Monday, July 7, 2008

The Objective of Objective fact

Science is all about objective facts. The basis of scientific thought is that reality can be observed and understanding gained from that observation. This assume that there is an objective reality. That is a reality that is common to all. Wiktionary's first definition of objective is "
A material object that physically exists. " Again we have the assumption that there is a physical consistent reality. The question of existence is ontological in nature. The question of knowing that there is a consistent physical reality is epistemological however. It also is not known.

There is no established proof of consistent objective reality. Interestingly it is beyond scientific inquiry because scientific inquiry is based on the knowledge that a consistent objective reality exists. One cannot apply the scientific method without accepting that there is an objective reality. Without the scientific method there is no science. Therefore one cannot use science to establish that there is an objective reality. It is something we accept. This is not a bad thing. In fact it is the only reasonable position, as far as I am concerned. Still it is important to note that all "objective" findings are based on this assumption. There is a name for this type of assumption, its called an axiom. An axiom is a truth that is considered self evident. In other words it is considered obvious. This is clearly dangerous ground. It is obvious that the world is flat. The world is not flat, but that is not obvious.

I do not wish you to walk away with an idea that all of science is junk. It is not! However, science is nothing more than a tool. Like any tool it is constantly being sharpened and refined. Over time we have learned to apply it and gotten remarkable results. We have also gotten terrible results. As with anything that we attempt to model, care needs to be taken to not take the model too seriously. Science is a powerful tool, but only where it applies. Science only works for understanding objective facts. Things that can be observed and measured by our current technology. Science will continue to grow, but will it grow forever?

Can science continue to grow until it can explain everything or is it limited? Is it limited by those who practise it? Sounds like a good question for my next post. How far can science take us?

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