THE SCIENTIFIC APPROACH

This is the dominant approach at the moment. At its best, it combines inductive method (observation and experiment) and deductive method (e.g. theories, mathematical findings) and produces reliable explanations of natural phenomena.

 

SOME COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT SCIENCE

Science is a modern Western invention - there is a widespread belief that science was invented in Europe and did not exist before the 17th century. In fact, science has thrived in various parts of the world (e.g. in the Arabic, Indian and Chinese cultures) since ancient times. The science of the present day is influenced and partly based on their findings. Ancient and Middle Age Europe had science too (although, following St Augustine, the observation was rejected in favour of deduction). What modern science that started in the period of Enlightenment did, was to shift the emphasis to inductive method[1]. Its original aim was to dispose of speculations and place science on firmer foundations. However, over time, only the observation of natural phenomena and experiment have become a legitimate science.

 

Science and technology are the same - although they may contribute to each other, science and technology should not be equated. Science is about increasing human knowledge and understanding, while technology is about producing tools, more often on the basis of trial and error than scientific discoveries[2] (Edison, one of the greatest inventors, for example, was not a scientist). Technology existed before science and thrived even when science was suppressed (for example in Byzantium and occasionally in China). Science and technology have sometimes even been in conflict in the Western world. When the first commercial trains were produced, scientists warned that people could not tolerate travelling faster than 30mph. While the pioneers of air flights were struggling to make the first aircrafts, scientists (and journals such as the ‘Scientific American') stubbornly resisted the possibility that a heavy solid object could fly, and refused to acknowledge the success of the Wright brothers even after many demonstrations. William Preece, one of Britain's most distinguished scientists at that time, declared Edison's attempt to produce the electric bulb ‘a completely idiotic idea' and rejected Bell's telephone. There are many other examples of technology advancing not because of, but despite official science (and there are also examples of scientific discoveries that have much preceded their practical applications or technological devices that would support them). In practice, the difference between science and technology is clear. The patent law, for example, ‘draws a sharp distinction between a discovery, which makes an addition to our knowledge of nature, and an invention, which establishes a new operational principle serving some acknowledged advantage' (Polanyi, 1958, p.177). The latter can be patented; the former is the property of all. In recent times, however, for whatever reasons, identifying science and technology has been encouraged.

 

Science is only compatible with materialist ideology - this is often taken for granted by many scientists and non-scientists alike. Yet a materialistic position is not innate to science. Science was linked to materialism in the 19th century Europe to secure the supremacy of a particular method[3]. Many of science's greatest names were not materialists: Copernicus was a priest, and Mendel, the founder of genetics, was a monk; Newton was deeply religious (occasionally using theological arguments in science, such as when he suggested that the world has an atomic structure because it is most conducive to God's purpose). Even Galileo never had a quarrel with God, only with the Church; astrophysicist Lemaître who first proposed the idea of the Big Bang in the 1920s, was also a priest. The inventor of the laser and Nobel prize laureate for physics, Chares Townes, had spiritual inclinations, as well as Faraday, Joule, Kelvin, Maxwell, Tesla and even Einstein. Science neither has proved nor can prove that reality is only material. There is nothing intrinsic to science that would preclude the possibility of non-material aspects of reality, although studying such phenomena would possibly require a different method. In fact, some branches of science (e.g. quantum physics) have already moved away from assuming that matter and the laws that govern it make the basic fabric of the universe.

 

Science is about collecting data, classifying and describing observable phenomena - this is only one form of science. An attempt in the 19th century to reduce science to such endeavours did not succeed. In fact, there are three distinct aspects of science: theoretical insights based on rational principles and using methods such as mathematics, geometry and logic; empirical research based on observation and experiments; and the interpretation of data. These three aspects do not always go together. Some landmark theories were even based on incorrect data (e.g. Galileo's work, or the theory or relativity in relation to the Michelson-Morley experiment of 1887[4]). Einstein famously said that ‘it is theory that teaches us what observations are and what they mean' (Honderich, 1995, p.807).

