Humankind has employed a variety of approaches in an effort to understand both itself and the Universe at large. In general, four methods are used based upon intuition, authority, revelation or science. The scientific method is the logical successor to the other three. It can be generally defined as a systematic procedure whereby knowledge is accumulated using unbiased and objective reasoning. In addition, it provides a methodology for proving theories and finding scientific truth. Scientific truths are developed within very rigorous and logical constraints defined by the scientific method and at the core are the techniques of inductive and deductive reasoning.
Inductive reasoning pertains to empirical reasoning based on experience and uses the experimental method in which a hypothesis, which encompasses a particular problem [idea, concept], is formulated. This hypothesis is tested by gathering additional data to see if the hypothesis is false. A major misunderstanding lies in the fact that scientific hypothesis testing, never ends up proving the hypothesis but it either “rejects the hypothesis” or “fails to reject the hypothesis”. If a hypothesis has been subjected to numerous rigorous attempts by scientists to discredit it but it stands the test of time it becomes a Theory. A scientific theory is in layman’s terms a fact. This process contrasts with the process by which doctrine becomes accepted in religion: which relies upon revelation. Sadly the dogmatism needed to sustain revelation fails to recognize the rigorously determined ‘truths’ of the scientific method. In some fundamental religious sects there is, what appears to be, a deliberate attempt to misconstrue scientific facts. Perhaps the most blatant relates to the word theory in the expression ‘Theory of Evolution’. In a formal sense scientists do not speak of the Concept of Evolution or the Hypothesis of Evolution: both of which imply something that is still quite tentative and has not been subject to the rigor of long-term attack by the scientific community. Because the basic tenet of science is that nothing is ever proven, a theory is accepted because we ‘fail to reject it’ and any well established scientific theory is a scientific fact. In common parlance the expression really should be the Fact of Evolution. From the viewpoint of human understanding a ‘theory’ is the highest form of ‘fact’ possible, standing only below reality itself.
Deductive reasoning pertains to the logical language of science. Deductive reasoning uses declaration [assertions of statements that are logically connected] and procedurally does not care whether the statements are true or false as long as they follow the logical argument. Indeed deductive reasoning does not have to be based on evidence nor use statements of fact. Providing the logical form of statements is maintained [i. e. the rules are followed] logical argument is a powerful tool in determining the truth or falsity of a statement. It is for this reason that logical argument [or syllogistic logic] is the basis of mathematics.
Reductionism is what has allowed science to be so successful in gaining an understanding of the Universe. It is the analytical method whereby scientists probe for an understanding of the Universe. The reductionist approach to nature lies in the belief that the universe can be understood by abstracting and breaking down each system into component parts that are ever more basic and fundamental. Reductionism exposes the nature of a system whereas scientific hypothesis testing allows for the synthesis of scientific truth. These ‘truths’ may be the pragmatic determination of what is correct at this moment but their method of derivation makes them facts not fictions.
Attacks on the reductionist method essentially attack the Theory that there is a fundament to nature that is based upon the elementary particles and the basic laws of physics: and reductionism can go no further. Proximately, reality in our universe is a moving target, which ultimately will be 'hit', and then hit again and again until reason requires that we are at the source of our knowledge of reality. Relativity and quantum theory may describe our universe but quantum theory is illuminating an 'informational bottomless pit' and our current knowledge merely indicates our mathematics is yet too primitive to take science beyond Planck Space. The presently defined fundament is not likely the bottom of our level of knowledge. Whether the solution lies in M-theory or even the quantification of a 'god hypothesis' is somewhat irrelevant. Certainly scientific truth is NOT a social construct but something that reductionism can assess and, I believe, ultimately understand.
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