Hodson & Science
Sep 18, 1996 02:04 PM
by Murray Stentiford
>There is nothing scientific about unverifiable visions.
Woops! Hang on a moment.
It is the *business* of science to open-mindedly enquire into unknown
territory, to begin classification where little can be seen, to devise new
techniques of thought as well as of method for dealing with the territory.
It takes courage and insight to a degree that haven't always been evident in
the history of science, eg the plate tectonics story where the pioneer was
ridiculed for a decade or two and now it's accepted and being eagerly
Would you say that cosmology isn't scientific? It is full of the
unverifiable. I wonder how you'd replicate the Big Bang - the ultimate
firework! (Chuck, I have to admit to having one of the longest boyhoods on
record, when it comes to fireworks. :-) )
>So, for the benefit of those who may have forgotten, the scientific method
>is as follows:
>2. Form an hypothesis based on the observation
>3. TEST THE HYPOTHESIS (how one is to test visions of giant angels is
>4. Formulate a theory based on the results of the test.
There's another variation that is used just as much, possibly more, these days:
1. Form an hypothesis based on applying imagination and insight to the
2. Observe (you might have to devise an experiment and equipment first)
3. TEST THE HYPOTHESIS
4. Formulate a theory based on the results of the test.
You have to do it this way when the experiment costs a lot, because you tend
to get no money if you can't show you have a good idea what you're trying to
In any case, science generally advances on one foot after the other, so to
speak, like walking. One foot is observation, the other is
hypothesis-building. You can only get so far with one of them on their own.
Creativity in science is gaining a lot of recognition these days. Quite an
amazing number of discoveries or whole new fields have come out of the
"untested", "visionary" imagination. Einstein's theory of relativity was
pretty much in this category. The "proof" didn't begin to come till quite a
way down the track.
The guy who discovered the structure of the benzene molecule saw it in a
reverie, dancing in a vision before his eyes.
The idea of proof has actually slipped a long way down in its usefulness in
science, because people have realised that you usually can't prove anything;
you can only disprove it. That's all that your step 3. can do.
There's a bit more practical humility in science, these days, around this
subject than there was 100 years ago. Let's going along with that.
So when you come up a theory, you try all sorts of ways to test it. As soon
as it clashes with observation, you reject it and try again. Until then,
it's a useful framework for dealing with the world and for suggesting new
insights and observations, but is never proved.
We in the TS can hold our heads high, with regard to visionary experience,
if we keep an open unfixated mind and don't get trapped in failings that are
as common in science as anywhere else.
Member TI and the TS in NZ
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