The scientific process is the most effective method humans have for learning about the natural world. Science is a body of knowledge, but it is also a process. Science is an exciting and dynamic process for discovering how the world works and building that knowledge into powerful and coherent frameworks. “The Scientific Method” is a term often conceived as a simple way to understand the basics of scientific testing. In fact, the Scientific Method represents how scientists usually write up the results of their studies (and how a few investigations are actually done), but it is a grossly oversimplified representation of how scientists generally build knowledge. The process of science is exciting, complex, and unpredictable. It involves many different people, engaged in many different activities, in many different orders.
The reason many like to promote misinterpretations of scientific abilities to reach objective knowledge, objective reality, and objective ontological truths is when relativism or subjectivism reality seems possible it opens gaps in truth and often, allowing the addition of magic in the gaps. However, science is largely a way to ensure accountability for factual claims. A scientific theory is merely a way of organizing ideas that makes sense from evidence of the world. Scientific methods are merely ways of rejecting or supporting factual claims that emerge from theories. Therefore, some still say but “everything is relative.” I see this as a common statement of people who are over impressed by scientific misinterpretations or ones who are not holding to scientific realism, especially those prone to self-serving biases and who disregard the correspondence theory of truth. Any view explicitly embracing the idea that truth consists in a relation to reality is following some amount of the correspondence theory of truth. Thus, such truth is a relational property involving a characteristic relation to some portion of reality. However, people with scientific misinterpretations or scientific antirealism points of view may try to say, “Even Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity demonstrates that everything is relative.” Wrong, the theory of general relativity is not an example of relative or subjective truth. It is objective knowledge about objective reality and is a set of objective ontological truths that gravity associated with any mass will curve the very space and time around it.
Some seem to work hard to add equivocation or doubt such as saying, “Ok, evolution is a great theory for predicting the properties of organisms, but no theory is guaranteed to be correct.” Unless, the predictions can be tested by scientific methods, progress grinds to a halt. Why do many people actually believe such nonsense and proudly make such declarations while supposing they are on solid philosophical ground and allegedly supported by science? Sadly, too many do and what makes matters worse is that a significant number of scientists and others sufficiently well trained in science do not make the effort to correct people of the faulty notion that science supports relativism. However, Albert Einstein was a scientific realist! In fact, his theory actually supports realist thinking, which is an objective perspective concerned with observation because it insists upon recognizing the reality of a thing or event observed, despite the differing “perspectives” of the observers regarding when the event occurred. Instead of claiming that everything is relative, Einstein’s theory demonstrates the objective nature of the universe despite the relative position of one observer compared to another. Creationism fails as a theory in part because it is so unhelpful and does not offer any predictions. It is not a science; it is simply an unfounded claim. By contrast, natural selection thinking delivers very specific predictions such as “infanticide should be expected primarily in three situations.” The predictions might be right or wrong, but at least they tell us what to look for. When a detailed prediction is confirmed, it provides support for the theory that issued the prediction is never decisive and only cumulative. However, it becomes more decisive the more the demonstrates a connected reproducibility. Furthermore, creationism is recklessly decisive without reliability and validity.
Einstein’s broader theory of relativity told us more about how the universe works and helped to lay the foundation for quantum physics, which connects, to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, which states that it is impossible to simultaneously know, with a high level of precision, two properties of a particle. This was made clearer in a concept known as wave-particle duality, which has become a cornerstone of quantum physics. Therefore, when we measure an electron’s position, we are treating it as a particle at a specific point in space with an uncertain wavelength. When we measure its momentum, we are treating it as a wave, meaning we can know the amplitude of its wavelength but not its location. Thus, even quantum mechanics never say the universe is not following any laws, it just says that the laws are different from what our common sense suggests. Reality is an aggregate of trillions of quantum effects with many interacting particles which can eventually get one definite answer that is very Very VERY often from a logical cause. Currently, it is hard for us to make sensors that reliably work at that level and is fast and accurate enough to get to definite answers from logical causes. This confusion is likely some of what fuels the debates about scientific realism which is centrally connected to almost everything else in the philosophy of science for they concern the very nature of scientific knowledge.
Scientific realism is a positive epistemic attitude towards the content of our best theories and models, recommending belief in both the observable and unobservable aspects of the world described by the sciences. This epistemic attitude has important metaphysical (explains the fundamental nature of being and the world it encompasses) and semantic dimensions and these various commitments are contested by a number of rival epistemologies of science, which are known collectively as forms of scientific antirealism. Scientific realism is part of the philosophy of science, which holds that there is truth or approximate truth of scientific theories or certain aspects of scientific theories. Some define it in terms of the successful reference of theoretical terms to things in the world, both observable and unobservable. Others define scientific realism not in terms of truth or reference, but in terms of belief in the ontology (study of the nature of being, existence, or reality) of scientific theories. What all of these approaches have in common is a commitment to the idea that our best theories have a certain epistemic status which is they yield knowledge of aspects of the world that includes unobservable aspects. Another way to think about scientific realism is in terms of the epistemic aims of scientific inquiry. That is, some think of the position in terms of what science aims to do: the scientific realist holds that science aims to produce true descriptions of things in the world, approximately true descriptions, or ones whose central terms successfully refer, and so on. There is a weak implication here to the effect that if science aims at truth and scientific practice is at all successful, the characterization of scientific realism in terms of aim may then entail some form of characterization in terms of achievement. There are reasonless belief systems that support faulty interpretations of both the theory of relativity and quantum physics, which continue to gain ground and influence a large portion of the world. When you have a culture that increasingly looks at science as the last word on just about everything, you have at least one potent prescription among many for developing a mentality that can and does easily find favor with many evils.
