What is Science Anyway?

A partial discussion on the nature of science.

Daniel Goldman
The Spiritual Anthropologists
5 min readFeb 10, 2019

--

This article is a full reply to a discussion with D. L. Shultz’s about his article on soft vs hard science (not fully safe for work).

So interesting! Science is indeed science, but I’m wondering whether everything that is scientific is necessarily science? I can take a scientific approach to understanding what I’ve written in my journal (how many words, which words, dates written, content analyses, etc.), but does this mean I’m doing science? I currently am leaning toward no, but am also loudly proclaiming that knowledge need neither be scientific nor based in the scientific method to be valid knowledge.

Before getting into science, let’s talk about mathematics. People often think that mathematics is all about numbers, counting, etc. But really, mathematics is the study of formal logic. It is the process of taking a collection of axioms and definitions, and seeing what we can produce with them, when we apply a system of logic.

Taking a number of axioms, including the ones necessary to formulate the natural number system and probability theory, and using the standard logical framework that we tend to use in mathematics, which requires that a proposition is either true or false, and never both, and combining it with the axiom that our most recent empirical observations are true, we’re able to construct mathematical models, which can potentially be falsified, by our empirical observations. That’s science.

Facts in Science

Evolution is fact is something I hear a lot. I understand why people might think that it is indeed fact, after all, it’s been tested over and over and over again, and all these tests seem to confirm evolutionary theory. But science is not about confirmation. It’s about falsification of theory, and if we give it a little bit of leeway, prioritization of theory. The reason why is because of the nature of science that I mentioned above. In science, we construct mathematical models, which can make predictions about observations we might make. Then we can use statistics to attempt to falsify the theory, in a form of statistical proof by contradiction.

But proof by contradiction does not allow us to determine that our assumption is…

--

--

Daniel Goldman
The Spiritual Anthropologists

I’m a polymath and a rōnin scholar. That is to say that I enjoy studying many different topics. Find more at http://danielgoldman.us