Global Eminence Program


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"Never a Blind Faith, Especially in Science"

2017-11-28 | 관리자

“Science, based on empirical evidence, is more reliable than other systems
of knowledge, but it is not completely above personal bias. Blind faith is
always dangerous.”

“To properly understand the nature of science, a philosophical mind is necessary
to question the basic premise of science that scientists take for granted.”
On January 17-18, 2017, Professor Hasok Chang of the University of Cambridge
lectured at Kyung Hee Global Forum for Humanities and Social Studies (GFHSS).
Professor Chang is a renowned philosopher of science often compared to Thomas
Kuhn. In 2006, he jointly won with Harvey Brown the Lakatos Award for his book
Inventing Temperature: Measurement and Scientific Progress.

This year’s GFHSS was held between January 6 and 18, 2017, on the Seoul
Campus with the title “Looking out into the future from the window of the past.”
Two special lectures and one seminar were offered, and this two-part series will
introduce the 
lectures and the seminar. In this second installment of the series,
after Professor 
John Ikenberry of Princeton University, the focus is on Professor
Chang’s lecture and seminar.

“’Why does one believe in science? Why must one believe in science?’
We must ask the philosophical question”

Titled “Experiencing and Knowing: human sensory experience and scientific
knowledge,” Professor Chang opened his lecture with a rhetorical question:
“Why does one believe in science?” The reason for the scientific claim of reliability
lies in the empirical knowledge built upon various experiments and observations.
But he warned against a blind faith in science saying, “Although the empirical
experience that is the basis for scientific knowledge is the best possible evidence
that we can have, it is still not completely free of personal bias and the innate
limitation of human experience. Therefore, scientific knowledge must be
continuously examined for its validity and claim of reliability by philosophy
of science asking, Why must we believe science?'"

“In humility, one must be prepared to question one’s own beliefs”
Professor Chang named Galileo Galilei’s heliocentrism as an example of
philosophy of science. When geocentrism was accepted as undisputable truth,
Galileo successfully argued for Copernican heliocentrism. One of the main
objections to the motion of the earth is the so-called “tower argument” which
claims that, if the rotation of the earth is true, an object falling from a tower
should not drop vertically but in a westward slant. This argument appears to
make sense from the empirical, everyday experience in our lives. But Galileo
penetrated the false assumption embedded in the argument: if the rotation
of the earth is true, only an observer outside the earth (and thus unaffected
by the rotational relativity of the earth) can judge whether the fall is vertical
or slanted. Since no such observer can be produced, the tower argument
cannot be conclusively proven either way and is thus irrelevant until its key
component is established.

Professor Chang said, “It is essential to always remember that science is only
a set of hypotheses and to constantly reexamine all presuppositions that we
hold to be undisputable truth. It is thus necessary for all scientists to adopt a
philosophical mindset to question and discover hidden ignorance in them that
they were previously unaware of. Not only in science but also in politics and
social interactions humans tend to subconsciously edit their experience, and
this personal bias can lead to a variety of individual interpretations of a single
empirical event. One must be keenly aware of this noetic process and make
efforts to safeguard objectivity by clearly distinguishing the empirically observed
facts from subconscious bias and interpretations, so that the observer may
approach the essence of the subject matter unhindered and unconfused.”

“We need to train expert communicators who can bridge sophisticated
scientific knowledge and the public”

Professor Chang also criticized the current state of Korean science education
that primarily focuses on memorizing bits of scientific facts without building
a system of scientific thought. He said, “While science is part of mandatory
education curriculums in Korea, the current state of science education
demanding every student to blindly memorize and regurgitate scientific factoids
is actually doing more harm than good. We need to begin our science education
by teaching students a scientific mindset with which they can process scientific
facts they learn, however elementary, that can eventually develop into a full-scale
philosophy of science.”

He also emphasized the educational need to train expert communicators: “As
science becomes increasingly more sophisticated, interdisciplinary convergence
is becoming more difficult to achieve and the gap is rapidly widening between the
latest level of scientific knowledge and the level of comprehension the public can
afford. Post-secondary institutions need to train excellent communicators who are
also experts in science and capable of bridging the gap so that the public can
make an informed decision based on the proper knowledge of latest science.”



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