I've now completed my Pillars of Science series. My goal was to analyze why Science is such an amazingly effective method for discovering new truths about the world. Here are the 6 "Pillars" I identified. Of course, Science is a multifaceted word: it can refer to a method, a set of theories, or a community. Understanding how Science works really requires thinking about all 3 together.
A. How do we test scientific ideas?
B. What kinds of ideas can be tested scientifically?
C. Who can test them effectively?
Having laid this preparatory groundwork, in the next few weeks I'd like to get to a more exciting and controversial topic: I plan to discuss Christianity specifically in the context of each of these 6 Pillars to see how well it holds up. (But before I get to that, I plan to post a bit about whether there are any other evidence-based ways of looking at the world, besides Science.)
You see, in this blog I am taking seriously the "What about Science?" objection to Christianity. Many people think that the basic principles of Science are somehow refute or undercut religious views. These are supposedly based on something called "faith" which is diametrically opposed to "evidence". While everyone knows that some scientists are religious, many people think this is only possible because of "compartmentalized thinking" in which the two different approaches to life are somehow sealed off in different compartments so that the "evidence" compartment isn't allowed to explode the "faith" compartment.
Now those of us who practice the spiritual discipline of Undivided Looking obviously approve of UN-compartmentalized thinking, in which we think of reality as a whole, without making special exemptions for parts of life we don't want to subject to critical scrutiny. Somewhat paradoxically, this does not require us to disapprove of compartmentalized thinking. In certain respects Science itself is based on compartmentalized thinking (see Pillar III).
And we couldn't stop doing it even if we tried, because our brains are wired for compartmentalized thinking. (Especially the male brain, which is more likely to delegate tasks to particular regions of the brain, whereas the female brain is more likely to think using connections between different parts of the brain. See e.g. this study.) But what we can and should do sometimes, is make a conscious effort to look at things together, rather than separately.
Since I'm going to be referring back to these six Pillars of Science, I'd like to ask for some reader feedback. Do you think my discussion of these Pillars could be improved? I'd like to solicit criticisms on any of the following issues, or anything else you can think of:
- Is there any practice which is important to Science which I have not included in the Pillars? Or which I should have emphasized more?
- Is there anything which I've said is important for Science, which actually isn't? Are there branches of Science which do without any of these things?
- My perspective is that of a physicist who works on fundamental issues. But there's lots of other scientific fields: Biology, Geology, Chemistry, etc. Do you think someone from these fields might have prioritized different aspects of scientific practice than I did?