Sunday, July 14, 2013

Science as Communal

Let me cast science in this way: science is a method of developing theories via a consistent approach to phenomena to provide a set of communal theories. By this I mean that we all make observations, we all encounter phenomena, and we all imagine how these phenomena relate to one another. These imagined relations are theories. These theories aim at the truth (how things really are), but the truth can not be determined independently of perception; so we have two criteria that allow us to sort theories: coherence and pragmatism. Scientists take theories and apply pragmatic tests to them to see what works and what does not - and decent scientists and philosophers and lay thinkers can read popular theories and see which ones cohere together and which ones do not.

Fundamentally, science must be communal. The theories that science declares the best possible theory at any given time may not be the best possible theory in relation to a given individual. Perhaps the individual requires a theory that affirms his image of himself or perhaps he needs theories delivered to him with a taste of anthropomorphism. This science need not do. The individual's genetic make-up and life-experiences may incline him to certain idiosyncrasies when theorizing on phenomena; science restrains itself to pragmatism and coherency because these two criteria are useful for nearly every human trying to make sense of the world (indeed, it is hard to imagine someone who would value a theory for not working even if they happen to value a non-working theory over a working one).

The result is that science allows people from varying backgrounds, with varying wills, to sit down and imagine relations between appearances that can guide and inform anyone. Scientific theories are public theories.

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