Exploring Science

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Exploring science

Science has come a long way - away from  things like astrology and alchemy. Kepler played an important role and the same can be said of Renaissance, Reformation and the exploring done in the Age of Discovery.

But it hasn't been a straight line. Important scientists like Newton and Boyle were active in alchemy and a lot of the stories about great discoveries weren't as straightforward as usually told, like in the case of Copernicus, Snow and Darwin.

How science works

Below you find simple scheme of how science could work: the empirical cycle. But the development of new theories doesn't always go in a straight line. Looking at the filters in of science to the right you can easily see that many different factors play a role in the acceptance of new facts and theories.


Historical and experimental science

There's a big difference between experimental and historical science. The latter is more descriptive and isn't based on reproducible experiments (though some experiments can be done to show things could have happened in a certain way). And even in experimental science reproducibility shouldn't be overestimated (see below). 

In historical science you have to work with available sources, like fossils, strata, digged up pottery, scrolls and clay tablets. This means that archeology, paleontology, evolution-biology and much of geology belong to the historical sciences.


Crisis in reproducibility?

In 2016 Nature interviewed 1576 beta-scientists asking them to what extent they could reproduce their own experiments and those of other scientists - and if not: why not (see link nr. 7 for the full Nature article).

The graphs show their answers. Many of them say yes if asked if there is serious reproducibility crisis in scientific research. Their answers as to the causes of this crisis vary. It makes you think! Many scientists try to do their work truthfully and with a lot of dedication, but next to the pressure to publish ('publish or perish') many tend to present their findings in a nicer way than reality would ask. 


The influence of the Reformation on science

Many people think of a conflict when they read the above title: didn't Galilei get in trouble with the church because of his findings? This story is already slightly different from what many think (see Earth,Sun,Universe). And if you look closer to the development of modern science, you will see that the Reformation could be called one of it's fathers. Let's list a number of reasons for this statement:

  1. God is trustworthy and He created the world orderly. That's why we can do research and discover laws governing reality.
  2. It's not our mind that determines what the world looks like (or should look like), as especially Plato stated.
  3. Matter is not divine, but it's not inferior either. Jesus was the son of a carpenter - working with your hands is fine.
  4. Christians doing science really wanted to investigate - in all meekness - the design behind God's wonderful creation. The honour of God played a big role.
  5. The Reformation made everyone to read the Bible for themselves - in the same way we are free to read that other book (nature).
fact - repr. crisis?
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Links:

  1. Wikipedia about the History of science in classical antiquity
  2. About The Christian Virtuoso by Robert Boyle
  3. Pretty elaborate is Christian foundations of modern science
  4. A shorter article is: Christianity and the rise of modern science
  5. The idea of a flat Earth (article Wikipedia) wasn't a common idea in the Middle Ages: see the Myth of the flat Earth
  6. For more on the (false) idea of a flat Earth, see links 2-5 on the page Earth, Sun, Universe
  7. Scientists lift the lid on reproducibility - Nature survey of 2016
  8. Also use the links on the Dutch page

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