On The Scientific View of the World

Many people have a “scientific” view of the world. This means that the world operates according to the laws of science, i.e., there are no mysterious forces that cannot be explained by some combination of physics, biology, psychology, economics etc. It is a mistaken view.

The scientific view of the world can be summarized by this formulation:

S) The world is governed by science if and only if, given a specified way things are at a specific time, the way things go thereafter is fixed as a matter of natural law.

If you believe the scientific view then, insofar as it is about the world, the scientific view itself must be a scientific fact.

There two cases:

  1. The scientific view was discovered.
  2. The scientific view was derived from some previously proven scientific statement(s).

Considering the first case we must ask if we have discovered the scientific view. Unfortunately no one has yet found a theory of everything and therefore it hasn’t been discovered.

This leaves discovering the scientific view by taking our individual scientific theories and generalizing them to include everything. The argument is that we have many theories that predict many things and if we only had enough, everything would be determined.

However, our individual scientific theories merely predict what will happen. No individual theory makes the claim that it governs nature, only the statement of the scientific view above makes that claim. For instance take gravity: it says that matter is attracted to itself with a certain amount of force. Nothing about the theory of gravity limits nature to following the theory of gravity. It is likewise for every other theory: each makes a specific prediction but is agnostic on how to interpret this prediction. Science cannot tell us that it is fundamentally controlled by laws.

What is left, the correct interpretation of science, is that science is a method for making continually better predictions about what will happen. As soon as the jump is made to believing that nature is controlled by our predictions, then science has been left behind and the murky philosophical world has been entered. This is not to say that there are mysterious forces that cannot be explained by some combination of physics, biology, psychology, economics etc. (though there are and always will be) but that this belief is not scientific.