General Paper – Discuss the view that too much faith is placed in scientific knowledge.
Full essay outline

Contributed by: Admin

 

Introduction

  • Discovery of ‘Higgs Boson’ particle is a crucial first step to explaining why things have mass, paving the way for scientists to probe the origin of life
  • Ability of science to explain many previously thought unexplainable phenomena –> increasing reliance
  • Excessive belief placed in science and such belief could be easily misplaced since science is also susceptible to bias and uncertainties
  • However, still the most reliable source of knowledge we have –>  thus faith placed is justifiable and not excessive

 

Too much faith is placed in scientific knowledge:

Scientific knowledge today is based on theories and postulates, thus cannot be objectively verified

  • Naively and unquestionably accepting what science tells us –> putting excessive faith in scientific knowledge
  • Basic premise of scientific research is to form hypotheses, then prove them via experiments – however, many hypotheses cannot be proven objectively –> either due to the fact that they are extremely big or small thus cannot be directly observed to give us an explanations
  • Example: J.J. Thomas postulated that electricity is conducted by electrons, but till today, no one has actually observed electrons conducting electricity because of their small sizes –> but schools still teach this scientific model as an absolute truth

 

Scientific fraud becoming more prevalent

  • Scientists are not omnipotent or omnipresent, some of them have imperfect moral fibre which choose to pervert science to suit their own vexed interests in desire to publish papers in prestigious journals to earn fame and glory –> some scientists have fabricated experimental data to suit their hypotheses
  • 2% of scientists, in a survey, acknowledged anonymously that they had unintentionally manipulated experimental results, and the cases of scientific fraud are merely the tip of the iceberg
  • Some people unaware of the dark side in the scientific community would have placed too much faith in science

 

Faith is justifiable and thus not excessive: 

Scientific knowledge is built upon thorough consensus-seeking, thus improving its reliability

  • Centred on discussions and debates between scientists to express own opinions on experimental data à increases subjectivity in science, allowing scientists to point out others’ blind spots –> complementing each other
  • Example: Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection + Gregor Mendel’s Pea Experiment = Neo-Darwinism (combination of each aspects of the separate theories)
  • Example: Japanese Stem cell scientist Haruko Obokata produced errors in her research that were unreproducible by other scientists when she claimed she has produced STAP stem cells experimentally
  • Discussion process in the acquisition of scientific knowledge makes science more reliable –> our faith in science is thus justifiable and not excessive

 

Scientific method provides a dynamic and robust framework by producing accurate experimental results to prove theories

  • Theories in scientific knowledge are often postulated from facts and backed by experimental data
  • Scientific method requires experiments conducted to be reproducible à scientists can reproduce the experimental data just with the look of the scientific research reports published
  • Checking mechanism allows frauds to be uncovered, preventing fabricated results to deceive public <– Example: Korean Scientist Hwang Woo Suk stem cell research fraud
  • Thus verified facts allow for our faith in scientific knowledge à faith is justifiable and thus not excessive

 

We do not blindly believe in scientific knowledge, and we often can judiciously question the theories put forward

  • Evident in areas where no proof can be offered such as in astronomy – Big Bang Theory still remains a theory today as there is no concrete tangible proof –> most people still take this theory with a pinch of salt
  • The ease with which old scientific models and theories can be discarded and replaced precisely with new ones when there are new findings –> show that we do not put too much faith in scientific knowledge (Isaac Newton’s law of gravitation vs Einstein’s theory of general relativity)
  • We are thus critical of scientific knowledge and not putting too much faith in it

 

Conclusion

  • It might seem that we are over-reliant on science in explaining the world –> such faith is not misplaced as science is generally reliable
  • Also, we maintain healthy scepticism for scientific theories, allowing them to be replaced if the need arises

 

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