Do we really understand Science?

do we really understand science?Science is not isolated from society; scientific discoveries can be an important reason for social changes. For example the discovery that earth is not flat influenced not only the scientific society but the whole world-view of the educated members of the society and helped in the separation from the Church . Philosophy was always inspired by technological innovations and scientific discoveries. Actually, someone can say, that Philosophy itself  is a by-product of the technological achievements in sea commerce; in ancient Greece trading provided people with massive new experiences that lead them to independent thought.

Philosophy and science should go hand in hand; Philosophers should decode the “true” meaning behind scientific discoveries and lead society to world-view change.  But this, of course, in not always the case or at least it doesn’t happen for the last couple of centuries. According to the humanists there is a big failure of philosophy in the latest years;

Dewey concluded that most of the problems of society during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries stemmed from the colossal failure of philosophy. He claimed that philosophers had forsaken their responsibility to explain the findings of science as they came to light, and to provide leadership in the continuous forging of a world view compatible with those findings–that they had, instead, lost themselves in the “quest for certainty.” The result was that much of the intellectual progress of the Enlightenment era stagnated and even regressed with the reemergence of a belief system that, once again, divided the world in two.

The reason for this failure is what they call “dualism”; Philosophers tried hard to reconcile science and religion by separating matter from “soul” which actually means to prevent science of studying humans as a part of nature.  If we describe thinking as another expression of Nature then there is no absolute truth and certainty any more.

Altogether, Kant provided a world view within which science was itself a quest for certainty –but a quest appropriate only for “the inherently rational and immutable domain of material substance.” As for that realm of change for which the methods of science are not applicable, humans were advised to rely on faith in metaphysical explanations, with their promise of escape from uncertainty through the soul’s ultimate connection to a realm of perfect being.

Dualism is the reason that Darwin’s theory was under attack for so long; This scientific theory treats humans and their “soul” as a part of Nature, and “dualists” cannot allow that.

For well over a century we have witnessed a battle, virtually to the death, to fence off psychological, anthropological, and sociological studies from that remarkable ordering paradigm now providing the very foundation for our understanding of all living things. This war has been fought not only by theologians but by many established academics in the humanities and so-called hard sciences. If it could be shown that evolution has no implications whatsoever for the spiritual and practical realms–that is, for human emotions, values, ideals, and actions–then the long-established reconciliation of religion and science in our culture need not be endangered.

The growing distance between dominant philosophy and the the philosophical suggestions that derive from scientific discoveries, creates a barrier to science itself;

No wonder we are producing so many mystics who throw all criteria for truth claims to the winds, while crying blithely, “All, all is mystery. We must learn to live with contradiction–to intuitively `know’ the unknowable!”. We tend to be satisfied only if a particular truth claim or value makes sense in terms of what we already believe–that is, if it fits into our current “meaning frame.”

What “dualists” refuse to abolish is certainty and  the idea of “absolute truth” behind scientific discoveries. Humanists, and evolutionary science in general, accept that we are bound to our nature and that our quest for knowledge is a gift that evolution gave to us. We are developing scientific methods because we evolved this way, yet we cannot handle the world views that Science suggests!

A very good demonstration of the problem can be the example of Relativity; Special theory of relativity is based in the assumption that there is no special system of reference in this world, there is no aether. But still people want to think that they hold a unique position in the Universe; that they are the only “intelligent” life form, even if the theory of Relativity suggests that time is bound to space which means that there are limitations on what we can learn about the universe (light cone), and that there can be parts of the vast universe that we cannot experience.

Another example is the one described in the post below; (In physics we can have two theories that describe the same world and they can be both correct)

So let us put it yet again in another, more pointed way: There is a surface of N dimensions without general relativity, the stuff of which obeys some rules that allow for evolution and all that, only to end up with conscious systems that argue in all earnest that the world fundamentally must have N+1 dimensions and that anybody who does not pledge full allegiance to general relativity as the fundamental last answer is a total quack and has no place in science or philosophy.
This is basically the state of the world today, and the especially sad part is: we already know this for quite a number of years by now, but at least my entire generation has to first bite the grass before it is widely accepted. As always, progress goes on funeral by funeral, established philosophers are mostly windbags, and pop-science sells via time-travel and worm-holes, but fails to communicate insights.