 

Science is fully objective - scientifically ‘objective' means that a number of experts agree about the likelihood of certain claims. So, the objectivity of science is valid only within an already accepted framework (that itself cannot be objectively justified[5]). For example, what sort of experiments are carried out, what is looked for in an experiment, how the data is interpreted and so on, depend on the experimenters' pre-assumptions. Moreover, as historians and sociologists point out, ‘scientists often depend on patronage and choose their problems and their methods accordingly' (Honderich, 1995, p.808). Even if this is put aside, an ambiguity remains: how do scientists know that an experiment has been done in the right way if they do not know the right outcome? Relying on stringent procedures may not be enough. For instance, experiments on gravitational radiation suppose to establish whether these tiny fluctuations exist or not, but there are so many factors that can effect such experiments that any conclusion can be questioned. Although science strives to be objective, in many cases scientific certainties are not so much the result of experimental method, but rather the way often ambiguous results are interpreted. Perhaps not surprisingly, scientists tend to dismiss measurements or outcomes that do not fit with the established theories. The famous physicist Robert Oppenheimer allegedly commented: ‘We can't find anything wrong with it, so we will just have to ignore it'.

 

Scientific knowledge is proven knowledge - science heavily relies on and is biased in favour of inductive method (observation and experimentation). However, in the 18th century, the philosopher Hume pointed out that inductive method, though attractive and useful, was logically invalid. It is not only that the predictions one can make on the basis of induction are not fully reliable, but also that they are not even the only predictions consistent with the accumulated evidence. This is not to say that induction is not valuable, but that relying on this method alone is not sufficient. In an attempt to get around this problem, the philosopher of science Karl Popper argued that science is not about proving that a conjecture is true, but proving that it is false. This is called falsificationism. Science progresses by attempting to falsify theories rather than by proving them to be true.

 

Science provides a coherent, unified perspective - no branch of science provides a complete picture of its field. There are still many fundamental questions that remain unanswered (how the physical forces relate to each other, the origin of the universe and life, how proteins unfold and how an embryo is formed, what is consciousness and how it relates to the brain etc.). Some accepted theories are not even mutually compatible (e.g. the theory of relativity and quantum physics). Even within the same field certain phenomena are interpreted in contradictory ways (light, for instance, is sometimes considered a wave and sometimes a particle, although their properties are irreconcilable). Scientists among themselves often disagree, as the existence of many competing theories shows. In fact, according to the philosopher of science David Chalmers, there is no single category ‘science' (1980, p.166). Attempts to apply the same method to every branch of human knowledge have failed to produce the desired results.

 

The scientific worldview is timeless - despite the tendency to present scientific results and theories as timeless, they are in fact not. In the 1960s Thomas Kuhn famously proposed that science evolves through paradigm shifts - one dominant view is replaced with another, and this process does not depend only on scientific discoveries. An obvious example is a shift from the Maxwellian Electromagnetic view to the Einsteinian relativistic view, but there are many other albeit less grand cases in every branch of science. The concept of paradigm shifts in its original form may be open to some criticisms, but the validity of its basic tenet is hard to dispute. 

  • [1]. An inductive argument involves a generalisation based on a number of specific observations. A deductive argument, on the other hand, begins with particular premises, and then moves logically to a conclusion which follows from those premises. Therefore, deduction is more theoretical.
  • [2]. The following observation may be illuminating in this respect: ‘... up to [the mid nineteenth century] natural science had made no major contribution to technology. The industrial revolution had been achieved without scientific aid. Except for the Morse telegraph, the great London Exhibition of 1851 contained no important industrial devices or products based on the scientific progress of the previous fifty years. The appreciation of science was still almost free from utilitarian motives' (Polanyi, 1958, p.182).
  • [3]. The claim that all reality is physical was explicitly expressed even later, in 1963 by philosopher J. J. Smart, who stated that ‘there is nothing in the world over and above those entities which are postulated by physics' (1963, p.651).
  • [4]. According to Einstein's own account, the Michelson-Morley experiment had, in fact, a negligible effect on forming his theory. The philosopher of science, Polanyi, claims that ‘its findings were, on the basis of pure speculation, rationally intuited by Einstein before he had ever heard about it' (1958, p.10).
  • [5]. The following statement is still relevant: ‘Ernest Nagel writes that we do not know whether the premises assumed in the explanation of the sciences are true; and that were the requirement that these premises must be known to be true adopted, most of the widely accepted explanations in current science would have to be rejected as unsatisfactory. In effect, Nagel implies that we must save our belief in the truth of scientific explanations by refraining from asking what they are based upon. Scientific truth is defined, then, as that which scientists affirm and believe to be true' (Polanyi, 1969, p.73).

