/ What is science to you?

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Irk the Purist - on 07 May 2014
I'm trying to get an idea of what science means to people from a wide range of backgrounds for an article I'm working on. So in one sentence, or two if you have to, what is science to you? Try and respond without reading other people's first if you can!

I know what I think but am withholding it so as not to bias people too much.

Why UKC? Well lots of people, lots of backgrounds and I'm writing for nothing and for personal interest so I don't have the budget for telemarketing!

Thanks!
tlm - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Basing your models of the world on observable, repeatable evidence. Using repeatable tests to see if your models work or not.
elsewhere on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:
Doing experiments and getting a feel for experimental errors.
Dave Garnett - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

It's just the way the world is. To not understand science is to not understand anything.
Tim Chappell - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Science means trying to understand things from the bottom up.

This is a good way to try to understand them. But not the only way.
Hairy Pete on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist: Truth. And seeking the truth without bias.
Toby_W on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Science and Engineering (I'm an engineer but also do science) is seeing the world in full colour HD and even 3D to everyone else's black and white.

It is also a source of frustration as in the UK most people seem to struggle with the most basic maths and science but find this acceptable compared to not knowing who Shakespeare was.

Cheers

Toby (If you quote me I want a reference ;-) )

jonnie3430 - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Knowledge, from Latin scientia, meaning knowledge.
ill_bill - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Science is about accepting uncertainty & being curious
Jon Stewart - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Science is human beings attempt to understand nature. And it's a pretty good one.
Bob on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Reasoned understanding of the environment and processes around us.
skog - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

The struggle to understand things, using reason and evidence - accepting that we're never absolutely sure, and must keep re-examining the things we think we already understand.
1poundSOCKS - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

A tool.
Coel Hellier - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:
Science is understanding the universe. That's it. (Both bottom-up and top-down approaches, whatever works.)
Post edited at 10:40
Irk the Purist - on 07 May 2014
Thanks all. I'm doing childcare today so popping in infrequently, not ignoring you. Some good responses so far, nothing too contraversial.

Tim - interested in hearing about the alternatives you had in mind. Without wanting to start too much of a debate!

Pursued by a bear - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist: There's a quote from someone along the lines of 'the scientific method is the best way we know of making sure that we aren't fooling ourselves', and with that I cannot disagree. 'The scientific method' is rather a different beast to 'science', however.

If you want a view about what the single word 'science' is to me then, try this. Science is the reason I'm alive, was the way for me to earn a living for many years, is the reason I can stay in touch with people I care for despite them being many miles distant, has improved my quality of life, made it possible for me to travel, to understand the world we live in, how it works and how life, and subsequently human beings, came to be, helps show us our status in a vast, beautiful, universe and has allowed you to ask, and me to answer this question.

Long, but comprehensive.

T.
Ramblin dave - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Science is basing your world-view on the evidence rather than vice versa.
Coel Hellier - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Pursued by a bear:

> There's a quote from someone along the lines of 'the scientific method is the best way we know of making sure that we aren't fooling ourselves'

Sounds like Feynman: "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself--and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you've not fooled yourself, it's easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that."

CalTech commencement address 1974, which is a rather good commentary on science.
http://neurotheory.columbia.edu/~ken/cargo_cult.html
tlm - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Dave Garnett:

> It's just the way the world is. To not understand science is to not understand anything.

Do you think so, really? What about things like small, self-sufficient farmers, or indigenous people, who know about things through the stories and examples given to them by their parents and grandparents? They might not 'test' that a given herb is good for some use or another, but they might have folklaw that tells them that it is (which might be wrong, but it might be right?)

There are lots of ways of knowing about the world beside science, aren't there? Like art might be a none scientific way of expressing your feelings.

Science only makes models of how the world is. It isn't how the world is. It's a small, but significant difference. How you picture an atom in your head is a model of how an atom really actually is, based on the evidence (and also on stories, where you have never actually ever looked at first hand evidence yourself). Often, the current scientific model is later modified as new evidence is uncovered.
wilkie14c - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

What is science to you?

something god made to test our faith
Toby_W on 07 May 2014
In reply to tlm:

In your example there is no understanding which is what the science quote mentions. Most people successfully use their telly but have next to no understanding of how they actually work and this does not stop them just like the indigenous people etc.

Cheers

Toby
Tim Chappell - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

What I had in mind is rather like tlm's later comment on this thread. Reading e.g. War And Peace--and 'getting' it-- adds profoundly to your understanding and knowledge of human nature and life. But it's not *scientific* understanding that it gives you; it's humane understanding. And that's the kind of thing I mean by top-down understanding.
Pursued by a bear - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Coel Hellier: That sounds likely; Feynman has some very good quotes.

T.

jkarran - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Science is a set of ideas, tools and processes by which we can more objectively explore, understand and collaborate to that end.

It's a tool for testing ideas.

jk
(30something MEng in electronics)
Post edited at 10:55
Al Evans on 07 May 2014
In reply to wilkie14c:

Something to put in place of blind destructive faiths
Rob Exile Ward on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Science is the process by which we create ever more plausible, interconnected and mutually reinforcing models of reality, which in turn enable us to predict, benefit from and manipulate natural phenomena.
girlymonkey - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

To me science is complicated stuff that clever people deal with!
SteveoS - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

The only difference between messing around and science is writing it down.
Toby_W on 07 May 2014
In reply to SteveoS:

The first time I've wished there was a like button.

Cheers

Toby
Quad on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Proving theory by experimentation.
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AdrianC - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist: As ever, xkcd has the answer...

http://xkcd.com/397/
Coel Hellier - on 07 May 2014
In reply to tlm:

> What about things like small, self-sufficient farmers, or indigenous people, who know about things through the stories and examples given to them by their parents and grandparents?

