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What are science and reason?
Humanists expound the virtues of science and reason. But what are science and reason? And we should we think it wise to rely on them?
By science, I shall mean that approach to finding out about reality based on the scientific method. This is a method that was fully developed only a few hundred years ago. Science, as I’ll use the term here, is a comparatively recent invention, its development owing a great deal to 16th and 17th Century thinkers such as the philosopher Francis Bacon(1561-1626).
So what is the scientific method? Here’s a rough sketch. Scientists collect data through observation and experiment. They formulate hypotheses and broader theories about the nature of reality to account for what they observe. Crucially, they then test their theories. Scientists derive from their theories predictions that can be independently checked by observation.