The relevance of science

Although some technological advances that profoundly affect human life have happened irrespective of and in some cases despite science, there is no doubt that science has drastically changed the world in one way or another. Its pragmatic value is well documented in every popular science book, but the contribution of science to knowledge and understanding should not be underestimated either. Not only has science in many cases stimulated inventions such as telescopes or microscopes, but it has also managed to utilise creatively the data produced by such instruments (e.g. using the ‘Doppler effect' to determine the movements of distant stars). The attempts of some scholars (such as Paul Feyerabend) to relativise science are undue exaggerations.

There is another aspect of science that makes it so relevant. The scientific approach provides procedures rather than only end-results. The transparency of the way particular results are obtained is important because it means that most of the findings can be tested by repeating the process, which enables greater objectivity, minimises reliance on authority and stimulates change. Such a practice makes science more progressive than those approaches that demand the acceptance of certain claims without any way to verify or (even more importantly) to refute them independently. This has not only a profound effect on understanding the natural world but on the human psyche too, because it enables everybody (at least in theory) to make informed judgements.

Focusing on the procedures also prevents science from being attached to a particular tradition, culture or nationality, so it is in a better position to attain greater universality. Unprecedented cross-cultural recognition is one of its significant achievements. Science classes throughout the world are remarkably similar, which says much about the universality of scientific knowledge. This may not be surprising, considering that science deals with phenomena that are easier to verify than those that are traditionally associated with spirituality or philosophy. Nevertheless, science has managed to achieve that to which religions have aspired for centuries.

The scientific approach also has a quality of concreteness, an ability to resolve problems experimentally, in a way that philosophers for example cannot. In other words, although science goes through so-called paradigm shifts, they are often accumulative rather than completely different changes (e.g. the Theory of Relativity does not dispose of Newtonian physics, but reduces it to a special case). In contrast, philosophy has not been able to decisively resolve the dispute between, for example, Aristotelian and Platonic views for centuries.

Science and materialism

Science is supposed to be free from prejudice, but in practice the majority of scientists harbour some taken for granted beliefs[6]. This is what links science to a particular ideological view, with the consequence that it can sometimes become dogmatic and impede rather than further the evolution of human knowledge. Not surprisingly, materialism is the usual choice.

Pioneering scientists, however, did not set out to promote materialism[7]. It became the prevailing ideology associated with science only in the second half of the 19th century (materialist beliefs, of course, had existed before and in other parts of the world, one example being the Carvaka doctrine in India). Most misconceptions about science arise because of this link. Reducing reality to the physical world is not the result of science, but the ideology that appropriates science. Materialism (which, significantly, fits well with the dominant socio-economic system in the West) has usurped science and technology which can and have coexisted with other perspectives. This makes some scientists behave unscientifically: they adapt observations and facts to their views and method, rather than the other way around. What does not fit such a lifeless world is chased out and declared illusionary. The following example may help clarify the difference between science and its ideological baggage:

De Duve states, a scientific approach ‘demands that every step in the origin and development of life on Earth be explained in terms of its antecedent and immediate physical-chemical causes.' (Hazen 1997, p.157)

This statement may look scientific but, in fact, it is an ideological statement that contradicts good science. An honest scientist should approach the subject of his research with an open mind, and try to find the most probable explanation for a phenomenon observed. A proper scientific approach cannot demand that phenomena fit into the pre-assumptions of the researcher. The quote shows that the author is more interested in confirming his own views than providing the best possible explanation. Such a demand is not based on any evidence or reasoning, but it presupposes where to look for answers and where not, and rejects a priori any other possibility. This attitude relies on faith as much as any religious attitude. There is nothing more scientific in believing that life is only a complex chemical reaction than in believing that life is more than that. Not surprisingly, materialistic ideology seems to inherit the framework of thinking established by its antecedents. The agency of God is replaced by the deity of chance, but neither of them have a significant explanatory power, they are just an easy way out of difficulties. A religious person may claim that a complex and intricate thing, such as a flower, was engineered by God, a materialist may claim that it is a result of chance mutations. Neither, in fact, explains much[8].

