Any belief system must start with some assumptions, even if if those assumptions are nothing more than that your senses can be trusted to be a reliable guide to truth. But because we know that the senses can be fooled, even this innocuous seeming assumption is open to question. How then can we justify a belief in science? Or are religious people right when they claim that science is “just another religion” because believing in the scientific method requires a leap of faith? In this talk I will present the answer to this question that was put forth by the famous philosopher of science, Karl Popper, as recently elucidated by physicist David Deutsch in two books, “The Fabric of Reality” and “The Beginning of Infinity.” In sum, science is fundamentally different from all other belief systems for two reasons. The first is commonly understood: science is based on *evidence*. Any theory that is inconsistent with the evidence must be false. But this still leaves a problem because in a finite amount of time we can only collect a finite amount of evidence, and there are many theories (in fact, an infinite number of theories) that can be constructed to be consistent with any finite amount of evidence. How then can we choose the One True Theory from among the myriad possibilities? The answer to that question is that science not only selects theories that are consistent with the evidence, but also theories with *explanatory power*. Theories that are both consistent with the evidence *and* have explanatory power turn out to be exceedingly rare. Moreover, such theories, it turns out, give us the power to predict the future and manipulate our environment, and this is the *only* process in the universe that is known to have this power.
Ron Garret is a software engineer, entrepreneur, blogger, filmmaker, ex-NASA-researcher and armchair quantum mechanic. His feature-length documentary about homeless people, “But for the Grace of God?” is available on iTunes and Amazon.
This event is completely free, though we do take tax dedcutable donations.