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Re: SCIENCE ANYONE?



Hi Matt, good to see you again.
Your definition of science was intriguing:
<Science -- a narrow discipline that seeks to pose answerable questions
about the physical universe.>

'A narrow discipline...' sounds like a warning.  Assuming you're taking
'discipline' as a branch of knowledge and 'narrow' to mean limited, what
limits it?  Does this just reinforce '...the physical universe.'?
'...that seeks to pose answerable questions about the physical universe.'
So anything involving engineering is not science?  Once you have an answer
to an answerable question, using that answer to make something happen, like,
say, building a bridge would be outside the definition.
Also, in this phrasing, science only poses ... questions.  You would be
satisfied if you could prove logically that an answer exists, even if you
never found that answer.
That's a very intellectual definition!

The quick definition I used emphasizes nearly opposite implications:
<Science:~ the view that reality can be apprehended and manipulated to reach
a consciously formulated goal.>
Manipulation toward a goal definitely includes engineering, and the answers
to questions are definitely expected to be found.
Partly I wanted to follow by connecting to the scientific method, and partly
I wanted to counter the idea that because we cannot be certain that we have
arrived at the complete truth that it is never possible to find truth at
all.
Your definition, including '...answerable questions...' as it does, also
implies that answers (truths) are available to us.

Then you connect paleontology to the limits in the definition:
<Notice that the definition says nothing about manipulating anything or
reaching a goal -- in paleontology, at least with the primary data (i.e.,
fossils), we can do very little manipulation in the sense of an experimenter
manipulating variables, yet we are still doing science.  We are seeking to
pose answerable questions about dinosaurs in this case.  I'm not going to
touch phylogenetic systematics -- yet. =)>
Here's the advantage to leaving out engineering:  you are limiting yourself
to thought experiments, not touching your subject matter.  Still,
paleontology is not the only science...

Then you say:
<We also assume a number of things in science:
1. There is a physical universe outside of our minds/bodies.
2. The properties of that physical universe can be tested and understood.
3. Methodological naturalism -- everything in this physical universe has
natural causes and effects.>
Notice that '[t]he properties of the physical universe can be tested and
understood.'  So, science does involve manipulation with purpose (what else
is testing?), and again you reinforce the idea that truth is available to
us; 'understood' means have correct knowledge of, I assume.

Here's an interesting mix:
<Are these assumptions true?  Who knows.  We don't deal with truth in
science -- only with probability.  We may say something is very, very
probable, but we can never say with 100% certainty that something is true.
In any case, every discipline makes and operates under certain assumptions.
Maybe there are supernatural forces, maybe its all in our heads, etc., etc.
Maybe, but
these considerations fall outside the narrow spectrum of what science is and
does.>
Okay, we are past philosophical pettifogging, though the point that we can
perceive the universe as it is (reality) shows up mainly by inference in
contrast to the rejected premise that '...maybe it is all in our heads...'.
Now, the probability reference is familiar to me from the quantum mechanics
principle about locating something.  That may be true, but remember we have
discovered that truth.  The true inference is about the existence of the
probabilities of location, not the location itself.  (Assuming for the sake
of argument it is true.)
So, either you are contradicting yourself about the existence of actually
answerable questions, or you mean that truth when found concerns a range of
possible values.  As somebody said in an article I quoted awhile ago,
neither of those would satisfy someone who needs to build a bridge that will
stand or hit Mars with a rocket where it will be in a few months.
May I suggest that some truths we can find are precise and some exist within
a range?

The remainder concerns cladistic analysis, and I'd like to respond to it
separately.
I wonder if HP Buchholz's class and yours had as much fun with this
definitional issue.
Thank you for the chance to look at it!