That's proto-science. It's still based on evidence when done well.

> They might not 'test' that a given herb is good for some use or another ...

But they would test it, by trying it. It's just they would do so in a rudimentary fashion that isn't as reliable as today's methods. But that's ok, what's what early scientists did; it's just that the methods have been refined a lot since then.

> Like art might be a none scientific way of expressing your feelings.

"Expressing your feelings", yes, but that is a very different activity from finding out about and understanding the world.
999thAndy on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

It's the best way we have of describing, explaining and predicting the external aspects of our existence.


john arran - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Science is the study of the observable world.
Robert Durran - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Reading e.g. War And Peace--and 'getting' it-- adds profoundly to your understanding and knowledge of human nature and life. But it's not *scientific* understanding that it gives you; it's humane understanding. And that's the kind of thing I mean by top-down understanding.

But much stuff, such as studying the behaviour of ants, that we all think of a science is also "top-down", in the sense that we are not trying to explain it in terms of fundamental particle physics. War and peace is no different. Everything, ant behaviour, life, human nature, humane understanding is, when it comes down to it, just particle physics (or, to go even lower, whatever lies behind particle physics). It is just that, with our present level of understanding, it is not very practical or helpful to try to understand ant behaviour, let alone War and Peace, in terms of particle physics.

Coel Hellier - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> And that's the kind of thing I mean by top-down understanding.

Science does top-down views and top-down understanding also. An example from physics, the 2nd law of thermodynamics resulted from a top-down study of how matter behaved in large ensembles. In biology, lots of study of ecology and ecosystems takes top-down views.

Of course these top-down views have to be consistent with and integrated with bottom-up views, and the combination is why science works so well.
tlm - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> That's proto-science. It's still based on evidence when done well.

But it isn't always done well. And sometimes people carrying on smearing mustard on their chests to cure a cold, because it feels nice and hot and as though it is doing something, and their granny said it worked. There are loads of examples in my world of people doing things because they were told that they work, and they never notice that they don't work.

> "Expressing your feelings", yes, but that is a very different activity from finding out about and understanding the world.

I didn't say it was about finding out about or understanding the world. There is more to the world that just finding out about it.... ;-)

Coel Hellier - on 07 May 2014
In reply to john arran:

> Science is the study of the observable world.

Though plenty of what science studies isn't "observable" in any direct sense. Neutrinos are an example. Thus it would be better to say that science is the study of everything that exists.
tlm - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> But it's not *scientific* understanding that it gives you; it's humane understanding. And that's the kind of thing I mean by top-down understanding.

I think this is a big, big area that science has hardly touched. Human behaviour, emotions, sociology, psychology. It's all been approached in very unscientific ways as well as attempts to be scientific. With some of the new ways of measuring things that we now have, I can imagine a time when we will snigger at just how little we understood these basic things...

How come, with science, we don't seem to be able to prevent fairly basic stuff like war?
timjones - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Science is a great tool that needs to be used wisely and carefully. Not all scientists are equal so cynicism and an enquiring mind are essential.
Coel Hellier - on 07 May 2014
In reply to tlm:

> But it isn't always done well.

You're right, but then modern science can be done badly also. All humans tend to make mistakes.

> There are loads of examples in my world of people doing things because they were told that they work, and they never notice that they don't work.

Which is why science has refined its methods over time to be better and better at distinguishing what does work from what you're merely told works.

> I didn't say it was about finding out about or understanding the world. There is more to the world that just finding out about it.... ;-)

Absolutely. And the "science" bit is the finding out about and understanding the world.
AdrianC - on 07 May 2014
In reply to tlm:

> How come, with science, we don't seem to be able to prevent fairly basic stuff like war?

Because we're not the rational creatures we like to think we are.

jkarran - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Though plenty of what science studies isn't "observable" in any direct sense. Neutrinos are an example. Thus it would be better to say that science is the study of everything that exists.

Aren't neutrino's observed when they interact with chlorine ions, it's just that proportionally very few of them do interact with even the biggest most sensitive detectors?

jk
tlm - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Absolutely. And the "science" bit is the finding out about and understanding the world.

But that isn't the whole story. The 'science' bit does the finding out, but lots of us rely on stories to know information, be they reliable stories, like reading someone else's published research paper, or completely unreliable stories, like urban myths. A lot of our knowledge falls somewhere in the middle, and we simply don't have time to test everything. I just take the medicines I am given, because the doctor said it was alright, and she just gets her information from the computer, and in fact, when and where was the actual science done?

It's more ad hoc than you make out...
tlm - on 07 May 2014
In reply to AdrianC:

> Because we're not the rational creatures we like to think we are.

It isn't just that. We actually don't know how to prevent it, or how to stop global warming, or how to prevent people dying from lack of fresh water or food.

We know how to make a teeny mobile phone, or how to implant a pacemaker, but we really aren't very good at preventing depression, or stopping cycles of drug abuse...
Dave Garnett - on 07 May 2014
In reply to tlm:
> (In reply to Dave Garnett)
>
> [...]
>
> Do you think so, really? What about things like small, self-sufficient farmers, or indigenous people,

Indigenous peoples know loads of science. There maybe some mumbo jumbo mixed with it but if they've figured out princples that consistently allow them to do things better, as Coel says, that's the beginning of science.

> There are lots of ways of knowing about the world beside science, aren't there?

Like what?

> Like art might be a none scientific way of expressing your feelings.

But you don't get far without fire, soot, pigments, tools, candles, paper, glue, lenses, photographic emulsions, standing waves, octaves, amplifiers, plaster, concrete, smelting, holography, lasers...

Admittedly, you don't need any of that for whistling in the dark.

> Science only makes models of how the world is. It isn't how the world is.