The above does not imply that proper scientific findings should not be taken seriously, far from it. However, it is important to realise that much of what is said in the name of science is not facts, but interpretations that fit a particular ideological view. Geneticist Richard Lewontin summarises this position:

We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfil many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. (1997, p.31

The likely reason why so many scientists are prepared to accept materialistic ideology without much reflection is because it is convenient. Reducing all the phenomena to ‘solid' matter makes their lives much easier. Otherwise, scientists would be forced to concede that their method is not always adequate or sufficient, and they are understandably reluctant to do so.[9] However, as with other rigid frameworks, materialism is not only restraining, but becomes restrictive, which limits science itself. The guardian (against superstition and prejudice) becomes a jailer.

 

  • [6]. As Brian Silver, a scientist himself (and an atheist), puts it: ‘There is more faith involved in science than many scientists would be prepared to admit' (1998, p. xvi).
  • [7]. In The Ascent of Science the above writer comments: ‘Many of the heroes of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century scientific revolution were deeply interested in the occult, in the so-called Hermetic writings, and in magic in general; one only has to look at the lives of John Dee, Boyle, Bruno, Paracelsus, Kepler, and many others... Newton, the herald of the Age of Reason himself, believed firmly in the mystic aspects of alchemy and of Pythagorean thought' (Silver, 1998, p.495).
  • [8]. This may be contrasted, for example, with indeterminacy in quantum physics. Although the idea is not without controversy, it does have an explanatory power.
  • [9]. This is reflected in the persistency of the mechanistic view of the world: ‘With the Einsteinian revolution at the turn of the century physicists had moved irrevocably beyond the mechanistic paradigm. Then, some two decades later, with the advent of quantum theory, they abandoned the last vestiges of classical mechanistic thinking. Yet many scientists, especially in the human, social and engineering fields, remained fascinated by the simplicity and power of the Newtonian formulas' (Laszlo, 1993, p.35).

The limitations of the scientific approach

Extrinsic limitations

Some limitations of the present scientific approach are imposed, as it were, from the ‘outside'. They are a result of materialist beliefs not science itself.

Determinism - it is fair to say that determinism is not something that only materialists adhere to. There is a long history of this belief that includes thinkers from very different perspectives. Materialism has only defined determinism in terms of the natural laws. This not only precludes the possibility of purposeful causes, but also of choice and of creativity. Ironically, modern science itself has come to the conclusion that determinism does not fully reflect reality, and yet many, especially human science disciplines, are reluctant to give it up (most psychology text-books, for example, still recognise nature and nurture as the only factors that affect human behaviour).

Reductionism - one of the most stubborn beliefs of modern science is that complex phenomena can always be reduced to simpler, more fundamental ones and the laws that govern them. Mind can be reduced to biology, biology to chemistry, chemistry to physics. This is the essence of reductionism, adopted in the 19th century. However, this belief appears to be a dead-end even on the most basic level. It is already recognised that, for example, ‘the macroscopic behaviour of a large ensemble of particles cannot be deduced from the properties of the individual particles themselves' (Silver, 1998, p.19). Many eminent scientists are ready to admit the improbability of reductionism[10].

Insisting on material evidence - a position that would always insist on material evidence, and automatically dismiss an argument that is not based on observable data is somewhat naïve. Even hardcore science inevitably operates with phenomena or principles for which material evidence does not exist (e.g. time or causality) or is based on stipulations that cannot be empirically verified (such as the ones linked to the theory of relativity). Also, many scientific concepts (gravitation being one example) cannot be known directly but only through their effects[11].

The inertia of science has been criticised by a number of scholars (Kuhn, Feyerabend and Lakatos being probably the best known). It transpires in a rigid, absolutistic demand to adhere to certain views and self-imposed methods and criteria. Physicist Max Planck allegedly said that a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents, but rather because its opponents die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. This stifles rather than advances human knowledge. As Chalmers points out, ‘we cannot legitimately defend or reject items of knowledge because they do or do not conform to some ready-made criterion of scientificity' (1980, p.169). The best scientists have always been on the front lines, prepared to sacrifice their pre-assumptions for the sake of better understanding. However, there is another, inevitably larger group of scientists that prefer to maintain the status quo[12]. Science writer Horgan comments that ‘the scientific culture was once much smaller and therefore more susceptible to rapid change. Now it has become a vast intellectual, social, and political bureaucracy, with inertia to match' (1995, p.137). Both of these groups, progressive and conservative, may be necessary, the former to prevent the solidification of science, and the latter to prevent chaos. The problem is that the conservative stream often supports and perpetuates particular ideological views in order to maintain a special status and social power. The suspicion is that some scientists are more interested in advancing their careers than knowledge. Chalmers claims that ‘[ideology of science] involves the use of the dubious concept of science and the equally dubious concept of truth that is often associated with it, usually in the defence of conservative positions' (1980, p.169).

