Is there any difference between scientific knowledge and scientific theory? (For Ragman)

Reply Wed 13 May, 2015 09:42 pm
In another thread*, Rags and I had slightly different answers to the same question involving "science."

* http://able2know.org/topic/277402-1#post-5952583

As you can see (if you look) I said that what he would call "scientific knowledge" I would probably call "scientific theory."

He seems to indicate that he didn't understand why I would do that. So I thought I would elaborate here, and anyone with different views could also throw in their two cents worth, if they want.

As I see it, when we talk about "knowledge" of the physical world, then we are talking about what we take to be "facts." But, as far as I can see, there are no "scientific" facts, as such. We have knowledge of some empirical facts, no doubt, but that alone does not make them "scientific" facts. They're just facts, plain and simple.

Such a "fact" might be that grass "is" (or at least appears to the average person to be) green. Science only enters the picture when you attempt to explain "why" grass is green. That requires some hypothetical explanation (a hypothesis).

Such hypotheses (or postulates) are the beginning of a "scientific theory." At that point, "science" enters the picture (but not before, really). But these hypotheses are merely theoretical. They are not, themselves, "facts."

What has sometimes been called "scientific knowledge" over the years is not really 'knowledge." At best it is deductive conclusions drawn from hypotheses (which may or may not be consistent with what is then-currently believed to be "fact"). "Scientific knowledge" is really an oxymoron. No theory can ever be proven to be "fact." Hence you can't really claim that it consists of "knowledge."

That make any sense to you, Rags?

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Reply Wed 13 May, 2015 10:04 pm
I guess the underlying premise of my statements is that we can only be said to "know" facts. If you want to say that we can "know" what we call opinions, beliefs, subjective certainty, etc., then you would definitely arrive at a different position than I have taken. That is, if we can be said to "know" things that are not facts, then what is called "knowledge" would encompass many more things. Virtually everything, actually.
Reply Sat 16 May, 2015 11:31 pm
For starters, we have to pick a field of science as to what constitutes a theory as it is different in most branches .
Reply Sun 17 May, 2015 08:08 am
Like what, for example, Ionus? Offhand, I would think that the general definition of (and criterion for deciding) what a "scientific theory" is is pretty uniform across the board and independent of subject matter.

What am I overlooking?
Reply Sun 17 May, 2015 11:10 pm
In Physics alone, there are different definitions of a theory . If I am demonstrating something by holding a glass above a hard floor and dropping it so it shatters, I could be demonstrating a law of physics and suggesting a theory . Engineering is based on these sorts of practical experiments based on theory .

In sub-atomic particle theory, I will see a large amount of mathematical calculations and sensor readings . Scientific theories are testable and make falsifiable predictions . When you only have one Hadron Collider it is difficult to confirm a theory as most scientists are dependent on the one set of data . If that is wrong, then we are off in a strange new direction with some basing new theories on those theories, despite a lack of proof .

Chemistry is fairly rock solid in that many of its theories have demonstrable outcomes . Astro-physics not so much as we cant make a star .

Theories themselves have been tested and proven wrong but had quite a following in their day . Einstein was wrong, Hawking was wrong, Newton, and so on .

Some theories are not testable at all . Evolution of large animals for example . We can not wait for thousands of years to see it happen so we rely on a theory as to how it might have happened . We can demonstrate the theory of evolution on a microscopic level but does that translate without amendment to large intelligent animals ?

A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that is acquired through the scientific method and repeatedly tested and confirmed through observation and experimentation.
Many of the sciences have to modify that or they wont have any theories at all . Many, like GW, cant use the scientific method to gather data . They can not repeatedly test as in the example of the Hadron Collider .

A lot of theories are in fact hypothesis because they lack methodology, repeatability and sheer visible evidence . That they become theories is based on their popularity with scientists . These scientists have a need to fill the gaps and will just as quickly swing to a new theory when a better one comes along .
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