Science is the Only Way to Test Reality

Hello there skeptics,

Today I am going to be blogging about the wonderfulness of science, and how it is not some abstract way of looking at the universe (as the post-modernists will have you believe), it is actually a fundamental part of the universe, and is THE way to test reality.

Something my mother has told me for a long time since I came out of the closet about being a skeptic and an atheist, is “Science is not the only way of knowing things, there are plenty of other ways.” I’ve never asked her what these other ways might be, but should could be talking about either of two lists of ‘ways of finding out things’ :-
1. The ignorant list – she could be talking about things like logic, philosophy etc., in which she is just being ignorant and does not know that both logic and philosophy stem from science.
2. The post-modernist list – She really means what she says, and thinks the other ways of knowing are things like belief, spiritualism, mysticism etc., in which she is also being ignorant, because these things are either testable by science or not real.

I will start with a distinction, the fact that science is able to test anything is not just some blatant statement, its true. Anything which is real (reality), is testable by science. Now you may say, “Supernatural things are not testable by science”, this is a common misconception, supernatural things like ghosts and spirits are testable by science, but once they are testable by science they are not supernatural. A common misunderstanding is that there are things that science can test, there are supernatural things which cannot be tested, but are real, and there are things which don’t exist. This is wrong. Things are either real, (have some sort of measurable effect on the universe) or they are not real. Ghosts, for example, they could be real, and in which case, they are testable by science, or they could not be real, in which they are not testable by science. If something can be measured, (demon possessions, spirit hauntings, homeopathy, acupuncture etc.) then it is part of the real world and can be tested by science. There is no possibility of something having an effect on the universe around us (curing a patients cancer, making a possessed person’s head spin 360°, create the universe etc.), and not be testable by science.

That is because science is just measuring the world around us, in the purest and simplest form, and this is amazing to me, because it is the only discipline where you know that the same thing will be found over and over again. Think of the greatest three scientists of the last two centuries, Darwin, Tesla, Einstein. If these people were never to have existed, then somebody else would have made their discoveries instead. Somebody else, probably Wallace, would have published the theory of evolution, somebody else would have invented the Tesla coil (albeit with a different name) and AC electricity, and somebody else would have theorized special and general relativity. This is true because the outcomes of science are based on reality.

Science by definition, is the measuring and describing of the world around us, and it is the one and only way to find out things about the reality of the world we live in. I will eave you with a quote from

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23 thoughts on “Science is the Only Way to Test Reality

      • That science is currently unable to prove something does not make it true or untrue. It is entirely possible that with technological advances, things like free will or string theory could be tested, in the same way that some parts of the standard model of particle physics have only begun to be tested at Cern today.

        People used to believe that gods lived in mountains & clouds, then the sky or underground. Now we can go there and see no gods, the goalposts get continually moved, making the hypothesis of god(s) truly pseudo-science. It is inherrently untestable because no experiment can be envisioned even in the future that could test its veracity.

        • You hit the nail on the head in that last paragraph there. Gods used to live in mountains (greek mythology), then when we moved to the mountains, then the gods moved to the sky, then we moved to the sky, and now god is EVERYWHERE and EVERYTHING! If we prove that god is not THIS, then theologians will say, then god in THAT,a dn if we disprove that hypothesis, then it will move onto something else.
          Free will is something incompatible with causality, because a cause – effect world cannot exist with free will, what goes on in our heads is the illusion of free will, ad is best treated as free will, but we must understand that our brains are deterministic.

      • “but we must understand that our brains are deterministic.” Why is that?

        If you want to believe that, it’s fine. If you want Science (well, physics in particular) – it seems that everything that happens in the nano-scale level is non-deterministic. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copenhagen_interpretation#Principles)

        As a Physicist I believe that science is the true way to observe our world and determine what is true (for now), and what is false.
        But it’s a philosophy – who assured you that what we are measuring exists at all? perhaps it’s all an illusion?

        To me, that is not plausible so I “believe” in science, I always held the notion that “if it works – it’s probably true”
        but you must understand – we may all be wrong, and the only think that we can be sure about is “I think, therefore I am”
        (I would advise you to read how Descartes got to this conclusion).

        • it is true that at the nano-scale quantum effects take their place, but in the macro world of our brains (yes, our brain cells are pretty big comparatively), these effects are non-existent. One interpretation of quantum physics is that the universe (even its undeterministic nature) is deterministic, because each universe follows its own path on the branching multiverse tree. I have written one article about multiverses and quantum mechanics relating to this which I cannot remember the title of, but its there.

          Lets look at science as an illusion. When we look at the illusions we see at say… magic parlours. These illusions only work in one refined way, from one angle, from one field of view. If we change the angle we look at the illusion dissappears, if we get close, the illusion dissappears, if we zoom out, the illusion dissappears. When it comes to science, no matter how many ways we look at it, from whatever size and whatever angle, it works… this is not proof, but it is pretty good evidence to suggest that either the illusion is extremely well detailed and that part of the illusion is reality, or this is the reality around us.

    • Am I right in saying that you do not believe we have free will? I’d be interested in seeing a post as to why. On a side note sorry for the delay, I was on holiday.

      • If in fact decisions we make are illusion, then what is the logical justification for holding people accountable for their actions? By holding accountable, I mean human induced accountability not the natural accountability we experience as a consequence of our actions.