Bias - those phenomena to which the established scientific method can be applied are studied in greater and greater detail, often without any reference to a larger picture; whereas those to which it cannot be are ignored or are declared illusionary. The Oxford Companion to the Mind, for example, has entries such as ‘Frankenstein' but not ‘will'. The consequence of such an attitude is a distorted and impoverished picture of reality. Even if some phenomena or events cannot be explained, they need to be taken into account and acknowledged:

Objectivism has totally falsified our conception of truth, by exalting what we can know and prove, while covering up with ambiguous utterances all that we know and cannot prove, even though the latter knowledge underlies, and must ultimately set its seal to, all that we can prove. (Polanyi, 1958, p.286)

 

Limitations of science as a social practice

Besides the above ideological limitations there are other self-imposed limitations to present day science that are the result of the social milieu within which it operates.

Specialisation is such an instance. The best specialisation can provide is a fragmented picture on reality, which leaves out the possibility of an overall, synthetic view. This can lead to ‘not seeing the wood for the trees', and can have highly undesirable consequences. James Burke, a scientist himself, concludes that ‘the reductionist approach, forcing people to be specialists, has got us into the mess we are in' (The Sunday Times, 1st of January 1995). The one who looks through a microscope all the time may not notice an elephant standing next to shim. Historian Zeldin proclaims:

...around the beginning of the eighteenth century... the ideal of encyclopaedic knowledge was replaced by specialisation. Withdrawal into a fortress of limited knowledge meant one could defend oneself on one's home ground; it gave one self-confidence of a limited kind... Now that the silences produced by specialisation have become deafening, and now that information fills the air as never before, it is possible to reconsider the choice, to ask whether many people might not be better off if they began looking again for the road which leads beyond specialisation, if they tried seeing the universe as a whole. (1994, p.197)

The insistence on observable, public and repeatable is still prevailing, although there are certain phenomena (in cosmology and the realm of sub-atomic particles, as much as in studying life and mind) that cannot satisfy these requirements. Any attempts to fit them within these criteria severely impoverish their understanding. The very existence of atoms was derided as metaphysical nonsense until barely a century ago. Leading scientists argued that it made no sense to talk of entities that could never be observed, which drove one of the most talented scientists at that time, Boltzmann, to suicide. His struggles against the scientific orthodoxy illustrate the dangers of allowing such a dogmatism to seep into the quest for knowledge, especially in the fields of human and social science (the mind is neither observable, nor public, nor repeatable).

Authoritarianism - to secure their special status, priests used to perpetuate a belief that their vocation made them somehow closer to God, so the best way for ordinary people to relate and be informed about spiritual matters was through them. Scientists nowadays acquire a similar aura of authority. The impression is that they are experts above others (fostered not necessarily by scientists themselves, of which some, in all fairness, are trying to break out of such an image). It surfaces in frequently heard statements in the media such as ‘scientists claim that...', without saying who these scientists are and what these claims are based on. This makes science not only vulnerable to manipulation, but also alienates it from ordinary people.

Scientific detachment was introduced to ensure a higher level of objectivity and is often justified (e.g. to enable independent verification). However, it is sometimes taken so far that it becomes an obstacle and, in fact, leads to bias through the back door.

 

Intrinsic limitations

The above ideological and historical limitations are contingent, and should not be taken as detrimental. After all, they can be overcome in the future. However, there are some limitations of science that can never be surpassed, which is why the scientific approach cannot be sufficient on its own and needs to be combined with other approaches.

Dealing with complexity - scientific method is essentially analytic, which enables the simplification and generalisation of some phenomena. Yet, reality is complex, and if that complexity is disregarded, some important qualities can be missed. One of the world's most distinguished quantum physicists and a philosopher, Werner Heisenberg, warned: ‘...the scientific concepts are idealizations... But through this process of idealization and precise definition immediate connection with reality is lost' (1958, p.200). More heuristic methods are better suited to deal with complex systems. Human beings could not operate in the world if they only relied on science and excluded the common sense that is capable of intuitively grasping this complexity. Psychologists, for example, are not yet nearly able to provide the profound insights about the human psyche that can be found in the works of narrative writers such as Shakespeare, Dickens or Tolstoy.

