Is science an absolute truth? What does a 'scientific theory' literally mean?

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YNM96
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#1
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#1
Is science an absolute truth? What does a 'scientific theory' literally mean?
I'd like someone to answer this, or rather, give a facts based, opinion on this. No anecdotal rubbish. No trolling. No insulting, in other words, no cop-outs; if you can't propose a good argument then leave it be.

Also: Does science answer the 'Why' questions? Does the fact scientific theories are referred to as "theories" mean they can/ are waiting to be disproved? And therefore are scientific facts transient, that is, are merely accepted because another, better proven, theory hasn't yet been proposed? Furthermore, does this also mean, at least to a certain extent, science does not prove anything/ to put such trust put in science is illogical/wrong/inane/senseless?

Thanks.
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tibbles209
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'Science' is a method of examining and testing evidence to come up with the most fitting theories, while remaining constantly open to evolving those theories to accommodate new evidence as it arises. As such, it cannot be considered 'absolute truth' in itself, as it is simply a method of trying to find truth.

What do you mean by 'why' questions? Do you mean things like why the universe exists? That is more in the realms of philosophy than science. Thories are indeed waiting to be disproved - in fact science is constantly, actively trying to disprove scientific theories in order to improve them. Whether a theory is transient really depends on how accurate it is - a very accurate theory will change very little over time, as all evidence tested will support it. Science does not 'prove' anything, simply analyses the evidence such that its conclusions are as reliable as possible. For that reason putting trust in science is absolutely sensible, more so than any non-evidence-based method of reaching conclusions about the universe.
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455409
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It's not an absolute truth; it's the best explanations we can come up with for various phenomena that fit the other models and theories we have that link in.
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Are you Shaw?
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Of course it's not an absolute truth, Newton's laws don't work in certain areas (hence as to why we have relativity) and now people are trying to come up with a quantum gravity.

Science is pragmatic. Not truth.

btw I hate Socrates, truth is overrated. Give me a cynic or a stoic anyday.
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mikeyd85
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#5
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"This is how we think it works, and it seems that it does for the most part, but we may find certain parameters which means it doesn't work like this, but we haven't found them yet / but for the most part, it's fine".
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Manitude
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(Original post by YNM96)
Is science an absolute truth? What does a 'scientific theory' literally mean?
1) No. Our knowledge of the universe is incomplete and probably always will be. Not everything we hold to be true now actually is. It might be pretty close, but not quite.

2) A theory is the most likely explanation to a phenomena that we have. It explains the most situations better than any other existing explanation. It is not a 'guess', which is what many people seem to think it means. An informed guess would probably be best called a hypothesis or conjecture.
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YNM96
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#7
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(Original post by tibbles209)
'Science' is a method of examining and testing evidence to come up with the most fitting theories, while remaining constantly open to evolving those theories to accommodate new evidence as it arises. As such, it cannot be considered 'absolute truth' in itself, as it is simply a method of trying to find truth.

What do you mean by 'why' questions? Do you mean things like why the universe exists? That is more in the realms of philosophy than science. Thories are indeed waiting to be disproved - in fact science is constantly, actively trying to disprove scientific theories in order to improve them. Whether a theory is transient really depends on how accurate it is - a very accurate theory will change very little over time, as all evidence tested will support it. Science does not 'prove' anything, simply analyses the evidence such that its conclusions are as reliable as possible. For that reason putting trust in science is absolutely sensible, more so than any non-evidence-based method of reaching conclusions about the universe.
"putting trust in science is absolutely sensible" Sorry, please expand on that. I don't understand how one can put such trust in something which doesn't even claim to be fixed.

And please explain a scientific theory. What is it? What does it actually mean?
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YNM96
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#8
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(Original post by Manitude)
1) No. Our knowledge of the universe is incomplete and probably always will be. Not everything we hold to be true now actually is. It might be pretty close, but not quite.

2) A theory is the most likely explanation to a phenomena that we have. It explains the most situations better than any other existing explanation. It is not a 'guess', which is what many people seem to think it means. An informed guess would probably be best called a hypothesis or conjecture.
By most likely do you mean: *Most likely according to the proof we have so far. Therefore, it probably isn't the most likely.