If “everything is relative,” how much easier is it to declare that dharma and karma could be real? Indeed, if “everything is relative,” then anything goes and can be “justified” by the appeal to “relativity supported by science.” Moreover, if “nothing is real,” then why not just let people do whatever they want to do or say whatever they want to say without ever challenging them? Of course, if you just happen to live in and recognize the real world where nothing is relative, then you will do what you can to prevent such misinterpretations of science from further corrupting minds too easily susceptible to accepting nonsense wrapped in pseudoscientific garb. A good start is to promote the understanding that many people, including scientists, frequently misinterpret and/or exaggerate scientific findings to make proclamations about things that legitimate science does not support. Beyond that, grounding oneself and others in realist philosophies will also help prevent nonsense claims from gaining more devotees. Legitimate science is a fine servant of truth, but faulty misinterpretations of science only serve the enemy of truth and should be exposed and resisted in defense of the truth.
A common misconception is that “hard” sciences are more rigorous and quantitative in their methods than “soft” sciences and so are more trustworthy. In fact, the rigor of a scientific study has much more to do with the investigator’s approach than with the discipline. Many psychology studies, for example, are carefully controlled, rely on large sample sizes, and are quantitative and tests are designed, often rigorously regardless of discipline. Often “hard” and “soft” sciences actually complement each other or assist in supporting scientific ideas in unison, which makes them even more trustworthy. Some scientific ideas are so well established and supported by so many lines of evidence that they are unlikely to be completely overturned. However, even these established ideas are subject to modification based on new evidence and perspectives. To the contrary, religions are fond of rejecting new ideas, evidence for old perspectives even if they lack evidence, or contradict new evidence. Religions have a way of departing from factual scientific realism in their drive toward reasonless belief systems that support some supernatural magic unfused realism, non-realism, or anti-realism. The departures are by no means restricted to belief in supernatural agents. When the main purpose of a belief system is to provide a blueprint for controlled thinking and actions, all aspects of factual reality is fair game.
Many scientific theories of the past became weirdly implausible with the passage of time, just like religions. When this happens, even in science, they are often revealed as not just wrong but as willfully purpose-driven. In general, some of the saddest examples and of concern are the flawed and bigoted scientific theories that support conventional beliefs about the role of women in society or the devalued perception of women. In the nineteenth century, revered scientific wisdom would interfere with ovarian development of women. Similarly defaming was how many naturalists considered it scientific proof that an exhibit of native Khoikhoi women of Southwestern Africa, who were labeled “Hottentot venus” because of their enlarged genitalia and buttocks, were a primitive link between mankind and animals and possibly not even fully human. The exhibit also became the basis for the theory that African women were wildly hypersexual and had larger birth canals than other women, which enabled them to give birth with ease. Slave owners, who used it to justify forcing black women to work while heavily pregnant and sending them, back to work immediately after giving birth, seized upon the theory.
Furthermore, the defaming theory of Maternal Impression, an old belief that a mother’s thoughts while pregnant can impart special characteristics on the child in her womb. For many years, this idea was used to explain congenital disorders and birth defects. Maternal Impression was used to explain the disorder suffered by the Elephant Man: it was suggested that an elephant frightened his mother while she was pregnant with him thereby imprinting the memory of an elephant on her child. Depression was also explained in this manner. If a mother had moments of strong sadness during pregnancy, it was believed that her child would ultimately suffer from depression in later life. The Genetic Theory caused almost complete eradication of this belief in the 20th century. As late as the 1970s, women were barred from running marathons because it was thought that running more than a few miles would damage their bodies. We can criticize these theories today as just plain wrong, but only because they were rejected by objective judgment of factual evidence that confirmed objective knowledge and objective truth.
Religion and its theories are just plain wrong and often just stick around, but only because they are not rejected and often even supported by subjective judgment of nonfactual evidence confirming their subjective pseudo-knowledge and subjective pseudo-truth. These and other subjective pseudo-belief systems, even if not classified as religions, are unreasonable because they invoke supernatural agents or agency and sometimes thinking these pseudo-belief systems are supported by quantum quackery. When evaluated in terms of factual and scientific realism, proponents of quantum quackery are just like religions. In all cases, they function primarily as blueprints for scientific misinterpretations, promote subjectivism or relativism, along the way depart from factual realism, and still may fallaciously claim to have objective judgment of factual evidence confirming objective knowledge and objective truth. Science replaces old ideas for new ones when warranted. Whereas religion suppresses new ideas for their old ideas, even if the new ideas are warranted. Do not let them fool you, quantum mechanics is not magic, and Quantum Quackery with the presence or absence of supernatural agents or agency are a departure from factual realism and objective judgment of factual evidence that confirms objective knowledge and objective truth.
By Damien Marie AtHope
8. Wilson, D.S (2007). Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin’s Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives. Random House Publishing Group. New York, NY. Kindle Edition.
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