Science is not the ultimate methodology which can be used to discern the truth.
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I am not arguing here that there is any particular system currently devised which is superior to science, I don't know of it if it exists. I am arguing that science is not the ultimate system, as in the best possible way to discern the truth. There are numerous flaws/shortcomings with scientific methodology and I will attempt to prove that there is clearly room for a better system to be created.
Since you asked me to define truth, I will provide the most straightforward "no bullshit" answer I can. Truth is that which is objectively real, and the way in which that which is real behaves in reality. A methodology for discerning the truth is one that accurately determines and interprets the existence and properties of that which exists.
he scientific method is an empirical method of acquiring knowledge that has characterized the development of science since at least the 17th century. It involves careful observation, applying rigorous skepticism about what is observed, given that cognitive assumptions can distort how one interprets the observation. It involves formulating hypotheses, via induction, based on such observations; experimental and measurement-based testing of deductions drawn from the hypotheses; and refinement (or elimination) of the hypotheses based on the experimental findings. These are principles of the scientific method, as distinguished from a definitive series of steps applicable to all scientific enterprises.
The primary issue with the scientific method is that it is entirely empirical, and as such it can only deal with the properties of that which appears to exist. It cannot answer the question of "what" things are, but only how they appear to work.It also cannot discern what is real, and what merely appears to be real because it relies on observation and abstract mathematical formulas to reach it's conclusions.
Firstly, thanks Sparrow for this debate.
Truth and Knowing its true
There is a difference between what is True, and how to tell it’s true. The low level truth about what our reality really is may never be knowable - even though presumably there’s is a true answer somewhere. This is a key distinction: To be able to “discern the truth”, any process must be able to correctly ascertain whether or not a given fact is actually true or not.
Truth, as defined by my opponent is “that which is objectively real”. I’d prefer to use a formal definition than this, and state that truth is:
“the property of being in accord with fact or reality”
The scientific method is the application of Empiricism, as my opponent acknowledges in his description of the scientific method. Briefly stated, Empiricism is essentially based upon the claim that knowledge can only come from observation.
The reason this is important, is the qualifier that we have placed on truth: that to be true, it must be in accord with reality. Almost by definition we cannot discern whether things are specifically true or not without making some comparison or validation against reality. This leads to something fundamental, when looking at my opponents argument;
“It cannot answer the question of "what" things are, but only how they appear to work.It also cannot discern what is real, and what merely appears to be real because it relies on observation and abstract mathematical formulas to reach it's conclusions.”
To know something is true, you must be able to confirm that it matches objective reality - and that can only be done via observation of that reality. If you cannot determine “what something is” by observation - it is not possible to know what that something is at all; as you cannot match the conclusion against reality. If you cannot determine whether something is real or not via observation - you will never know whether it is truly real as you cannot observe or know what the true nature of that reality is.
These are not issues with science in general, but epistemological problems which would render this “truth” literally unknowable by any means in the cases my opponent lists.
The Primacy of science.
But what makes science the “ultimate method”? It’s in the evolving nature of science.
Imagine that there is a black box, inside of which is the “ultimate method”, for discerning truth. Out of this box you’re given truths printed on pieces of paper. You don’t know how, why or where that truth was obtained.
How do you know what is printed is true? Just by looking at the claim, there is no way to tell.
The only way to tell whether the claim written on the paper is true: is to verify the claim against the reality you observe.
How would you do that? By validating the predictions of the claim are true, and by attempting to find flaws or observational errors in what the claim states: IE following the scientific method.
In this respect, any notional method of discerning truth would itself have to follow the scientific method to validate itself as true.
Given long enough, this notional method would effectively be proven as a valid way to determine truth - always with an element of doubt that would continue to require validation in order to be confident about its claims.
Effectively this would render reliance on the conclusions this black box makes scientific.
Lets say the box didn’t hand out truth, but you put a truth inside. IE, you wrote a claim put it into the box, and got a true/false answer?
How would you know that this box was accurate?
Well, you’d have to test it. You would construct a set of comprehensive experiments by which you could validate the veracity of the output.
Like the above, in this case: such a new method of validation would itself become a scientific method of validation as its veracity would be scientifically confirmed.
This demonstrates the true reason why the scientific method is the ultimate way of discerning truth: even if it wasn’t, any better method of discerning truth that could be discovered would necessarily be subsumed into science - and become part of the scientific method.
- Science can discern any truth that is objectively determinable through comparison to reality.
- Any truth that is not objectively determinable through comparison to reality is by definition unknowable and cannot be discerned.
- Any conceivable method of producing truths needs to be validated scientifically and would therefore necessarily be a scientific method of discerning truth.
- Any conceivable method of validating truths needs to be confirmed scientifically and would therefore necessarily end up being a scientific method of validating truth.
In essence: any method of discerning truth must be validated as accurate before accepted: if it can be validated as accurate - it would be subsumed into the scientific method. Hence science can be thought of as every objective way of verifiably discerning truth that has ever been or will ever be discovered - and contains any possible verifiable method that could conceivably exist. Therefore, almost by design - science is the ultimate process.
Truth, as defined by my opponent is “that which is objectively real”. I’d prefer to use a formal definition than this
There is no substantive difference between our definitions other than how it is phrased.
