Hegel on History
What remains the same when science changes?
“Science always changes so there’s really no way to know what is correct. Years from now everything we think we know could be wrong.” — Anonymous Internet Philosopher
That statement is so generic and I have seen so many countless permutations of it that I have no practical way of counting them. Every single time I have seen statements like that it is a subtle way for the person to say, “I don’t want to talk about this anymore, and no matter what you say I won’t listen to you.” This post is not for people like the anonymous commenter, but for people who have sincerely asked the question, “If everything in science can change, then what can we trust?”
So in the midst of the constant change in science what stays the same? Or does anything stay the same?
Let me give an example (I may have shared this story a few years ago). One day I was talking to an acquaintance and he asked me “What if it turns out that gravity isn’t real?”
My response was simple, “Rocks still fall down. The Earth continues going around the sun. Gravity doesn’t change.”
What he was really trying to ask was, “What if gravity doesn’t turn out to work the way we think it does?”
There is a difference between the two questions. One question deals with what we observe, and the other deals with our explanation of why it happened, and how we can predict future events. The former never changes, the latter can change.
One of the earliest explanations of gravity (that we know of) came from Aristotle. His explanation was the standard explanation for almost 2,000 years. When Galileo first measured how objects accelerate due to gravity, and Riccioli confirmed his theory and made refinements to his measurement, the universe did not suddenly snap to conform to the new understanding. Things fell towards the Earth as they always had. Their motion remained the same. If you dropped a stone one day and then dropped another the next day the same thing would happen.
These basic observations are the things that do not change when science changes. Over 2,000 years ago Eratosthenes measured the circumference of the earth and also proved that it was a sphere. Since then our understanding of the shape of the Earth has not changed drastically. We still call it a sphere or a globe, but we have also found that it is not perfectly spherical. It bulges slightly at the equator. Our understanding of the shape of the Earth will change and grow as we make more observations, but our new observations will not change our previous observations. We will still view the Earth as roughly spherical.
What will NOT happen is we will wake up one morning and find that the Earth has been a flat disk all along. It won’t suddenly become a doughnut-shaped object. So when we say that science will change it means that our previous observations will only become more refined.
When changes in science come the changes must explain and agree with our previous observations. If we change the way we view the formation of the Earth, or how life evolved, what won’t change is the rocks and fossils we analyzed previously. There are plenty of ways that our understanding of evolution may change in radical ways, but what won’t change is the fact that it took millions of years, and that we have a part in it. Any new explanations we have must explain the evidence we have and what we currently observe.
Our explanations will become more refined and there may even be major shifts in our understanding, but the evidence will stay the same. Too often we fall into the trap of wanting the evidence to fit our worldview, but we must first make sure our worldview can accommodate the evidence.
The sentiment expressed by the quote at the beginning is a wish that in the future evidence will be found that makes everyone else conform to the worldview of anonymous, rather than a desire to find a worldview that accommodates all the evidence.
Bad Pirate Jokes
Why did Captain Hook cross the road? To get to the second-hand shop.
Why does it take pirates so long to learn the alphabet? Because they spend years at c” not because it’s THAT funny but because it’s a relatively simple joke that nobody I’ve told it to has ever correctly guessed the punchline for because they all think it’s gonna be a joke about arrrr.
“Why couldn’t the pirates play cards? Because the captain was standing on the deck!”
The World Economic Forum
WEF has published a paper calling for an end to private automobile ownership by the masses. It doesn’t apply to your betters (ever).
White liberals constantly stoke emotions about the horrors of slavery. Let’s review: Slaves owned nothing. They got room, board, and healthcare until they aged out and were considered non-productive. This is the exact model that the WEF and Democratic Socialists pursue.
The WEF’s agenda is being executed in real-time. They exercise influence over the central banks and investment firms that control corporate financing.
It’s no accident the price of new and used automobiles has risen more than 40% due to artificial supply chain issues and production cuts by major automotive suppliers. At the same time, electric vehicles are scarce and selling on average for more than $60K per unit. The plan appears to be to force the serfs out of private vehicles altogether and has been in the planning stage for years. It is a control mechanism to promote migration out of the suburbs and into designated smart city centers with public transit options.
Both Ford’s and GM’s stocks are taking a beating because they posted $1 billion+ increases in supply chain costs. Automobile costs will increase proportionately.
Excellent exposition this morning. Our understanding expands on what we have discovered about God’s creation, it’s a progression. I look at DNA as a prime example.
WEF~And they became haughty in their own eyes. (Rom 1:30) Time for a little science to be dropped on their collective heads — whether we fully understand gravity or not it’ll have the desired affect on the bored wealthy. Seriously, who died and left them boss of the world?
“Both Ford’s and GM’s …” are happy to join the subsidized EV push. The former chairman of Toyota seems to be the only rational automotive executive around. He was warning of a lack of materials and infrastructure (including electric power plants of all types) to power this boondogle years ago.
The World Economic Forum-Shades of the UN Agenda 2021 which I believe now blends in nicely with UN Agenda 2030-Sustainable Development.
As an aside we just ordered an 023 Ford vehicle for spouse. Her 100,000+ mile 02 vehicle, long in the tooth, needs to be replaced. “Supposedly” the order and purchase agreement we signed doesn’t include the recently announced Frod price increases. Time will tell if the dealer is stand up.
Hegel has a valid point. For example even though we have recent proof that socialism’s side effects are mass starvation, politicized murder, and an overall net decrease in living standards people are still shoving it down our collective throats saying in effect “it will be better this time”.
Our understanding of science or the way things works definitely evolves as we gain information. But like any evolution there will be dead ends where we have to back track and start over in a new direction. As long as we as a people keep searching and trying to understand the end result will be as you say we will arrive at a worldview that accommodates all the evidence. Personally I look forward to the discovery of something that blocks gravity like a sheet of metal blocks light. That would be cool as all get out.
