Jack Oughton - Is Cosmology A Science 04.pptxPresentation Transcript
Is Cosmology a Science? ba Jack Oughton
Context of Quote “I suggest that there are no good reasons to deny cosmology the status of a proper science. On the other hand, I also consider it natural, and a sign of health, that such foundational questions continue to be part of the cosmological discourse.” -Kragh Extrascientific developments can and have influenced the development of a science Extrascientific arguments come from sources not recognized as scientific; non scientific journals, eg books, journals outside of science*
Defining Science – My checklist Before I make an argument I must indicate my definitions. Does cosmology have these? From Latin:Scientia; meaning knowledge* ☑ Gathering data ☑ Analyzing data ☑ Conducting Experiments with controllable variables ☐ Rigorous Peer Review** ☑ Developing theories and making predictions ☑ Can it be falsified? ☑
Scientific Philosophies – is science a science? What is science anyway? Methodological naturalism :scientific investigation must adhere to empirical study and independent verification as a process for properly developing and evaluating natural explanations for observable phenomena. – The ‘current’ paradigm Critical rationalisminstead holds that unbiased observation is not possible and a demarcation between natural and supernatural explanations is arbitrary; it instead proposes falsifiability as the landmark of empirical theories and falsification as the universal empirical method* This was Karl Popper’s greatest contribution to science… A 'scientific' theory can be falsified but never verified, because the next advance might always change the underlying assumption that precedes it.
Taking this idea further.. Robert Anton Wilson stated that there is no objective vantage point from which science could verify its findings since all findings are relative to begin with. All understanding and experience is framed within the constraints of human consciousness* –Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle If we affect what we are observing, and are trapped by our perception – can completely ‘empirical’ science exist?
Defining Cosmology from Greek:kosmos, "universe"; and logia, "study" Cosmology as a umbrella term encompassing many disciplines that deal with the universe – ie EVERYTHING in space. As mentioned before we have built our prior world view with fields that are extrascientific. Eg. Religious cosmology. Therefore cosmology on the whole cannot be a science Exploration on this scale can challenge scientific rationality–The point of using a scientific method of inquiry is to ensure that the fallible cosmologers doing the research don’t become spiritually invested in their work* The routes to this higher understanding are often spiritual on nature. I for one would not want to live in a spiritual vacuum. We must make the broad distinction between metaphysical cosmology and physical cosmology. There is a place for spirituality, but not in science.
Cosmology In The Past - Metaphysical Cosmology is as old as humankind. Once primitive social groups developed language, it was a short step to making their first attempts to understand the world around them. Very early cosmology, from Neolithic times of 20,000 to 100,000 years ago, was extremely local. The Universe was what you immediately interacted with. Cosmological things were weather, earthquakes, sharp changes in your environment, etc.* Things outside your daily experience appeared supernatural, and so we call this the time of Magic Cosmology. Magic cosmology uses un-falsifiable explanations to explain causes For example; God /a supernatural being creates the universe. But we can’t go and ask God if he created the Universe And we can’t see prove or disprove this in an experiment** This is not a large spiritual leap to organized belief systems – a few thousand years later…. comes RELIGION!
Religion This disempowering system leads to millennia of humans taking everything on ‘faith’ Instead of using rational inquiry to discover and challenge, new developments are accepted only if they validate what we already believe. Contrary advances are suppressed The goal of research at this time is Saving the theory. Verification, not falsification. Theologists reinforce, scientists undermine. At this time cosmology is certainly not a science, at least not in the Christian West.
The Rise of Physical Cosmology Cosmology as a science originates with the Copernican principle This implies that celestial bodies obey identical physical laws to those on earth, and Newtonian mechanics, which first allowed us to understand those motions. This is now called celestial mechanics. Now we can apply standard laws to everything on our scientific framework. There are still underpinnings of faith in Newton’s perfect clockwork universe.* Physical cosmology, began with the twentieth century development of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity** This understanding the relationships between energy, matter space and time give us a scientific sandbox to play in. Advancements in technology allow for better and much more accurateastronomical observations of extremely distant objects.