Your thoughts?
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YNM96
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#9
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(Original post by helwolf)
Theories are generally supported by empirical evidence. For example, the theory of gravity is obviously a truth but is still classified as a theory. There are also a great deal of scientific phenomenon which probably don't even make it to the 'theory' classification but are pretty solid due to mathematics--this is the case with a lot of quantum physics for example the graviton, an elementary exchange particle which has never actually been proven but basically needs to exist for the universe and force of gravity to exist as it does. I usually think of a hypothesis as "maybe" and a theory as "probably" to "most definitely" due to experimentation.

And no, science is never an absolute truth. There's no "definitely" in science. It's just a build up of our current knowledge of the universe through explanation and prediction and it'd be arrogant of us as humans to say "we're right" especially after we used to think the world was flat. Scientific theories are not exactly waiting to be disproved but scientists are very rigorous in testing and retesting everything we think we know--otherwise we'd be stuck a few hundred years prior where the anatomical mistakes of Galen, a Greek physician, were continued and taught for a thousand years because no one was allowed to counter them.

Putting trust in science isn't however inane. The disproving of theories is a positive thing because it means we're getting further to the 'truth'. Like I said, many theories are pretty clearly true but even if something was 100% tested and correct it would never progress past being a theory since we are not omniscient.
Define empirical evidence. In detail, no generic rubbish. Thanks.
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tibbles209
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(Original post by YNM96)
"putting trust in science is absolutely sensible" Sorry, please expand on that. I don't understand how one can put such trust in something which doesn't even claim to be fixed.

And please explain a scientific theory. What is it? What does it actually mean?
I mean that conclusions about the universe/medicine etc. that are achieved through proper scientific method are the most reliable conclusions we have. It does not mean they are guarenteed to be absolutely accurate, and they may change over time, but when you are ill and you need to put your trust in a treatment, it is far more sensible to put your trust in an evidence-based treatment developed through scientific method than an old wives tale or traditional remedy for example.

A scientific theory is a tested hypothesis. A hypothesis is a plausible explanation for a phenomenon - this is extensively tested against the evidence and only when it has held up against a high level of scrutiny and is consistently supported by the evidence can it be considered a scientific theory. This is of course always subject to further testing as new evidence arises.
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YNM96
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#11
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(Original post by tibbles209)
I mean that conclusions about the universe/medicine etc. that are achieved through proper scientific method are the most reliable conclusions we have. It does not mean they are guarenteed to be absolutely accurate, and they may change over time, but when you are ill and you need to put your trust in a treatment, it is far more sensible to put your trust in an evidence-based treatment developed through scientific method than an old wives tale or traditional remedy for example.

A scientific theory is a tested hypothesis. A hypothesis is a plausible explanation for a phenomenon - this is extensively tested against the evidence and only when it has held up against a high level of scrutiny and is consistently supported by the evidence can it be considered a scientific theory. This is of course always subject to further testing as new evidence arises.
Correct me if i'm wrong but, in summary, theories act as temporary proof. You mention "reliable" why should we rely on it. Why should we rely on evidence which is probably flawed, at least to some degree. Or which can be tempered with other evidence.

Also, define "plausible explanation", thanks.
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455409
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Just think of it like a court case; the jury only has to be convinced beyond all reasonable doubt, they don't know it to be the truth they make a judgement based on the available knowledge.

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YNM96
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#13
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#13
(Original post by helwolf)
Empirical evidence is basically what all scientific theories are founded on--it's evidence through observation and experimentation. For example, you could hypothesise "the world is round" but until you've traveled all around the world and ended up in the same spot or otherwise sent off spacecraft which has recorded video footage of how the world is in fact round it isn't a theory. Empirical evidence is sensory experience though this includes technology such as electron microscopes and x-rays and whatnot.

Though science isn't an absolute truth it's still probably the most solid thing you could ever put your trust into--just not uncritically. I always think "faith in science" is an odd phrase because a scientist would never approach science with faith the same way others approach religion, they'd approach it with objectivity and an analytic mind. Basically just because scientific theories are not absolute truths does not make them wrong, things aren't as black and white as that.

You should look into the branch of philosophy which wars rationalism and empiricism. Most of the Western world is empiricist rather than rationalist but it's fine if you prefer rationalism (which takes the opinion of "reason rather than experience is the source to test knowledge".)
"Theories are generally supported by empirical evidence." Your words. "[Empirical evidence] isn't a theory". Clarify. If empirical evidence indubitably, or perhaps I should say absolutely proves something, why aren't theories, which are based on this flawless proof, absolute. Also, why is a theory needed? Why not just look at empirical evidence? Thanks.
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tibbles209
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(Original post by YNM96)
Correct me if i'm wrong but, in summary, theories act as temporary proof. You mention "reliable" why should we rely on it. Why should we rely on evidence which is probably flawed, at least to some degree. Or which can be tempered with other evidence.

