In order to better understand the strengths and limitations of the Natural Sciences: Engage in the following two activities below!
Scientists have always been, and will always be, limited by their own knowledge and their available tools of measurement. This is a major limitation of the natural sciences.
- With a partner or small group, brainstorm a list of old, false scientific conclusions.
- What evidence were these conclusions based on? Was the logic use to derive this knowledge deductive or inductive?
- Now identify the new knowledge or new tools of measurement that led to the supplanting the old false scientific conclusion.
For 200 years, Newtonian physics was the dominant theory about the movement of all physical elements of the universe. However, new technologies in the form of new measuring devices and new mathematics showed that Newton’s theories did not hold true at very small sizes or very large sizes (larger than planets).
- Does this mean Newton was wrong?
- Discuss how inductive logic failed in this example.
- Does the fact that Newton’s laws only applied ‘some of the time’ support the idea that mathematics exists ‘out there’ waiting to be discovered or the view that mathematics is an invented description of our observations?