PLEASE NOTE:

MyNews24 is a user-generated section of News24.com. The stories here come from users.

 
Keita
 
Comments: 39
Article views: 710
 
 
Latest Badges:


 
View all Keita's badges.
 

Understanding science: scientific assumptions

27 June 2014, 10:27

(This is the last article in the series)

I considered including assumptions in my “scientific vocabulary” article, but given how often the concept of assumptions in science is misinterpreted, I decided to be a little more thorough with it.

Reality is very, very complicated, and we as humans are rather limited. Not even the smartest or the most gifted of us can know about everything, or be able to have a complete understanding of everything. This is why science is divided into different disciplines: physics, geology, biology, mathematics, chemistry, archaeology, psychology etc. Each of those can of course be subdivided into other disciplines. As different and unrelated as some of these disciplines may seem to each other, they all overlap. The science of biology have benefitted from discoveries made in chemistry, chemistry have benefitted from discoveries made in physics etc.

One must never forget that the overarching purpose of science is to understand everything, and all of these disciplines affect us all the time. As you sit there reading this, there are physical forces working on your body, chemical reactions happening in your gut, biological processes taking place in your cells, psychology going on in your head etc. All these processes happen everywhere, all the time. The separation of the disciplines do not really reflect reality, but it had to be done in order to study reality. This is why in many cases today, you’ll find multi-disciplinary teams working together, and in order for them all to work together and to be able to integrate all their combined knowledge, there had to be a number of base assumptions made. These six assumptions are common to all the disciplines, to all scientists:

1.       Nature is orderly, and the laws of nature describe that order.

When we speak of the orderliness of nature, we speak in terms of regularity, pattern, and structure. For example, when we look at a herd of wildebeest migrating, we assume that it’s not just random behaviour. We justify this assumption through observation by noting the patterns of behaviour, the structure of the herd etc, and thereby come to conclusions explaining their behaviour. The same applies to other natural phenomena. Before Newton’s law was formulated, the motions of the planets were unexplained. We knew they were moving in specific patterns, but we didn’t know why. Newton unravelled the mystery by making an assumption: he assumed that gravity would hold true not just here, but elsewhere too. A universal law that applied everywhere. Of course, we haven’t seen every single star in the universe, or every planet, but Newton’s law have held true at every single star we have observed, and in every single test we have devised, so we can safely assume that Newton’s law is universal.

2.       We can know nature.

We assume that we can learn about nature and natural law through observing it. This might seem self-evident, but it isn’t. Until you make the logical assumption that you can learn about something by observing it, you can’t begin to reason about it. Once again, we’re assuming that something is universally true. If I can learn about wildebeest by observing them, can I also learn about, say, the past by looking at the ruins of an ancient city? We assume that we can, and so we do it, and thus far, it’s yielded very good results.

3.       All phenomena have natural causes.

We assume that nothing we see is unnatural. If it occurs within nature, then it is a natural occurrence, and if it’s a natural occurrence, we assume that that it obeys some natural law, and that by observing it, we can learn about it. Thus far, this too have held true, and so it was a pretty decent assumption.

4.       Nothing is self evident.

“Thunder causes sour milk. Any idiot knows that.” If I told you that, how would you know whether I was telling the truth or not? Would you just accept my word for it? Or would you challenge me about it? Or would you place a glass of milk on your table during a thunderstorm and test my statement? The advancement of knowledge requires that we assume something we know could be wrong, and if that is the case, we should test it to see if it’s true.

5.       Knowledge is derived from acquisition of experience.

Learning through observation. We observe the herd of wildebeest migrating every year, and so we predict that, based on their past behaviour, they will continue t migrate. If comes back to observation giving you knowledge.

6.       Knowledge is superior to ignorance.

This is a motivational assumption. Knowing more is better than knowing less. This is why we have schools and universities and the like.

These are the basic assumptions science is based on. They’re pretty common sensible, and they’ve held true over the years, so we assume that they’re a solid base to build on. After all, if those assumptions were untrue, then science itself could not have been successful in generating knowledge.

Of course, these are only the broad assumptions that science are based on. There are other, far more specific assumptions that come into play in specific situations.

Scientific assumptions pre-supposes that if something is true, something else will happen in a predictable fashion. Science is a reflection of reality, a model thereof. It is a representation of one small bit of reality to help up understand the whole. Because we’re not looking at the whole in totality, we have to make certain assumptions when we make observations or conduct experiments. We assume, for example, that using a red marker instead of a green marker to label a test tube doesn’t affect the chemical reaction taking place inside. We can test this assumption, and then we assume that it will continue to hold true. We assume that because agar was a good growth medium for bacteria today, it will be a good growth medium tomorrow. We assume that the laws governing bacterial growth will not have changed between now and tomorrow. The assumptions that we make can all be tested, and have been tested. We simply assume that they continue to hold true. If they didn’t hold true, then science would come to a grinding halt. Don’t think that just because a scientists says “Assuming that...”, the assumption he made was pulled out of thin air. It wasn’t.

Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.
 

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
39 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Terrylin Backpackers
The cheque is in the post

"I hear you are in bond collections. What are the latest excuses people are coming up with these days? I've run out of ideas." Read more...

10 comments 2636 views
Submitted by
Meta
News in the digital age

How do you think that spreading your hate/bigotry and or intolerance helps anybody? Read more...

14 comments 1119 views
Submitted by
Brian Faul
How and why a Dictator is born

One needs to remember looking back in history these hard times is when a dictator is more likely to get born. It is during these hard times that a dictator gets voted into power. Read more...

10 comments 1943 views
Submitted by
Prenisha Naidoo
I will be proactive...

This letter is in response to articles on the death of baby Jamie Naidoo, We have the tendency to be reactive…we wait for something to happen, then suddenly we care, writes a News24 User. Read more...

2 comments 466 views
Submitted by
woadstress
Celebration

Make a list of at least ten things that you can celebrate, and write two or three reasons why you can celebrate those things or events. Read more...

1 comments 170 views
Submitted by
Eric de Castro
Last squeak of the year

 Read more...

13 comments 271 views

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

 

services

E-mail Alerts The latest headlines in your inbox

RSS feeds News delivered really simply.

Mobile News24 on your mobile or PDA

E-mail Newsletters You choose what you want

News24 on your iPhone Get News24 headlines on your iPhone.

SMS Alerts Get breaking news stories via SMS.

Blogs Your opinion on you, me and everyone.

Calais Website keywords automated by OpenCalais.

 
Interactive Advertising Bureau
 
© 2014 24.com. All rights reserved.
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.