed later.

Knowledge is about hierarchy. It builds, it is created from prior knowledge, and adds to the pool for others to use and in turn build upon. The ability to show a particular model is wrong, is a strength of the scientific method itself, not its reverse, religious faith, designed to assert in stasis an older held belief.

To take your example. Newton modified the findings of Galileo. Einstein showed Newton's calculations were limited to smaller bodies, that it breaks down at large masses and accelerations. Quantum mechanics shows we need a
new model of gravity at planck sizes, consistent still with relativity which deals with larger masses.

In normal every day instances, the effects of relativity are too small to make a noticeable difference (hence we can still use Newtonian calculations). It is incorrect to say the fundamentals of Newtonian physics are wrong, instead in this instance they are limited in describing certain aspects of reality and not others. The same goes for Einstein, who accurately predicted from his model, solar events. The issue is not that they are wrong, but they are not universal, the distinction is important.

Of import to establish is that opinion is not necessarily wrong. It is however removed from notions of proved/disproved. Secondly a model, hypothesis, such as Newtonian physics or Einsteinian relativity, come in with addition to themselves, a host of other hypotheses in order to make predictions, which will either support of undermine the initial model. To say, any accepted model is 'just a model' is simply erroneous and ignores the nature of what constitutes a scientific fact, theory or law. I'll explain extant hypotheses in more depth:

Let a theory be T, any competing theory T*, observations for a theory O.

T's observational predictions when confirmed = Strong scientific evidence favouring the empirical strength of T
as opposed to T*

The following characterise good conditions under which observations, O, substantially confirm a theory T:

T is projectable (that is, able to be investigated, compliant with current knowledge).
Instances of O either confirm predictions obtained from T, validate explanations based on T or both.
For each of the projectable alternatives, T*, to T which use the same questions, the observations in O provide evidence against the predictions and/or explanations underwritten by T*.
Instances of O were obtained under conditions which embody controls for each of the experimental artifacts or errors of sampling which are suggested by projectable conceptions of the relevant observational or experimental conditions.

Modified [1]

Now, if I say to you "I think there is no intelligent life on other planets". That constitutes as opinion. Science, however, refers to things that can, and have, been physically proven. Part of the demand is the use of physical evidence that
all observers and experimenters agree on. The scientific method holds that any hypothesis *may be wrong* by definition of the scientific method itself, requiring of itself peer review, falsifiability, and repeated observations of the same event.

A scientific fact starts off with an opinion, i.e. hypothesis. A scientific fact however *must* be removed form the observer, by which, through repeated experiments, regardless who conducts it, all observers agree to the outcome. To say 'science is a reflection of opinion' is incorrect. Opinion is purely that until it can be established as fact. Whether that occurs after the opinion holders death is irrelevant.

To forestall a foreseeable argument: scientists are susceptible to the influence of politics and ideology much like any other individual. This is, of course, an important part of the context one should hold when assessing any scientific claim - whether the science itself is good or bad, IS REMOVED from the discussion of whether any given conclusion is valid from the data or not. Bad science may give rise to bad conclusions, equally, bad conclusions can be made from good science. The method itself is removed from any proposed application or conjecture.

"The scientific method does not discover any truth about the world around us. It merely succeeds in fitting a framework around a particular subject which it then calls truth. If the history of science is any guide, the frameworks created by science will be modified, changed, and eventually overturned, for new, more fashionable frameworks that work better."

What you fail to realise is the manner of any changes. Is an electron microscope worse that the one in your high school lab? Does the electron microscope increase knowledge or hinder it? It is clear, simply because technological changes relate in methodological changes, it does not equate to the annulment of knowledge, but of its reverse, the increase. The less functional microscope will allow less functional data in comparison, that is all.

--

Do you see a disagreement in literature about the nature of, say, the common whitefish? When you read a book on the nature of leaves, do you hold in your head, there is valid discussion against leaves? Where is the discussion against tree realism? Is the issue of a sun, that we orbit, up for discussion? Do certain trees change the colour of their leaves in relation to seasons, or not? Do some leaves then fall? Is falling valid? If so what do they fall to? Does water evaporate in certain ranges of temperature? These are all scientific based questions, natural, physical, with scientific answers, and the scientific method allows those so interested to gain the truth of them. Do you hold all as unknowable?

To claim we know nothing now, is to assert we will never know anything, contradictory in itself, for to know it is wrong, one must first have a standard to know what is right to judge it as so. Truth is not relative. Either it reflects reality or it does not. Opinion is not fact, though it may be true, truth however is fact. The scientific method allows us to gauge the nature of reality. To argue since some models have had concerns therefore all will, is a compositional fallacy. You need to show what is fundamentally wrong with the method of acquiring knowledge itself, in relation to the nature of reality.

Science is about the increase of the knowledge pool, knowledge being facts of reality. Not the subversion of facts.

[1] http://plato.stanford.edu...
Debate Round No. 1
enso

Pro

enso forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2
enso

Pro

enso forfeited this round.
Puck

Con

Tra la la
Debate Round No. 3
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by Puck 7 years ago
Puck
Haha yeah.
Posted by Ore_Ele 7 years ago
Ore_Ele
holy Klondike bars batman! This is spooky. I can now see why Puck and I are having a misunderstanding in the forums.
Posted by enso 7 years ago
enso
Sorry all. I'm not one to give excuses. So I won't. Perhaps another time, Puck?
Posted by Chrysippus 7 years ago
Chrysippus
Agree with WJM below.
Posted by wjmelements 7 years ago
wjmelements
CON gets all categories due to multiple forfeits.
Posted by enso 7 years ago
enso
Really? Assuming it is not a theological explanation, I'm interested.
Posted by wjmelements 7 years ago
wjmelements
I'd side with PRO but for a different reason.
6 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Vote Placed by Maikuru 7 years ago
Maikuru
ensoPuckTied
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Vote Placed by GeorgeCarlinWorshipper 7 years ago
GeorgeCarlinWorshipper
ensoPuckTied
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Vote Placed by studentathletechristian8 7 years ago
studentathletechristian8
ensoPuckTied
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Vote Placed by Chrysippus 7 years ago
Chrysippus
ensoPuckTied
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Vote Placed by mongeese 7 years ago
mongeese
ensoPuckTied
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Vote Placed by wjmelements 7 years ago
wjmelements
ensoPuckTied
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