RE: science as a complement of cognitions is not necessarily science

From: Alexanian, Moorad (
Date: Fri Dec 20 2002 - 13:27:53 EST

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    I published the following letter in Physics Today (November 2000
    issue), which may be of interest. Moorad

    One gathers from Mano Singham that teaching science ought also to
    include teaching what science is not.

    Physics is essentially an experimental science in which laws are
    arrived at by generalizing results obtained by experiments. Astronomy
    is an observational science, whereas cosmology and evolutionary
    theory are more akin to forensic science. Because cosmology and
    evolutionary theory deal with unique events and rely on deduction
    rather than induction, the search for truth is not as convincing or
    conclusive as it is
    in physics.

    It is clear that detectors, governed by the laws of nature, can
    obtain all the data needed to do science. Such data are the sole
    input for scientific theories. Of course, the human mind is the
    creator of mathematics and develops the models to describe the
    systems determined by the physical data.

    If nonhuman detectors cannot detect a thing, then it does not
    constitute scientific data nor is it the subject matter of science.

    It is important to distinguish this type of data from the data
    gathered by humans when they are considered as "instruments" or
    "detectors." The human "detector" takes in more than the purely
    physical; in particular, it "detects" intelligence or design in
    nature owing to the reasoning ability of the human mind. Making all
    this clear would have helped Doug realize that relativity is not a
    matter of belief but that what is required of a theory is that its
    predictions are consistent with experimental data. Such clarification
    might have led Jamal to realize that cosmology is not a verbal
    scenario of the origin of what exists but rather a set of
    mathematical formulas that govern the dynamics of the universe.

    Teachers ought to encourage students to express their skepticism of
    scientific concepts and theories. True learning occurs only when the
    learner, whether student or teacher, finds answers to his or her own

    Moorad Alexanian
    University of North Carolina
    at Wilmington


    2001 American Institute of Physics

    Table of Contents About Physics Today Contact us

    -----Original Message-----
    From: []
    Sent: Friday, December 20, 2002 7:59 AM
    Subject: science as a complement of cognitions is not necessarily

    In a message dated 12/20/02 3:25:19 AM Eastern Standard Time, writes:

    > Science is . . . a complement of cognitions, having, in point of form, the
    > character of logical perfection, and in point of matter, the character of
    > real truth. --Sir W.
    > Hamilton.

    Yes, precisely, and real truth does not change. Your complement of cognitions
    may change, but then according to this definition, if your complement of
    cognitions do not, in point of matter, have the character of real truth, they
    are not science. Alchemy was thought to be science. The complement of
    cognitions did not reflect real truth.


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