Agreed, but it was shorthand. I meant 'science'. But then that's also true of religion, art and reality generally isn't it? It's all perception, conception and synecdoche, not just science.
Tim Chappell - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Everything, ant behaviour, life, human nature, humane understanding is, when it comes down to it, just particle physics (or, to go even lower, whatever lies behind particle physics).


No it isn't. Mathematics, logic, economics, biology, even macro-physics are not particle physics. Still less human interactions and the kind of understanding of the world that e.g. War And Peace gives.

But this is Irk's thread. He asked for one contribution from each of us, and this is my third, so I'm shutting up now. Things to do, places to be, books to write...
mkean - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

What happens when I'm not doing paperwork ;-)

How about "structured curiosity"?
FrankBooth - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Science is about making rational sense of stuff. Rationale should be logical, repeatable and capable of withstanding critical analysis and objective scrutiny.
AdrianC - on 07 May 2014
In reply to tlm: Hmmmm - I'd argue we actually do know how to stop or prevent most of that list. We're just not very good at using what we know.

Coel Hellier - on 07 May 2014
In reply to jkarran:

> Aren't neutrino's observed when they interact with chlorine ions, ...

Yes, so they are observed indirectly, owing to their interactions with stuff that we can can "see". So, in that sense they are part of the "observable universe". However, by that test, anything "unobservable" would have to have no interaction at all with matter in any way, and thus be a "parallel" existence that has no causal contact with our universe.

Robert Durran - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> No it isn't. Mathematics, logic, economics, biology, even macro-physics are not particle physics. Still less human interactions and the kind of understanding of the world that e.g. War And Peace gives.

I'll give you mathematics and logic (maybe), but everything else is, in principle, reducible to fundamental physics (or, at least, we have no reason apart from wishful thinking to believe that they are not).


Coel Hellier - on 07 May 2014
In reply to tlm:

> The 'science' bit does the finding out, but lots of us rely on stories to know information, be they reliable stories, like reading someone else's published research paper, ...

All of us do this. No-one has ever done every scientific experiment themselves first hand.

> It's more ad hoc than you make out...

I'm not making any comment on the degree of ad-hoc-ness. I'm just saying that "folk knowledge" of how things work was arrived at the same way, by observing what works, and that modern science simply refines those methods to be better and better at finding such things out.
Coel Hellier - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Robert Durran:

> I'll give you mathematics and logic (maybe), but everything else is, in principle, reducible to fundamental physics

When you really get down to fundamental theoretical physics, it is pretty much indistinguishable from mathematics and logic. Ask any string theorist!
contrariousjim - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Science is the process of revealing new knowledge and revising old in an ever more nuanced description of reality.
contrariousjim - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Toby_W:

> Science and Engineering (I'm an engineer but also do science) is seeing the world in full colour HD and even 3D to everyone else's black and white.

I disagree with that. The more involved in science I've become, the more focussed on the abstraction I've become and the less mindful of nature in all its glory I've become. I cannot see what the necessary pathway is, therefore, between doing science, and seeing reality as all the more glorious. This seems to me to be at best a highly personal statement.
Blackmud on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Always questioning, nothing is truth, only theory with better or worse supporting evidence.

Never stop questioning, never accept dogma (especially the dogma of science as truth, that's when you stop questioning and lose a real commitment to science).
contrariousjim - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> All of us do this. No-one has ever done every scientific experiment themselves first hand.

> I'm not making any comment on the degree of ad-hoc-ness. I'm just saying that "folk knowledge" of how things work was arrived at the same way, by observing what works, and that modern science simply refines those methods to be better and better at finding such things out.

To call it folk knowledge though is about trying to claim it as a subordinate of "proper" knowledge; to add a moral hierarchy. Yet, I don't think its as simple as that, because you can integrate experience without having expressible formal knowledge, in the way, for example, Ayrton Senna talked of his intuitions as a racing driver:


“..the last qualifying session. I was already on pole, then by half a second and then one second and I just kept going. Suddenly I was nearly two seconds faster than anybody else, including my team mate with the same car. And suddenly I realised that I was no longer driving the car consciously. I was driving it by a kind of instinct, only I was in a different dimension. It was like I was in a tunnel. Not only the tunnel under the hotel but the whole circuit was a tunnel. I was just going and going, more and more and more and more. I was way over the limit but still able to find even more.

“Then suddenly something just kicked me. I kind of woke up and realised that I was in a different atmosphere than you normally are. My immediate reaction was to back off, slow down. I drove slowly back to the pits and I didn’t want to go out any more that day. It frightened me because I was well beyond my conscious understanding. It happens rarely but I keep these experiences very much alive inside me because it is something that is important for self-preservation.”
Post edited at 12:24
tlm - on 07 May 2014
In reply to AdrianC:

> Hmmmm - I'd argue we actually do know how to stop or prevent most of that list. We're just not very good at using what we know.

I'd argue that we don't know how to do it. It's like knowing how to keep a shared house stocked with bog roll. As soon as you talk about modifying human behaviour it becomes complex beyond our capabilities...
tlm - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> All of us do this. No-one has ever done every scientific experiment themselves first hand.

Exactly. We all rely on legend, rather than science, for our day to day lives. We just pretend to ourselves that this is not the case.
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Irk the Purist - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Before this descends into classic ukc can I ask some more questions?

What is a scientist to you?
Can you think of an incredibly emotional or particulary memorable moment? Now tell me how science influenced that, if at all.
Do you think scientists are ever wrong?
What is unique about science?

One sentence please! Or two.

Thanks again. Some really good stuff coming in, maybe not enough challenging my world view but you can't help that!
Jim C - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

It is all the stuff God knew when he made the world, and neglected to give us the manual. (if you are a believer that is)
Robert Durran - on 07 May 2014
In reply to contrariousjim:

> I disagree with that. The more involved in science I've become, the more focussed on the abstraction I've become and the less mindful of nature in all its glory I've become.

