imagination or creativity in the evolution of scientific truth (week 3, blog 1)



“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.”
Joseph Chilton Pearce

“No amount of skillful invention can replace the essential element of imagination.”
Edward Hopper

“The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.”
Jean- Jacques Rousseau

“I haven’t failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work”
Thomas Alva Edison

“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
Albert Einstein, What Life Means to Einstein: An Interview by George Sylvester Viereck, for the October 26, 1929 issue of The Saturday Evening Post.

So this week we are integrating into our conversation how science approaches the idea of establishing “truth.” Hopefully you have read Stephen Jay Gould’s essay Sex, Drugs, Disaster, and the Extinction of the Dinosaurs and Craig E. Nelson’s Skewered on the Unicorn’s Horn: The Illusion of Tragic Tradeoff Between Content and Critical Thinking in the Teaching of Science.

Gould introduces us to the process of how science develops their claims, and through example he shows us what criteria has more value in establishing a viable scientific theory. His essay illuminates the challenges that Nelson describes in his essay.

Nelson discusses the challenge science professors have in assisting college students develop critical thinking skills while learning science, and that part of this challenge is addressing how scientists process their relationship to the subject. His answer is that students don’t need to necessarily think harder– but they need to learn to think differently. They need to understand scientific reasoning as applied to content, or how to think critically about information, or how to think more complexly about the subject. The development of these effective critical thinking skills is one of the primary goals of a liberal arts education.

To begin our thinking on this subject, what are your thoughts about the following:

What do you think the essence of science is? As a discipline what is science’s motive?
How is establishing truth in science different than in other disciplines? What role does imagination and creativity play in the process of the scientist in establishing truth? Is there an absolute truth in science?


How does science use these terms to evaluate the strength of an argument? Are they used differently than other disciplines?


21 Responses to “imagination or creativity in the evolution of scientific truth (week 3, blog 1)”

  1. 1 brianpolashuk

    I think the essence of science is finding and observing theories based on prior principles and facts. I believe the motif of science is to fill in all of the empty spots of knowledge that we have yet to discover. Take for example Psychology, we look to psychology on a day to day basis to discover the truths behind many different relationships between human behavior and thought processes. We don’t study things we already know, we look to learn and educate ourselves further everyday. Finding out the unknown is what drives scientists. Establishing truth is a lot different in science than other areas because science is based on agreed theories, principles, and facts. There are a few things in science that are opinion based or just guesses. I believe that all scientists must have good imaginations in order to think up theories and make generalizations that spark their research. Some of the most unique and mind boggling findings come from research that others would look at as “silly” or “a joke”. Considering that our knowledge of science is continuously growing and changing, I don’t think there is a set and defined truth. This can be seen by the change of Pluto from a planet, whose to say whether or not other things will change in years to come. I think values, assumptions, and opinions all influence and determine how an argument will be geared and focused. I think facts arewhat truly strengthens an argument. While hypothesis is what you’re argument is trying to prove. In other disciplines, I think values will play a larger role in influencing others, and assumptions and opinions can mean more in making a stronger argument.

  2. 2 derekroz

    I believe that the essence of science is to further the knowledge of mankind through observation and experimentation. As a discipline science can have many motives. A scientist in a medical field may have the motive to assist others in the name of science. A scientist working with NASA may have the motive to discover another form of intelligent life.

    Establishing truth in science is different than in any other field, because scientific truth has a bit of absoluteness to it. For example, a hypothesis is put into question and then experimented on. The experiments then yield a result to either support or disprove the hypothesis.

    Imagination and creativity of a scientist are a necessity in establishing truth. Maybe a question that seems impossible to solve through science could be solved with a bit of creative experimentation; exhaust every option possible.

    I believe that absolute truths can be found within science. The sun doesn’t rise because someone wakes it up every day, it’s because the earth spins. However, not all questions can be answered by science; hence the debate of creation -vs- evolution.

    Science uses terms such as truth to their advantage by saying, “our argument is true because question A with experiment B came up with answer C. Therefore it must be correct.”

    I believe that different disciplines would use terms such as “truth” differently than others. The term “truth” to a businessman can mean something completely different than what a scientist may perceive it as. A businessman may see “truth” as if our company copies our product to match the features of that other company’s product, we can stop them from having a monopoly over the market, compared to the prior example I gave about the scientist.

  3. 3 jacksonru

    I think that as Brian has stated the essence of science is to open the door of the unknown. It gives people a chance to understand things that have yet to be proven or even tested. The motive for science as I learned today is abstract thought. Abstract thought is a gift to man, if we were supposed to be instinctive we would have been animals. It is abstract thought and imagination that keeps science functioning and evolving. The truth in science can vary. It is not as “clear-cut” and as absolute as we thought and that is the beauty of it!

