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Post Reply Why is science just theories? Is there anything absolute?
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Posted 10/26/17 , edited 10/27/17

Bavalt wrote:

That's just the nature of inductive knowledge. We base science off of what we observe, and we can never be sure that we've observed everything we need to in order to get the full picture. That's why it's so important to be skeptical in scientific fields, and assume you might have something wrong. It only takes one instance of something the current model doesn't explain to demand that model be expanded, reworked or even scrapped.

You could say that logic (including math) is infallible, since it deals with the nature of information rather than observable phenomena. Even if there is some kind of exception to logical rules, such a thing might not be possible for humans to perceive: if you think of it as a sort of species-wide subjective truth - "logic is inherently and absolutely ubiquitous to the way humanity experiences the world" - then I like to believe it flies. Even so, I like to try and conceive of ways that it could turn out to be untrue.

In the end, I personally believe that questions are infinitely more interesting than answers, and though I'm not a scientist myself, I like to believe that that's a healthy point of view for a scientist to have. If you're working not for the end goal (finding the absolute truth) but for the work itself (exploring different possibilities and making workable structures out of them), then you'll have an easier time staying motivated. If you find conflicting information, the next thing you'll do is to decide whether or not you want to do further research, or maybe experiments of your own, to try and figure out which information is more supportable. I think it's that decision ("I don't know who to believe, so I'll find out myself.") that sets many scientists apart from others. For any given uncertainty, some people are happy to choose the proposed model that makes the most sense to them, and others are happy to leave it up in the air and admit they don't know. There's nothing wrong with either of those: people have a lot of things that require their attention, so if the interest isn't there, there's no shame in not paying it much mind. But, if your itch to know for sure leads you to take action, then science is probably a good fit for you.


I've always believed that whether you're blindly obeying or blindly disbelieving, the fact that it's done blindly is a root of ignorance and all things should be done with a little care and thought, at the least, even if it doesn't work out as hoped or expected. Thank you for saying the same, but much more elegantly than I ever have. Should we cross paths, I owe you a hearty handshake.
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Posted 10/26/17 , edited 10/27/17
You can really only trust what you have personally experienced and learned. Who's to even say that history has happened the way it has? The oldest living person should be maybe 110 years old, so no one can say for certain what happened before 1907 o.0
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Posted 10/26/17 , edited 10/27/17

oneouts123 wrote:

I feel like science is mostly theories and guesses. Nobody knows for sure. Evolution, The human body and space are all just theories. I have been trying to do research on certain scientific topics but I keep finding articles and "scientific evidence" claiming different things. All from people who have PHDs and wrote books about their topic. I don't know who I should believe. Will we ever understand the world with 100% accuracy?




It's because Scientists are smart enough to know that they don't know everything. So rather than be like religious people who speak in absolutes and ultimatums, most scientists have the humility to admit that what they have put out there is simply a theory...

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Posted 10/26/17 , edited 10/27/17

oneouts123 wrote:

I feel like science is mostly theories and guesses. Nobody knows for sure. Evolution, The human body and space are all just theories. I have been trying to do research on certain scientific topics but I keep finding articles and "scientific evidence" claiming different things. All from people who have PHDs and wrote books about their topic. I don't know who I should believe. Will we ever understand the world with 100% accuracy?


You are a fool! Yet i mean that in the best way I can sorry but it's not your fault. This is a problem with many many many people when they hear the word "Theory". And the reason it is not your fault is because scam artist, marketing jackasses, and BS pseudoscience pushers have abused the word in reference to Science for a long time now.

A "Scientific Theory" is not a guess as you put it but step 5 or 6 depends on the version of the Scientific method you personally were taught.

Step 1 Observe and Ask a question. "Why is the sky blue?"

Step 2 Research.

Step 3 Form a hypothesis. (this is where people get confused this is not the therory point). "the sky is not blue, but only looks that way to us because of the way sunlight is scattered by water molecules in the atmosphere"

Step 4 Experiment fully.

Step 5 Data analyst.

STOP!!!!!!!!!!!!! Did the Data Support your hypothesis? Yes move to step 6. If not Return to step 2

Step 6 Form a Scientific Theory / Conclusion. "we humans percive the sky as blue due to the way our eyes process the sunlight which is reflected off water molecules in our atmosphere"

Step 7 submit your Scientific Theory to the community for peer review.

A Scientific Theory is something only created after confirmed data analyst. Yet even then in the professional scientific world it's not a confirmed Scientific Theory till others have also gone over the data and conducted their own experiments and come to the same Conclusion. A "Scientific Law" which very rare is created when the majority of the scientific community agrees that the math and data is as iron clad as can be with current standards. Even with a Law if new methods are found to test a law can be overruled.

