Every day, I encounter a new challenge to the idea that things can and should be open and real.

Be it social, political, or personal, serious or trivial -- every time, I ponder the implications.

I hope you'll join me in the conversation!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Nature of Science

For someone without any formal training or practice in science, I usually don’t do too badly when reading science and/or medical journal articles. That said, I really had a hard time with this recent piece on the ethical issues and evidence surrounding public campaigns to promote breastfeeding as superior to formula. http://jhppl.dukejournals.org/cgi/reprint/32/4/637 For some reason my comprehension was just not strong on this one.

About the time I gave up, my eyes landed on these sentences: “It is all too true that the American public does not understand the concept of risk. They also do not understand the nature of science. Science does not answer questions, in the simple sense of the phrase – it refines them incrementally in its approach toward understanding natural processes.”

Now the study author had my attention!

I love the idea of the refined, incremental approach to understanding something. It seems so important to internalize the idea that we are always in the process of understanding something, and that complete understanding is an unrealistic goal. It’s this kind of thing that illustrates the relationship of faith and science and their overlapping dimensions, not their stark opposition in every case. I can switch a word or two and get another sentence that works for me, “Faith does not answer questions, it refines them incrementally in its approach toward understanding spiritual processes.”

It seems to me Bohr’s principle of profound truths applies. It is not faith or science, it is elements of each that illustrate the best, most comprehensive version of understanding our world. To view them as always in opposition reduces them to trivial truths or just plain false statements.

Which does lead me to just plain false statements, of which plenty exist in any realm of human endeavor……more on that soon.

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