Research: A Reflection on the Flaws and Philosophic Base of Natural Science

By ZhiXin Xu

Research: Social Science

People choose to pursue knowledge in different areas of knowledge for interest and/or the sake of livelihood. Affected by personal knowledge and beliefs, some people might contempt other AOKs' knowledge and take the natural sciences as undeniable gospel. Consequently, there are ongoing debates about the superiority of certain AOKs, especially discussing whether natural science deserves dominance.

The 21st century is the era of science and technology – the exponential boom of advanced scientific knowledge induced the earthshaking change of human lifestyle. For this reason, some people believe the knowledge in natural sciences is paramount among that of all other AOKs. Others argue that other AOKs serve equal importance as natural sciences since people's lives do not solely depend on physical satisfaction.

From my perspective, there is no solid justification showing knowledge in natural science should be regarded more highly than knowledge in other AOKs. By discussing the limitations and flaws of natural sciences' investigation methods, this essay can disenchant the lofty status of knowledge in natural sciences. In addition, this essay argues knowledge in the other AOKs has its own pragmatic value as crucial as knowledge in natural science for human beings. It's also uneasy for people to quantify each AOK's value, which makes the attempts to seek "solid justification" unrealistic. Solid justification means to include extensive evidence in all perspectives to demonstrate the superiority. Moreover, the judgment of value must follow standardized principles or criteria stipulated by human beings, while personal perspectives are usually biased.

The public marvels and unconditionally believes in the rigor and preciseness of theories and phenomena in the natural sciences. However, natural sciences knowledge can be inaccurate due to its investigation method, the scientific method. The scientific method is an empirical approach of procedurally acquiring knowledge that involves five steps: making observations, thinking of research questions, formulating hypotheses, developing testable predictions, gathering data/experimenting to test the predictions, and coming up with general theories. This investigation method has promoted millions of great discoveries since the 17th century, while it still has limitations in its operation process. Natural sciences, based on empiricism, suggested that knowledge originated from people's sense perception and experience. Thereby, especially in the experimental design and data collection sections, the method leaves space for data's artificial correction and interpretation. Since scientists build their knowledge on precursors' theories, laws, and research results, any intentional manufactured error can be vitally misleading to the whole academic community, and scientists should pay extra effort for correction.

One of the largest misconducts that caused a sensation in the academic world illustrated the ease of tampering with data. Jan Henrick Schön, a promising rising star in the academic community, has won numerous awards from renowned organizations and academic journals. In the field of nanotechnology, his contribution of field-effect transistors qualified him a tipped candidate for the Nobel Prize. Many scientists, however, noticed the non-replicability of his experiments and unreasonable data in two dozen papers. According to Malcolm Beasley, a professor at Stanford University, Schön substituted illustrations and data from other articles and deleted some data points to confirm his hypothesis. Scientists were saddened by him falsifying and destroying the original data. The panel reported that "This is a reckless disregard for the sanctity of data in the value system of science." (Nature, 2002)

This RLS verifies that the scientific method gives room for deliberately falsifying results. Moreover, overconfidence in the hypothesis proposed being true or false can influence the scientist's observations and interpretations of the results. Therefore, the defective experimental design sometimes makes confirmation bias unavoidable. Confirmation bias is the tendency for people to seek proof that confirms their prior beliefs, even at the cost of faking evidence and interpretations.

Some people endorse natural sciences considering scientists repair the flawed knowledge consistently through the scientific method to approach the truth. Indeed, many scientific theories and models evolve when more advanced technology and experimental procedures exist. The modern-day quantum atomic theory originated from ancient philosopher Democritus, overturned by Dalton, Plum Pudding, and Bohr model, further elucidate the atomic structure (Helmenstine, 2019). Scientists in different eras adopted new technologies and conducted new experiments using the scientific method to amend the past knowledge, while other AOKs could hardly update their knowledge scientifically.

