Saturday, September 2, 2017

--- Notes on science ---

The laws formulated by science... possess only a Platonic sort of reality. They are more real, if you will, than the facts themselves, because they are more permanent, trustworthy, and pervasive; but at the same time they are, if you will, not real at all, because they are incompatible with immediacy and alien to brute existence.

George Santayana

Science doesn't provide knowledge of reality; it provides models.

A particular danger to researchers is reification, the confusion of concepts with reality. The word isn't the referent. The concept isn't the reality. No matter how accurate a concept is in representing reality, it can never characterize the whole of a real thing.

And that's not a problem. I have heard that, when a child ask, wonderingly of Abraham Lincoln's height, how long his legs were, he answered, "Long enough to reach the ground." Well, our models are not perfect but they're good enough to help us predict how things will happen and understand how things work. That's what models are for.

Science allows us to construct reliable and valid models of a consistent reality that we all can share. Beyond that we can not go, nor do we need to, as long as we do not confuse what is in our heads with what is in the world.

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