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Thread: What characteristics make up a science?

  1. #1 What characteristics make up a science? 
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    Hi everyone,
    I'm doing a research project on the public understanding of science.
    I'd like to know what you think constitutes a true scientific study. What aspects of a study make it scientific?
    Which topics count as true sciences from the following category and why?

    anthropology, biology, chemistry, economics, math, physics, political science, psychology philosophy, sociology, statistics (include any others I've forgotten)

    Any comments are helpful, even sarcastic ones pointing out previous posts that covered this topic.

    Thanks


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    I don't think modern people could include philosophy in the general perception of science.

    Including others will be far too many .... in the earth sciences alone we have geology, oceanography, glaciology, seismology, and a couple of dozen friends. You'd also need ecology and its army of associates. Astronomy, cosmology, astrophysics? You'd be better off with categories a bit like those we use for the forums here.

    And you'd get some argument from a lot of people about including political science and economics alongside the others. I'd be happy with mathematics and statistics but not everyone would.


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    Etymologically, science comes from the Latin scientia = knowledge, understanding, from scire = to know. In this general acceptation, most domains can be the object of some form of science.

    In my opinion, science is more a matter of methods, intellectual rigor and integrity, and is founded on the determination of objective and verifiable relations.

    Someone may speak of physic or chemistry whithout any hint of science : Have a look at the Trash Forum, for some examples.
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    We all know that. But the OP project is about the public understanding of science.

    So, would the average newspaper reader take economics or political science as naturally belonging in the science category? I'd think not, but others might have another view.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
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    Hi Adelady,

    Roughly, I split the public in two parts:
    • me : I gave my opinion on the subject : there is no scientific domains, only scientific minds. For me, many economic studies are scientific.
    • the rest of humanity : I don't have the meanest idea of what is its conception of science. I read that for some people, the only valuable science is the study of the Book (call it Torah, Bible or Qran). But I have no proof of this, so I prefer not to mention it.
    Patrick.
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    What aspects of a study make it scientific?
    For most of us here, the big issues would be
    1) appropriate collection of necessary data. In some sciences, chemistry and physics being the classical laboratory-based sciences, this is by experiments designed to test a hypothesis. Many more sciences like astronomy and oceanography rely on observations of natural phenomena.
    2) Analysis based on relevant theory backed up by accurate use of mathematical and statistical techniques.
    3) Conclusions must be repeatable. Conclusions must produce testable predictions.

    Note that repeatable and testable may be a bit of a confusing issue for the general public. We do not need another Large Hadron Collider to deal with 'repeat' and 'test' of the work done there. Simply doing an exact copy of an experiment or procedure is not worthwhile scientific activity. The only time scientists do exact replications of previous work is when they have been unable to produce the kind of results predicted by others. They do this to test whether they are making an error or whether there is a problem in the way the work was described initially.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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    I agree that science is literally knowledge or knowing. There are many ways of getting knowledge which all have there merits. It seems like there is a conception that true science is only obtained through a rigourous methodology a bit like Adelady's points for scientific study, that is a robust and consistant way of deriving knowledge, but I think this overlooks the true essence of the word science and all that it encompasses. Every thing we know is science including what we learn in social situations as well as what we learn from reading a science paper or doing a survey or experiment. Science is not only what we know from following a strict 'scientific method' and recording our findings. Though I think there is a sense that 'true science' does result from a rigourous scientific method of enquiry. I can't help but consider that a misconception of the word. It's all science.


    As far as the formal system of classifying sciences is concerned, I don't really see the point, I suppose it is a way of orgnising the collective pusuit of knowledge. It seems to me that as science is the pursuit of knowledge it will be necesary to have interdiciplinary scientists and endevours so that we understand the wisest ways to act with the knowledge we've gained, it seems to me that the way we categorise and label the different areas of knowledge in the classical education might possibly be a hinderance to a better understanding of how to live collectively and sustainably. Many of the most fundamentally profound questions which we would like to know the answer to have to be answered by studying many if not all of the classically divided sciences, questions such as 'how can we avoid polluting and destroying the Earth' and how can we overcome 'greed and violence in general?' need to be tackled with an understanding of " biology, chemistry, economics, math, physics, political science, psychology, philosophy, sociology, statistics (include any others I've forgotten)" Geology, Astronomy, Astrolgy (strickly speaking), Domestic science?, partical physics is a specific branch isnt it?, rocket science, Botany, the law is an area of science one would hope, your better of checking wikipedia for some references...
    List of academic disciplines - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Branches of science - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    It might be possible to group together certain areas of study under a new lables which might encourage a different type of thinking which leads to different experiments and discoveries. We'r being taught from left right and centre that everything is connected so surely science should be one, not thought of as seperate unrelated areas of interest, but connected and interelated parts of the whole recorded knowledge and understanding that we call science. Our science is our guide, and therefore our scientists need to have a full understanding of all relating categories of science before they are fit to give advice to the public. Thats my concern about 'mental categorisation of sciences as seperate, divided, or unrelated pursuits'
    Good luck with your researh project, im just a member of the public so I thought i try to give you an opinion that you may be able to quantify or something, plus some other randoms opinions and thoughts on the matter of 'true sciences'.
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    Our science is our guide, and therefore our scientists need to have a full understanding of all relating categories of science before they are fit to give advice to the public.
    It is no longer possible to be a "renaissance" man or woman. The time and effort it takes to become expert in say tropical forest ecology, or fluid mechanics, or astrophysics, or epidemiology is just too much for any single person. It would take a whole lifetime of concentrated work to try and cover those 4 fields, and keep up to date with the ones you mastered earlier, while entirely ignoring glaciology, veterinary science, coral reefs and electronics.