Hucksters abuse step 4 and sometime even just step 3. Claim to have a new confirmed scientific theory that always coincidentally supports their new Snake oil that you really must by now it's scientifically proven.

The problem is your coming at this as a believe a faith. Science real science is Not such a thing. It is the process for which we understand the material plane.
Why does it feel like there are so many contradictions in science? Because one there are very little is ever set in stone yet these tend to be minor differences over time. Mainly you feel this way because you have business abuseing the process to sell their product. Butter vs Margarine for decages they would pay for research into the other and then cherry pick the data to make a PR statements. Butters good for your heart says [sciency name here] *paid for by the makes of [namebrand here] Butter. 6 months later Butter causes cancer says [insert sciency name here]*paid for by the makers of[namebrand here] margarine.
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Posted 10/26/17 , edited 10/27/17
Exactly, most people don't understand the scientific version of "theory".

This is the best video to sum up the differences:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gklQ3GbmufI
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Posted 10/26/17 , edited 10/27/17

Divusmors wrote:
I've always believed that whether you're blindly obeying or blindly disbelieving, the fact that it's done blindly is a root of ignorance and all things should be done with a little care and thought, at the least, even if it doesn't work out as hoped or expected. Thank you for saying the same, but much more elegantly than I ever have. Should we cross paths, I owe you a hearty handshake.


Ironically, if you said to a "Science activist"--y'know, those cranky jerks who insist that not putting a statue of Einstein next to the town Christmas nativity is the "tyranny of ignorance"--that, quote, "A closed mind is the Enemy of Science", they'd probably agree with you.
Thinking you were rooting for their cause.
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Posted 10/26/17 , edited 10/27/17
To laymanize the terminology as much as possible, scientific theories are called such not because they guesswork or even best guess, but because they are constantly being improved and made more precise. It is a sort of acceptance that we may never have a perfect understanding of the universe, but it is the best we have with the tools available.

But for something to even be accepted as a theory it has been rigorously tested, reviewed, retested, challenged, and examined.
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Posted 10/26/17 , edited 10/27/17
A theory, as I understand the term, is an explanation or model of a phenomena that can be used to produce testable predictions. Some theories are better established than others (for instance, those in physics, chemistry, and biology tend to be much more certain than those in psychology, sociology, or nutrition). Some have only a small amount of evidence; those that are older and have been tested with poor results will tend to be superseded, while new ones will have to be tested much more. As we test predictions coming from these theories, we note whether they work, and in what situations they work or fail. The theory is modified and tested again, or discarded. In doing so, we constantly move toward a more useful way of looking at things. Whether more useful theories are necessarily more accurate has been argued about, but I don't think it matters.

So yeah, you could say we don't really KNOW anything through science, but if you take that view, it's impossible to KNOW anything at all (which is probably true). Regardless, it doesn't stop us from making decisions about what we should do, and how we should do it. Even though our knowledge of the world is fraught with uncertainty, it is more than sufficient to help us live our lives.

Now for math. I'm not an expert in math, logic, or their underlying philosophy, so I would love for someone with more knowledge to chime in if I'm wrong, but the way that I understand axiomatic systems, math basically works because we define it to work. Geometry isn't just geometry- it's Euclidean geometry, and various non-Euclidean Geometries that I can't name, because the parallel postulate (one of the basic rules, or axioms, of Euclidean geometry, it is interpreted as saying that there is one, and only one line passing through a given point that is parallel to a given line) is NOT necessary. We can trade it out for others, like how spherical geometry has NO parallel lines. Changing the axioms changes everything about the system.
Even formal logic has similar issues, with some systems doing away with the law of the excluded middle, or making other weird changes I don't understand.

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Posted 10/26/17 , edited 10/27/17

amejia0 wrote:


oneouts123 wrote:

I feel like science is mostly theories and guesses. Nobody knows for sure. Evolution, The human body and space are all just theories. I have been trying to do research on certain scientific topics but I keep finding articles and "scientific evidence" claiming different things. All from people who have PHDs and wrote books about their topic. I don't know who I should believe. Will we ever understand the world with 100% accuracy?


You are actually quite right in believing what you do. Most of everything that is taken as fact is essentially guesswork. But a lot of theories hold weight because they haven't been disproven. It leaves the door open for further experimentation and maybe someone in the future with better technology or just smarter will finally prove/disprove said theory.

I don't have much experimental experience in hard sciences such as physics/biology but what I do have is intimate knowledge of the experimental process for psychology. And I can 100% vouch that 99% of "proof" that studies find is based on guesswork that is substantiated through statistical analysis.

