The differences between a logically developed argument, a scientific fact and an absolute truth: part 2
Do absolute truths exist in science? By the definition provided in part 1 they cannot, given that the operating system (the scientific method) is one which relies on the use of testable hypotheses to explore and describe the natural world. Rather than truth, a more appropriate term used to describe the material to which scientists adhere is fact. A scientific fact can be defined as a truth regulated by or conforming to the principles of science and known to exist by actual experience or observation.Hence the very definition acknowledges the system by which science operates. Such as definition is consistent with the theories of Kuhn, who described the ‘truths’ of science as being gathered and existing only in the scientific paradigm. Interestingly, Aicken considers that scientists conduct their research as if there were an absolute truth to discover but with the overriding belief that such a concept is really a mirage. Thus while the non-scientist can have faith in absolute truths, the scientist chases them eternally.
Scientists search for the facts of science by appropriate experimental design and with the use of scientific instruments and techniques which are sensitive, specific, consistent and objective. Data derived from such experiments becomes part of the science paradigm only once it has been reviewed and accepted by the science community at large. Thus scientific knowledge is publicly analysed and criticised before it becomes scientific fact. Facts are tested, strengthened and validated by multiple individuals operating within a scientific paradigm. Science is similar to a map in this sense, with multiple contributors leading to increasing accuracy and reliability (as proposed by John Ziman).
[continued Day 340]
[image thanks to celebdu on flickr]