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Lingering Thoughs From Week 1

phyllobates's picture

In part I am still stuck on our conversations from the first week of class involving the inability of science to find the truth.  In our discussion on the scientific method we were told that there is no way of finding the truth using science, but we are able to disprove things.  I would have to agree that when running a chemistry experiment I feel more confident in saying that my product is not something, than confirming its identity.   When I run an IR and find something uncharacteristic of my expected product I can firmly state this is not what I was expecting, but if there is no absorption stretch that throws up a red flag I can only conclude that it is possibly the product I am looking for.  So far all of these statements only support the idea that in science one can only confidently disprove things.   However, if I was determined to confirm the identity of my product I could continue running experiments to disprove other options.  I would run an NMR or try specific reactions in order to weed out the other possibilities in a systematic fashion.  Thus by disproving the other, likely, options I would be able to arrive at what I will now call the “statistical” truth.  By statistical truth I am trying to convey that while I cannot be 100% sure that my product is what I think it is, given the amount of data that I have collected and the amount of probable other choices I have disproved, I am willing to proclaim that I have found the truth of my chemical product's identity.

In our discussion on Thursday in Paul’s section it was suggested that in order to coordinate or bring meaning to one’s life individuals need a shared context.  The specific example we looked at is the rising of the sun, how do we or do we even know it will rise tomorrow.  I don’t think that society has to agree on the context that the sun will rise tomorrow because it is an obvious statistical truth.  The chances of the sun not rising tomorrow are statistically slim.  For as long as anyone can show the sun has risen each morning, and in order for it not to rise something would have to change. When weighing the options that would deter the sun from rising the statistics appear slim. It would be maladaptive and contradictory to rational thought to question whether tomorrow the sun will rise.  In general I think that most of the context that society shares is based on such apparent statistical truth that doesn’t’ need to be, but can be proven by scientists. From these truths we can find new truths and give meaning and structure to our lives.  There are truths that we must all, even the tiniest organisms, depend on in order to live a productive life.  While we may not have clear knowledge about these truths we accept them, examples include physical constants on earth such as gravity, magnetism, propagation of light and sound, time.  There are also more specific truths that  a species, community, or individual might acknowledge and then there are contexts which can but don’t necessarily overlap with the truth.  An example of this would be religion which is a ‘context’ or notion that is yet to be disproven and certainly has not been proven.So while it is important to acknowledge that we cannot find Plato's  purest truths, the truths that we accept are statistically significant and important in our communal and individual lives.

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