Stef Manisero – Week 2: Thornton and Katzmiller

September 13, 2011 at 3:31 am | Posted in Week 2 | Leave a comment

In Thornton’s article, the life and scientific beliefs of Karl Popper are extensively assessed. Popper believed that there was not one single, unique method that functions as the path to scientific theory but, however, theories can only be reached by intuition. He claimed that science starts with problems that lead to observations, rather than the other way around, for he believed that expansion of human knowledge comes from the attempt to solve problems. Thornton discusses Popper’s assertion that scientific theories are unable to be proven, for they can only be confirmed or refuted through the process of testing and retesting. This relates back to Popper’s opinions on falsifiability, which is where he claims that a theory can be disproved through falsifying, but that it is impractical to falsify a theory.

The Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District trial dealt with a great range of issues, including, but not limited to, education, ethics, science and religion. The main dispute came down to the question of whether Intelligent Design (ID) was considered a matter of science or religion. It was eventually decided that requiring the teaching of ID with the help of the textbook “Of Pandas and People” was a violation of the Constitution, for ID is a form of creationism, and therefore, a religious matter.

Both articles question the boundaries of science – where they begin and where they end. Because there is no exact definition of science, these boundaries will likely never to be set in stone, yet will, most likely, always remain ambiguous. As Thornton argues, Popper had a different attitude towards the scientific theory than most other scientist, for Popper believed it was the wrong approach to go out and look for things to observe and study, but rather to wait for problems to occur, and then study why such things are happening. In the Kitzmiller trial, the boundaries of science are, again, ambivalent, which is why the case caused so much debate in the Pennsylvania town. Where some people may argue that intelligent design is matter of science worthy of being in a science textbook, others may view it as a subject of religion. I believe these uncertain and imprecise boundaries in science will forever remain up for debate.

Then question then becomes, how do we determine where to draw these imaginary boundaries from case to case when they are so ambiguous and, essentially, imaginary?

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