Publius

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Science is a process.

Science is a process, not a result. It is in particular a process of epistemology - it's a means of obtaining and verifying knowledge.

Anyone who is wed to a theory as opposed to the facts is not a scientist.

I've been watching Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" and there is a great episode about Johannes Kepler.

You see, Kepler's original theory was that the planets travel around the sun in perfect circles nested in perfect solids nested in other perfect circles and so on.

Kepler spent many long, frustrating years trying to match his theory to the data, but he couldn't make it work.

At one point, he decided the data he had on hand was flawed, so he sought out Tycho Brahe who had the best data on the motions of the planets.

Even with Brahe's excellent data, Kepler couldn't make his theory work.

So at long last, he gave up his theory. And in doing so, he was able to make a great scientific achievement - the first laws of planetary motion. You see, the planets travel around the sun in ellipses and only by a strict adherence to the *facts* (i.e., Brahe's data) was Kepler able to discard his error and develop the correct theory.

Now, of course it remained later for Newton to develop a theory of gravity, and for Einstein to refine it. Does this mean Kepler's ultimate theory was wrong? No. We would say it was correct in the context of his knowledge but incomplete. Kepler's laws of planetary motion are still largely correct - inside a certain error range.

Correct knowledge is *never* proven wrong later - because if you're right, your idea corresponds to reality. Reality is what it is. Your idea may be refined, enhanced, but at core it reflects something fundamental about the universe.

And that's how we have had five hundred years of continuous scientific progress, building in this way on prior discoveries.

It pains me to hear of modern "scientists" doctoring data to fit their theories, as appears to happen regularly in the "global warming" research community. These people aren't scientists - they're priests, erasing uncomfortable facts that contradict their precious religious dogma.

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