by Fernando Caracena ©2021 Fernando Caracena
This post is in response to the media's attempt to use "science" as "scientific authority" or "scientific consensus" in trying to get the public to go along with their [cockamamie] schemes. The area of interest here is natural science, which concerns all phenomena that can be observed with our senses. Although the human mind brings in other mental tools to bear on what our senses reveal, the focus of that mental activity is what happens in the physical world. When we understand a part of the physical world, we can use it to live our lives here more effectively.
Science is not an auricle, it is a methodology--a way of acquiring knowledge and understanding that adds to past knowledge and understanding. Doing science to gain understanding is full of arguments, disagreements, experiments, refutation of false notions, and the arrival of knowledge to various degrees of certainty. The results of doing science are often stated in terms of theories, laws, and principles. These perhaps my resemble oracular pronouncements. Instead, they summarize a lot of scientific work.
The theories, laws, and principles of science are like the equipment of a professional mountain climber. Sometimes a piton is pulled out of a rock wall when the mountain climber puts some weight on it. The expert mountain climber is ready for that and has contingency plans. When facing something totally unknown, the scientist does not spout all kinds of theories. The best course of action is to study the phenomenon until some pattern is seen or a connection is made with other known areas of physics. Sometimes a well worn theory has to be sacrificed in the light of some experiment that shoots it down. Truth is provisional. Ultimately, it must be able to stand all tests of its veracity. Science is merciless in this regard. A talking head who uses terms such as, "science", "scientific authority", "scientific consensus" looks like some kind of moronic clown.
Steps in Developing Scientific Understanding
First there is junk science in the notion of hacking. It is not really science. What hacking is is cracking into something by trial and error, subsequently forgetting how you got there and then moving on. A hacker can leave a trail of destruction and yet feel like a real scientist.
I remember when one of my friends got a chemistry set. We were kids who knew nothing about chemistry, but wanted to get on with the neat "experiments". We were not interested in reading the stuff that came with the set. We just wanted to get on with the neat stuff. We mixed a lot of chemicals in a test tube and heated them over a Bunsen burner. The results were striking. Dense green smoke came out of the mixture, it spilled over the side of the test tube and flowed out across the table top. This was such a great "experiment" that we tried to reproduce it many times, every time without success. Results that are not reproducible are not part of screntific data.
I do not knock hacking, but I do not confuse it with science. Hacking is how I go this blog site up and running. Why? Because life is too short and I am not really interested in how to set up and maintain a variety of blog sites. so do not ask me about the technical details about this blog site. I did not take notes on how I did it. I just did it.
Hacking gives a person a quick entry into a body of working knowledge , but the experience does not add up to science until results are recorded, reflected on, and reproduced. This leads a person to the threshold of science, but it as yet does not constitute science.
The first advance of hacking toward science is to keep notes. Through note taking, a person acquires a record of repeatable actions with known results. There are people who have astounding memories. Their unwritten mental notes can recalled for years without loss. But we all die, and if the work is important, we save a record of our work for others who may be interested in what we did long after we pass away. The notebook becomes a personal resource that perhaps makes a more ordinary person more effective and productive. Years after jotting down a few thoughts and events, such a person can read these notes and refresh the memory beyond what could ordinarily have been remembered.
Observations are records about some aspect of natural phenomena. They are like people taking notes of their thoughts, experimentation, and results. In natural science, the records are often expressed as numbers. In modern times the idea is extended to include the output of a variety of instruments, which are called data. In modern science, taking and recording data are often automated and saved in computer memory.
Observation is an important component of the scientific method. Observation is like standing on solid ground. Doing science is like walking over that ground to advance in a given direction. The next few sections describe how to walk the talk of science.