So you're with that bishop who complained that understanding light and refraction detracted from the beauty of a rainbow rather than enhanced it? Is a flower less beautiful because we understand the processes by which it emerges from the dull soil? Are stars less beautiful because we now understand just how mind bogglingly far away they are and how long their light takes to reach us and that they are actually massive nuclear furnaces governed by the laws of particle physics rather than just unexplained pin-pricks in the sky?
In reply to Irk the Purist:
A load of accepted opinions, most of which are subsequently found to be at best only part of the picture.
Post edited at 12:31
Coel Hellier - on 07 May 2014
In reply to contrariousjim:

> To call it folk knowledge though is about trying to claim it as a subordinate of "proper" knowledge; to add a moral hierarchy.

No, not really, it's simply a claim that the knowledge can be refined by modern scientific methods. For example, folk herbal remedies can be studied with a double-blind controlled trial, giving more reliable knowledge about their efficacy.

Coel Hellier - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

> What is a scientist to you?

Someone who tries their best to understand the world. See also Feynman's quote above.

> Can you think of an incredibly emotional or particulary memorable moment?

Such a moment in science? Well, finding new planets is quite fun!

> Do you think scientists are ever wrong?

Lots of the time. At the cutting edge of research lots is uncertain, and scientists are often wrong as they try to figure out new things.

> What is unique about science?

The unique part is trying hard not to be fooled (see Feynman quote). In comparison, "non science" often involves not caring about being fooled (homoeopathy is an example) or actively desiring to be fooled (esteeming "faith" is an example).
contrariousjim - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Robert Durran:

I'm not making a statement about principle or logic, I'm making a statement about experience. Which is that science for me has gone hand in hand with an obsession with understanding, describing, theoretical abstractions, etc along with a loss of mindfulness, a close appreciation of the immediacy of nature and the world around me. It might be a uniquely personal experience, but it is my experience nonetheless, and something which I'm actively antidoting!
climbwhenready - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

(without reading the thread)

The essence is:

1. Do it again
2. What does that tell you about the world?

and that leads on to:

3. The body of knowledge accumulated by doing 1) and 2).

- A scientist
contrariousjim - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Yeh, and yet a double-blind controlled trial takes an inordinate time to carry out, often produces fog, rather than clarity, and will never tell you whether the ill person in front of you is the definite needy recipient of that drug, or another.
highclimber - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

I believe Science is the best process we have for gathering information about our world.
climbwhenready - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

(after reading the thread)

I disagree with people who say that science is the study of everything. Love, hate, happiness, sadness, frustration, beauty, art - I think these are real and outside the realm of science.

Chemical changes in the brain are within the realm of science, but they're a very incomplete description of the things I outlined above.
jonnie3430 - on 07 May 2014
In reply to tlm:

> It isn't just that. We actually don't know how to prevent it, or how to stop global warming, or how to prevent people dying from lack of fresh water or food.

We definitely do know how to stop all on that list. We just don't do it because the (global,) human being is a selfish thing.
tlm - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

> What is a scientist to you?

Someone who asks questions and then tries to test them, then tries to explain the world in terms of the evidence.

> Can you think of an incredibly emotional or particularly memorable moment? Now tell me how science influenced that, if at all.

Yeah - loads! :-) It's hard to be specific about science influencing moments, but it permeates through everything, just in things like the way that you interpret that moment.

> Do you think scientists are ever wrong?

Of course!

> What is unique about science?

It tries to only use evidence that can be repeated, and it tries to be objective.
tlm - on 07 May 2014
In reply to jonnie3430:

> We definitely do know how to stop all on that list. We just don't do it because the (global,) human being is a selfish thing.

but that is my point. We have no idea of how to actually do those things for real, because we have no idea of how to overcome our animal instinct brains which lead to that selfishness. If we really did know how to do them, we would do them.

Coel Hellier - on 07 May 2014
In reply to climbwhenready:

> Love, hate, happiness, sadness, frustration, beauty, art - I think these are real and outside the realm of science.

What is to stop science studying those?
highclimber - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

> Before this descends into classic ukc can I ask some more questions?

> What is a scientist to you?
Someone who doesn't mind being proven wrong by their theories or their peers and who isn't frightened to make theories in the first place.


> Do you think scientists are ever wrong?
Yes - it's part of being a scientist.
> What is unique about science?
It doesn't rely upon conjecture or mythical beings to work.

Toby_W on 07 May 2014
In reply to contrariousjim:

Looking up a clouds and knowing some of them are ice crystals. Knowing there are more colours than we can see beyond those in the rainbow, what would the world look like if we could see into the radio spectrum? I can detect lightning happening in Australia here in the UK, what would that look like? That, that star is not a star but a planet.

I see how it might make no difference and is perhaps personal to me but I remember seeing some large format pictures of the US national parks. Same beautiful picture but oh my god the details and the depth were breath taking on another level.

I guess it's firing the imagination as well as the eye.

Cheers

Toby
Flinticus - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

A way of understanding the world.
Lifting us out of the world of pain, hunger, fear, illness, cold that most other animals live in.
skog - on 07 May 2014
In reply to tlm:

I'm not sure, but I think you might be confusing lack of knowledge with lack of motivation.

It's easy to say you want war to stop, but harder to stick to that when you have to pay for it with things you value.
SidharthaDongre - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

A step-by-step methodology with which to test questions/observations about a given system.
ClimberEd - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Read Popper.

john arran - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Yes, so they are observed indirectly, owing to their interactions with stuff that we can can "see". So, in that sense they are part of the "observable universe". However, by that test, anything "unobservable" would have to have no interaction at all with matter in any way, and thus be a "parallel" existence that has no causal contact with our universe.