To know something is true, you must be able to confirm that it matches objective reality - and that can only be done via observation of that reality.
How do you know that what you observe is objectively what it appears to be? Science relies on human sensory input and instrumentation, and then it requires you to infer explanations based on your own observations of reality and then test those explanations. That leads to several things which make science far from ultimate...
1: science cannot tell you what things are, only how they appear to behave.
2: Science does not know the difference between what "works" and what is true when it comes to explaining the phenomena that are observed.
3: science relies on humans making up answers and then testing them, and human understanding cannot be increased indefinitely using a system which requires human induction in the first place.
Requirement for Empiricism.
“How do you know that what you observe is objectively what it appears to be? Science relies on human sensory input and instrumentation, and then it requires you to infer explanations based on your own observations of reality and then test those explanations. That leads to several things which make science far from ultimate...”
As I outlined in the opening round, and hasn’t been addressed by my opponent, for something to be true, it must be concordant with reality.
As a result, to be able to discern whether something is true or not, the claim has to be compared against reality to see if there is alignment.
Because of this, ANY fact, or claim that cannot be compared against reality can not be known and cannot be discerned.
It is all very well for my opponent to argue that science isn’t the ultimate for not being able to validate such truths: this would be also be the case of any possible or potential method too: as these truths are unknowable.
“Science cannot tell you what things are, only how they appear to behave.”“Science does not know the difference between what "works" and what is true when it comes to explaining the phenomena that are observed.”
These two points presuppose that these truths are knowable. This can’t be the case.
As shown in round 1, and reiterated here: if it is not possible to compare a specific claim to reality, by definition it cannot be discerned. It is an unknowable truth.
By any mechanism or method.
As I also showed in my opening round - if it is possible to compare it to reality, then this would necessarily be scientific - new ways of conducting the creation of hypotheses and methods of validation would necessarily need to be tested by science and thus therefore become scientific.
“science relies on humans making up answers and then testing them, and human understanding cannot be increased indefinitely using a system which requires human induction in the first place.”
Nothing in science is predicated solely on the involvement of humans. If AI machines became self aware, they would be able to make up answers, test them and Induct possible solutions.
Primacy of Science
As stated in my opening round, the reason science is the ultimate is that any better method would necessarily become part of that scientific process and method if it was shown to work.
Any conceivable method that was better would therefore necessarily become part of science. I provided a detailed argument as to why this is the case.
I extend all these arguments.
for something to be true, it must be concordant with reality
You seem to be conflating "that which is observed" with "reality".
Nothing in science is predicated solely on the involvement of humans.
You seem to be misrepresenting my point. Whether it is a machine or a human or even an extraterrestrial doing the induction it is still reliant on induction. I never meant to imply that only humans can do science, only that it is limited (for humans) by what humans can observe and then postulate as an explanation of what is observed.
My opponent seems to have ignored my entire argument for a second time.
“You seem to be conflating "that which is observed" with "reality"
There is no conflation here at all.
Reality exists to some degree - there is likely some truth somewhere about what reality is.
However, the only mechanism we have telling what our reality actually is - is through our own observation of it.
If the true nature of reality can’t be revealed through observation - it’s unknowable.
“You seem to be misrepresenting my point. Whether it is a machine or a human or even an extraterrestrial doing the induction it is still reliant on induction. I never meant to imply that only humans can do science, only that it is limited (for humans) by what humans can observe and then postulate as an explanation of what is observed. “
If you’re saying there is something better than induction itself: if that’s true then as I showed in my first round whatever the method would look like it would end up needing to be validated the scientific method. At this point it would become part of that same scientific method. This is what half of my opening argument was setup to show.
My argument hinges around multiple points which my opponent never addresses or even acknowledges.
1.) Discerning truth requires Empiricism
To discern whether something is true or false, any method must compare the claim against reality - this is by definition as truth requires comparison to reality. We must show a claim is concordant with reality - and the only method we have for that, is by observing reality: Science.
Therefore by definition, science and Empiricism are the only method that is available - thus the ultimate method. My opponent has dropped this argument.
2.) Science subsumes improvements
As outlined in my first round; I showed that any possible theoretical method of either generating truth or validating truth would need to be empirically validated to ensure its veracity and fidelity. This would be done using science - and would subsequently render using this theoretical method part of the scientific method.
As a result, while science as a tool can improve - the process will ultimately incorporate any and all possible improvements that could be possibly be made.
Hence science is the ultimate method. This was dropped by my opponent.
3.) Not all truth is knowable
My opponents main argument makes the assumption that all truths are knowable. He treats the true nature of reality, or “what” things are as facts that can be known and revealed.
As the only validatable method we have of understanding reality is through observation - if this cannot reveal a truth, that truth is unknowable.
My opponent drops this too.
I have clearly demonstrated why Science is the ultimate method. My opponent has largely ignored the broad philosophical and epistemological issues I have raised, and has failed to even acknowledge the core premise of my argument.
I have clearly shown from first principles that the scientific method is the ultimate method, and the privacy of science lies in its ability to self improve, together with being able to validate and subsume any potential new method or process that works.