Re: "What is Science" FAQ, draft 2

Ken Clements (
Mon, 20 Sep 1999 23:03:26 -0700

KPJ wrote:

> Scientists make models on the data they get from the universe using their
> (enhanced or non-enhanced) senses. According to our senses, the data comes
> from an outside world. As far as science is concerned, we could all
> be living in Matrix-like chambers getting all our sense data from an AI.
> Whether the sense data universe ``is'' the ``real'' universe is irrelevant
> to science. Many people believe (religion!) that this holds, however.
> Even scientists do that. That does not make it science, though.
> Science tells us what the (sense) university _does_, not what it ``is''.
> Philosophies and religions discuss the ``is'' part.

"It depends on what your definition of 'is' is." I might also add "The Universe is as the Universe does", however, I do agree with you for the most part, and should have been a bit more careful with the "is" part. For most scientists, the end product is the model. The more that can be predicted by the model, the more they feel that they have accomplished. And I think the best do have a desire to know what the Universe "is" but this cannot be complete.

Your comment about being inside Matrix-like chambers is very close to what is going on in your own head. The part of your brain that thinks about the outside world does not get the direct sense data, but is given a composite VR by the autonomic parts of the rest of your brain. You can do little visual experiments on yourself to see the flaws in the simulation, and researchers learn more by study of those who have major defects in parts of the system.