  4. I agree that the essence of science is to open the door of the unknown. Science allows people to test what they think is true, which leads to theories and facts. The motive of science is to prove what is unknown by people. People just can’t assume what they know is true, unless they have a way to prove it to the world. I think once proven, scientific facts are set in stone.

  5. I’m going to have to agree with the dictionary definiton of science: a systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation. Of course science has motives, without science we would not have found cures for diseases and we would not have had half as many of the technological advances as we have had. As far as establishing a truth in science, I do not think it is possible, at least not for everything. There will always be questions that are up in the air and will not ever be answered because no one knows the answer. If there was a truth in science, the world would be perfect- all diseases cured, everything would be in perfect order. The role that a scientist must take in order to establish truth must simply consist of faith- believing in oneself- whether or not you are alone in your belief or you have people standing by you. There will never be an absolute truth in science, something is always questioned, and that is just the way it will be- forever.

    As far as values, assumptions, facts, opinions, and hyptheses stand for the strength of a scientist’s argument they are not used differently than any other discipline. In arguments, as a scientist or not, people will always try to defend themselves using all five of these strategies in some way, shape, or form.

  6. 6 vengrove

    i also agree with the essence of science is to open the door of the unknown. With science, once it is proven, then in fact, it is the truth. Although, Not all questions can be answered by doing an experiement through science.

  7. The scientists never prove anything; they do experiments to support something. However, they can disprove something. If the scientists have enough evidences, then their hypothesis can become theories or laws. Overall, the scientific theories, laws and other perceptions are just guesses that supported by some evidences. There are many false things that can be supported by evidence; therefore, there are many theories in science can be disproved. We should not believe everything in science is correct. If science (evolution) is correct, then the creation in religion is wrong. I know creation is correct, because I experienced God; therefore, evolution must be wrong.

  8. Yes, Doreen520favor there are many false things that can be supported by evidence, but the difference here is using the scientific method. Utilizing the scientific method is supposed to limit the false ideas that can be supported by evidence… and the theories that are supported by evidence MUST assimilate earlier truths (theories) into prevailing verifiable theories. The beauty of the scientific method is that its evidence (in order to be considered good evidence) must be unbiased, repeatable, consistent, and agreed upon by a community that has tested its results. And it must live by the rule of falsifiability.

    But I am reminded of Galileo and his difficulties with the church.

    Why must the two ideas be considered exclusively? Might there be an ability to provide a context that supports creation in religion and allow for evolution in science? I know that through critical thinking about the nature of ancient texts, the nature of humans, the nature of language, and the ideas of verifiable data in science, I have found the ability for both in my beliefs. Many scientists have.

    If humans are created in God’s image, we can therefore assume that God gave us intelligence and inquisitive minds. Are we not supposed to use this creativity and intelligence to advance our understanding? Aren’t we advancing our understanding of God by advancing our understanding of the world we live in and the world that was created by God? If we do not evolve intellectually how can we evolve spiritually?

  9. I think the essence of science is to figure out what we need to study to help make sense of things that we already know. Science’s motive is to come up with new theories and ideas to make the things we learn more creative and interesting. When someone establishes truth in science they have evidence to support it. In other things you might believe that something is true, but you might not always have something to back it up. Most of the ideas and theories that scientists come up with have evidence to support it, but there are some things that you have to have a good imagination for in order to understand them. That is why imagination and creativity are very important in the world of science. Things aren’t always what they seem, sometimes you have to look deeper. There won’t always be an absolute truth in science. Some things won’t have evidence to support it, we might just have to live and experience certain things for them to make sense

  10. 10 minch6

    i also agree with the essence of science is to open the door of the unknown. science is all theories and thoughts of brilliant people. Once these thoughts have been proven it is set in stone and that is the truth of science until someone new discovers something else. If you can prove something then it must be true.

  11. 11 montemarano

    The essence of science is to find out what we don’t know and to prove whether or not what we do know is correct or not. Science’s motive is searching for the truth of the unknown.

  12. 12 nabihaahmed

    Once again, truth plays a key role, but in this situation it includes the proof, that much truth tends to lay out. In science it is merely based on the hypothesis made and one proving it. Proof is a key essential to have when dealing with truth, because it allows one to explain their belief as well as show evidence to support their hypothesis.

  13. As being a science major, I have learn that nothing in science is ever proven. Laws in science are very hard to come by, and there are very few. In our lab reports we are told to use the word supported and unsupported to describe our results. Things that people believed were true, can be found false as well with further investigation. I believe science is here because people wondered how things worked, how they were formed, how to stop this or that, so people started investigating and doing experiments. I believe science is here is to figure things out. Assumptions are made using facts and opinions about results scientists gather.

