• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

The Provisional Nature of Science

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

5. The provisional nature of science Word Count: 1599 Science can be distinguished for its changing state of conclusions. This provisional way of knowing can be very problematic even though it can be useful to us. Science is defined by the Webster's dictionary as "knowledge gained by systematic experimentation and analysis." (Webster's English Dictionary 253) What really distinguishes the sciences from many of the other ways of knowing is that it has a very different way to find the "truth." The definition of truth in this case is anything that works in practice or is useful to us because science is heavily based on the pragmatic theory. From discipline to discipline the ways of finding out the "truth" differ. However, even though science is a provisional human activity, it is not the only one. This can be seen clearly when one compares three different fields of study in terms of provisional conclusions: science, mathematics and art. Science is a system where "truth" is proven through experimentation and observation. It is thus a priori knowledge, meaning that it is knowledge that is derived from experience. While some people would argue that science is based on too many assumptions, and the laws always change, therefore, we should use other ways of knowing such as our perception, others would think of the usefulness that science brings. ...read more.

Middle

For instance, if a scientist is trying to find a cure for cancer, but instead randomly finds out how a person's brain works, he still furthers our knowledge of all the things around us, even though that scientist was hoping to find a different answer. This usefulness always reshapes our knowledge since it brings in new ideas and models that attempt to explain the patterns that are all around us. Unlike science, math is a static subject. Over hundreds of years we have used the same formulas, the only difference between the modern times and thousands of years ago is that math today is more complex. The definition of math is "the science dealing with quantities, forms, space, etc and their relationships by the use of numbers and symbols." (Webster's English Dictionary 176) This is an excellent definition, however; one should think of math not as a science, but rather as a subject or a field. Many years ago, mathematicians came up with functions such as multiplication, addition, division, etc. These functions are still useful since we have the chance to substitute symbols to represent the patterns around us. The symbols might change, but the expressions will always stay the same. For example, in the early stages, mathematicians used Greek symbols for the numbers that we have today; however, equations that they came up with are the same if we compare them with ours. ...read more.

Conclusion

Generally, in art conclusions are based on the frames of reference of the person that is evaluating the art piece. Thus, art is provisional in nature because even one painting might have different conclusions based on it. By comparing math, science, and art one can see that the knowledge gained from the sciences change; however, it is not the only subject that is provisional, that is shown through subjects such as art. Even one art piece can have many conclusions associated with it. So, in my opinion, the statement "what separates science from all other human activities is its belief in the provisional nature of all conclusions" (Michael Shermer, www.edge.com) is only partly true since science is provisional; however, that doesn't separate it from all other human activities. Math is an example of a static subject whereas, science is a subject open to debates and updates. We might think that sciences are not important to us since what we know now as the "truth" always changes; however, we must understand that a person who is confident that he knows everything will never learn. Through science we accept that our knowledge is limited, and we strive to improve what we already have. Without science, one may argue, we would never achieve the advancements that we are fortunate to have today. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge essays

  1. work based project

    Even though the service users (especially the heavier ones) may not suffer straightaway, over a period of time they could be at physical risk from not having any exercise. Moreover because research suggests that exercise eases stress and may cause a reduction in low self esteem it could possibly slow the processes of patients becoming more depressed.

  2. TOK summer assignment - Art Questions. Experiencing art, artists reputations and "what is ...

    Room 111 consisted of some acrylic work. This was used more in the modern times, which was probably more expensive, which is why only some artists could afford to use it for their paintings. The use of acrylic on some of the paintings gave a more abstract and modern feel to the room, rather than the regular oil on canvas form.

  1. TOk Discussion - Do we impose mathematics upon nature or is it naturally inherent ...

    For some theorems, if it has potency and originality, but not simplicity, it could instigate other research in mathematics and expand knowledge in that area. Having a short and concise theorem may be not be as important as its usefulness in the mathematical world.

  2. Pseudo-science or science

    parts of the body you can restore normal energy balance to relieve pain and cure various disorders. Even though this belief has been accepted to be 'scientific', until now the scientist still cannot prove how Acupuncture works. Some people are willing to subject their belief to proper scientific test, while others simply state that their belief are scientific.

  1. The Law of the Universe: Entropy

    that it was simple before realising that it was in fact an incredibly difficult question to answer. This suggests that it is somthing that is so fundamental that we hardly realise its existence and find it extremely difficult to quantify.

  2. Does science have limitations?

    So there's no way to scientifically determine value. ï· Science can't answer questions of morality. The problem of deciding good and bad, right and wrong, is outside the determination of science. This is why expert scientific witnesses can never help us solve the dispute over abortion: all a scientist can

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work