"Science, it is sometimes claimed, is neutral: it is up to society to decide how to employ research findings. Yet, society often struggles with its end of the deal. That is because science can also hold up a mirror to the results of our culture's choices–and we may not like what we see."
Mariette DiChristina, Editor Scientific American "Reflections from Science," Scientific American, April 2011, p. 6.
This page examines the clash of knowledge and practice that demonstrates the eternal
tension between what we know and what we do about our world. Why we are deceived and what we can know are related to our biases.
Give examples of the tension in Galileo,
Lavoisier & Heisenberg:
knowledge and practice
science vs. experience
thought <---> behavior
theory & experiment
natural philosophy, or philosophy of nature, shades
Two related difficulties in defining
inherent ambiguity + inherent uncertainty of focus
Thus, science's character (nature) is
dialectical and fused.
Science here meaning knowledge (reliably accurate understanding), but
knowledge is a varied substance because of its dual etymology.
Greek, episteme [episteme]
is not precisely the same as the Latin, scientia.
episteme [epistemological] is the quality of what we know, its certainty
and verifiable characteristics, essentially "how we know."
scientia is knowledge of the world, of people, places and things that
has a universal, refutable and descriptive quality. essentially it is
the "substance of what we know."
Various meanings of the word* science:
* The definition has changed from 1500s.
1. a pattern of behavior by which humans dominate nature (their material
2. a body of theoretical
knowledge (technology is the application of some of this knowledge to
solving human problems, doing work, and survival) about nature &
3. a set of related,
interlocking, & sustaining universal laws preferably expressed in
the language of mathematics:
gravitation, electromagnetism, relativity, quantum mechanics, or planetary motion.
Boyles Law, inverse proportionality of a gasses pressure
4. the methods used
to formulate, examine, hypothesize, test and reexamine material relations and information gathered through elaborate experimentally derived evidence.
5. the tentative,
non-dogmatic ideas based on tangible evidence as oppressed to authority,
intuition or ecstatic experience.
6. the particular
beliefs about nature derived from Astronomy, Geometry, dialectic, alchemy
and today found among physics, chemistry, biology, geology, meteorology,
etc. See: Unity of natural sciences.
7. the characterization
of a privileged form of knowledge
as rigorous, precise & objective or empirical . Based
on content, form, method and function of empiricism.
8. generally a term
of approval, but science can confuse people, and ironically may carry a negative connotation.
John Dewey on the necessity of scientific knowledge
Hardin on the limits of rational science
scientism by Neil Postman
Cultures, Charles Percy Snow's fearful argument
Critique of the Snow argument by Kenneth Boulding