Nature of scientific knowledge, Science

Nature of scientific knowledge:

Science, as we have seen, is  inseparable from the rest of human endeavour. In the past  few thousand years of human history, an immense fund of  scientific knowledge has been built up, the most dramatic scientific advances having been made in  the last few hundred  years. This vast storehouse of  scientific knowledge encompasses everything, from particles smaller than atoms to the great system of  the universe containing planets, stars and galaxies. It covers the study of  plants and animals, health and disease, food and medicine and such complex problems as what life is, how the human mind functions, what  the beginning and the end of the universe are etc. 

As we have said before, we have been able to use this knowledge to meet our daily necessities of  life, provide leisure, communicate better and faster. We are able to harness energy in a great variety of forms. From land-based creatures entirely dependent on nature for their survival, human beings have come to a stage where no bariier seems insurmountable. We have tried to traverse every nook and corner of  this earth. the vast  lands as well as the deep oceans and the high mountains. And now we are extending our sights upwards, not only to the solar system but  to the space beyond. Our journey  in space  is  a  tremendous endeavour which has only just  begun.

All  such endeavours further enrich  the body of  scientific knowledge. Thus, scientific knowledge is never at a standstill. It is a dynamic, and an ongoing process.  It  is an evergrowing enterprise which will never end. This is because, in science, there is no single ultimate truth to be achieved after which ail the scientists can retire. 

A remarkable feature of  scientific knowledge is that  it  is never complete. The more we add to this knowledge, the more questions arise about the unknown mysteries of  nature. New information  is, thus, continuously gathered. New  theories arise if  new facts can't  be explained by  the existing ones. Practitioners of  science can never lay claim to a complete or ultimate know!edge.

We have seen that science is not static. Going a step further, we may say that scientific knowledge is also not  immutable. Nothing can remain unchallenged in science. In  fact, some of  the most honoured scientists are those who try  to alter, modify or replace existing theories by providing revolutionary evidence or argument. In  this sense, science  is a self-correcting enterprise, i.e. it is open to change. Many hypotheses proposed by scientists turn out to be wrong. Science is generated by and devoted to the idea of  free inquiry, the idea that any hypothesis, no matter how  strange, deserves to be considered on its merits. Thus, science is not dogmatic. It does not unreasonably insist on standing by preconceived notions, concepts or ideas that have been proved wrong through careful experimentation. Science progresses by disproving. It  has no high priests  who cannot be questioned  What would be considered highly undesirable in science is the unquestioned acceptance of  things as they are. 

Any new discovery, finding or interpretation of phenomena  is carefully scrutinised, discussed and verified by the scientific community before its general acceptance. In  this sense, the scientific 'truths'  are truths by consensus, and, therefore, always tentative. The consensus is arrived at after carefully following the method of science. But, if  new facts emerging from the natural world challenge this  'truth', scientists are always ready  to re-examine their theories. 

Last but not  the least, scientific knowledge  is objective. That is, scientific results are repeatable and verifiable by anyone anywhere  if  proper  facilities are available. This feature of science is related  to the ultimate test of any scientific statement; that  it should be in accord with  the observations of  the natural world. Science prefers hard facts to the dearest illusions of scientists. To be  accepted, all new  ideas must survive rigorous standards of  evidence. Sometimes it takes years, or even hundreds of  years, before the ideas are verified. Nonetheless, in  the long run, no brilliant arguments, high authority or aesthetic appeal can save a scientific theory which disagrees with experiment or observation of  nature. You may recall  from Unit 6 that  it was th& feature of  obiective observation  in  science, that  led  to the demolition of Aristotelian  ideas about the universe.  Since hard facts are  lnde~endent  of  the prejudices and preferences of  individual scientists, and experiments or observations are essentially repeatable, objectivity becomes an essential feature of scientific knowledge. In no sense is science based on experiences open only to a select few.  

Posted Date: 9/27/2012 9:22:35 AM | Location : United States







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