The Value of Science

This cycle of observation, classification, hypothesis and experimentation has created the impression that the goal of science is to prove things. Things that we can prove, we take to be true. But why do we care what is true? Things that we have proven to be true through experiment are over, dead and done. In the context of science, they have no utility.

The utility of science is in engineering application. Science is useful because it allows us to predict the behavior of "dumb" matter. That predictability allows us to generate new realities, such as designing barrel loading platforms that will avoid loss of life and limb with increased size and capacity of transport.

Science is generative of reality. It elaborates attainable possibilities. Within cultures that have fully integrated scientific practice, the facts that become observably true are those that we chose to manifest. Science doesn't determine truth, it generates it.

What are the characteristics of such cultures? First, they have a cadre of scientific practitioners. These individuals have mastery of some discipline of scientific inquiry, and have struggled with elaborating their knowledge in a concrete exploration of objective truth. For a problem of any significance, such as would be explored in the development of a Ph.D. thesis, this is difficult. Reality is subtle and complex, and controlling confounding influences in the course of observation and experimentation is difficult. Almost every Ph.D. candidate must struggle with irrefutable failure: failure manifested in objective phenomena that no exercise of will can alter.

(As an anticipatory aside: or if it does, it ain't objective reality.)