Science

∞ generated and posted on 2018.01.13 ∞

Approach to gaining increased understanding of how the universe works, both locally and distantly, that involves making educated guesses, formal testing, and then attempting to fit the results of such testing into existing bodies of knowledge.

Science is a means of looking at the world that at least attempts to minimize biases as much as possible, maximize consistency with evidence as we understand it as much as possible, but also not limit one's perspective solely to what's already been considered.

A key component of the process that is science is both the humility to imagine that perhaps we don't already know everything and a willingness to park our dogmatism at the door. Note that educated guesses more formally are known as hypotheses. In addition, note that testing is not limited to conducting physical experiments but also can involve observation, modeling, and thought experiments, etc.

Though successful testing of hypotheses often requires skills honed through years of practice, the possession of some reasonable working knowledge of what is already known is another difficult aspect of doing science. Finally, a crucial step in comparing one's results to what is already known involves publication along with subsequent assessment of those results by others.

Figure legend: Though individual scientists are fallable, like individual people in general, overall science is able to root out major problems and correct them.

Another way of looking at science is that it represents the most sophisticated means that we know of towards avoiding wasting one's own time – along with that of others – in the course of attempting to create new knowledge. That is, it is really easy to make educated guesses but quite hard to get those guesses right and really difficult to change the thinking of others even if you are right (hence the need for great rigor in one's testing followed by lucid publication).

Though such difficulties might at first appear to be impediments to the progression of knowledge in reality they are far preferable to building up a world view upon a "foundation of sand". Science, in other words, generally is pretty good at both identifying and dealing with both charlatans and frauds, but as with many things, science also doesn't necessarily progress at the pace that we might prefer.

The following video is a nice introduction to the "Poetry" of science, and of biology:

From :

Sit down with an anthropologist to talk about the nature of humans, and you are likely to hear this chestnut: 'Well, you have to remember that 99 percent of human istory was spent on the open savanna in small hunter-gatherer bands.' It's a classic cliché of science, and it's true. Indeed, those millions of ancestral years produced many of our hallmark traits—upright walking and big brains, for instance. Of course, those wildly useful evolutionary innovations came at a price: achy backs from our bipedal stance; existential despair from our large, self-contemplative cerebral cortex. As is so often the case with evolution, there is no free lunch. ¶ Compounding the challenges of those trade-offs, the world we have invented—and quite recently in the grand scheme of things—is dramatically different from the one to which our bodies and minds are adapted. Have your dinner come to you (thanks to the pizza delivery guy) instead of chasing it down on foot; log in to Facebook to interact with your nearest and dearest instead of spending the better part of every day with them for your whole life. But this is where the utility of the anthropologist's cliché for explaining the human condition ends. ¶ The reason for this mismatch between the setting we evolved to live in and the situations we encounter in our modern era derives from another defining characteristic of our kind, arguably the most important one: our impulse to push beyond the limitations of evolution imposed on us[,] by developing tools to make us faster, smarter, longer-lived. Science is one such tool—an invention that requires us to break out of our Stone Age seeing-is-believing mindset so that we can clear the next hurdle we encounter, be it pandemic flu or climate change. You could call it the ultimate expression of humanity's singular drive to aspire to be better than we are.

The following is a (somewhat incomplete) list of terms relevant to the successful conducting of science: AccuracyControlled variablesDependent variableIndependent variableNegative controlPositive controlScientific methodSensitivity.

Note also this link to Bill Nye the Science Guy on the 'science' underlying the conclusion that the Earth is round!


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