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Context : PhilosophyOfScience

The "folk" notion of science OnScience is that it chases them.

Quora Answer : Are we today as wrong about any scientific fact that is widely accepted as the belief that the earth was the center of the universe and the like?

Dec 20, 2013

Probably. But we have to remember that most of those beliefs we talk about people holding in the past weren't held by them as though they were hard scientific facts. Because they didn't really have the concept of hard scientific facts that we have today, which includes the idea that such facts are the result of a fairly rigorous process of experimentation, peer-review and debate.

Most of those beliefs would be held by people more in the way we, today, hold what we consider common-sense facts about the world that we haven't really thought about too much.

There's probably a lot of nonsense masquerading as "well known fact" lurking in things like economics and sociology because we haven't really got a good way of doing controlled experiments on economies and societies. So we rely on the pre-scientific or "folk" understanding of these things. Much as people in the medieval period had "folk" cosmology.

In addition, we might well be wrong about a bunch of stuff in cosmology and particle physics, but it's likely to be really obscure stuff that most people don't really understand or know about any way. And the revisions will be to extremely abstruse models.

There's a hell of a lot we don't understand in biology. But it's mainly about the details of very complex mechanisms. Probably not the broad outline. We aren't going to suddenly discover there's an elan vital.

However there is one important possibility which John Ringland hints at. There is a quiet real possibility that future generations will find themselves abandoning some of the fundamental assumptions of scientific materialism. That isn't to say that we'll revert to some kind of religion or mysticism. But there are definitely awkward problems, usually discussed in philosophy, which scientific materialism has pretty much been set up to fail at. How can there be consciousness and multiple perspectives on a single material universe? What the hell is causation between different events in time? What are scientific "laws" and do they hold?

I think the most dramatic, and yet plausible, shock you might have if you were to be frozen for 500 years would be to find that people in the future didn't care very much about scientific knowledge. Sure, they'd rely on a bunch of science underlying their technology. But much of science that had any practical impact on that technology would have been long settled, and scientific progress would be rather boringly incremental refinements of complex models which kept churning out of powerful computers running massive pattern matching programs against enormous sets of data produced by myriads of sensors. Science wouldn't be a thing people paid much attention to or held romantic notions about.

Instead, it would be seen as a rather crude, mechanical exercise. A back-water which works because certain artificial constraints imposed on it make it tractable for machines to keep calculating but unable to address the important questions of metaphysics. These future people would be more excited by the wisdom in anecdotal stories from heroic explorers of transhumanity (galactic travellers, body and mind hackers) and philosophical and artistic fashions which offered answers to the mysteries that science can't touch.

I wonder if the above is also the result of TheEndOfConsensus

Obviously, under my PopperianEpistemology PhilosophyOfScience thinks that all "facts" are basically "guesses" (ie. conjectures)

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