The Way of Science


Cosmology and Relativity


(With apologies to Douglas Adams)

We have arrived. It's over. Let's look back, and consider some broad questions.

What is "science"? Do you see why we called this course "The Way of Science"? Are you better able to separate science from pseudoscience? What are the basic assumptions of the sciences? What criteria may be used to identify "Scientific thinking"?

What is the difference between science and technology? Is an engineer a scientist? Is a neurosurgeon a scientist? Is mathematics a science? What is "mathematics"? Don't confuse it with arithmetic!

If science is one way of trying to understand Life, the Universe, and Everything, then what is "religion"? Does "religion" mean believing in a God, or Gods, or supernatural explanations? Is "religion" anything explanatory outside "science"?

What is "art"? Does art try to help one make interpretations of Life, etc.? Is art a search for Truth and Beauty?

Don't mathematics and philosophy also, at least in part, try to make us and our Universe more comprehensible?

Although art and science are clearly different in many ways, are there any fundamental similarities? This would be a good time to look at the quotes in Appendix #1, particularly those from the influential French mathematician, J.H. Poincaré.

Consider science, art, religion, etc. in terms of goals, ethics, and morality. Then try considering them in terms of "looking for/creating patterns". Is a scientific model in any way like a work of art? Don't mathematicians talk about "elegant" or "beautiful" proofs?

How about the idea of "purpose"? Does (perhaps) religion deal with purpose and goals, and science does not? How about proportions: is humanity extraordinarily important (as many religions say), or is this species just another evolutionary drop in an uncaring Universe?


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© copyright 2001, Michael Wirth and Sachiko Howard, New England College