01 July, 2010

Science has paradigms, too

Yesterday I was following a big debate on the web about the claim that school doesn't teach us enough about how to distinguish science and good reasoning from fluff, unscientific mumbojumbo or pure fraud. I agree with the notion, no question about it. But in the debate, there were quite a few comments which portrayed science as a paradigmatic system that leaves out something. Not quite so sure what to say about that.

Comparing science with religion there are some obvious differences. In science things are pretty much open for debate. You can try to topple any theory, but you're going to need some proof. An opinion is just an opinion, there's got to be serious evidence. In religion, this isn't the case, more or less. There is some room for debate (consider the relation of church to gay rights, for example). And there are some acceptable arguments, like the Bible, for example.

Religion has a clear paradigm. In Christianity, it is the Bible and other texts from the past. The paradigm includes the idea that religion makes sense (even though not explicitly rationally) and is useful. In science there are paradigms too. Scientists always assume, that for something to exist it must be measurable. If we accept the fact that telepathy is a good explanation of our world, it must be measurable in some way, for example by putting a telepathic person in a room and making him move objects that are not going to move in any other way.

Now the realization that science has paradigms as well is very important. That so, because the paradigmatic foundation always has to leave out something. The paradigm of linear causality leaves out phenomena that work (or could work) with nonlinear causality. It's very hard for me as a scientist to accept, but this is the only logical conclusion. It is possible that there is something outside the world of science. I'm not saying that there certainly is, I'm just saying that it's possible.

One final note: all the above does not mean that science doesn't work. Science is about linear causality and probabilities. When linear causality can be established between two events, it is almost sure that it will go as it's supposed to. But I guess there's always a tiny chance of God intervening...

No comments:

Post a Comment