Everything that causes physical change should be observable either directly or indirectly, until we get into cats in boxes anyway.
Beyond the observable your only hope of avoiding mysticism is to call it philosophy ;-)

ow arm - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

a logical evidence based approach of interpreting the world around us based as much as possible on non subjective information
Jon Stewart - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:
> (In reply to Irk the Purist)

> What is a scientist to you?

Someone who contributes new understanding of nature.

> Can you think of an incredibly emotional or particulary memorable moment? Now tell me how science influenced that, if at all.

Can't think of one. But, every conscious experience is a pattern of electrochemical activity in the brain...

> Do you think scientists are ever wrong?

Yes, obviously. Scientists are people and are subject all the same flaws and weaknesses as everyone else. But get hundreds of them together and let their work develop over a period of time, and nature will guide them to the right answers.

> What is unique about science?

As the basis of a world-view, it is the only option available that is tethered firmly to the external objective reality.

Choss on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Meaningless without art...
Trevers - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Science means gathering evidence in a non-biased way, finding a conclusion that fits with all the available evidence and understanding that there are limitations of accuracy on that conclusion
the sheep - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Keeps me employed and not having to do a proper job. Lets me play with very expensive awesome toys :-)
Gordon Stainforth - on 07 May 2014
In reply to john arran:

> Everything that causes physical change should be observable either directly or indirectly, until we get into cats in boxes anyway.

> Beyond the observable your only hope of avoiding mysticism is to call it philosophy ;-)

There is nothing mystical about philosophy. It is simply a matter of discussing how we interpret things, scientific or otherwise. It applies a rigorous, logical critique to every realm of discourse. That's it. Nothing is tougher, more rigorous, or more critical, in the broadest possible sense. Everything else is pseudo-philosophy. One of the greatest weaknesses of the modern world, which goes a long way towards explaining the lack of (any) progress in world 'civilisation', is a recent philosophical apathy. It's even handicapped some areas of science (with some people still talking as if they're living in Newton's time)

I'm hoping that, within my lifetime, I may just begin to see a swing back towards the old days of philosophical rigour that's so sorely lacking in most fields of life right now.
jonnie3430 - on 07 May 2014
In reply to tlm:

We don't have people dying of lack of water or food in the UK and we are very keen on recycling and cutting carbon emissions, all things that will reduce global warming. The majority of the rest of the world doesn't have the education that we have in the west. Education is just passing on knowledge, the latin word for knowledge is where the word science came from, replace the word science with knowledge and it shows what science is to all, just knowledge. If the rest of the world had our standard of education then all the issues you identify would stop. (In most, the human being a fickle thing means that lessons will have to be relearnt ad nauseum til the end of time....)
Mountain Lass - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Studying things carefully. Accepting you may be wrong in the conclusions you have drawn.

(That should cover both the human and the natural sciences)

ml
ads.ukclimbing.com
Gordon Stainforth - on 07 May 2014
In reply to broken spectre:

> Meaningless without art...

Yes, which is arguably the most effective way of interpreting all that is most mysterious about human life, through metaphor, symbol and story.
Jon Stewart - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> (In reply to Irk the Purist)
>
> What I had in mind is rather like tlm's later comment on this thread. Reading e.g. War And Peace--and 'getting' it-- adds profoundly to your understanding and knowledge of human nature and life. But it's not *scientific* understanding that it gives you; it's humane understanding. And that's the kind of thing I mean by top-down understanding.

I don't think 'top down' is a very faithful expression of what you're talking about. Science uncovers nature. Art uncovers human experience. One is not 'on top' of the other: human experience is within nature.
Post edited at 14:30
contrariousjim - on 07 May 2014
In reply to ClimberEd:

> Read Popper.

Nah, read T Kuhn - The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
And M Polanyi - Knowing and Being, The Tacit Dimension, and Personal Knowledge
Gordon Stainforth - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Top down doesn't mean 'from on top of' but from the top of, within it. Science has to work in both ways, as Coel has rightly said.
andrewmcleod - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

You can't prove anything (except for 'I think therefore I am'). It is therefore a common misconception that science attempts to prove anything in the strict sense.

Instead, science is an attempt to model the Universe, or a fraction thereof, with a model. This model is revised and improved through experiment and observations. The usefulness of our models is measured only in their predictive power; their ability to tell us what we expect will happen in a given situation. We can then test this empirically using the scientific method.

Since we cannot strictly prove anything, it is quite possible that our models are entirely wrong, and that it is actually all undetectable gnomes with skyhooks etc.

To understand 'Science', you must understand the subtleties of 'wrong'. For example, Newton's laws of motion are 'wrong' in that they are superseded by Einstein's theories of relativity. Yet when we sent men to the Moon, we used Newton's laws because they were a perfectly good approximation for our purposes and nobody could be bothered to do the pointless maths to show that the relativistic solution reduces to pretty much exactly the non-relativistic solution.

What matters is not whether a model is correct, but how wrong it is. If it gives you the right answer for some physical situations, then it is still useful.

Quantum mechanics and general relativity are two of the most successful theories of the modern age. They are incompatible, and therefore probably both wrong. But this doesn't matter, as they are usually right... any advancement in terms of quantum gravity will be an incremental improvement. Under most circumstances, the older theories are a suitable approximation.

Finally, a consequence of the idea we are modelling, not proving, the nature of the Universe is that any idea which is not testable is not interesting. The Universe could be just a computer simulation in some larger universe but if it is impossible to test this from within the simulation then it is not a scientific line of enquiry, since this knowledge would not improve the predictive power of that which is observable.
Robert Durran - on 07 May 2014
In reply to broken spectre:

> Meaningless without art...

Why? Surely art is a partial, clawing but often beautiful way of grasping at meanings and ideas which science has not yet fully explained.
Choss on 07 May 2014
In reply to Robert Durran:

why you ask?