Incompleteness - there are certain phenomena or questions that are beyond the reach of science. For instance, one of the dogmas of the present scientific ideology is that all the processes in nature are governed by physical laws. However, science seems at loss to explain where these laws come from. It is not only a question of why there is this set of laws rather than any other, but more fundamentally, why there are laws at all, why the universe is orderly, rather than chaotic and disorderly. Physicist Paul Davies speculates that attaining full knowledge through science is unlikely, given the limits imposed by quantum indeterminacy, Gödel's theorem, chaos theory and the like[13]. Mystical experience might provide the only avenue to absolute truth, he concludes (in Horgan, 1996, p.261).

A lack of criteria for interpreting facts - Henri Poincaré, one of the greatest mathematicians and physicists in the 19th century, wrote: ‘Just as houses are made of stones, so is science made of facts; but a pile of stones is not a house and a collection of facts is not necessarily science'.  What sort of structure is created depends on the way scientists play with or interpret facts. Interpretations are important. Human understanding would be very limited if it was based only on descriptive statements. The laws do not have much explanatory power; they leave many questions unanswered. However, interpretations are not obvious, they are extrapolations that necessarily involve mental operations, not solely based on observations. So, many observable facts can give rise to a number of different interpretations, of which some may not be accurate even if the facts behind them are. A different set of criteria is needed for interpretations than for observations, but scientific method does not provide them. This is why it is easy to highjack scientific findings and present one's interpretations as scientific truths[14].

To conclude, the scientific approach is no doubt useful for examining natural phenomena, but it is not sufficient to explain reality as a whole. At its best, it can offer an incomplete account of reality. This is not the fault of scientists. After all, few of them have ever promised to provide a full and coherent picture of the world. However, a more comprehensive understanding requires a more comprehensive approach. A professor of Computer Science and Engineering, Joseph Weizenbaum summarises this point in the following statement:

... some people have the same type of very deep faith in modern science that others do in their respective religions. This faith in science, grounded in its own dogma, leads to defence of scientific theories far beyond the time any disconfirming evidence is unearthed. Moreover, disconfirming evidence is generally not incorporated into the body of science in an open-minded way but by an elaboration of the already existing edifice (as, for example, by adding epicycles) and generally in a way in which the resulting structure of science and its procedures excludes the possibility of putting the enterprise itself in jeopardy. In other worlds, modern science has made itself immune to falsification in any terms the true believer will admit into argument. Perhaps modern science's most devastating effect is that it leads its believers to think it to be the only legitimate source of knowledge about the world... This is as mistaken a belief as the belief that one cannot gain legitimate knowledge from anything other than religion. Both are equally false. (in Singh, 1987, p. 281

  • [10]. Laszlo paraphrases the renowned physicist Stephen Hawking: ‘Although the goal of physics is a complete understanding of everything around us, including our own existence, physics has not succeeded in reducing chemistry and biology to the status of solved problems, while the possibility of creating a set of equations through which it could account for human behaviour remains entirely remote' (1993, p.48).
  • [11]. Neuroscientist Pribram writes: ‘...we think of the force of gravity as a thing. Actually, of course, all we have are the observations of actions at a distance... this means that we are inferring gravity from our observations: gravity is not an observable; as in the case of field concepts, gravity is inferred' (Laszlo, 1993, p.12).
  • [12]. It has been observed that ‘it is no coincidence that those who feel most certain of their grip on scientific method have rarely worked on the frontiers of science themselves' (Collins and Pinch, 1993, p.143).
  • [13]. Quantum indeterminacy is the apparent necessary incompleteness in the description of a physical system; Gödel's theorem demonstrates that there are always undecidable elements within any formal system; and chaos theory sets the limit to the ability to predict future states from initial conditions.
  • [14]. ‘More recent research (Pickering, Galison, Rudwick, and others) has added that scientific facts are constituted by debate and compromise, that they harden with the distance from their origin, that they are manufactured rather than read off nature, and that the activities that produce and/or identify them form complex and, with respect to theory, relatively self-contained cultures' (in Honderich, 1995, p.808).