Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Thoughts on Science

One of the conclusions reached by scholars like Rodney Stark is that the Christian philosophical framework was necessary for the rise of science in the west.

This is often responded to by certain sceptics by references to Greeks, Muslims, Egyptians, Indians etc. It should be noted that these sceptics never describe what science is supposed to be, or how these peoples are supposed to have developed it.

It should first be recognised, as Rodney Stark does, that neither technology nor mathematics are science. Both are necessary for the development of science, but neither is adequate. Technology is necessary because the tools of inquiry used in the scientific fields rely on being able to detect phenomena that may be too small or too distant for the unaided human senses. Mathematics is the language of science and provides the notation that allows us to describe phenomena. The referenced peoples had both technology and mathematics, but they did not develop science.

Science is a body of knowledge acquired through application of the scientific method. This method is generally defined as a sequence of observation, hypothesis formation and experimental testing that allows adjustment of the hypothesis.

The Greeks, for example, did not have science in this sense. They produced great observations, formulated hypotheses from those observations, but they didn't then use testing to verify or discount their hypotheses.

It should also be noted that "the rise of science" refers to the proliferation and perseverance of science in that culture. Islam did contribute to the rise, but eventually the growth petered out.