    What we really need is more respect and training for people who combine the virtues of say philosophy of science and investigative journalism and marketing and report writing. Even when you have an international panel of scientific experts put together reports for organisations like WHO, or the IPCC, you still need people who can transform these heavily technical documents into material readily understood by policy makers, industries and politicians.

    These are the people who have to find the money to run immunisation programs or compensation for fishing boats banned from exclusion zones or training programs for new technology needed to deal with a whole swag of problems. And they don't just have to find the money, they have to prioritise which expenditures get priority over others. Do we put all of our few eggs into finally getting rid of polio in its last few regions or do we use some of the limited funds to improve clean water and sanitation, or flood protection, in the same areas? These are not easy decisions, ever. No matter what you do, people will die for want of the thing you don't get done.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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  10. #9  
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    I love all of your replies, and you are helping this project a TON! I have another question for you. What are your interpretations of this XKCD comic about the purity of different intellectual pursuits?
    xkcd: Purity
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  11. #10  
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    And as a final product to contribute to science, that study would be peer reviewed and vetted by a professional organization with editors, standards of publication, and members holding an education and experience in the same or a closely related fields. This last bit also confused many people, including too many journalist, who can't distinguish between valid science sources and opinions or pseudoscience.
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    It is no longer possible to be a "renaissance" man or woman. The time and effort it takes to become expert in say tropical forest ecology, or fluid mechanics, or astrophysics, or epidemiology is just too much for any single person.
    Hmm thats why I was trying to suggest that we have scientists 'labled' or categorised under a broader heading such as 'rain forest saviours' which ia a pertinant problem... the scientist would need to be clued up in how rain forest ecology works, but wouldn't need to be an absolute axpert on everything rainforesty... this frees up time for them to also learn the necesary aspects of politics and economy and psychology and sociology which enebles them to be true experts when it comes to 'saving the rain forest', for example. They would not be true experts in each of those fields, but would have enough expertise from area of each of those fields which would make them true experts at solving a problem we face. At the educational level certain aspects of each of those classic sciences can be carefully selected to educate a 'rain forest survival scientist' for want of a better classification which apeals to young scientists.

    Not sure what I think of the comic brendan... it seems a bit silly to be judging each pursuit on it's pureness. Maths is like some kind of language of numbers, it can be applied to many problems to make predictions... such how how force will act on a rocket, or how fast signals move through nerves perhaps... but on its own without something to apply it to, it is worthless. Maths is surely most useful for applying science to technology?

    I dont think any of them are pure... I think they are all contaiminated by each other.
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    You're asking how the general public views science, but I don't think there is a general consensus. For me, science is about the methodology. If you apply proper methodology toward building a functioning understanding of how something works, you can call it a science.

    As per your list, I wouldn't really consider philosophy a proper science. It's more of an ongoing thought experiment. But it's produced a lot of great quotes.
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    Philosophy is an intellectual pursuit which takes information from various feilds of science, probably all feilds of science, and aims to work out the meaning of life and the best ways of living... I presume.

    Isn't it like philosophy is one intellectual branch which actually unites the finding of all the sciences into something that makes sense? So couldn't it be the most important field of science we have? Not only does it take from all feilds of science, but its finding feed back into informing scientists in all fields.

    It is a form of knowledge, it is scient, so the idea it is not a science becuase it doesnt do its own experiments following a rigorous methodology... is surely a misconseption?

    It's informed by all science including science gleaned through the most formal of scientific methods... In fact isnt it philosophy of science which invented the scientific method in the first place???
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    Philosophy, I'm afraid, is much like all academic pursuits. Everyone is specialised into sub-groups. Just as there are particle physicists who can't be relied on to tell you how thermodynamics works in the climate, there are logicians in the philosophy faculties of the world who may as well be the general public when the subject of ethics comes up.

