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Throughout history, religion and philosophy have been occupied with explaining our existence and the world around us. At first the simplest of the philosophical arguments coalesced into what we call scientific theories and explanations. Religions hold fast to one or more dogmas, accepted “thruths” that cannot be changed or challenged because they are taken to be inspired by the divine.
Science had its great revolution in the Renaissance, when its method was put into words:
- collect facts and measurements
- build a theory that explains all the facts
- test the theory against the facts
The tests have two broad forms:
- new facts should be explicable by the theory, if they are not, then the theory is wrong and must be amended, changed or perhaps replaced.
- use the theory to make a prediction of some phenomenon that has not yet been observed, search for that phenomenon. If it is found and corresponds to the prediction, it supports the theory, but it does not prove it. If it is not found, then the theory is in doubt.
Confusions: interpersonal relations, politics, religion, art, power structures, science.
Scientists are humans,
Science is un-human: it would produce the same results if done by extraterrestrials. Art however is human: it is probably meaningless to extraterrestrials since it depends on setting up resonances in our human brain circuits.
When more than one hypothesis is able to explain the facts, scientists prefer the simplest one. This working convention of choosing the simplest explanation as the one to be true, is known as Occam's Razor. The epicycles of the Greeks can describe the motion of the planets, but the ellipse following from Kepler's laws is much simpler. Let us however note that though Occam's razor has been useful and so far no counter-example has been found, it is not a necessary truth. It is just a tool to work with, but not scientific in itself.