Monday, September 20, 2010

oh, francis bacon

For today's blog, I will draw on a discussion I had with a roommate over a year ago. She is a chemistry major, I am a physics major, and we had several discussions about the nature of science.

During the discussion I'm referring to, we were focusing on the nature of science. Scientific development is happening at an extraordinary rate these days. We (in the sense of a community, both professional and layman) look back at the days of Aristotelian thinking and shake our heads just a little with benign superiority. These days, we know so much. We're so educated. We know better than to trust in authority; we trust the hard, proven experiments.

The problem with the scientific method, as far as discovering new science, however, is that it's simply an algorithm that tests your theories. You have to come up with the theories themselves, and devise the experiments to test the relevant parts of your hypotheses. And all the scientific method can give you is a small sign that you might be on the right track. Really though, your theory could be bonkers; maybe you just haven't done the right experiment yet. Luminiferous ether, anyone?

My roommate and I decided that someday, the scientific theory as we know it will be improved upon somehow, drastically left in the dust by another approach to developing scientific knowledge. We don't know what that might be, but there has to be a better algorithm, something that can take creativity into account.

But for now, all we have to develop science is the scientific method and the flashes of brilliance from naturally analytical minds everywhere. Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes, I believe, really did do us a service in labelling the types of knowledge that men sometimes want to take for granted but which really can't be inherently trusted. Once the label was created, one could identify the problems and realize that empirical evidence was needed to prove scientific knowledge.

I'm here waiting for the improvement on the scientific method. I don't think it's wrong, but like Newton's laws of mechanics were superseded by Einstein's theory of relativity, I think one day the scientific method will serve as an elementary method of discovery with something much superior for advanced science taking its place. It will be interesting to see this progress...

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