SCI-ART LAB

Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication

Sometime back a rationalist was killed in Maharashtra (Indian State) for educating people about the truth of witchcraft. We had a discussion on the subject on an online news website. There while supporting the rational way of doing things, I condemned the killing of the rationalist. Then a leader of a fundamental party which sadly supported the killing read it, came to know who I was ( and the people monitoring the discussion on the website later changed my identity to protect me!) attacked me and said: 'You scientists believe in aliens. Likewise we believe in ghosts and witch craft. There is no difference between us!'

I was surprised. People don't know the difference between baseless beliefs and informed imagination!

If I don't make things clear here and now people might again say the two are one and the same!

Okay, we know (or at least we think we know) how living beings originated on Earth. We know the factors that are responsible for the origin of life and sustaining it. We know how evolution helped in intelligent beings coming into existence. Based on this information, we can guess how life might originate and evolve on other planets in 'other solar systems' of the universe. We can also imagine how these life forms could evolve into intelligent beings that could travel across the universe or at least communicate with other intelligent life existing in the other parts of the universe. This theory of alien existence is just an imagination or a guess work based on our knowledge about life. Not a 'belief'.

Now coming to ghosts. Read  here and here how these stories on ghosts take root and spread. There simply is no solid evidence to say ghosts exist like we have evidence to say intelligent beings exist in certain conditions ( we are the very proof of such beings!). That is why we call them baseless beliefs. They are imaginations alright but not based on reality unlike imagination on aliens. There is a heck of a difference between the two and one cannot compare one with the other! Comparing scientists informed imagination and educated guess work based on evidence and reality with a layman's blind beliefs is highly irrelevant way of doing things just to support your crimes against humanity!

And some people argue that a 'scientific theory' ( for example - evolution) is a 'superstition scientists believe in'!

Scientists first form a theory based on their preliminary observations. It is the best explanation based on the current evidence. Then they go out to prove it. It is not a superstition or baseless belief. It is ‘informed imagination’ or ‘educated guess work’.

Moreover, a theory is usually backed by maths, data, serious observations, and creative connections of a scientific mind. And scientists very well know they could be wrong and would be very well prepared to accept the 'falsification challenge' unlike  a superstitious mind. 

 A theory can grow with every new piece of evidence it explains. In other words, a theory can explain far more than the phenomenon it originally was proposed to explain.  Theories are accepted with higher and higher confidence ... but never called "proven." Science *starts* with the assumption that we can never, ever "prove" anything absolutely true. All we can do it find the best explanation based on the current evidence.

This is really, really important point because dishonest people try to mislead non-scientists into thinking that all theories are either "proven" or "not proven" (there is no in-between) ... and therefore to lump "not proven" theories in with "false" theories. This completely misunderstands science!

Anybody who ever uses the phrase "just a theory" in science is under the spell of that misunderstanding about what "theory" means in science.

Be careful with just copy-pasting something from a dictionary. In both of those definitions, it is only part  that applies to the use of the words 'hypothesis' and 'theory' *IN SCIENCE*. The other definitions will just get you confused if you apply them to what scientists call 'hypothesis' or 'theory' ... and there are too many dishonest anti-science people in the world willing to exploit that misconception to confuse you.

To emphasize it once again...

A hypothesis is an attempt to explain phenomena.  It is a proposal, an educated guess used to explain something.  A theory is the result of testing a hypothesis and developing an explanation that is taken to be true about a phenomena.  A theory replaces the hypothesis.

So, a person might make an observation and immediately form a hypothesis about why something happens the way it does.  He or she then tests the hypothesis and eventually develops a theory.  A hypothesis can be right or wrong, but a theory is supposed to be true based upon the scientific method.  So, when a hypothesis has been verified to be true, it becomes a theory.

Then with added evidence, a theory either becomes a 'fact of science' or a falsified theory. 

You will never have all this with an irrational superstition.

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