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Science as Storytelling

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The article first starts off by stating that science is not necessarily based on observations. Although I agree with this statement, I disagree with their justification. The articles example of astrology is not a good example of modern science, it is nothing more than tracking the paths of stars across the sky and attempting to make predictions based on patterns. Its offspring however, cosmology, is a fundamental branch of physics. It would be like calling alchemy chemistry, these ancient meta sciences paved the way for modern sciences, rather than being what we call science today.

The example of string theory is almost insulting, not to me, but to all theoretical scientists. Experimental science is often, and especially in modern times, based on theoretical predictions. String theory is the first grand unification theory that has been realistically considered in physics, and the men in the field are not looked down upon at all. Actually it is one of the most complicated theories in physics, and string theorists are well respected. So to say something is not a science because it is not dealing with experiments is utterly wrong, because a significant population of the science community uses only pen and paper and leaves the experimenting to the experimenters.

I do however love the definition the article gives for science, “Science is the modern art of creating stories that explain observations of the natural world, and that could be useful for controlling or predicting nature”. What a great definition. Seriously, bravo. This definition puts into context the fact that we make models, pictures and stories to explain things that are really foreign to our natural instincts. We put things into a context that we can understand them by assigning things symbols. We then organize these symbols into a story that nature is telling us, the story of how she works. We could not comprehend any of it without our human symbols, pictures and diagrams that we attach to the story of the “big picture”. I love this definition for the simple fact that it makes one realize that reality is how we as humans perceive it.

I do not think the author should shy away from the definition he gave, even though he seems to think it may not be formal or precise enough. The rules mirror rules of science very well, and are my next topic of discussion. The reproducibility and predictive power listed as the first two rules may indeed be the most important in science. Without these there is no evidence for the first case, and no proof for the second. If something can not make a prediction it may merely be another way to look at something already discovered, which gets back to the lovely definition; nature is, yet there could be infinitely many ways for us to describe what it is we experience. The third rule discusses prospects for improvement, and without moving forward obviously science would be stagnant. And again, this is where the theorists come into play.

The fourth rule is very interesting, naturalism. It describes the foundation of science, evidence is fact, all else is fiction. The article brings up the rift between science and religion, but describes a semi-peaceful co-existence. I believe all things can be explained with science, all besides creation. Creation is simply something that science may be able to understand, but never explain. There is always the question of “why?”. Say we proved there was a big bang, and exactly how it happened. Or that there has hyper inflation and here is how it happened. Well you can always ask the question of “why?” did it happen? So this is a battle I believe science, for once, can not win. We may be able to explain how, but never why. The last three rules are what all theories strive to accomplish: uniformitarianism, simplicity, and harmony. All theories are aimed at a grand unified theory that describes EVERYTHING, in a simple and agreeable way. I agree with the conclusions of the article: science is what we take it as but if embraced can unlock mysteries of health, technology, engineering, and ultimately understanding.

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