Monday, July 27, 2015

Is there such a thing as science, or are there just sciences?

Opponents of Christianity sometimes argue that there is no Christianity, only Christianities. Could we just as easily say that there is no science, only sciences?


Heuristics said...

There is no definition of 'science' that works.

The term is just a PR trick used to secure funding for some academic faculties while excluding others, based on an agreement between the population and government that the faculties that engineers could get meaningful information from to create utility to the population should get more funding.

If you want to have a definition that speaks to the essence of what is done instead of the utility to the people via engineering then natural philosophy is decent one.

John B. Moore said...

Correction: There is no definition of science that works for every conceivable purpose.

Anyone can take a word and twist its definition and use it for their narrow purposes. Should we pay attention? Should we worry about what all sorts of non-scientists do with the word "science"? Maybe not.

Same thing with the definition of Christianity, of course. You and your special group can define the term and call yourselves Christian, and you don't need to worry about the Mormons or the Hutterites or whoever.

David Brightly said...

So science can be defined as the activity of just those faculties that exploit that PR funding trick, right?

More seriously, forgive me if I'm wrong, but there seems to be a deal off antipathy towards science here, at least amongst some of the commentariat. I don't understand this. Ever since childhood I've thought of science as marvellous. It seemed it was possible to see beyond the everyday welter to something deeper, ordered, and beautiful. And in mathematics you could actually prove things. So, despite its unpopularity in philosophy of science circles, I suppose I adhere to something like a Wilsonian consilience. At the very least there are no glaring inconsistencies between the sciences, and at best the sciences really do fit nicely together into a unity which we can just call 'science'. But maybe this is a rose-tinted view...

However, I think it's worth pointing out that science, as it currently stands, causes just as big a problem for atheists as for theists. The subjective world of thought, feeling, and experience in which we are immersed just doesn't seem to fit with the scientific world picture. But both worlds are undeniable. One can't wish either of them away. Certainly not science. It's just too massive.

B. Prokop said...

"there seems to be a deal off antipathy towards science here, at least amongst some of the commentariat"

Not me, David. Not me. It would be hard to reconcile such antipathy with the fact that Christendom invented the scientific method. Simply peruse a list LIKE THIS, and be amazed at how little we would today know without the groundbreaking, pioneering work of people of faith. And if that list is not impressive enough for you, then prepare to be blown away BY THIS ONE.

What I will admit to an antipathy toward, is the ridiculous idea that science is somehow incompatible, or even at war, with religion - that one is exclusive of the other. To quote myself: Science and religion are like the right and left wheels on a cart. Lose either one, and you’ll run straight into a ditch. Religion without science is superstition. Science without religion can all-too-easily lead to Auschwitz, Hiroshima, and the Gulag. We desperately need both, if we are to survive this still-new century.

Jezu ufam tobie!

David Brightly said...

No Bob, not you. But I am interested in why some commenters have such a down on one of the glories of western civilisation.

Crude said...

But I am interested in why some commenters have such a down on one of the glories of western civilisation.

I'm not down on science. Science is quite handy, in its respective sphere - though it's handy right alongside 'reason generally', 'philosophy', 'mathematics' and more.

Scientists, however? Scientists I'm less fond of.

Victor Reppert said...

They're a bunch of humans.

David Brightly said...

Individually or collectively?