Last night I had an interesting conversation with suitboyskin
about an intriguing issue.
Last semester, I had a class in the First Amendment, and the issue of teaching Creationism in schools came up. Another student said that he didn't feel it made sense to be teaching evolution in schools either, feeling that it was misleading to be teaching something that was only a theory. I feel that I was successful in explaining to my classmate that the fact that evolution was a theory did not invalidate it. Science, I explained, calls everything
a theory because it is in the nature of scientific method to constantly question and refine those theories. It is a given that new information will come to light, and so it is built into scientific nomenclature that what ideas are accepted will change over time. Just because it is a "theory" doesn't mean that it hasn't been accepted, which it has.suitboyskin
mentioned that a Freud exhibit at a museum was picketed by feminists who considered his work misogynistic. There is no way around the fact that Freud got quite a few things wrong in his works, among them inseminating into the public mindset quite a few serious misconceptions about women. This does not alter the fact that he is the single most important figure in psychology because he was the primary developer of the science. Just because there are things he wrote about that have not borne true does not invalidate his entire body of work. It is a science
, and his theories were just that, theories
. Over time, Freud's theories have been refined, and different theories have been developed to compensate for those that haven't stood the test of time, and areas of the science have opened up that were inconcievable to Siggy back in the day.
Both of these issues illuminate a major issue that people have in understanding the scientific method. It is designed to change over time. What people seem to expect from science, which is an ever-expanding search for knowledge about how the world around us works, is something concrete. Something permenant. Science can not provide that.
The problem here really is that people expect dogma
from science, and they are two different things. This is not to say that there is not a certain dogmatic element to the scientific heirarchy in practice (scientists, like everybody else, are human, and are subject to the same weaknesses as all of us are), but in its purest form, science is not able to provide people with the comfort of knowing they are absolutely right. Anyone who knows anything about science will have to agree that there is no such thing as an absolute. One can not get simple answers to complex questions, and the questions in science, by their very nature, always get increasingly more complex. This is disturbing to most people because it runs counter not only to how their worldviews work (usually religious - read: dogmatic), but also to the nuts and bolts of living one's life.
Science, however, is one of those cases where the mission statement, learn all that is learnable, is a self-fulfilling prophecy that does not exclude. Furthermore, the fact that it is constantly evolving means that there is always something new to fascinate. Science has become a function of the human creature by this point in history, for the better (the development of medicine) or for the worse (the pollution of the environment).
Besides, science can sometimes get weird.
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