You might know that I like talking about terms that irritate me. I'd like to talk about another one, "scientific fact". It's a term I don't like because no such thing exists. Now you're probably confused by me telling you scientific facts don't exist. "What about tomatoes being being botanically fruits?" or "What about every action having an equal and opposite reaction?". While those are facts (or at least you could them consider them to be), they're not scientific facts. Science doesn't work with facts because it doesn't know anything for certain. In this journal, I'm not even going to touch the philosophical subject of knowing something versus thinking we know something.
At this time I should explain what "science" means. "Science" refers to the scientific method which is how we gain advanced understanding of the physical world. In common discourse, "science" can refer to the body of knowledge collected by this process. I find this secondary use perfectly acceptable, since we really don't have any other practical terms to refer to this body of knowledge. However do not get these two meanings confused with one another.
For the rest of this journal, I'll be using the term "science" in its proper form. One of the fundamental rules of science is that everything must be potentially falsifiable. Because of this it doesn't use "facts". You might object to this by pointing out that science must build on past understood knowledge to discover new things so it has to use facts at some point. If you were thinking that, bravo. That's a very good point. However science views everything in degrees of confidence. Science could consider that there is only a 10% chance that a new hypothesis is correct. As evidence from experiments pile up supporting the hypothesis, this percentage increases. A hypothesis such as "an electrical current gives rise to a magnetic field" by this point would have a 99.999(this could go on for a while)999% chance of being true because it has so much evidence backing it up. Most scientists would even casually consider this a fact while building more knowledge off of it. But to the empirical eye of true science, everything must be potentially falsifiable and would only consider this hypothesis with a very high degree of confidence.
I do believe facts exist such as "1+1=2", "the twin towers were brought down by airplanes crashing into them", "the sun is very bright", "paper burns in a fire", and "my cat has fur". But true science doesn't work with these things. If there were any undeniably true fact, science wouldn't have anything to do with it because in science everything must be potentially falsifiable.
So while facts exist, scientific facts do not.
5 years, 6 months ago
10 May 2013 00:27 CEST