TED Conversations

Pabitra Mukhopadhyay

TEDCRED 50+

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

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.

http://www.nars.org/Voice_of_Science_Articles/Does%20Sciences%20Ever%20Absolutely%20Prove%20Anything.pdf

Is there an absolutely proven scientific fact?

+11
Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    May 31 2013: "Is there an absolutely proven scientific fact?"
    An obscure question at first glance, but the more I think about it the more valid it seems to become.
    For the sake of keeping things relevant I'm interpreting the question as "Can the scientific method prove anything?"
    The scientific method works in the sense that it may help determine a proximate cause. For example "Why does water boil?" You can use the scientific method to determine that pure water boils once it reaches the temperature of 100 degrees celsius at 1 atmospheric pressure. Yet that only leads to another question "Why does water boil at 100 degrees celsius at?" Once again, with the use of (A much more complex) scientific method you can conclude "It does this because it takes the energy of 100 degrees Celsius to break all of the hydrogen bonds in the water." Once again you can continue to ask "Why do all of the hydrogen bonds break with the energy of 100 degrees Celsius?" And so on...

    It seems the flaw with the modern scientific method is that it works like a chain (or something with more variables like a pyramid, house of cards, ect..)
    Scientific knowledge builds upon itself using previously obtained knowledge. If a presumption previously concurred with the same method is proved wrong, then all facts which depend on that now disproven conclusion lose all credibility as well.

    However observed results are indeed logically factual information. If an experiment can be repeated, get the same results and never fail, then it's as much a fact as a mathematical equation. To claim that it's not a scientific fact that water boils at 100 degrees is like claiming 2+2 does not = 4.
    Then again, this all depends on the first and most natural assumption that the logic cultivated by the human mind is flawless and truthful. And honestly, I don't know how the scientific method could address that question.
    • MR T

      • +1
      Jun 2 2013: Thats an interesting way of thinking about it, I have to say though that water doesn't always boil at 100C infact its quite probable that it rarely does, it depends on air pressure, your measuring equipment etc..
      • thumb
        Jun 3 2013: Haha, you are correct. I'm attempting to address the point that you can get consistent results if you have constant variables, that things are not random and thus can be proved or disproved.
        Thanks for mentioning that, if I wanna make a valid point it's important to have correct information!
        ( Notice I made a slight edit.)

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.