However, we cannot deny the immaturity of some natural science knowledge, although we honor the contribution and devotion of scientists. Since at the early stage of the research, limited proof and research methods are not enough to prove the truthfulness of knowledge. Modern technology also challenges and repairs knowledge in arts and other AOKs. All the AOKs should not simply rely on a single research method but should be verified using multiple trials and proof to consider the knowledge as “truth”. In short, sanctifying knowledge in the natural sciences is tantamount to admitting as truth knowledge that may be false. Owing to natural science's imperfect investigation method, it deserves further scrutiny to challenge its superior position in people's minds.

Second, knowledge in the arts and other AOKS has unique, irreplicable utility as essential for human well-being as knowledge in natural sciences. From the point of view of pragmatism, natural sciences knowledge has high pragmatic value for solving real-life problems to benefit people's lives. In contrast, people may ignore the practical value of the arts dedicated to human benefits from a more metaphysical angle.

In this RLS, Music, a crucial component of art, played a decisive role that could even affect history. The first war that occurred in the electronic age was WWII, meaning that soldiers and the public could listen to music at any time during the conflict. Various genres of music gave people different spiritual power and emotional response. One of the most popular patriotic songs, "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition," written by Frank Loesser, became the troop song that boosted the soldiers' morale. This song recorded the heroic feat of a chaplain who valiantly defended the land in the Pearl Harbor War. While listening and singing the music, the US soldiers fighting against the Nazi army united spiritually and felt vigorous to defeat the enemy. Other lyric songs comforted the soldiers' homesickness to maintain their mental satisfaction, which helped them triumph over the combats.

Although knowledge in the natural sciences helped the production of lethal ammo, the key to victory is still the morale and tenacity of the soldiers. Only having swell-equipped weapons is never enough for success. In other words, not even one of physical power and mental spirit can be omitted by people in daily life and during battles. Knowledge in natural sciences only satisfies fundamental physiological and safety desires in Maslow's hierarchy of needs. In contrast, knowledge in the arts can be at the peak level — self-actualization of morality and creativity — the ultimate pursuit of people (McLeod, 2020). The satisfaction of a higher level of mental needs brings people the ultimate sense of happiness and well-being.

Again, some people may disagree and believe that arts are just icing on the cake of the natural sciences since people can still live a joyful life without the knowledge of art. For instance, if residents in some primordial regions can have stable electricity and modernized equipment, their life can overturn completely with innovative lifestyles. With more stable food sources and more safe shelter, their quality of life can be vastly improved, enhancing their general well-being. In those people's view, human has no difference from animals since the essence of life is survival and reproduction.

However, what distinguishes humans from animals is the pursuit of spiritual richness. The quest for spiritual fulfillment keeps humans motivated in the quest for knowledge. Without it, we would stagnate. Even primitive tribes develop their pieces and forms of art when their basic survival needs are satisfied. For this reason, pursuing spiritual satisfaction is the inevitable trend when fundamental desires are met. Unlike external physical stimuli, arts give more intrinsic felicity, restoring emotional balance. The Catharsis, purification of emotions, results in promoting the construction of the spiritual world. Moreover, knowledge in art is not limited to individuals and small communities' benefits but can reflect the human wisdom and culture in an era. Thus, spiritual needs helped descendants better understand the feature of a time through various resources.

In conclusion, there is no solid evidence verifying knowledge in natural sciences superior to knowledge in arts and other AOKs. By giving evidence of, firstly, knowledge in natural sciences has gaps for unreliability, so it does not deserve the undue reliance of people. Second, knowledge in arts (and other AOKs) contributes to human society just as much, if not more, than knowledge in the natural sciences. Thus, all AOKs have their own pros and cons, while they are all indispensable from human life, making them equally essential for society and human well-being.

In terms of wider implication, instead of provoking the antagonism between different AOKs, it's more practical to investigate how the combination of AOKs brings humans more convenience. The ultimate purpose of studying each field is to convert more personal knowledge to share knowledge as part of the treasure and wisdom of the human knowledge palace. In fact, in the 21st century, the fusion of knowledge in different AOKs gave people new insights into troublesome questions. Radiocarbon dating of C-14 of the paint layer, an example of arts and natural science fusion, identifies modern paint forgeries. Thus, the categorization of knowledge is not for contempt and opposition of AOKs, but the development and prosperity of human civilization.


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