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Science is obsolete for some things.

If by science we mean, “A collection of knowledge based on reproducible examinations which are conducted by outside observers, even hostile non-believers, and still found to be valid. It is a process of trying to guarantee the trustworthiness, and reliability of every aspect of the methods as well as of the data itself, and the conclusions. Science sets as a goal to achieve Trustworthiness TST~14. Good scientific conclusions are presented in such a way that they are transparent in every way, and can be easily disproved if they are wrong in any way.”

The general goal of this type of science is an accurate collection of knowledge which has a tight relationship with reality. But, this type of knowledge is a map of a conceptual territory it is not the territory. As George Box said, “All models are wrong, But some are useful.” A map of a city may help you find an address which you are seeking. If your map is up to date, and accurate you can find your goal quickly, but even if your map is old, and badly worn it may still work just fine. However, as soon as you expect something from a map, new or old, that wasn’t intentionally inserted into the map by the map maker, you are going to have problems. Google maps has come to the rescue, to some extent, by providing actual aerial photos to overlay their current maps from which you can sometimes discover data which a map maker would never put into a map. For example, one might be interested in something transient like the color, and perhaps the make of cars parked at public parking lots in different places in the world. That type information would never be on a map because it is carefully eliminated. Other data is also coming into being with these real world characteristics like the Google book project which shows actual photographs of the pages of many books as well as their computer read, and searchable text. This is like the map, and the photo of the territory which can be overlain upon each other. The next step is to overlay foreign language translations upon the photo image, or next to it. Soon, if not already, you will be able to look at a gene sequence, and then look at the proteins it makes, and perhaps the life form it creates. Perhaps, this could be reversed where you design a life form to solve some problem, and then instruct the program to create the gene sequence which would create such a life form. When we look at this in five years we will probably add a half a dozen other obvious things which we should have included which have by then made some kids into billionaires, or super-villains.

Science attempts to find underlying laws for the behavior of things, and this is useful, like a map, because it helps us humans, with our limited capacities, to understand things, and to predict behavior. But, in the emerging era with access to vast amounts of organized, and disorganized data with searchable qualities, sometimes we don’t need maps to find what we are searching for because we can find it directly. So we don’t need the models provided by science anymore for some kinds of understanding. Science is becoming a placeholder for those kinds of things which we don’t have access to directly, just like some people’s God, is a placeholder concept for the unknown actions at the borders of current scientific knowledge. Perhaps the data of experience itself is becoming a placeholder for actual current living experience.

These ideas were derivative of my 2008 June 13th blog, Does science make belief in God obsolete? and WIRED Magazine July 2008 page 108 THE END OF THEORY by Chris Anderson.

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