Science

Science does include logic—statements that are not logically true cannot be scientifically true—but what distinguishes the scientific way of knowing is the requirement of going to nature to verify claims. Statements about the natural world are tested against the natural world, which is the final arbiter. of course, this approach is not perfect: one's information about the natural world comes from experiencing the natural world through the senses (touch, smell, taste, vision, hearing) and instrumental extensions of these senses (e.g., microscopes, telescopes, telemetry, chemical analysis), any of which can be faulty or incomplete. As a result, science, more than any of the other ways of knowing described here, is more tentative in its claims. Ironically, the tentativeness of science ultimately leads to more confidence in scientific understanding: the willingness to change one's explanation with more or better data, or a different way of looking at the same data, is one of the great strengths of the scientific method. The anthropologist Ashley Montagu summarized science rather nicely when he wrote, "The scientist believes in proof without certainty, the bigot in certainty without proof" (Montagu 1984: 9).

Thus science requires deciding among alternative explanations of the natural world by going to the natural world itself to test them. There are many ways of testing an explanation, but virtually all of them involve the idea of holding constant some factors that might influence the explanation so that some alternative explanations can be eliminated. The most familiar kind of test is the direct experiment, which is so familiar that it is even used to sell us products on television.

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