How to Consume Science, #1

Talking about Science makes you seem cool and authoritative in most circles. That’s problematic, because what’s revered is seldom questioned. And what’s seldom questioned doesn’t have to be clearly understood. What’s not understood gradually becomes inaccessible.

Fields and industries that hope to benefit from cross-domain application of scientific ideas/techniques wouldn’t want these concepts to become inaccessible or obscure. One way out of this problem could be to consume science the way any idea should be consumed: with doubt.

But. We don’t usually talk about why facts need to be doubted. Schools and textbooks explain theories, but don’t usually talk about the nature of human knowledge. It’s possible to spend years practicing science, without ever regarding it as just another set of tools that can be used to build a model of reality.

And science is just that: an academic domain with its own limitations and fallibility. Science is made by people. Anything that’s made by humans is a social construct, and will therefore be one of many ways of interpreting what we observe. A very reliable one, sure. But always error-prone and with its own limits.

Now. If it has limits, we should know what they are if we are to use the scientific method to our advantage.

So. Before we try to design scientific business experiments, let’s talk about science: what is it anyway, and what should we remember while consuming it?

I. Science exists in the right now

Scientific truth is subject to change over the course of history. Whatever is scientified “truth” right now isn’t necessarily real, or may not remain “true” for very long.

Debunkings, discoveries, and paradigm shifts have always altered our perception of reality. We believe something to be absolutely true, and then someone goes ahead and proves it wrong. What we know to be true keeps changing with time.

Science is about being as objective as we possibly can in this moment. It’s about finding answers that serve us best in the right now. And then hope that future findings won’t deviate much from these current truths.

II. Science is a social construct

Scientists work with tools that are of human origin:

  1. Words come from human languages, all of which are inherently biased and burdened with history.
  2. Mathematical tools are also made by people, but all of the talk about their being right + rational makes it easy to misread math. We often assume a particular way of regarding a thing as the way of regarding it.
  3. Scientific models are often informed by ideas/schemas of their time. Because when you’re out to describe or explain something, you’ll draw upon the concepts you’re already familiar with.

Science seems to explain an external objective reality, which lies outside the realm of human bias & perception. But because it is made by people, and because people have no access to an objective reality (if such a thing even exists), all that science can really give us is this: a deeply subjective narrative of the universe & everything in it.

Published by

Vasudha Pande

I move in the direction of maximum magic.