Advancements in science are met with humans discovering a universe larger than previously thought. Mathematics gives us figures of mind blowing size. Could a paleolithic man comprehend how big a parsec is? Prehistoric period: Universe is what I can see around me Ancient Greece: The universe is confined within the space of the celestial sphere and the starry canopy. Post Great Debate*: Galaxy: The galaxy is not the universe? Next step: The universe is not the multiverse? And the god of the gaps: [the idea that God is used to explain what we haven't worked out yet] gets smaller and smaller…*
Arguments for Cosmology's foundational observations are fully repeatable. We can reconstruct experiments on a larger scale with digital models and computer simulations. Cosmology now relies on the physical sciences; drawing heavily on the work of particle physicists' experiments, and research into phenomenology and even string theory; from astrophysicists; from general relativity research; and from plasma physics. Cosmology unites the physics of the largest structures in the universe with the physics of the smallest structures in the universe. Kosmos Logia indeed!
Continued – Experimental and Observational Science There is a distinction between experimental sciences and observational sciences. As a science Where one can distinguish between law- bound and contingent properties in ‘local’ physics, this is not possible in cosmology. Bondi, who considered cosmology to be necessarily phenomenological, expressed the difference as follows: We have got to take the motion of the universe, and not its law of motion. It is boring to describe separately the motion of the apple and of the moon and so on. But if there is nothing but one apple falling, then you would be silly if you did anything but describe that motion Studying the whole preventing the study of it’s parts..
A religious adherence to Physical Cosmology? Cold dark matter, a notion accepted by the majority of cosmologists, has not been proven. It is taken on faith.* Cosmology’s parallel with religion. Both deal with big but probably unanswerable questions.
Going beyond either /or answers – Cosmology as the sum of it’s parts? Physical Cosmology has many facets within it: consider it could be science and not a science; 1. Science: CMB, Hubble flow, Big Bang - Hard scientific fact. We've got strong evidence to back them up.2. Science Fiction: Higgs boson, String theory. Though yet not accepted beyond hypotheses, these may become science in our lifetime.3. Religion: Strong Anthropic Principle, Multiverse, Fine-Tuning argument.4. Art: Einstein's field equations. The FLRW metric. Beauty in mathematical elegance.
Argument Against “Cosmology may look like a science, but it isn’t a science” says James Gunn of Princeton University co-founder of the Sloan survey. “A basic tenet of science is that you can do repeatable experiments, and you can’t do that in cosmology.” The impossibility of observing the beginnings of the universe.
Contrary Opinions… The goal of physics is to understand the basic dynamics of the universe,…” - Michael Turner cosmologist at the Univ. of Chicago …“Cosmology is a little different. The goal is to reconstruct the history of the universe.” Cosmology is more akin to evolutionary biology or geology, he says, in which researchers must simply accept some facts as given.
My verdict, conclusion and why As an entire discipline, no. As previously mentioned, the accepted definition of cosmology takes into account the attempts to understand the physical and metaphysical universe around us with elements of enquiry that were taken and deduced from pre empricial and non scientific disciplines However, I believe Physical cosmology is, and as an observational science! Broken down further… Observational cosmologyis science Theoretical cosmology is anessential supporting discipline, but it is speculative and its conclusions are theory dependent. It is not a science yet. This is fine so long as we don't mistake current consensus for evidence [falsify don’t verify]
Heisenberg and Wilson’s insights challenge what science is and our suitability to judge it and the results we get. Cosmology is an immensely valuable field that has the difficult task of combining multiple sciences and philosophical disciplines. The study of everything within the universe is a massive and unwieldy framework without a unifying scientific framework. Perhaps cosmology may become the unifying science???
References Cho, A., COSMOLOGY: A Singular Conundrum: How Odd Is Our Universe? Science Magazine.
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Johnson, I., Immanuel Kant: Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens. Vancouver Island University. Available at: http://records.viu.ca/~Johnstoi/kant/kant2e.htm [Accessed December 8, 2009].
Kragh, H., 1999. Cosmology and Controversy: The Historical Development of Two Theories of the Universe New Edition., Princeton University Press.
Kragh, H., The Controversial Universe: A Historical Perspective on the Scientifc Status of Cosmology. Physics and Philosophy. Available at: https://eldorado.uni-dortmund.de/bitstream/2003/24422/1/008.pdf [Accessed December 4, 2009].
University of Oregon, History of Cosmology. Astronomy 123: Galaxies and the Expanding Universe. Available at: http://abyss.uoregon.edu/~js/ast123/lectures/lec01.html [Accessed December 8, 2009].