Because you can be human without science, not without art. Its defined us since earliest palaeolithic Times. The need to express ourselves, to communicate with each Other through art.
Jon Stewart - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to broken spectre)
>
> [...]
>
> Why? Surely art is a partial, clawing but often beautiful way of grasping at meanings and ideas which science has not yet fully explained.

This is an interesting line of discussion. I think that art has a fundamentally different purpose to science. Where the purpose and substance of science - the understanding of nature - is easy to pinpoint, the purpose and substance of art is much more difficult.

Art can encapsulate experience from the conscious/internal world and transmit that to another person - amongst many other things it can do. Science does not try to do this - while we will some day explain how the conscious world is generated by our neurons, science won't express what that feels like the way art can.
Jon Stewart - on 07 May 2014
In reply to broken spectre:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)

> Because you can be human without science, not without art.

But you can't be human without questioning what you are and where you came from.
Robert Durran - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> Where the purpose and substance of science - the understanding of nature - is easy to pinpoint, the purpose and substance of art is much more difficult.

Humans evolved to be communicators and pattern seekers since both helped with surviving. Can't art be seen as just a manifestation of this?
Gordon Stainforth - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Why? Surely art is a partial, clawing but often beautiful way of grasping at meanings and ideas which science has not yet fully explained.

You say 'not yet fully explained'. It's absolutely miles off when it comes to explaining the most extraordinary quirks of human behaviour, emotion and consciousness. Meanwhile we're stuck with Lear and Hamlet.
Gordon Stainforth - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Exactly what art does is ask questions, present paradoxes. Even purely beautiful works of art do that, implicitly.
999thAndy on 07 May 2014
In reply to broken spectre:

> [...] Because you can be human without science, not without art. Its defined us since earliest palaeolithic Times. The need to express ourselves, to communicate with each Other through art.

Either that's complete bollocks, or I'm not human.
Robert Durran - on 07 May 2014
In reply to broken spectre:

> why you ask?

> Because you can be human without science, not without art. Its defined us since earliest palaeolithic Times.

As I said, art is a side product or our evolutionary path, but if we stopped doing it, I reckon we could still get on ok even if in a somewhat diminished way. We could probably get on ok without science too if we were happy to return to the simple hunter-gatherer existence which did us fine for most of our evolutionary existence.

Jon Stewart - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Robert Durran:

I think it helps a bit, but not much. It doesn't really offer insight into why Dan Rhodes makes *me* piss myself laughing, why Akufen makes me want to dance, why The Wrestler chimes with how I see the world...but most people don't react this way to those bits of art.
Robert Durran - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> You say 'not yet fully explained'. It's absolutely miles off when it comes to explaining the most extraordinary quirks of human behaviour, emotion and consciousness. Meanwhile we're stuck with Lear and Hamlet.

Yes, I agree entirely!
Choss on 07 May 2014
In reply to 999thAndy:

> Either that's complete bollocks, or I'm not human.

Maybe youre missing something.

Do you pay your respects at funerals of Loved ones. They are Dead, no science there. our Neandertal Ancestors Used to bury their Dead in a sleeping pose with a stone pillow, and cover them with Flowers.

No scientific reason, just a human Reverence for the Dead. We still do the Flower thing now.

Its about being human. without art, music, emotion, being human would be intolerable. Are you sure you dont Value art above science?
r0x0r.wolfo - on 07 May 2014
In reply to tlm:

What she said. The 'scientific method'.
Coel Hellier - on 07 May 2014
In reply to andrewmcleod:

> Since we cannot strictly prove anything, it is quite possible that our models are entirely wrong, ...

As you sort of say later in your post, it is not at all probable that our models are "entirely wrong" in the sense of giving very bad predictions, since many of the predictions have been tested and work very well.

It is indeed "quite probable" that our models are wrong in the sense of containing conceptual flaws while still being pretty close accounts of reality giving pretty good and reliable predictions (as in your example of Newtonian gravity).
Jon Stewart - on 07 May 2014
In reply to broken spectre:
> (In reply to 999thAndy)
>
> [...]
>
> Maybe youre missing something.
> Are you sure you dont Value art above science?

I don't value art above science. Science is the whole foundation of how I understand what it is to exist - life would be impossible without it, I'd have to be religious!! Equally, life without art would be arid. What's the point of your hierarchy?
999thAndy on 07 May 2014
In reply to broken spectre:

Since when was paying respects at a funeral art?

You are assuming that emotion = art. More accurately my emotions probably affect my consumption of art, but I don't feel compelled to express them as art.
andrewmcleod - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> As you sort of say later in your post, it is not at all probable that our models are "entirely wrong" in the sense of giving very bad predictions, since many of the predictions have been tested and work very well.

What I failed to adequately say what that our models may be in no way a reflection of 'reality' (in as far as reality can be defined) - we express our understanding of the world in terms of quarks, leptons, dark matter etc. But none of these may actually exist in the manner we model them - BUT this doesn't actually matter if we genuinely can't tell the difference. The very best model of the Universe it may be possible to construct might still be 'incorrect' from a reality-based point of view but it would still be a 'perfect' model.

There is no need for 'reality' and our models to be the same thing if we still get the right answer; the value of science is in prediction. Discovering the true nature of things or some equally lofty philosophical goal is probably impossible.

Separately our models may be (are?) wrong in that they don't always give good predictions for that which is observable. We can then improve our models.
Coel Hellier - on 07 May 2014
In reply to andrewmcleod:

> that our models may be in no way a reflection of 'reality' (in as far as reality can be defined) - we express our understanding of the
> world in terms of quarks, leptons, dark matter etc. But none of these may actually exist in the manner we model them - BUT this doesn't
> actually matter if we genuinely can't tell the difference.

