What Science Knows: And How It Knows It
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In What Science Knows, the Australian philosopher and mathematician James Franklin explains in captivating and straightforward prose how science works its magic. He begins with an account of the nature of evidence, where science imitates but extends commonsense and legal reasoning in basing conclusions solidly on inductive reasoning from facts.
After a brief survey of the furniture of the world as science sees it—including causes, laws, dispositions and force fields as well as material things—Franklin describes colorful examples of discoveries in the natural, mathematical, and social sciences and the reasons for believing them. He examines the limits of science, giving special attention both to mysteries that may be solved by science, such as the origin of life, and those that may in principle be beyond the reach of science, such as the meaning of ethics.
What Science Knows will appeal to anyone who wants a sound, readable, and well-paced introduction to the intellectual edifice that is science. On the other hand it will not please the enemies of science, whose willful misunderstandings of scientific method and the relation of evidence to conclusions Franklin mercilessly exposes.
the heart of some of the most profound advances in science. We saw briefly in chapter 1 how the discovery of small 120 mathematics integer ratios in the amounts of interacting chemicals provided the original stimulus for Dalton’s atomic theory of matter. At a deeper level, the discreteness of the naturally occurring elements (and their isotopes) is now understood to be a consequence of the discrete array of solutions of the Schrödinger equation. A more easily appreciated example is Mendel’s
persistently choosing specifically mathematical examples to garble. Gödel’s theorem, being a subtle and complex result that angels fear to interpret, became such a favorite for postmodernists rushing in that it supplied Sokal and Bricmont a whole chapter of examples. 139 What Science Knows That chapter opens with a quote from Régis Debray, the French intellectual who joined Che in Bolivia: Ever since Gödel showed that there does not exist a proof of the consistency of Peano’s arithmetic that
logic classifier,” one actually receives an implementation of a pattern-recognition algorithm. Although the science of statistics is rather more than 50 years 148 the Formal Sciences old, the word usually refers to probabilistic inference from sample to population, rather than the simple finding of patterns in data that is being considered here. When one finds the average or median of a set of figures or divides them into natural clusters, one is not doing anything probabilistic, but merely
the computer, or only of an abstraction of the program? C. A. R. Hoare, a leader in the field, made strong claims: Computer programming is an exact science, in that all the properties of a program and all the consequences of executing it can, in principle, be found out from the text of the program itself by means of purely deductive reasoning.22 Some other authors explain the difference between software engineering and traditional engineering with physical components: By contrast [to hardware],
however, was not fire-resistant. The flame from the candle ignited both the seal and the electrical cables that passed through it. The fire quickly spread through the cabling into the reactor. By the time firefighters extinguished the fire, it had burned for almost seven hours. More than 1,600 electrical cables were 179 What Science Knows affected, 628 of them important to plant safety. The fire damaged electrical power, control systems, and instrumentation cables and impaired cooling systems