  14. So Samtastik, then what does that do to truth? 🙂

  15. i wont lie to you. i know nothing about science, and well, if a scientist is going to tell me something is true, well i’m going to believe it whole heartedly because of the simple fact that they know what they’re talking about; meanwhile i have no idea. i agree with everyone when they say that the essence of science is to find out what we don’t know and to prove whether or not what we do know is correct or not. Science to me is untruthful sometimes, but for the most part you can convince me of anything, because i would have no reason to doubt you.

  16. sarasteepy, how do you see science as untruthful? Just curious.

    I find your last sentence worrisome. It is actually why I choose to teach, and it makes me want to respond to all of you who read this regularly…

    Think about it, if you are not thinking about why you should believe something or why not, you are more likely to be snookered big time! It has to do with RESPONSIBILITY. Who is to say that people are interpreting data correctly? Who is to say that the recommendations that they make are appropriate for you? How can you make that decision if you don’t practice the skills that it takes to evaluate material?

    Look, I’m not saying that you have know everything about everything but you need to know how to evaluate what information you do have. You need to be able to discern whether the source of the information is reliable. You need to ask your self what that person/ group/ organization’s agenda may be: are they disseminating information because they are altruistic, are they trying to sell you something, are they trying to lull you into a state where you do not question, and are they intimidating you?

    Reading, taking classes, thinking, and heck writing are organized thinking. These are tools so that you can be a better worker (this is why the job market seeks college grads- not simply because of a diploma—college is a proving ground for independent thinking!), so you can be a better parent, so you can be a better citizen, so you can be a better human!

    Is everyone who has made their way through an education necessarily educated? NO! Certainly we can all think of non-thinking people with fancy Ivy League degrees and credentials who can not think their way out a paper bag. Certainly there are people who never got a high school diploma who are geniuses. Kids, these are the FEW; these are the exceptions.

    You will go into life with or without a college degree, and you will live that life. What “investing in your education” does not mean is spending lots of money, it is what Adrienne Rich says—it is claiming an education. It means doing the work and the thinking so that you have the skills to do that in other situations. The skills you develop in college are more diverse and advanced thinking skills. You may have some specialized skills in a discipline when you walk across that stage and get handed your college diploma, but better than those you will know how to learn, how to research, how to hear the fallacies in an argument, and how to evaluate situations and information. And if you claim an education, if YOU invest in your self, it will be yours forever.

    So that when you need to decide if you want to vaccinate your child with a new vaccine you know where and how to look for that information, so that when you hear the doctor say it is a micro edema in your pituitary you know how to look for the information, it is so that when your country makes the decision to fight in a war you can figure out what that fight is really about. It is so that when the local factory offers to buy your home, and you and your children are suffering from various forms of cancer because this is a cluster site, you know how you can respond.

    It is so that when you go to buy the new car, the new house, the new whatever that your salary from the snazzy job which you got because of that college education is letting you purchase you can make the best informed decisions – OR know when you choose to not.

    A college degree isn’t about the paper. It is about the doing.

  17. I believe that it shows, that it’s hard to show truth. Truth is something so certain that nothing can absolutely deny it, and I believe that’s hard to come by.

  18. 18 meganptaszenski

    I think that this is a hard subject to talk about. I don’t know much about science but I agree that the essence of it is to establish the facts and truth about the unknown. At the same time however, i also think that science should be questioned. I believe it is hard to find the real answers to the questions of science so it is hard for me to trust in science. A scientists job is to find answers and convince the people that they are true, but so far i have not been convinced.

  19. (revise) I just remember what my biology professor told me that the scientists can prove something, but they have to go through many complex steps. They have to do experiments to test the hypothesis many many times, then other scientists have to do the similar experiments and confirm the results are true. They then need science committees to agree. And there are more steps that I do not remember right now. But, however, it is a very complex process. The laws can still contains errors or mistakes, which mean these laws can be wrong in some sense. Humans are created in God’s image, and God did give us intelligence. God only breathed into the humans, not the animals. This made us different from the other creatures. We have a heart to find God (or the truth, some people have not recognized this yet.) and understanding. God likes us to use our creativity and intelligence to advance our understanding. But we are not advancing our understanding of the world we live in by trying hard to figure out ourselves. We should advance our understanding of the world by advancing the understanding of Him. Everything happen in the history has its meaning in the spirit realm. There is always something happens in the spirit first, then it happens on the earth. In proverb, it says that the highest wisdom is to know God. And I believe if we know God, we will know a lot of more about the world (or we can say the truth).

  20. The essence of science is the way we think that makes it possible to unlock keys to what we don’t know. Science’s motive is to acquire knowledge through the use of the scientific method. Establishing truth in science is like establishing truth to what is knowledge. In order for you to absorb information about something you must know the truth about it.

  21. I agree with what most people are saying, that in order for us to actually understand information given to us, we must also understand the truth and reasoning behind it. Science changes everyday, thus making the truth of science change constantly. So how can we be sure that science and truth can actually be used in the same context.

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