Fundamental Science is Dead?

Science obviously is extremely useful and our best guide for bettering the world (with occasional retrograde). But I wonder if what scientists are really doing is figuring out how the shadows on the cave wall work and not how the world that produces the shadows work. I mean they can infer something I guess, but it sure seems like at this point they’re just guessing, and “hiding” behind the complex math and acting as if what they’re doing is studying the world outside the cave. I’m talking about the theoreticians, not the workaday engineers and scientists who deal with the shadows.

I think you have this backward.

What is the short definition of science?

“Science is the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” - Google dictionary.Aug 7, 2011

Science does not make survival better, applied science does… difference.

An argument can be made that applied science has the potential for making the world much worse. Our applied science has not done a very good job in making the world better. It has made humans into an “invasive species” that replaces all native species.

I may refer to what you call, ‘fundamental’ science, “foundational”.

By “foundational”, I am referring to learning from the very foundations of all subjects from the way it was historically learned, including digressing sideways to other areas of philosophy at each point of confusion. The advantage of studying it this way is that you begin with philosophically questioning everything by step by step how the original “natural philosophers” did AND, where you might get stuck on a question, by not moving on until you understand and can resolve the issue, you internalize the knowledge better than the present paradigm of learning.

The contemporary way (from 1960s on, sometimes labeled, “post-modern” where “modern” refers to the era of the mid-1700s to 1960) is to begin by first establishing an abstract overview of what has already been accepted without being permitted to question how it came about. Then, in follow up stages, you go back over the whole and add more details to a higher level of abstraction until you get mastery over most of what all the past people have discovered. Then you teach the correlated subjects side by side similarly but in isolation of each other.

This works realistically for many practical reasons but has its disadvantages that risk the underlying logic that leads to closure in understanding with confidence. Some are most fortunate to be able to do both. But this expectation requires having a very ideal home life that is often coinciding with their parent’s economic conditions as ideal.

Einstein and his generation were the symbolic end of this paradigm because of the recognition that students of the 1950s post war era were less willing to invest in a foundational type of education that requires a high degree of self-motivating interest to understanding what they learn. If we had to use the foundational approach alone, getting a formal degree in anything might take even more years of schooling for simpler resulting career needs. How for instance, should one expect all jobs to require a complete understanding all there is to know?

The realization of this came from the launching of Sputnik which intimidated the Western sense of superiority when most people were preferring not to go into studies involving a deep understanding of science.

On the other hand, those like myself, find that understanding the foundations makes you understand a given subject with a greater degree of precision and enhances one’s precision to the invested subjects of interest.

A combination is ideal and is available in this era of the Internet. But it requires society as a whole be able to make this possible. That is, we’d require whole societies to be relatively more ‘spoiled’ with access to a variety of resources and with a minimal standard of living sufficent to take advantage of learning both foundationally and by abstraction.

I once made a comparative description of these forms of learning using the infrastructure of a skyscraper in the core of a city. I’ll leave this for a later possible digression but in general think that respect has to go to both major paradigms of thinking which can be summarily thought of as “bottom up” (foundational) or “top down” (starting from where your identifying ‘floor’ is before learning about what lies under the surface). Both general classes of learning likely use both but set priorities to one or the other for practical reasons.

Science is discovery, the acquisition of knowledge. It is not inventing nor is it engineering. Mathematics is a language invented to describe groups of objects (ex.: counting), relationships among objects (ex.: statics, dynamics, statistics) and characteristics of materials subject to the dynamic nature of the environment (ex.: mechanical, chemical, electrical).

I suggest that if the math seems complex, it is because we have not yet developed an ultimate unified understanding (theory) of how everything works. We use math to describe interactions among objects in our environment in a piecemeal fashion because such segregation works well for everyday aplications. I believe the consensus is that if we do develop an ultimate unified understanding (theory) it is likely to appear to be mathematically quite simple, what the theoreticians call elegant or beautiful.

If there is anything obvious I suggest it is that our best guide for bettering the world is our innate morality allowing logic to restrain our ability to rationalize actions.

Your understanding of science and mathematics seems limited.

Science is the study of how things work so that we can imitate and satisfy natural behaviors, permissions, and restrictions and mathematics is the only universal language that can codify these behaviors accurately and consistently .

As a NASA engineer once stated; In the applied sciences we don’t have to do it just right, we have to do it just right enough. And that is how they managed to land rovers on the Moon and Mars.

Without mathematics that would be impossible given the complex mathematics required to accomplish those feats. Moreover, science and mathematics are morally neutral, because all technology (applied science) can be used for both constructive and destructive purposes. That is a whole separate area of human behaviors, restrictions and permissions.

Natura Artis Magistra. (Nature is the Teacher of Arts and Sciences).

A while back there was a thing called “the big picture”. There was also a saying about not being able to see the forest for all the trees. There are some who don’t seem to recognize what the “Ph” in PhD stands for. I think one wil do better in science if he understands our approach to science rather than all the little technical details.

Your coment that we do science “so that we can …” presumes a motivation for doing science beyond our natural curiosity. Wanting to know is the basic driver for science. Wanting to profit from knowledge is not morally neutral. We are capable of rationalizing almost anything, including doing things just because science says we can do them. Science won’t restrict what we do with knowledge, our morality is required.

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(Fundamental Science is Dead?), a statement or a question? Maybe this is referring to science previous to the 1980s. Many new sciences were appearing a few decades ago, human paleontology for example was one of them and not then in a position to juxtapose the biblical creation story with the scientific biological evolution of the human species. Modern science has advanced lightyears both methodologically and technologically in recent years; modern science can access information the ancients never thought would be possible.

IMO, modern science rests on the shoulders of the dead scientist that came before. As with all things science is an evolving discipline.

In the end, only theories that withstand the test and scrutiny of time survive as being accurate representations of universal properties and behaviors.

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