Views of the Scientific Enterprise

John W. Burgeson (
Tue, 31 Mar 1998 11:24:20 -0700

I need some advice. I learned my trade back in the middle ages
(late 1940s and early 1950s) when I took my physics degrees at Carnegie
Tech and Florida State. The guys I learned the "philosophy of
science" from included James Jeans and Arthur Eddington. Not
directly, BTW, but from reading their books, which fascinated me
even when I was still in high school.

In correspondence via e-mail, I made mention of what I saw as the
limitations of science, and I may well have not reflected well
the teachings of my younger self! In essence, I suggested that the
laws of science were "descriptive," rather than "descriptive" in a longer
discussion. The discussion continued:
Correspondent, talking about what would convince
him to be a Christian, or, at least, a theist:

"Anything that clearly and unambiguously violates
fundamental laws of physics would do."


" But how do you know what those "fundamental laws" are?
Only by observations do we see data; we construct equations
which describe the data, and we construct theories to describe the

Correspondent: "Oh no! You're referring to the old vision of
science as a collection of
data from which laws are deduced. The scientific method is much richer
than that, and it entails a dialectic exchange between theory and
observation. For example, Newton's law can now be derived as a
consequence of general relativity and of quantum mechanics, so it's now
*independent* of the original apple..."
I don't see anything much "wrong" with what he says -- or what I say
What am I missing?


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