^

Science is not considered definitive because we do not know all that there is to know. For what we assume to know, now, may change once we learn more, later.
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Posted 10/27/17 , edited 10/28/17
Stupidity is the only absolute in the universe.
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Posted 10/27/17 , edited 10/27/17
You have to remember that an open minded person would consider the possibility that the current accepted theories and facts may be proven to be incorrect. Anyone who claims they are open minded and does not accept that simple fact is just a part of the cult.
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Posted 10/27/17 , edited 10/27/17
Death and taxes
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Posted 10/27/17 , edited 10/27/17
Well, it seems like this topic wants to summarize the whole philosophy of science into one paragraph or two, which is not possible.

Still a couple of things I would like to point out which struck me as a bit wrong in the discussion.
A small part of "evolution" is a fact but it depends what you mean by "evolution". The idea that genes change over time is probably right. Genes change even if we don't reproduce, so it is not much of a surprise they change from one generation to the other. Evolution as described through selection processes and so on has definitely not been experimentally proven for any higher organism. Some viruses and bacteria really do seem to go that way. Saying that we have "proven" that evolution is the cause of every species or whatever, is just plain wrong. If you really get deep into evolutionary theory, you will see a lot of it is very shaky. I am not saying this shows its wrong, just saying we cannot say evolution for every species or even most species is a fact or proven or anything like that.

What we knew in "science" 150 years ago is very different from what we know now. Facts back then are not facts today. It seems this is going to be the case as well in another 150 years. Or do you really in earnest believe that our scientific principles in 200 or 500 years are gonna be like they are today? Also some people, including me, do not believe that we just improve what we have, but we just try to save something as long as we can, and if it cannot be saved anymore we throw it overboard and come up with something completely knew. This was one big point in Kuhn's structure of scientific revolutions book.

Of course you guess in science and of course the whole scientific publishing process is biased. There should be enough studies on why and when scientists use intuition (not only in hypothesis generation but almost along every step). Everyone who has really done a serious scientific experiment will know how much stuff depends on random decisions and outside factors. Publishing or peer-review is a big system which keeps revolutionary ideas down for some time. Higgs-Boson, optogenetics and what have you are just very few examples. A lot is about money: journal publish stuff that is most certainly wrong just because it is controversial or outrageous and will therefore get many citations. Editors know each other and exchange manuscripts before peer-review. Very good pieces of work with very good experimental procedures fall through because the editors have a different view and don't like it to be challenged.

Scientists do believe in things. This is one of the big ones I always get. People tend to think that "scientists compared to religious people do not simply have blind faith but only go by evidence and probability". What science is, what evidence is, what the best explanation is etc all have to be believed. You cannot experimentally show that you have to experimentally show something. At some point you simply have to believe something, otherwise it is all going to be one big circular mess that doesn't make sense. Science is based on a philosophical/conceptual foundation which cannot be empirically proven. So yeah, you will need more than science, simply for science to work.
Science is a way of describing and trying to explain things that happen in the material world. It is not the only way, but it is a very successful way. This does not mean that it is the only way, the only way that needs to be taken seriously or the only reasonable way. There have been and are other approaches to understanding material or immaterial world (if you believe in one) which do not necessarily have to (and technically cannot) contradict with scientific views, and the different views are often compatible or just different descriptions of the same thing.

I suggest you get yourself a good phil of science book. The "very short introduction to the philosophy of science" is a good start. If you want more get the intro to phil of science from routledge, which is pretty good.
Also about all the people saying you cannot know something for sure or whatever, I suggest the part about evidentialsm and non-evidentialsm here:
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-belief/
Maybe also have a look at skepticism while you are at it.
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Posted 10/27/17 , edited 10/27/17
Humans are dumb, that's why.
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Posted 10/27/17 , edited 10/27/17
Science doesn't advance unless you doubt how current explanations (i.e. theories) actually explain everything. I highly recommend reading the book "A Random Walk in Science" (Robert Weber & Eric Mendoza). Here are some good quotes from it on pp 66-67.

"(Smithsonian Institution) I am tired of all this thing called science here.... We have spent millions in that sort of thing for the last few years, and it is time it should be stopped." Senator Simon Cameron (1901)

"(Bombing from Airplanes) As far as sinking a ship with a bomb is concerned, you just can't do it" U.S. Rear-Admiral Clark Woodward (1939)

"(The Atomic Bomb) That is the biggest fool thing we have ever done. The bomb will never go off, and I speak as an expert in explosives" Adm William Leahy to President Truman (1941)

If you stop and think about it, if mankind is ever going to have something like faster than light, or warp drive in space ships, it is going to require something different than the current power sources and something that side-steps the theory of relativity of not going faster than the speed of light.
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