The differences between a logically developed argument, a scientific fact and an absolute truth: part 3
Absolute truths and scientific facts therefore operate within defined paradigms and in a cultural and social context. By contrast, a logically-developed argument – defined as a process of reasoning or persuasive composition which complies with the principles of logic – does not depend so heavily on the paradigm in which is it created. A good example is Darwin’s theory of evolution. Darwin spent nearly 30 years creating his argument as to how living creatures had changed during the course of the history of life on Earth. Published in 1859, the theory was logically developed and made sense despite its ideological conflicts with the perceived truths and facts of the overwhelming Christian paradigm of the time. Indeed, Darwin ‘presented his ideas in such convincing detail that they could be accepted as a logical explanation for the diversity of life on Earth, the intricate adaptations of those living things and the ways in which they are related to one another’. His argument was so compelling that ‘his views were almost completely accepted within the intellectual community of Great Britain within 10-11 years’ (quotes from here), a remarkable achievement given the dominance of the Church in that society. Darwin’s argument is now one of the most widely accepted biological theorems, and is strongly supported by more recent publications and experimental evidence. Other theories also exist however. The Intelligent Design argument, which although not logical to many scientists, does appeal to powerful groups within out society and has attracted a lot of attention.
Another example of a logically developed argument is the Gaia Hypothesis. Gaia, developed by James Lovelock, proposes that life on Earth regulates the global environment in a manner that suits its own survival. While not consistent with all scientific facts regarding the regulation of life, atmosphere and temperature on Earth, the argument is persuasive to some and it will be interesting to follow the development of this hypothesis as the challenges of climate change increase in coming years.
Given the above analysis, there is therefore a clear distinction to be made between the terms absolute truth, scientific fact and logically-developed argument. Each must be appropriately used within the scientific paradigm and in society at large not only so that scientists can communicate effectively with each other, but importantly to allow science to coexist with religion and other important cultural elements of daily life.
[image thanks to celebdu on flickr]