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What is knowledge?

27 November 2012, 07:23

I was invited to discuss the topic of limitation of scientific method in providing satisfactory explanation for the world we experience. Actually I had to intrude myself into the discussion between theists and atheists, not to support any of the sides, just to make communication smoother. In return I got perfect definition of science: it ”is a method for substantiating the belief of facts about the world”.

Strict scientific objective is to obtain information (data collection and, after appropriate processing, organizing them in the form of a theory) to predict the behaviour of the outside world. From a purely practical point of view, a scientific theory must act with the same efficiency regardless of who uses it, only If the user moves within the limits of validity of the theory (the limits are results of assumptions made to construct the theory), hence the requirement of objectivity, which is the basis for scientific research . The main result of the scientist's work is method of proceeding (that is, answer to the question: how to do it?).

We should not be deceived by the impression that science answers the question "why?”. Although the work of the scientist is usually sold to the public in the form of answers to questions like "why?”, in fact the scientific answer "because" have only technical meaning, not ontological.

What does that mean? Well, regardless of what kind of beautiful words a scientist uses to answer the question "why water pours into the tub", his answer is always "eureka! I discovered that the tap was turned on” (emphasis on action),  not  "eureka!  I discovered that there is a tap!" (emphasis on the existence of). Scientist discovered that introducing the concept of the tap and valve and instructions stating how it should turn, allows bath thirsty people to control the filling bathtubs with water. A scientist in general does not comment on the existence of taps and valves.

For science the words "to exist" simply means "it is useful to conveniently describe behaviour of our shared environment." The words "it is true" simply mean "that is internally consistent within a given theory". And the word “to discover" simply means "to build theories of the ever larger ranges of validity."

Intuitively, these words shall be understood quite differently. When you say "tap exists", you mean "tap is the object existing irrespective, whether any being has anything to do with a tap." By "this is true" you mean "this is so, regardless of human theories and opinions. Saying "I know" you think "I get to know what exists."  Funny thing - these are not scientific, but philosophical meaning of these concepts. But because the word "science" made such a career, and because science operates with the concepts of "existence", "truth" and "knowledge" as ideas to be essential for its activity, people confuse these two completely different groups of meaning! And unconsciously grant scientific conclusions with philosophical meaning. Which is a serious misconception.

A serious one, because science differ from philosophy, that does not contain one element of objectivity ... Philosophy is subjective complement  of objectivity to the full world view. Each world view contains this complement, but unfortunately, often it remains unnoticed by its intuitive user. And the world view appears when the human realizes that he is able to make decisions…

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