I see what you're saying, but disagree with it. To me the *only* meaning of "it reflects reality" is that it works. I don't think it is possible for something to be "a 'perfect' model" and yet be "'incorrect' from a reality-based point of view" -- that to me is a contradiction. It's a bit like arguing that a beautiful painting or piece of music is not really beautiful, it's just that people think it is!

> There is no need for 'reality' and our models to be the same thing if we still get the right answer ...

How do you define "reality" except as "the model that gets the right answer"? If it is something other than that then in what sense is it "real"? Surely the only meaning of the "true nature of things" is that which is realised by a "perfect model"?

john arran - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

I hear you Gordon. Hence the smiley face.
Robert Durran - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Surely the only meaning of the "true nature of things" is that which is realised by a "perfect model"?

If there were no intelligent beings in the universe to create a model, what would the "true nature of things" be?

skog - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> How do you define "reality" except as "the model that gets the right answer"?

That's probably fair if your model gets the right answer, every time, at all levels of detail.

In practise, though, you can never know that.
Coel Hellier - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Robert Durran:

> If there were no intelligent beings in the universe to create a model, what would the "true nature of things" be?

I'm not suggesting that the "true nature" is dependent on intelligent observers, what I'm suggesting is that there is no difference, even in principle, between: "the universe acts in all respects as though nucleons are made of quarks", and "nucleons are made of quarks".

Thus you can't have a "true reality" that is different from the description of it in a hypothetical "perfect model".
j0ntyg on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Discovering cures for illnesses, how to stop global warming, how to feed or stop a growing population etc. In general how to keep us surviving.
That may not be an answer to 'what is science to you?' that is too philosophical a question, but is what people want from it.
Anyway, what does your OP mean? Science relative to what? you can't just take science from the broader context of the other things in life.
skog - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Thus you can't have a "true reality" that is different from the description of it in a hypothetical "perfect model".

This doesn't rule out the possibility that the only perfect model of the universe is the universe itself, with no simplification - which isn't very useful.

Useful models might always just be 'good-enough' simplifications, ones which work well for the tiny bit of reality we're actually concerned about.

There may not actually be a manageable set of rules that can be used to describe everything perfectly.
contrariousjim - on 07 May 2014
In reply to skog:

> This doesn't rule out the possibility that the only perfect model of the universe is the universe itself, with no simplification - which isn't very useful.

Quite right. The only perfect model/representation of the universe is one that contains all the same information content, which is to say that it isn't a simplification.
contrariousjim - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Toby_W:

> Looking up a clouds and knowing some of them are ice crystals. Knowing there are more colours than we can see beyond those in the rainbow, what would the world look like if we could see into the radio spectrum? I can detect lightning happening in Australia here in the UK, what would that look like? That, that star is not a star but a planet.

> I see how it might make no difference and is perhaps personal to me but I remember seeing some large format pictures of the US national parks. Same beautiful picture but oh my god the details and the depth were breath taking on another level.

> I guess it's firing the imagination as well as the eye.

Sure, but science creates a more restrictive bed for the imagination than does say art. Imagination needn't be limited by the idea, for example, of seeing a bit beyond our visible light spectrum, or of seeing like a bee sees. Also, I saw aerial picture of a beach recently which caught the eye, not because of its beauty, but because of its somewhat cartoon like vulgar appearence, and yet, on closer inspection you suddenly see its an ultra high resolution photo with all the detail you could ever need. Seeing more here, was seeing less. Lastly, while I certainly recognise the way you speak about the world around us, in all its glory, I've never been as captured by it as I was when I was young. Watching lizards coming in and out of rocks for hours and hours on end. Or standing in tidal tributaries for hours on end just for the sake of watching flounders, and feeling them skim past or nestle on my foot. That wonder of nature doesn't need explanation, it just is, and I find it hard to believe that people experience that as much as they do in their childhood.
Coel Hellier - on 07 May 2014
In reply to skog:

> Useful models might always just be 'good-enough' simplifications, ...

Agreed, they always will be. What I'm arguing against, however, is that the idea that it can be the case that our models work very well and yet "reality" is utterly unlike our models.
Gordon Stainforth - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Agreed, they always will be. What I'm arguing against, however, is that the idea that it can be the case that our models work very well and yet "reality" is utterly unlike our models.

I'm a bit confused. Weren't you saying (at 16:46 with nucleon/quark example) that the reality must be exactly or very like the model?

Also, separate point, wasn't the Ptolemaic model once regarded as a hypothetical "perfect model" of the universe?
balmybaldwin - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

The persuance of the truth in answering the simple question: why?
Si dH - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Science is how the world works.
FactorXXX - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Science to me, is proof that the saying "I before E, except after C" is in fact a load of old cobblers.
IainRUK - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Dave Garnett:

> It's just the way the world is. To not understand science is to not understand anything.

exactly.. science is everything.
In reply to IainRUK:
well, it's everything...until it's is superceded by something else, which it then is....until it is superceded by something else
WILLS - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Innovation. Define the rules then try to bend, or break them.
anonymouse - on 07 May 2014
In reply to contrariousjim:

> Nah, read T Kuhn - The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

> And M Polanyi - Knowing and Being, The Tacit Dimension, and Personal Knowledge

meh. Footnotes to Popper.
anonymouse - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Science: organised common sense.
Science: the imagination to see that common sense can be wrong.
Skol on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:
Beers meet fridge:)
Timmd on 07 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:
Science is the discovery of many of the world's wonders. It's Fancy That.

Did you know that the black and white stripes on zebras make the air close to their skin go into little mini vortexes because of the temperature difference between the different coloured parts of their skin, thus helping them to keep cool?

I'm so taken with the above I couldn't contain it. (:-))
Post edited at 21:50
KingStapo - on 08 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Science is how to understand EVERYTHING.