    Philosophers of science might be handy for some technical issues - if they just happen to have concentrated on particular scientific issues in their own work, You'd really need to see an example of their work when you ask them to generalise rather than specialise before inviting them into this kind of minefield. Many of them would be just as unsuited to this kind of work as chemists who've forgotten everything they ever learned about organic chemistry because they've only ever worked on minerals.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    Philosophy, I'm afraid, is much like all academic pursuits. Everyone is specialised into sub-groups. Just as there are particle physicists who can't be relied on to tell you how thermodynamics works in the climate, there are logicians in the philosophy faculties of the world who may as well be the general public when the subject of ethics comes up.

    Philosophers of science might be handy for some technical issues - if they just happen to have concentrated on particular scientific issues in their own work, You'd really need to see an example of their work when you ask them to generalise rather than specialise before inviting them into this kind of minefield. Many of them would be just as unsuited to this kind of work as chemists who've forgotten everything they ever learned about organic chemistry because they've only ever worked on minerals.
    So who is ever going to be able to make use of all the detailed knowledge? will it ever be brought together to work out the best way to live?, the thing that it was surely meant to figure out in the first place.

    Or is it all just put into some library for people who are willing to pay when they need to know something relating to a bussiness project or technological development.

    Public money should be spent on making sense of the sciences relating to sustainable evolution of life. There should be a law that science is not to be used for anything which exploits any aspect of the environment in an unsustainable way. So that any technology should have to proove scientifically that it is completely sustainable and has no adverse affects on any environment.
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    The people who have to put it together are politicians, economists and policy advisors.

    Simply put, social decisions have to be decided by societies, not by specialists. At any one time, there will be engineers wanting bridges to be maintained or upgraded, doctors wanting public campaigns on flu vaccinations or cancer prevention/screening, social workers and charities wanting more emergency housing, unions wanting stricter safety standards in dangerous occupations. The list is never-ending - and that's just the life saving interventions - add in education, environmental, foreign policy matters and look at your list again. Then you add in all the special interest groups like various industries wanting tax rebates or government provided training for their workforce or compensation for changing rules or regulations - that list is also endless.

    There should be a law that science is not to be used for anything which exploits any aspect of the environment in an unsustainable way. So that any technology should have to proove scientifically that it is completely sustainable and has no adverse affects on any environment.
    In itself, that is also a matter that must be decided and implemented by politicians, public services and legal systems. And they'll never get to make that decision in the first place if the society they govern, for whatever reason, is more interested in weapons manufacture or "freedom" for individuals or businesses to carry out their personal and profit-making activities 'unhindered' by governments or space exploration or using their surroundings as just another set of resources they can exploit than in sustainability. If sustainability gets a high priority, that will be only because a culture already values it or because voters in democracies elect governments with those priorities.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
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    Voters do value sustainability and the future of their own offspring.

    Politicians primarily value there own sucess and are willing to lie in order to achieve it... they all value business and economic growth, becuase they are greedy dumbass cretins.
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  19. #18  
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    That kind of unfounded emotional outburst is not going to help your cause.
    "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." -Calvin
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    Voters do value sustainability
    Have you ever seen what happens to a politician who suggests that mining or forestry or other extractive or destructive industries in an electorate should be restrained in any way? Might cost some, many, all of them the jobs they currently have? They lose. They might argue that there'll be more jobs in new industries in the same area. They still lose.

    Sustainability is a luxury item for many voters. An unaffordable luxury. They certainly won't give up more than a day's pay for it.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    That kind of unfounded emotional outburst is not going to help your cause.
    Thats was not an unfounded emotional outburst, it was not even an outburst... I'm not responsible for how you choose to interpret those words, that is beyond my control as always.

    Your comment was certainly more unfounded than mine... it also seems to be an 'emotion' based comment... you have 'sensed' something, you have 'felt' that my words were emtionaly driven... your wrong, you have not analysed the possibilities critically enough. You certainly have nopo idea how well founded my comments were in reality.

    But, I did rather generalise. I stand by it. Bloody pathological nearly every single one of them, and stupid too. Very unwise people with 'nurtured conceptions' of reality. Not independent and thoughtful perceptions.

    Mind you, I don't blame them or hold it against them.

    I feel very little emotion in connection with these thoughts/observations.
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    Voters do value sustainability
    Have you ever seen what happens to a politician who suggests that mining or forestry or other extractive or destructive industries in an electorate should be restrained in any way? Might cost some, many, all of them the jobs they currently have? They lose. They might argue that there'll be more jobs in new industries in the same area. They still lose.

    Sustainability is a luxury item for many voters. An unaffordable luxury. They certainly won't give up more than a day's pay for it.
    yes I know.

    In my opinion in a so called democracy... The election is won by the media, the media is sponsered by big bussiness. Thats why the only people who make it into politics have an outlook and perception which is acceptable to the big bussinesses that run the world and societies within it.

    Anyway, a politician doesnt have to mention these plans in an election.