So the question is; do we really understand science or we like to believe that Earth is still flat?


Related questions/discussions

The Importance of Understanding Science

Why don’t Americans understand science better? Start with the scientists.

Why We Need To Understand Science

Related Books

Can we understand science?



What is Science (6). Can we simulate consciousness?

Epistemology tries to answer the question of knowledge;

  • What is knowledge?
  • How is knowledge acquired?
  • What do people know?
  • How do we know what we know?

The first question is really difficult. Someone – an engineer or scientist perhaps – would disagree and he would answer that knowledge is very simple to demonstrate; knowledge is the experience we acquire from our every day  with the outside world, what we call Nature. The more sophisticated and elaborated is this experience the more valuable it is.  In epistemology some philosophers will call this knowledge the “knowledge how” and they will ask “what about the so-called ‘knoweledge that’?”
consciousness problemFor example; 1+1=2 Do we know that by experience, belief or it is the way our mind works? Or the phrase ‘the sky is blue’ what kind of knowledge is contains? How it is different from the phrase ‘the sky has a color’? How do we know that blue means exactly the same thing for everybody? Experience is subjective, we cannot fully experience someone else’s experience. In philosophy this is described by “Qualia”

Qualia” singular “quale” (Latin pronunciation: [ˈkwaːle]), from a Latin word meaning for “what sort” or “what kind,” is a term used in philosophy to describe the subjective quality of conscious experience. Examples of qualia are the pain of a headache, the taste of wine, or the redness of an evening sky. Daniel Dennett writes that qualia is “an unfamiliar term for something that could not be more familiar to each of us: the ways things seem to us.” The importance of qualia in philosophy of mind comes largely from the fact that they are often seen as posing a fundamental problem for materialist explanations of the mind-body problem. Much of the debate over their existence hinges on the definition of the term that is used, as various philosophers emphasize or deny the existence of certain properties. Daniel Dennett coined the terms qualophiles for philosophers who believe in qualia; and qualophobes for those who don’t. – Wikipedia

Can we ever know anything about subjective concsiousness? Some scientist answer that we can try through simulation;

A subtler possibility is that we explain the ineffability itself. One example of this is a framework for thinking about natural and artificial information processing systems developed by Aaron Sloman and Ron Chrisley. They want to explain “the private, ineffable way things seem to us” by explaining how and why the ineffability problem arises at all. Their virtual machine (the CogAff architecture) includes processes that classify its own internal states. Unlike words that describe common experiences (such as seeing red in the world) these refer to internal states or concepts that are strictly not comparable from one virtual machine to another – just like qualia. If people protest that there is “something missing”; the indefinable quality, the what it’s like to be, or what zombies lack, their reply is that the fact that people think this way is what needs explaining, and can be explained in their model.  –

Can subjective experience be simply modeled by internal state classification of a program? Hard question.



evolution of human

Posted in Biology, Crisis Science, Evolution, God, Science by e1saman on September 28, 2010

evolution of humanWhat is evolution of human? If we answer the question strictly scientifically then we should give the definition of evolution in biology;

“In the broadest sense, evolution is merely change, and so is all-pervasive; galaxies, languages, and political systems all evolve. Biological evolution … is change in the properties of populations of organisms that transcend the lifetime of a single individual. The ontogeny of an individual is not considered evolution; individual organisms do not evolve. The changes in populations that are considered evolutionary are those that are inheritable via the genetic material from one generation to the next. Biological evolution may be slight or substantial; it embraces everything from slight changes in the proportion of different alleles within a population (such as those determining blood types) to the successive alterations that led from the earliest protoorganism to snails, bees, giraffes, and dandelions.”

– Douglas J. Futuyma in Evolutionary Biology, Sinauer Associates 1986

According to biology evolution has nothing to do with the actions that a human being is doing during his life time but it is a description of the laws that govern the change of the biology of the human species in the course of history.

Evolution is a process that results in heritable changes in a population spread over many generations.

