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A problem with science

Something that's been a minor irritation of mine for quite a long time is the careless use of the word "science". It often reflects carelessness or willful ignorance towards a large array of disciplines. People who aren't interested in science. Explanations which are full of science. An article about science in the newspaper. Usually, those explanations and articles aren't about science: they're about *particular* branches of scientific study. I doesn't help my my mind auto-glosses it as scientia, knowledge. Perhaps there are people out there who speak dismissively of all the "humanities" in a book, but I haven't knowingly met them.

So it's with particular regret that I heard it come out of my mouth tonight at the BSFA. A book with science in it. At the critical moment, my mind failed to provide words like "oceanography" or "geomorphology" or "seismology". I am ashamed.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 26th, 2009 12:29 am (UTC)
That'll be 50 hail mary's and 5 in Darwin we trust.


Ooh Geomorphology..
Mar. 26th, 2009 12:32 am (UTC)
As I have frequently told my children and grandchildren, if there's no math, it's not science. Period.

Math is the language of science. TV shows, popular books, all of them; No Math, No Science.

Over here in the states, math is anathema in any sort of mass media.

Mar. 26th, 2009 02:14 am (UTC)
Does it go the other way? (Divination can be quite heavy on the math, yanno ;) Particularly Chinese-style astrology.)

I go with the old Popper "must be falsifiable"--based on experimentation or investigation concerning hypothesis. I don't think this is the only way to define science, and it leaves out a great deal of what some people consider science (I don't think a lot of economics makes the cut, in that case), but it works for me.

I don't think that "science" as a categorical noun bothers me much as owlfish, although I'll admit precision is good, particularly given the differences between the fields. Better news reporting on biology and physics would be very welcome, however.
Mar. 26th, 2009 10:37 pm (UTC)
If 'falsifiable' is a requirement, then evolution runs into issues...

Regarding the 'humanities' label, you do occasionally hear 'liberal arts' used dismissively.
Mar. 26th, 2009 06:56 am (UTC)
I did a computing degree and as such was loudly and rudely dismissive of the humanities at all times I possible could. I've not yet dismissed a book for its obsession with humanities, but I now take that as a challenge :)
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )