Monday, April 18, 2011

PhD 2.0: What is Science? Who is a Scientist?

The person who wants to find truth should not become a scientist. Science does not result in truth. Good science never claims truth.

Science is a way to ask and respond to questions. It is a set of rules which develops a narrative. Science is a discipline, a practice, a way of pursuing understanding. Science hopes, in some way, to approximate truth within a context.

Art tries to accomplish the same thing.

Theology tries to accomplish the same thing.

Intergenerational oral tradition tries to accomplish the same thing.

Scientists must remain humble and honest about the extent to which their claims can carry them. I fear the scientist who has found truth. Everyone should. The scientist who has found truth is selling something.

Science understands the difference between knowledge and truth. Knowledge is what we in the scientific community have concluded up this point. It is the best approximation of truth that we have right now, even if that approximation is a weak and sorry caricature of truth. Knowledge, therefore, changes when better theory emerges, when more rigorous methods are employed, and when less biased interpretations are rendered. Knowledge is child drawing stick figures of her family.

Truth is what knowledge is trying to say, but doesn’t have the vocabulary to pull it off. Truth is what knowledge is trying to paint, but doesn’t have a full palette of colors or much skill. Truth is true love and knowledge is a date.  

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