Science and the Necessity of Reason

Editor’s note: This article is part two of a five-part series, Truth in Modern Times.

So today, let’s start with the modern core idea about knowing that “only” science gets us to real truth.  That scientifically verified truth is the only real truth, the only factual and actual truth.  For this is the primary and pervasive modern truth claim.  This is the primary assertion about truth.  An assertion that precludes any possibility for finding truth beyond the confines of science and mathematics.  A truth that trumps all other claims about knowing truth of any and every kind. 

For our modern primary principle for knowing, our core idea about truth is that science and math are the singular sources of truth.  Everything else outside of science and math are just matters of opinion or collective cultural beliefs or shared social norms.  Nothing more. 

So, let’s begin with what we know.  Let’s begin with science.  First of all, science is certainly a source of truth.  It is certainly a sound source for truth.  And, the many different sciences are reliable reservoirs for different kinds of truth.  Just think of the long list of science’s many fields of study and research.  Think about the “pure” research component of the sciences.  Or, think about the “applied” practical side of the many sciences.

Think about all we have come to know through scientific research and the empirical method.  Think about all we have come to know over time, particularly over the last three centuries of our accelerated modern development.  Think about the cumulative knowledge mankind has acquired.  And, think about some of the latest advances in science, engineering and technology and how some of these advances have altered our previously held scientific knowledge and understandings. 

Notice too, how science moves not merely in cumulative ways, but in ways that entail a greater maturity and sophistication, a more accurate and more precise understanding of crucial core truths about the nature of the physical realities the many sciences investigate.  It is the modern marvel and a crucial means whereby we have mastered and managed many of the challenges of our physical existence.

But, though we have acquired such knowledge and used this knowledge to understand many scientific things, though we have applied this knowledge to achieve many things and to change how we live our lives in space and time, what is science?  Why is it so effective?  And, what is science based on?  Is science a pure method in and of itself?  Or, does it employ and rely on another way of knowing throughout its experimental processes and its many extrapolations and applications?

If you pause for just a minute, what guides its methods and what standards does it submit to every step along the way?  Well, doing science isn’t possible without reason and logic.  For science really isn’t a singular and a pure way of knowing.  It is a composite way to know.  For science continually relies on and applies the rules of reason and logic in all aspects of its research and application. 

And, this is crucial.  For this is the meta-cognitive stuff, the thinking about thinking thing mentioned in the first article in this series.  For the modern world has misunderstood reason and its rigor and power, unless that rigor and power is used in empirical scientific research, both pure and applied. 

For science uses reason at every step in the empirical process, from hypotheses development right through to its verified and replicated results and applications.  Every step.  Every time.  Everywhere.  Science relies on reason.  And, science is replete with reason.  Reason is its guide and ground.  Its critic and its champion.  Its sum and its substance.

And, all the sciences are replete with this implicit and intentional, this ubiquitous and critical reliance on the rigors of reason.  For science isn’t really a separate way of knowing from reason and logic.  Science is really just reason applied to aspects of the physical world in all its immensities and its minute matters.  For science is only science if it meets all of reason’s rational rigors and demands.  Rigors of causality and methodology.  Rigors of implication and extrapolation.  Rigors of application and analysis.  Rigors of replication and review.

Just think for a moment how pervasive reason is in all aspects of the scientific method.  Reason is crucial to examining its targeted phenomenon.  To exploring how to best examine the targeted research phenomenon.  To understanding and proving its findings.  To applying and extrapolating its laws.  To indicating and compelling the need for further research and refinements. 

And, given all this, understanding just how important reason and rationality is in science leads us to two crucial and inevitable questions, particularly for those moderns who believe science is our only way to know with real certainty.  Can science be science without the rules and rigors of reason?  And, can reason’s rules and rigors reveal other truths beyond the physical world of the sciences? 

Those two questions will be explored in tomorrow’s article in this series entitled “Truth and the Restoration of Reason.”  So, come back tomorrow as we take on these two crucial questions.  Just remember and reflect upon the absolute fact that science of any variety is not possible or effective or accurate unless it is grounded in, guided by and evaluated by reason and its many rigors. 

And, remember science is not a separate way of knowing from reason.  Science rests on reason’s rigors.  Science is replete with reason.  And, science is not science without reason’s many rigors. 

So, our primary way of knowing anything is with reason, logic.  And, science is simply the application of reason’s rigors to the physical, material universe.

Photo by Ken Cheung on Unsplash

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Mr. Cronin has studied on a graduate level in education at Harvard University and at the University of Connecticut, in leadership at Columbia University and in theology at Regent University and Holy Apostles College and Seminary. He also writes regularly for The National Catholic Register and appeared on EWTN’s The Journey Home with Marcus Grodi following his 2007 reversion to the Catholic faith from atheism and evangelical Protestantism.

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