ScienceScience is a methodology and any interpretations based with the scientific knowledge base should be necessarily derived from properly derived data. By "scientifically derived" I refer to the characteristics of science which were necessarily established during the US legal trial, McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, 1996:
- Guided by natural law.
- Explanatory by reference to nature law.
- Testable against the empirical world.
- Its conclusions are tentative, i.e. are not necessarily the final word.
Natural LawNatural law is central to science. Natural laws are broad generalisations, essentially descriptions, of the way nature has been repeatedly observed to operate. If a phenomenon depends on supernatural intervention, then it is not relying on natural laws, and it is not explanatory by reference to natural law. (Overton, 1982)
FalsifiabilityAnother essential characteristic of science is the requirement that a scientific theory be falsifiable, that it be testable and most scientific theories have some trouble with this criterion. Historically based theories such as evolution cannot turn history back so we can view it directly but in that it is no different from many other forms of science ... in fact no one can literally look directly back to any time prior to their own lifetimes so what are we to do? Would critics of science have us assume that everything before our own time is untrue?
VerifiabilityOnce a hypothesis has been tested through experiment/observation and/or prediction it must be possible for other experimenters to repeat those self-same observations. That verification may employ the same experimental techniques, observations or different ones but it must be possible.
TentativenessScientists often say there are no facts, that is to say that nothing is "set in stone" in science, although being human, scientists are often reluctant to give up long-standing theories. From this (and verification) it can be seen that science is self-correcting. If a given hypothesis or theory does not fit the available evidence it is modified or it is discarded to be replaced with one that better fits the observations ... it really is that simple. Scientific laws are generalised descriptions of an ideal or isolated systems behaviour and will seldom, if ever, occur exactly as predicted in the real world because the only truly naturally occurring, isolated system is the universe itself. Within science many things are not directly observable. No scientist is able to see within the heart of a star or planet, no one has directly observed "black-holes", dinosaurs, gravity or sub-atomic molecules but much data is available concerning these objects and few scientists doubt the validity of such findings. Singularities or "black holes" are not directly visible but scientists searching for explanations of the beginning of our universe hypothesised their existence and the effects that would be caused by such bodies and several such bodies were later identified. Whilst it may not always be possible to demonstrate how something happened in much of science it is often possible to demonstrate how something could have happened. Having demonstrated how something could happen that hypothesis can be used to predict other events and thus confirm or deny their own validity. At the root of any theory or scientifically derived conclusion there should be a reasonable interpretation of scientifically derived data that means that data that was acquired non-scientifically can be disqualified. Hypotheses do not necessarily require such supporting evidence because hypotheses are essentially unproven assumptions. Nevertheless, hypotheses have significant value in that they can form the framework for further research and may, one day, evolve into theories.
ConclusionMany individuals are under the mistaken apprehension that to carry out science it is necessary conduct experiments ... this is a vastly over-simplified view. Science requires that a hypothesis or model is formulated and that that is then tested against observations to determine its validity. Experiments are just one method of generating the observations that the validation of a given hypothesis requires. Stars & volcanoes have never been built in laboratories but science nevertheless knows a great deal about such objects. Claims that science in any way opposes the inspired word of a given religions god or that it is not qualified to investigate a given subject are illogical and irrelevant to science & to rational investigation. Although there is value to be found in the various popular belief systems (religion, myth & fairy tale) that value is largely cultural and of particular interest to those studying similarities between various races. As for claims that science or theories and disciplines within science are simply religions in themselves, whilst it must be admitted that some individuals do follow science in such a manner, science neither requests nor requires faith in any measure.
- "The Talk.Origins Archive Feedback: August 1999", Kenneth Fair
- "The Talk.Origins Archive Feedback: July 1997", John Wilkins
- "Information For All Biologists", Dr. Morden
- "Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism", Kitcher (1982)
- National Center for Science Education 1999