Also, define "plausible explanation", thanks.
Theories are in no way proof - temporary or not. 'Proof' would be an absolutely, unambiguous piece of evidence that can lead to only a single, unchallengeable conclusion - as such proofs obviously cannot exist (outwith maths). Theories are explanations of phenomenons, bringing together all available evidence.

We should rely on scientific theory, as it is the best we have, and provides us with the best explanations possible at this time. What other options do we have, beside blind guesswork?

By plausible explanation I mean something that makes logical sense, rather than a wild fairy tale that could have no possible basis in reality. For example it is plausible that acute open angle glaucoma is caused by an accumulation of debris in the trabecular meshwork, although this is simply a hypothesis. It is not a plausible explanation that it is caused by singing Britney Spears songs.
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YNM96
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(Original post by james1211)
Just think of it like a court case; the jury only has to be convinced beyond all reasonable doubt, they don't know it to be the truth they make a judgement based on the available knowledge.

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By likening science to a jury you are, perhaps unintentionally, inferring that science, at least to some degree, is subjective. Am I wrong?
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ddrrzzeerr
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYPapE-3FRw

I don't think anyone will explain it better.
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YNM96
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(Original post by tibbles209)
Theories are in no way proof - temporary or not. 'Proof' would be an absolutely, unambiguous piece of evidence that can lead to only a single, unchallengeable conclusion - as such proofs obviously cannot exist (outwith maths). Theories are explanations of phenomenons, bringing together all available evidence.

We should rely on scientific theory, as it is the best we have, and provides us with the best explanations possible at this time. What other options do we have, beside blind guesswork?

By plausible explanation I mean something that makes logical sense, rather than a wild fairy tale that could have no possible basis in reality. For example it is plausible that acute open angle glaucoma is caused by an accumulation of debris in the trabecular meshwork, although this is simply a hypothesis. It is not a plausible explanation that it is caused by singing Britney Spears songs.
"It does not mean they are guarenteed to be absolutely accurate, and they may change over time, " Temporary explanation then. Which encourages even less to rely on it so. To expand on this I'd like you to define explanation.

Also, you refer to "logic" define this, thanks.

And why would "blind guess-work" necessarily be less reliable than science. Blind guesswork relies on chance/luck/random acts/stories/etc... which may or may not be true, but are usually thought of as being true because of a person's experience. Similarly, although science does not rely on random acts, the acknowledgement that it is merely an explanation which is right "at the time", suggests it may or may not be true. If the explanation will eventually be proven wrong, why is it more reliable? Thanks,
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455409
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(Original post by YNM96)
By likening science to a jury you are, perhaps unintentionally, inferring that science, at least to some degree, is subjective. Am I wrong?
That's intentionally what I'm saying.

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YNM96
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#19
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(Original post by Sternumator)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYPapE-3FRw

I don't think anyone will explain it better.
"If it doesn't work, then we must discuss the other possibility" Supports my point or rather answers my query then - scientific theories are just waiting to be disproved.
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Juichiro
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(Original post by YNM96)
Is science an absolute truth? What does a 'scientific theory' literally mean?
I'd like someone to answer this, or rather, give a facts based, opinion on this. No anecdotal rubbish. No trolling. No insulting, in other words, no cop-outs; if you can't propose a good argument then leave it be.

Also: Does science ask the 'Why' questions? Does the fact scientific theories are referred to as "theories" mean they can/ are waiting to be disproved? And therefore are scientific facts transient, that is, are merely accepted because another, better proven, theory hasn't yet been proposed? Furthermore, does this also mean, at least to a certain extent, science does not prove anything/ to put such trust put in science is illogical/wrong/inane/senseless?

Thanks.
No, it is not absolute truth.

A scientific theory is the simplest explanation for a certain event you come up with after applying the scientific method to that event.

No, science does not ask the "why" questions. Science asks the "how" questions. But people often misuse the "why" and when they mean "how".

All scientific theories can be disproved. Scientific facts are indeed transient truths.The fact that scientific truth is transient does not mean we should not trust it. All it means is that it is in a constant process of self-improvement. And that is why you should trust it.
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