Sunday, July 06, 2008

Defining science

I just started reading: The Mind's I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul by Douglas R. Hofstadter and Daniel C. Dennett. It has been on the shelf for a while and really needs reading.

In the Introduction on page six we have (in my opinion) both a good and a bad use of the word "science" (it really does not matter what the surrounding text says):

Good: "It took science to discover the answer."
Bad: "Science teaches us that there are no such things as souls."

It is best to viewed science as a method, that can be used to discover answers. Once we start talking about what science teaches we are heading for trouble (and a possible accusation of scientism).

We might say that there has been no evidence for souls that the methods of science can work on. Or that science has been used to disprove every testable theory for how something like a soul might work (I'm thinking of things like Descartes' suggestion that the pineal gland was the seat of the soul).

Typing this (AKA: Thinking with my Fingers), reminds me that defining "science" is a non-trivial topic and even if I were qualified to pursue it, I would not produce anything both simple and generally agreed upon. Take this as personal preference.


Note: I so dislike reading the word "science" in proper case that I reworded every sentence where I started with "science", just to avoid the capital "S". Maybe I have issues :-).


daddy_phantom said...

Reading XKCD and thinking about this post:

From XKCD #397: Unscientific

"By teaching people to hold their beliefs up to experiment, Mythbusters is doing more to drag humanity out of the unscientific darkness than a thousand lessons in rigor."


daddy_phantom said...

"Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge."

-- Carl Sagan