Defining Science

When people talk about science, they infer and imply many things. They may be referring to scientists, the scientific method, the popularly accepted ideas of the day, or any number of perceptions about what constitutes “science” these days. Many times, I talk about science in the context of the act of scientific inquiry, that is, the act of applying our five natural senses, taste, touch, smell, sight and sound, or technological extensions of those senses, in order to inquire about world around us. These are the only tools acceptable to science and there are inherent limits in their application which prohibit them from tackling some very important questions.

When people talk about science, they infer and imply many things. They may be referring to scientists, the scientific method, the popularly accepted ideas of the day, or any number of perceptions about what constitutes “science” these days. Many times, I talk about science in the context of the act of scientific inquiry, that is, the act of applying our five natural senses, taste, touch, smell, sight and sound, or technological extensions of those senses, in order to inquire about world around us. These are the only tools acceptable to science and there are inherent limits in their application which prohibit them from tackling some very important questions.

The tools, our senses, were granted us and operate according to the laws of the environment in which they exist. That is, your eyes see the visible light of energy. You can touch matter. You can smell the product of chemical reactions. Tying all these things together is the environment in which they exist. For God to have created our reality, he must have existed outside of it. Or, you might think of it as one bubble, the universe, existing inside another, bigger bubble, God’s universe. Either way, it still holds that the tools of science can not be assumed to apply to observing or experimenting on that which is outside of our bubble.

This is what I often allude to in discussions about origins. This is, also, what should cause you to reconsider what you are told by popular science. There is no empirical way to prove the non-existence of God, though, it seems, people like Hawking and Dawkins try hard to do so.

The next step in this argument is to debate whether it is more or less illogical to believe in an omni-present God or an omni-present material reality (universe; multi-verse; big bang repeating cycle; etc). I say “illogical” because, according to the laws of this existence, all effects have a cause, and an ever-existing God and an ever-existing reality have no initial cause hence they appear illogical.

Notice, also, that you are now no longer debating in the realm of logic but in the realm of the illogical: Whose premise is less illogical than whose? This should prompt you to pause and think a little bit. What you will discover is that the former must cease to reason according to the laws of his reality and begin to reason under a new set of conditions. The latter, however, still reasons according to the laws of his reality.

There comes a point in all of this when one needs to reconsider starting assumptions. The one who finds the limit of his own tools and reaches beyond discovers new insights while the one who refuses to acknowledge these limits spins around and around in his own concentric series of smaller and smaller circles of reasoning.

Isaac Newton: Crazy man!

I’ve just finished reading Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. It’s a great read and has really firmed up some ideas on physics I’ve had for a long time. But I thought I’d paste this exert here as it’s a really crazy summary of Isaac Newton’s life. It’s a short biography at the back of A Brief History of Time. I’m always surprised seeing people act so childishly. I hope Newton was happy acting like an idiot.

Update 2012-05-20: Other historical sources don’t seem to agree with Hawking’s short biography of Isaac Newton and Hawking certainly has his own biases. Readers should be aware that Hawking’s biography is certainly not completely objective. As always, the truth seems to lie somewhere in the middle of two extremes.

I’ve just finished reading Stephen Hawking‘s A Brief History of Time. It’s a great read and has really firmed up some ideas on physics I’ve had for a long time. But I thought I’d paste this excerpt here as it’s a really crazy summary of Isaac Newton’s life. It’s a short biography at the back of A Brief History of Time. I’m always surprised seeing people act so childishly. I hope Newton was happy acting like an idiot.

Isaac Newton was not a pleasant man. His relations with other academics were notorious, with most of his later life spent embroiled in heated disputes. Following publication of Principia Mathematica – surely the most influential book ever written in Physics – Newton had risen rapidly into public prominence. He was appointed president of the Royal Society and became the first scientist ever to be knighted.

Newton soon clashed with the Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed, who had earlier provided Newton with much needed data for Principia, but was now withholding information that Newton wanted. Newton would not take no for an answer; he had himself appointed to the governing body of the Royal Observatory and then tried to force immediate publication of the data. Eventually he arranged for Flamsteed’s work to be seized and prepared for publication by Flamsteed’s mortal enemy, Edmond Halley. But Flamsteed took the case to court and, in the nick of time, won a court order preventing distribution of the stolen work. Newton was incensed and sought his revenge by systematically deleting all references to Flamsteed in later editions of Principia.

A more serious dispute arose with the German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz. Both Leibniz and Newton had independently developed a branch of mathematics called Calculus, which underlies most of modern physics. Although we now know that Newton discovered Calculus years before Leibniz, he published his work much later. A major row ensued over who had been first, with scientists vigorously defending both contenders. It is remarkable, however, that most of the articles appearing in defense of Newton were originally written by his own hand – and only published in the name of friends! As the row grew, Leibniz made the mistake of appealing to the Royal Society to resolve the dispute. Newton, as president, appointed an “impartial” committee to investigate, coincidentally consisting entirely of Newton’s friends! But that was not all: Newton then wrote the committee’s report himself and had the Royal Society publish it, officially accusing Leibniz of plagiarism. Still unsatisfied, he then wrote an anonymous review of the report in the Royal Society’s own periodical. Following the death of Leibniz, Newton is reported to have declared that he had taken great satisfaction in “breaking Leibniz’ heart”.

During the period of these two disputes, Newton had already left Cambridge and academe. He had been active in anti-Catholic politics at Cambridge, and later in Parliament, and was rewarded eventually with the lucrative post of Warden of the Royal Mint. Here he used his talents for deviousness and vitriol in a more socially acceptable way, successfully conducting a major campaign against counterfeiting, even sending several men to their death on the gallows.

− Stephen W. Hawking, A Brief History of Time