When you understand everything you can do anything
contrariousjim - on 08 May 2014
In reply to anonymouse:

> meh. Footnotes to Popper.

Popper was a footnote to the age, saying what was already happening except in the human sciences like psychology (which still don't conform). What Kuhn and Polanyi wrote stood in contrast to the age, surprising insights that are hard to integrate.
anonymouse - on 08 May 2014
In reply to contrariousjim:

Reading Kuhn after Popper and after all the hype was a distinctly underwhelming experience. His examples are terrible, old and few. It read like an attempt to fit a story to the past with little insight for the present or for the future. Polanyi raises all sorts of problems that Popper already considered and wrote about at length. YMMV.
wercat on 08 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

To go back to the original latin word from the verb "To Know" which means that it means knowledge at its lowest level.

But that is far from sufficient. We have an inbuilt craving to understand the world and by observation and application of logical principles we can feed that craving. What the word "Knowledge" does not convey is the utter joy and further fascination that comes from beginning to achieve understanding of the world and universe around us.

Sorry, blether ends ...
wercat on 08 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Something we talked about when our children arrived - every baby born is a research scientist newly arrived on an alien world ..
jnymitch - on 08 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

curiosity that lead to killing the cat to refine the answer.
paul mitchell - on 08 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Science is about understanding what is,and expanding the range of what can be done.
Most productively linked to engineering and creative thinking.

Ray Jardine was clearly an engineering type.


Mitch
Offwidth - on 08 May 2014
In reply to paul mitchell:

I like the Wikipedia intro to the word:

Science (from Latin scientia, meaning "knowledge"[1]) is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.[2][3] In an older and closely related meaning, "science" also refers to a body of knowledge itself, of the type that can be rationally explained and reliably applied. A practitioner of science is known as a scientist.

Since classical antiquity, science as a type of knowledge has been closely linked to philosophy. In the early modern period the words "science" and "philosophy of nature" were sometimes used interchangeably.[4] By the 17th century, natural philosophy (which is today called "natural science") was considered a separate branch of philosophy.[5]

In modern usage, "science" most often refers to a way of pursuing knowledge, not only the knowledge itself. It is also often restricted to those branches of study that seek to explain the phenomena of the material universe.[6] In the 17th and 18th centuries scientists increasingly sought to formulate knowledge in terms of laws of nature such as Newton's laws of motion. And over the course of the 19th century, the word "science" became increasingly associated with the scientific method itself, as a disciplined way to study the natural world, including physics, chemistry, geology and biology. It is in the 19th century also that the term scientist was created by the naturalist-theologian William Whewell to distinguish those who sought knowledge on nature from those who sought other types of knowledge.[7]

However, "science" has also continued to be used in a broad sense to denote reliable and teachable knowledge about a topic, as reflected in modern terms like library science or computer science. This is also reflected in the names of some areas of academic study such as "social science" or "political science".

andrewmcleod - on 08 May 2014
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> Agreed, they always will be. What I'm arguing against, however, is that the idea that it can be the case that our models work very well and yet "reality" is utterly unlike our models.

I think we are almost in agreement. I think the limits of science are indeed what you describe - if we perfectly predict and model the observable Universe, then science is finished.

But from a more philosophical point of view, this doesn't mean that this is the true nature of the Universe. If we were just in a big computer simulation (running in a necessarily larger universe), we would have no way of knowing. As this is not a testable theory, it is not scientific and an uninteresting line of enquiry. I just don't claim that science 'proves' anything or else the philosophers (correct) point out this is impossible. Science points out that it doesn't give a damn :)

(PS it is indeed true that to model the entire Universe would require an entire Universe, but science can restrict itself to just the rules and laws that govern the Universe, assuming these are universal)
Post edited at 13:03
foxjerk - on 08 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

investigating why and how things do the things they do
contrariousjim - on 08 May 2014
In reply to andrewmcleod:
Ok so what you are saying us that if you could perfectly model the universe using a computer then that computer simulation would include truly conscious beings who would have no knowledge of the computer doing it. Begs the question, how might we know about the computer and the modeller if that were true of us?
Post edited at 14:16
andrewmcleod - on 08 May 2014
In reply to contrariousjim:
> Ok so what you are saying us that if you could perfectly model the universe using a computer then that computer simulation would include truly conscious beings who would have no knowledge of the computer doing it. Begs the question, how might we know about the computer and the modeller if that were true of us?

Assuming the computer simulation was a closed system, we wouldn't and couldn't. Hence it is not a scientific topic, as it is untestable. Science cannot tell us about such a possibility; however, neither can any of the other usual suspects.

The point is science is about modelling the observable and testable.
Post edited at 14:26
Coel Hellier - on 08 May 2014
In reply to andrewmcleod:

> Assuming the computer simulation was a closed system, we wouldn't and couldn't.

Agreed. The idea of a parallel "existence" with no information flow between that and us (or strictly, no information flow from that to us) is conceivable but literally unknowable and rather uninteresting.
anonymouse - on 09 May 2014
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> Agreed, they always will be. What I'm arguing against, however, is that the idea that it can be the case that our models work very well and yet "reality" is utterly unlike our models.

That's like saying a game of chess is just the rules of chess.
Coel Hellier - on 09 May 2014
In reply to anonymouse:

> That's like saying a game of chess is just the rules of chess.

It doesn't seem like that at all to me. In addition to the rules of the chess, the game of chess has players and play. Any model of chess would include those.
chubbs2 - on 09 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Science underpins everything we are and everything we do. By understanding science we can live better lives and be better people.
Postmanpat on 09 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

A worm's eye view of the universe(s)
GrendeI on 09 May 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

Tbf my view is pretty close to the dictionary definition.

"The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment."

I would also add the creation and honest presentation of new theories into that somewhere.

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