Evolution is not

“the doctrine according to which higher forms of life have gradually arisen out of lower..” – Chambers

People that start from different definitions of evolution cannot discuss because they have different things in their mind. The latest definition is not scientific and it is wrong. When someone claims that he does not believe in evolution he does not refer to the first definition; heritable changes in a population over many generations is a fact not a belief. This is important.

evolution of human


history of evolution : Ionian philosophers

The idea behind evolution is natural change; In the 6th Century BC the Ionian Philosophers for the first time in known history they tried to explain the world without referring super natural forces. Heraclitus  Anaximander (c. 610–546 BC) and Empedocles (c. 490–430 BC) suggested non-supernatural explanations for the origin of living things;


Evolutionary theory begins with the Ionian philosopher Anaximander (ca. 611 – 546 B. C. E.). Very little is known about his life, but it is known that he wrote a long poem, On Nature, summarizing his researches. This poem is now lost, and has survived only in extracts quoted in other works. Enough survives, however, that Anaximander’s thought can be reconstructed with some confidence. For Anaximander, the world had arisen from an undifferentiated, indeterminate substance, the apeiron. The Earth, which had coalesced out of the apeiron, had been covered in water at one stage, with plants and animals arising from mud. Humans were not present at the earliest stages; they arose from fish. This poem was quite influential on later thinkers, including Aristotle. – Evolution and paleontology in the ancient world


Another Greek philosopher, the fifth-century materialist Empedocles of Acragas (in Sicily), postulated that the universe was composed of four basic elements — earth, air, fire, and water. These elements were stirred by two fundamental forces, which Empedocles called Love and Strife. (“Attraction” and “repulsion” might be better modern terms for what Empedocles actually meant.) The constant interplay of these elements, alternately attracting and repelling each other, had formed the universe. Empedocles claimed that the Earth had given birth to living creatures, but that the first creatures had been disembodied organs. These organs finally joined into whole organisms, through the force of Love, but some of these organisms, being monstrous and unfit for life, had died out.

Please not that the views of Anaximander and Empedocles were not scientific theories, but they were philosophical theories that tried to explain the origin of the Cosmos. They have nothing to do with the theory of evolution, except that they are the first know attempts to explain life without using super-natural explanations which is what the science of Biology is trying to do.



Another Greek philosopher, the fifth-century materialist Empedocles of Acragas (in Sicily), postulated that the universe was composed of four basic elements — earth, air, fire, and water. These elements were stirred by two fundamental forces, which Empedocles called Love and Strife. (“Attraction” and “repulsion” might be better modern terms for what Empedocles actually meant.) The constant interplay of these elements, alternately attracting and repelling each other, had formed the universe. Empedocles claimed that the Earth had given birth to living creatures, but that the first creatures had been disembodied organs. These organs finally joined into whole organisms, through the force of Love, but some of these organisms, being monstrous and unfit for life, had died out.

Philosophy of … thinking

Posted in Philosophy, Philosophy of Science, realism, Science by e1saman on September 22, 2010

philosophy of scienceI tried to read the following post on philosophy of science, and I think I am confused; What do you understand of the following paragraph?

Can we think about non existent objects?

But isn’t denying that we can think about non-existent objects self refuting? What have we been talking about this whole time if not whether or not there are any of this kind of thought! So denying that there are any just shows that we have been thinking about non-existent objects all along! The very thoughts about non-existent objects that we have been discussing. But this is too quick. This is again just another example of an existentially quantified statement. ‘There are no thoughts about non-existent objects’ is really just saying that thoughts about non-existent objects don’t exist but that does not thereby mean that I am thinking about some non-existent objects! And this is for just the same reason as above; there are no objects which can be correctly described as the ones that I am thinking about.

My poor understanding is that if we cannot even make thoughts about something non-existent, then we have to accept that non-existence itself is non-existent… But maybe logic does not apply this way here!

Maybe it’s poor tactic but I like to answer to questions with other questions, and in this case I would like to ask what does it really mean if we can think of non-existent objects?

Someone would say that imagining of non-existent objects has helped mathematics a lot. But someone else would say that mathematics is just a description  of the way our mind works¹, nothing to do with reality. In this context then imagining of non-existing object can lead to some (not new but)  hidden ways of thinking, or in some hidden memories of something existed in the past.

Finally behind the initial question maybe there is a strong realistic point of view.

I suppose we do not want to involve the idealist here because then we will open a looooong thread!


¹ A description of the ‘laws’ that govern the way that we perceive the world.