"Science Is Based On Facts"?

Science Is Based On Facts?

I remember taking this photo like it was yesterday. It has almost been seven years. Time flies.

In response to a recent post in which I wrote: "It's fair to say, 'science' is increasingly failing", a friend remarked: "Unlike religion, science is based on facts, so it cannot fail. Its interpretations can significantly fail due to the human emotional bias involved". He is right in that science is more likely to be self-correcting than religion wrapped in dogma. Most science-religion arguments, and maybe most arguments period, get deadlocked in definitions. What I personally understand to be religion is usually very different than how a religious person or an atheist defines it. Regardless, in my remarks, I wasn't really suggesting that science and religion are in competition. In fact, I believe that science and religion engage in different domains of reality with little overlap. And of course, I'm not talking about dogmatic-institutionalized religion; I dislike it probably as much as the most ardent atheists.

So, why do I think science is increasingly failing? The answer is in how we, human beings, deal with the "unknown" and the "unknowable"; How does science deal with it? What is defined as facts are generally in the domain of the observable and the linear world. And in that domain, science undeniably excels. On the other hand, in life, we are constantly exposed to the unknown and the unknowable, regularly having to make decisions and choose with partial knowledge at best. For the mathematically inclined, that is the domain of the nonlinear, the chaotic and the complex. In that domain, where most phenomena actually occurs, the assumption and the claim that science provides us with "accurate explanations and predictions" falls apart pretty quickly. So, what do we do in the absence of empirical facts, or when we are left with partial facts?

What increasingly bothers me is that science, or more properly, scientists in the name of science, don't refrain from making "extraordinary claims" and predictions. In no way do I want to be an apologist for religion, but when you get past the ritual, the tradition and the tribalism, religions have interesting approaches to dealing with the unknown, the unknowable and the nonrational. Science, when it is taken out of its domain of "facts", and used in a reductionist way to explain away and predict the unknowable and the nonrational, is not science at all, but scientism. We must draw the line between the two.

"The assertion that there is no knowledge outside science - extra scientiam nulla salus - is nothing but another and most convenient fairy-tale".
-- Paul Karl Feyerabend

Song of the Day: Time Flies - Vaya Con Dios (1992)
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