WEF. I second Paul M. Who died and left them in boss of the world. It will be bumpy but I believe that eventually what they propose will fail and society will become more rational. Public transportation may work okay in cities but there still needs to be a way to move independent of public trans.
The earth. Indeed. And if your projectile flies far enough, you will see that your target has moved.
Slaves. Excellent point. A bit disappointed I hadn’t thought of it myself.
Pirates. Maybe you have heard the one about the old pirate (peg leg, hook, and eye patch) regaling the young newbie with war stories (embellish peg leg and hook as you wish). When it came to his eye patch, the old pirate remarked that a seagull had flown close overhead. In reply to the newbie’s quizzical look he replied “It were me first day wi’ me ‘ook”.
WEF & Science – Whether they understand the science or not ballistics works just fine, and it is past time that each and every one of them receives experimental data firsthand.
Einstein was grasping at a unified field theory. Everyone still is, but when gravity is understood as something that is more tangible than just a force, and can be manipulated, the universe won’t be as vast.
I don’t expect to see that anytime soon.
When ‘SCIENCE!!’ is moving in the opposite direction from understanding, any progress will be a rare accident.
The Fowch Mengele, “Mr Science” to his DC Swamp pals, resembles your remark.
Perhaps the problem with Science is there is no precise definition of science or even what fields of study are Science?
We all know that we trust CDC, the font of all science. And Dr. Fauci, “Mr. Science”. We know that Environmental Science has progressed beyond mere inquiry and experimentation. It’s settled.
The quote about “science always changing” has some truth to it, but is astoundingly ignorant in other regards. Relativity didn’t replace Newtonian dynamics, which didn’t replace Galileo. Each successor refined or extended the range over which the prior models’ predictions worked. To some degree that’s only necessary as measurement abilities increase. Newton is still right as an approximation and is perfectly adequate for speeds and energy levels up to jet aircraft. The only place I know of in daily experiences where relativity is necessary is in the precision of GPS navigation.
By analogy, if you have crude tools and measure a hand cut circle, saying pi equals 3 might be good enough. As your tools for making things and measuring them improve, maybe you see pi as 3-1/8 or 3-3/16. You have to be measuring really enormous things to need pi to even the 10 or 13 decimal places that a calculator gives. To borrow your analogy, the behavior of gravity is observed to be proportional to the masses of two objects, divided by the distance between them squared. That has been observed for so long that the basic form isn’t going to change. Another “theory of gravitation” might refine that but that theory won’t go anywhere unless it gets the same results as the millions of measurements under the same conditions.
The old theories still work in the situations they were derived in, the newer ones just provide more accurate results over wider ranges. Saying “… Years from now everything we think we know could be wrong.” only applies in extremely unusual circumstances, or it only applies in the 10th decimal place and beyond. Is it possible we find some entirely new aspect of natural law? Yes, but it’s much like hitting the Lotto: even lower probability than that, but potentially a bigger “payout.”
You mean like phlogiston, Ptolemy’s epicycles, and spontaneous generation 🙂
I shall now remove my tongue from my cheek.
My point – and I’m bad enough at editing to have deleted it – is that really big changes that overthrow everything we know are exceptionally rare. Those you mention were hundreds of years ago. Phlogiston was dead by 1800 and epicycles were buried by Kepler’s laws of planetary motion in the 1600s. The last of those to go was pretty much killed off by the microscope and the discovery of sterilization in the late 1800s.
New technologies and new windows into the universe are the only places where even the chance of something like those changes can happen now. Much more likely is continual refinement of existing models.
The idea that science is self-correcting is in opposition to the idea that it’s always right. After all, if it’s right, it wouldn’t need correction. Those poking on the frontiers and pointing out places where the models aren’t working right are doing the important work.
Really big changes seem to require the passing of the old guard so that the newer people, with newer tech & newer info, can start the change process.
Scientists are people, with the usual variety of laziness, ego problems, and selfishness. This seems to be an issue for small changes as well.
I’ve had “She Blinded Me With Science” runnin’ thru my head all morning.
Bill Paxton as Chet…..he stole the show. RIP.
The Gods of the Copybook Headings, etc., etc., world without end, Amen.
Ah, science. Newtonian physics works for most things, until it doesn’t. Einsteinian physics explains Newtonian physics better than Newtonian physics does, but it’s more wordy, more equationy. So for most things, Newton works as a ‘good guess.’
And Quantum Mechanics is working on explaining things where Einsteinian physics doesn’t work, and for things that EP does work. But again, like EP to NP, more wordy, more equationy, more far-outy than EP so for things that ‘fit’ within EP, go with EP.
It wasn’t just the Greek that ‘proved’ the world was round. It was accepted by many peoples of the time that it was, just due to easily observable phenomenon. As my now-passed POS FIL said when swimming in the ocean, “You can see where the deep part is because it sticks up.” Seriously, easily observed phenomena. You can literally see the curvature of the Earth from hills overlooking big waters or plains. What he, and many others in other cultures, did was ‘prove’ the existence of roundness.
It’s like rogue waves. The scientific community didn’t believe them because there was ‘no proof’ that they existed according to the scientists. Until video evidence proved they existed to where the scientists couldn’t deny the waves existed.
Excellent, and we see the very same thing in ethics. “Oh, look at that tribe with such very, very different ways of doing things than you!” Therefore no ethical truth, no right or wrong.
The idiots who suggest this ignore the fact the no tribal, indigene, abo, whatever people took cowardice to be a virtue in war or, for that matter, that self-contradiction amounts to truth. They knew and know this, yet here we are.
Per CS Lewis’ Hideous Strength, I call demonic.
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