John Watkinson considers science…

As I have found it so beneficial in my own life, I want to say something about science, not only perhaps what it is, but also what it isn’t.

First and foremost, science is not a belief structure. Those are ten-a-penny and because they are based on belief, anyone can believe anything without expending any effort and it’s inevitable that different beliefs will arise and in the wake of that may be disagreement or even conflict.

As belief structures are accustomed to attacking one another, they tend to treat science as if it were another belief structure, when not only is it not based on beliefs, it is not a structure either. There is no scientific equivalent of the Vatican or Mecca; to be scientific you don’t have to belong to an identifiable group. You don’t have to wear a white coat and be absent minded.

Science accepts only one thing, and that is nature: all of it, from sub-atomic particles to the universe. It’s a way of trying to set down how things are, as demonstrated by nature. The advantage of knowing about nature is that it becomes possible to predict to some extent what will happen if bits of matter are combined in some way. Those bits of matter might create something useful, like a microphone or an airliner, or they might combine chemically and blow us up. 

A scientific approach does not just allow us to design stuff that has a chance of working; it can also help to prolong life. I shall never forget as a schoolboy when the porter came into our classroom to replace a light bulb. The replacement didn’t work and the porter decided the little springy pins in the socket needed some attention. He produced a small coin and pushed it into the socket.

I would not have dreamed of doing that and I thought that everyone would know why it was unwise. The inevitable explosion followed by darkness was then followed by gales of laughter when it was realised the porter was still alive.

My childish mistake was to think that because I knew something, everybody else knew it. I didn’t realise that that most people had no idea and I only knew because my father was an electrician.

Another key thing about science is that in order to make it useful its predictions should be

(contd)
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