Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Semantic Attachments to Science

When discussing scientific fact and scientific theory it is important to recognize the adjective attached to the nouns 'fact' and 'theory'. In my last post I mentioned that our class had come to a consensus after much deliberation regarding the definitions of scientific fact and scientific theory. What was interesting was that the distinction had to be made in the first place. Consider the general understanding of 'fact' and 'theory' without the adjectival attachment. A fact is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as "something that has actual existence" or is "an actual occurrence". In other words it is "a piece of information presented as having objective reality". A theory on the other hand is defined as an "abstract thought: speculation" and "an unproved assumption", among other things it is a "belief, policy or procedure proposed or followed as the basis of action". Here both theory and fact are represented as being different albeit related words, each holding different semantic meanings. What's interesting is how the meaning of both fact and theory becomes blurred when attaching the adjective 'science'. The necessity to define and clarify the different meanings between the two terms indicated to me that the addition of the adjective 'science' gave more credence to the other terms associated with it.

The important thing to consider is the semantic 'weight' the word science carries along with it. It is true that the scientific method is vigorous and thorough, and today enters into almost every facet of our lives, but to what degree is it justified? Our means of regarding 'scientific theory' with considerably more validity then other 'theory' could exemplify a type of glorification of science. Considering that it has entered into almost every facet of our lives is all the more reason to criticize it objectively. I think we should recognize and appreciate the perspective science offers us however it is also important to understand that it is only just that: one perspective.

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