I don’t think I can do this without a look fairly long explanation. Let me try to make it as brief as I can.
We need to understand that science cannot produce truth. That is not to say that it is not a good way of knowing certain things, and I am very much scientifically-oriented. But it cannot, in principle, produce truth.
Let’s look at the basis of science. It is a logical argument, called “the syllogism.”
- Major Premise(Antecedent): If I have the flu, I have a sore throat
- Minor Premise (Consequent): I have a sore throat
- Conclusion: Therefore, I have the flu
Now, the key here is to prove the antecedent true, not just the consequent. In fact, if I prove the consequent or minor premise true, it does not at all prove the conclusion is true. It is actually a logical fallacy called “affirming the consequent.”
The syllogism was then changed to an IF/THEN statement. In logical form, it is the same thing. IF sore throat, THEN flu. In this case, the major premise or antecedent was merely assumed.
All science is based on this logical fallacy of affirming the consequent. That’s why Popper and others have argued that you can never prove a major premise true but can only show that certain things are false. Science is not dispositive, it just gives you a forum to argue why you think you saw what you did. And your conclusion might be both correct and logically invalid. The major premise is just assumed and in fact can never be tested.
See, the conclusion is true If and only If every other conceivable explanation for the minor premise or the consequent is ruled out. Not likely explanations, but conceivable ones. That’s why people like Cook and Campbell went to such great lengths to delineate the threats to the validity of the conclusion. Mainly, they are threats to the If and only if aspect of the consequent. It is an argument. The fact that you have ruled out these other explanations only increases the strength of your argument. But let’s not be confused. This is persuasion, not a demonstration of incontrovertible fact unless you can rule out all other explanations, which you never can.
All science is based on affirming the consequent, not the antecedent. It is therefore logically fallacious and simply cannot get us to truth in a Cartesian sense (you know, Renée Descartes and his method of systematic doubt–the only thing he can know for sure is that he exists, because he knows he’s having a thought, and his having a thought is proof that he exists).
What does this all mean? In means that any scientific result is platform upon which you can stand to say why you think you found what you did. In other words, it allows you to explain and argue your major premise. It by no means proves that major premise.
This is not a fault in execution. It is not that you just didn’t do it right. No, it is a flaw in principle. To argue otherwise is just to stamp your foot and demand in a juvenile tantrum that things be different than they are.
Does that mean that science is not a great way of knowing? Not at all. In may, though, mean that science cannot bear the weight you put on it. That is not the fault of science. That is the fault of scientists. So look to science for utility, not TRUTH.