    Maggie thatcher upset the miners and unions, but she already had her feet under the table. That seems to have been not just about saving our coal, and getting it cheaper abroad... but also about crushing the power of these unions who were starting to get too powerful for comfort.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    That kind of unfounded emotional outburst is not going to help your cause.
    P.s what makes you think i have a cause? maybe my cause it to express my 'emtions'... in which case surely it will help my cause?

    P.P.s human beings are emotional creatures... emotions are good, they are natural, they are powerful.

    I cant imagine life without emotion... How is it? oh thats right, you dont know. You have no 'feeling' of how it is, weather its good or bad, joyful or sad, It just is.

    I have no reason to think being a drone like 'emotional retard' is the best way forward.
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    My point was simply that generalizing politicians as greedy, selfish monsters does not help further the cause of environmental responsibility. You don't need to lose your emotional connection to a cause. Passion is a powerful driving force. I would just suggest you direct it in a most positive manner. Spend your time and energy on a solution or on education, not on attacking people you think are part of the problem. As we uncover more evidence behind our impact on the environment, the ignorance of those who fight for the old mindset is naturally exposed.
    "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." -Calvin
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    My point was simply that generalizing politicians as greedy, selfish monsters does not help further the cause of environmental responsibility. You don't need to lose your emotional connection to a cause. Passion is a powerful driving force. I would just suggest you direct it in a most positive manner. Spend your time and energy on a solution or on education, not on attacking people you think are part of the problem. As we uncover more evidence behind our impact on the environment, the ignorance of those who fight for the old mindset is naturally exposed.
    I did originally aim my attack on the 'culture' of politics and I blamed that for educating (rearing) people who are conditioned to continue things pretty much as is suited by the blue print of society. Any that have 'radical' ideas which go against the established order tend to find it hard to get on, if they do manage it they may struggle to get media support or support from bissiness.

    calling me uneducated is just an insult... please direct your passion in a more positive manner before you tell me to do so.

    A solution? my solution is to expose the 'ignorance of the old mindset' whenever possible and hope it is seen by the right people who are in a position to do something.

    No offence intended to politicians who think for themselves, and do the right thing by 'the people' and by the environment as much as possible. Much respect to those.

    Sorry but I don't like the way they the majority all talk the same, as if they have all been to the same schools and universities and taught by the same teachers and education system. Then continuosly generation after generation we see the same corruptions, lies, quangos, filling of pockets, it's institutional corruption of people who started off meaning well but now have to do what they have to do to protect their own livelyhoods.

    It doesnt get to everybody, im sorry for generalising... It was tongue in cheek to be honest and emotion didnt come into it. Emotion is just a reaction to conscious thoughts so speaking of it in terms of an emotional reaction is simply an attempt to make it seem invalid on grounds of low intelligence... Which is lame.
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    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    calling me uneducated is just an insult... please direct your passion in a more positive manner before you tell me to do so.
    Maybe you misread my post. I never called you uneducated. I said your comment was unfounded and emotionally-driven.

    It could also just be the way forums cloud intent, but your posts just come off as very defensive to me.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    Maybe you misread my post. I never called you uneducated. I said your comment was unfounded and emotionally-driven.

    It could also just be the way forums cloud intent, but your posts just come off as very defensive to me.
    My comment was perhaps emtionally driven... in that case my emotions were driven by the intellectual thoughts I have had on the subject. Therefor the comment was both emotionally driven, but more fundamentally intellectually driven. Why highlight its emotional drive and ignore its intellectual drive... it seems pointless in an intellegient conversation, yet it will give the impression to some that my comment was not based on intelligence but emotion. I don't like that.

    I also don't think much of my comment was unfounded and don't like that suggestion (at least justify your comment).

    My comment was meant to come off as slightly defensive, thats because your comment came of as offencive, in parts.

    P.S suggesting I 'educate' myself is effectivelly suggesting i'm uneducated. Calling my comment unfounded and emotionally driven is implying im stupid.

    If your prepared to judge me, then spare me the lecture about me judging others, pulease.
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    Science is the true essence of all knowledge, wisdom, art, architecture, music, culture; ..... in short the process by which humanity; survives and progresses.

    Although we witness that the orientation missed or view adversely; ..... is contrary to the very essence! :- MdShafiqM.architect,
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    Quote Originally Posted by MdShafiqM View Post
    Science is the true essence of all knowledge, wisdom, art, architecture, music, culture
    Is science necessary to be wise? To be an artist? A musician?

    in short the process by which humanity; survives and progresses.
    For progression maybe, but not for survival per se.

    Although we witness that the orientation missed or view adversely; ..... is contrary to the very essence!
    Er, what?

    (I must say that in view of a declaration in your very first post - the distinctly unscientific one - your first sentence here strikes a rather jarring note).
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