        • Because the things which go on inside our head influence the crimes we commit. When somebody is sent to jail, we are punishing the organism which raped, murdered, stole etc.. The factors which influence whether or not we kill somebody are things which go on inside our head, not things from outside influences.

          • People are a product of their environment (internal – hormones etc and external – what you perceive, read, see, listen). Punishing people is a very unscientific because it has been shown to be highly ineffective (read science and humanity by Skinner). If we want to eliminate these aberrant behaviours we should redesign our environment not punish people, that doesn’t solve anything.

            • While I do agree with your premise that the universe is deterministic and ultimately out of our control, I do believe this view should be abandoned in social life, as it does not allow us to punish those who cause harm.

              I am not a proponent of punishment, I think that criminals should be corrected so that their actions do not occur again.

              • Punishment is a prescription for a symptom(a behaviour) not the root cause(what causes the behaviour). If you don’t want undesirable behaviour the only way is to re-engineer our environment. “I do believe this view should be abandoned in social life” – how can you abandon the laws of this universe? because that is what you are asking for in that statement.

                • I do not wish to ignore the laws of the universe, I merely suggest that, although the universe is truly deterministic, real life is much to complex to predict which factors will lead to which sorts of crime, so, until we CAN predict the future using determinism, and change the factors which cause crime, the best model to use in the court system is the (admittedly naïve yet accurate) idea that we all have free-will.

                  Your idea will prevail, however, we do not have the technology to predict what your idea needs. Until then, free-will is good enough.

                  I think its also important to point out that most of the factors which cause people to cause major crimes are from inside the criminals head.

  1. You make a good point there, because science is truly the physical world around us. ‘Supernatural’ isn’t supernatural if it is proved by science, becuase then it is natural. I’m a skeptic, obviously.

    Nice that you’re a fan of Tesla, because I’m a fan of him too, and sadly, his contributions go unnoticed when compared to Thomas Edison, who he beat in the Electricity War anyway.

    • Yes, if ghosts where proved to exist, then it would just be another piece of science.
      Tesla is actually the most influential person of the industrial revolution and beyond, he deserves his place above all the others, Waat, Edison, etc.

  2. I’m not sure logic really stems from science. Don’t we need to use logic to draw conclusions from observations – i.e. to do science?

    “There is no possibility of something having an effect on the universe around us […], and not be testable by science.”

    That’s pretty profound! Is it true? You’re saying that every effect on the universe is measurable by science. To take the Cern example above, some effects on the universe were not measurable until recently. So there was certainly a time that science could not test everything that has an effect on the universe. This is still the case. Is it possible that some effects will _never_ be measurable?

    • Science is a way of measuring things.

      You are correct, there are somethings which are observable, such as particle physics which can only be observed at energies created by colliders the size of the solar system! These things will probably be forever out of the realm of observation. (This stuff is immeasurable because we can’t make things big enough to test it, its still testable by science) How can we ever know about these energies then? We use mathematics, which uses science from normal energies to predict what will happen at larger energies. This is still science, but we can’t verify it.

      Even though it is out of observation for us, does not mean it is untestable by science, and it still does not result in there being other ways to test it. There is no other observation method which is directly tangible with reality, but is not science. Science is still the only way to do it.
      Remember, the limits are our technology and the size of the earth, they are not the limits of science itself.

      • Science ITSELF DOES have limits. You are grossly uneducated and misinformed about this topic if you think it does not. You are MISUSING science.

        Science ITSELF rests on several ASSUMPTIONS ( that we HOPE are true).

        Remember, WITHOUT PHILOSOPHY, there would be NO science. Einstein himself said his reading of Kant ENABLED him to come up with and invent General Relativity.

        We can be wrong, BUT we can NEVER be completely right in science. EVERYTHING in science is tentative.

        Science is a HUMAN CREATION and ENDEAVOR. You have lost your way badly.

  3. You have no idea what you are talking about. Science has its considerable limitations and things it does NOT do. It CANNOT and does NOT address the supernatural OR God. This falls WAAAAY beyond the BOUNDARIES of what science can actually do. Science and spirituality are NOT at war. That is an Internet MYTH perpetuated by clueless and uneducated people. They do different things. Science does not get involved in that.

    What Dawkins does is a complete misuse and abuse of science for his underlying dubious agenda. He should know better.

    Lastly, there is NO such thing as “the scientific method.” There is NO singular method that all scioentists follow.What we all learned in 6th grade is a VERY INACCURATE picture of how science works as conducted by professional researchers around the world. It is outwright wrong and far too simple.

    I suggest you educate yourself. The Internet contains A LOT of MISINFORMATION.

  4. Science cannot demonstrate what I dreamed last night ( although it really happened) , nor if a mother loves her daughter, nor tell us how to live our lives, nor determine the value of something , nor tell us if Guns N’ Roses has betetr music than Soundgarden etc.

    Science is great for APPROXIMATIONS of the natural world. Approximations-that is it. And it HAS LIMITS. A subject matter MUST be scientific ( natural- natural phenomena that is testable) for science to address it and study it.

    There are many things that science is SILENT on.

    Our greatest cream of the crop theories are ONLY APPROXIMATIONS- nothing more. Our greatest geniuses in the area of science were ONLY fog fighters struggling to understand the NATURAL world.

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