“I believe in science,” said Hillary Clinton. “We should not have people in office who do not believe in facts and truths and modern science,” said Leonardo DiCaprio. What these two have in common with the general public is their misunderstanding of the nature of science and the lack of appreciation of the number of philosophical presuppositions on which science depends – assumptions that must be taken at face value without any proofs of their own.
What is Science?
“Science” in its most basic form is a word that comes from the Latin, “scientia,” which simply means “knowledge.” In modern times, the primary definition has gotten far more specific with direct ties to the study of the physical world. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it this way:
The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.
So the way we see “knowledge” has evolved to encompass a far smaller world than it once did from the more general any knowledge to a far more specific, ‘knowledge of the physical world.’ The problem, of course, is that it’s evidently false that the only form of knowledge is that of the material world. Some realities are not accessed or accessible by the material world. It is arguably far more accurate to use science by its classical Latin definition.
Should We Believe in Science? Is Science the Only Form of Knowledge?
It’s unfortunate that the modern understanding of science, in general, has been commonly limited to merely the sphere of the physical sciences. The physical sciences are not, cannot possibly be the only means of gaining knowledge. The view that science (physical sciences) is the only means of gaining knowledge about reality is called scientism – a patently false proposition. There are truths about reality that not only can science not have access to but on which science actually depends. In fact, the proposition that science is the only way to gain truths about reality cannot itself be scientifically justifiable, and therefore, is self-refuting.
The Philosophical Presuppositions of Science
For far too long, the white lab coats worn in labs across the world have been believed to be the garments of the epistemic royal priesthood. It’s high time we cut this zealous cult down to size, thrust its ego with a little dose of reality. Science is not the end all be all. In fact, there are numerous unprovable presuppositions that must first be accepted before one can even do science. Here’s a list of just 10 of the philosophical presuppositions of science:
- The existence of an independent external world
- The orderly nature of the external world
- The knowability of the external world
- The existence of truth
- The existence of the laws of logic
- The existence of mathematical truths
- The reliability of cognitive and sensory faculties as vehicles for gathering truth
- The reliability of cognitive and sensory faculties to source justified beliefs in intellectual pursuits
- The potentiality of language to describe the world
- The existence of objective moral values within the scientific enterprise (scientists should be objective and honest in reporting data from experimentation and observation)
Should We Believe In Science
Science is a very worthy pursuit and a God-given blessing. However, based on the number and magnitude of the presuppositions of science, it’s not that difficult to see that science is only possible through the proper ordering of reality – something that science benefits from and for which it cannot account. Without first the acceptance of this order of reality, science is not possible. Science is not a king; it is a pawn.Science is a method for gathering data, not a belief system. Click To Tweet
Science is a method for gathering data, not a belief system. No one should say, “I believe in science.” If we should think of increasing knowledge as something worthy of belief, then we need not be specific about which kind of knowledge; any and all references to science is superfluous. If we believe in the pursuit of gathering data, saying we believe in it, is strangely redundant. No one says, “I believe in math.” And since science itself requires the acceptance of a set of unverifiable assumptions, if we must say that we believe in anything at all, we should first say that we believe in these presuppositions before any other thing. Yet these more fundamental truths to which we must hold are naively unseen. Science is thought to be the alpha and the omega. This is why people in notable positions, who try to persuade the public, will make mention that they believe in science or that they are on the side of science or that they think anyone who doesn’t believe in science should be disregarded. This is a clever ruse that demands adherence or the hell of being ignored as a fool.
Since we all have access to the same data, very rarely will we see people debating the facts discovered or observed. Usually, when people challenge any specific scientific doctrine, they do not challenge the facts, but the interpretations of the facts. It’s an unsettling sign of an imminent idiocracy – incredibly naive statements made by public officials and laymen who increasingly believe that science is the new god – the new idol of worship and infallibility. And anyone who would dare challenge its laws is in danger of being cast out of this increasingly more cult-like endeavor that has its most true noble roots and serves such worthwhile ends. It is a sad day when science becomes an idol of worship – a compulsory belief system with its own initiations, rites, and hymns; an empty and blind faith of omniscience and omnipotence adorned with jewels of fake gold and silver unbeknownst to its most impassioned adherents who, having misunderstood its noble ancestry and the order of reality on which it stands, have crowned a pawn and demand that the rest of the world bow down to its feet.