Science does not lead to truth

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Science is a tool

Science is a tool, not a means of truth. And like all tools, they are neither good or bad in themselves, but can be used according to the will of he who wields it. A spanner can be used to help make a hospital bed or it can be used to hit you over the head and put you in hospital bed. Science is no different, but due to its potential power it can be used to vastly improve or destroy the quality of human life on large scales.

Science does not tell us what is true, it is a method of prediction

However one thing it is useful to be clear on is that science does not tell us what is true. Science is a way of predicting what will happen in a given set of circumstances. A scientific theory is a model that explains what we observe. A model is a conceptual construct that is created by the human mind – it says if you do action ‘x’, then result ‘y’ is seen to occur. We call this cause and effect, but even that is an assumption. Perhaps I am being pedantic here, but we don’t really know that ‘x’ causes ‘y’ in any solid way. All we know is that when you do ‘x’, then this leads to ‘y’. This is all cause and effect really means.

If the theory works, it doesn’t mean that it is true, it just means that we can use it as a provisional way of predicting what will happen. This model can be used to predict what will happen in various scenarios. As long as the theory works, we continue to use it. If we find that it doesn’t work in some situations, then we have to re-examine the theory and come up with a better one that will work in those situations.

This has some interesting implications. For example we cannot say that there is such as thing as an electron. We can only say that the conceptual model of an electron is a good way of predicting what will happen in certain circumstances (ie. circumstances involving ‘electrons’). It may be there are no such things as individual electrons, but if the theory works, we can use it nonetheless.

So strictly speaking, when someone says that a theory is true, what they really mean is that the theory works based on what we are currently able to observe and measure. Note that what we can observe/measure is always via our senses, and is limited by our senses and the machines we have constructed to feed into our senses (such as microscopes, rulers, speedometers, x-ray machines, etc).

Science can only disprove, not prove

Another way of saying this is that scientific truth is not really truth as most of us would accept it. It is simply a theory that works. Science can never actually prove something is true. It can only say that a theory is false by disproving it, or that a theory has so far not been proven false. The theories we have not been able to prove as being false are the ones we take to be ‘true’ (provisionally), until they are proven false later on.

Lets embrace science to improve the quality of human life

So, lets use science, and all other tools we have, to improve our lot and raise the quality of our life. And what is the quality of our life? Well this is determined by our experience of life. We can use material resources, science, technology (including medicine) and spirituality to improve our experience of life. Let’s make these tools instruments of love and peace. Therefore, let us become loving and peaceful so this may be done.

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3 thoughts on “Science does not lead to truth

  1. Like in tsema we learn to perceive by a process of elimination and discrimination.

    Meditation also can follow a scientific approach. Try and see, try again and repeat. Was that mind, where did that thought come from and then return back to? Learn to trust relax and be active, experiment to keep it all in balance.
    We slowly remove all the possibilities until only one exists, the only one that was ever really there all along, the truth.

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  2. Tsema is epistemology or perception theory in Tibetan. I find it simply fascinating. I think a good understanding of this can strengthen what goes on in meditation. The logical system described by the likes of the 7 th Karmapa and Sakya Pandita, help to outline this.

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