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Pabitra Mukhopadhyay


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Truths and Facts. Does Science prove anything?

There is a great deal of interest of us in examining claims of ‘truths’ and ‘facts’. In such examination there is a noticeable stress on scientifically proven facts which can be taken as fundamentally true. This is possibly because mathematics is the language of Science and we make mistake thinking mathematical proofs to be reflecting the essence of scientifically proven facts.

Does science necessarily prove anything? The way mathematics proves a proposition?

It is surprising that such a basic debate cannot be laid to rest and a conclusion arrived at even after 1934 book by Karl Popper: The Logic of Scientific Discovery.

Alan Moghissi, Matthew Amin and Connor McNulty of Institute for Regulatory Science, Alexandria, Va wrote to the editor of Science (the magazine) disagreeing with Peter Gleick and 250 members of the (US) National Academy of Sciences writing to the editor of Science : All citizens should understand some basic scientific facts. There is always some uncertainty associated with scientific conclusions; science never absolutely proves anything.


Is there an absolutely proven scientific fact?


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    May 31 2013: Hi Pabitra
    You focus on the statement "science never absolutely proves anything." What you are missing is that science can disprove things. Since we can make science in areas where new information may change the results, we accept the idea that new information may change what is considered to be a fact. But many scientifically proven facts have been true for as long as there has been science. But still, maybe a new invention or discovery will add a new factor that will change our understanding.
    But when science does prove that something is false, it is far more difficult to believe that a new discovery will make it true.
    Maybe science never absolutely proves anything, but if you believe something that science has disproved, then you are wrong. We have the right to believe what we believe. But that does not make us correct. It does not give us the right to demand that our opinion be seen as valid as any other.
    You ask, "Is there an absolutely proven scientific fact?" There are thousands of them. For example: Why is the sky blue? Because the atmospheric nitrogen gas absorbs energy from many wavelengths of light but releases this energy in blue frequencies only.
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      May 31 2013: Dear Jon Miner,
      I hope you have noticed that I cited a link to show that the same question is present even within the scientific community. The purpose of having this debate, as far as I am concerned, is to examine how we popularly understand the working of science, its process and goal and if that is exactly what science is, professionally.

      I am having problem accepting the observation that sky is blue as a proven scientific fact. I shall agree that it is common knowledge but not proven scientific fact. We humans evolved in a planet at a particular distance from the sun such that our eyes can 'see' a given range of wavelength of all radiations by the sun. An intelligent life on a planet at a different distance from sun and containing similar proportions of atmospheric nitrogen may see an entirely different sky.

      An absolutely proven fact is that on a euclidean plane the squares of base and height of a right angled triangle will always be equal to the square of the hypotenuse.
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        Jun 1 2013: One of the tools of chemistry is that certain chemicals burn with certain colors. For example if you burn table salt you get a yellow flame. It is a scientifically proven fact that when an electron in a higher energy state in nitrogen drops to a lower energy state, a photon of excess energy is released with a frequency that is in the blue color range. This is a repeatable experiment. So the idea that it is common knowledge but not proven is in error.
        Other gasses in Earth's atmosphere also give off other colors, but nitrogen is the most common gas in Earth's atmosphere and its color is dominant. On other planets with other mixtures you would get other sky colors.
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        Jun 1 2013: "An absolutely proven fact is that on a euclidean plane the squares of base and height of a right angled triangle will always be equal to the square of the hypotenuse."
        It is funny, because in reality we can find euclidean plane geometry conditions just as a approximation, some good approximations but never in the exactly conditions.
        So, is absolutely proven fact, but it exist just as a idea.
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        Jun 3 2013: Just a bit of perspective here:

        Let's imagine two organisms built on a silicone-based, not carbon-based chemical chains. They sit around discussing that it is by no means possible that any carbon-based organism can exist on any other sphere, anywhere out there.

        Imagine 2D thinking beings not being able to see that the 3rd D is possible.

        Given the old, perspective-based ideas that i mention above - where are most people now?

        I'm not being mystical, esoteric or philosophical here, for the record. Just trying to contribute to the discussion while trying to say that being interdisciplinary, logical, using both euclidean and other forms of thinking + collective knowledge + imagination - (minus) culturally formed and programmed prejudice will get everybody somewhere.

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