Science is the systematic effort to understand reality; it seeks to explain the way things work, to understand the relationships between different parts of reality. A great part of modern knowledge is classificatory; another part is experimental. The shared element in all science is the search for knowledge.
Reasoning is the process of arriving at true statements from facts and from related statements. Reasoning may proceed deductively. Conclusions are drawn from preceding statements. The statements from which conclusions are drawn are known as premises. The most basic principle is the principle of contradiction. In order to ascertain whether a given conclusion is true, we need to examine the validity of the premises. Next, we need to examine whether the transition from the premises to the conclusion is justified.
There is a tendency, among both scholars and lay people, to assume that more recent research means more authoritative research. This is a prejudice which assumes that something is more true and relevant because it arrives later in time.
Present scientific knowledge is morally neutral. Indeed, scientists take pride in abstaining from what they think of as ‘value judgments.’ They believe that abstaining from such judgments increases the integrity, impartiality, and reliability of their conclusions. The products of science can be used for both good and evil purposes.
Generalizations are statements about an entire class of things or experiences. Scientific laws are examples of scientific generalizations; proverbs are examples of generalizations about habits and morals. We place far too much emphasis on the first type of knowledge and not enough on the second type.
Statistics claim to give an objective account of subjective experience. Statistical findings are purportedly based on a sample sufficiently large (and therefore representative) as to minimise the possibility of coming to the wrong conclusion. Many views claim to be supported by statistical “studies.” But just how do statistics prove one thing or another? Mostly, surveys of people’s opinions are taken.
Statistics are statements derived from data that is quantifiable. Often surveys are based on assumptions that cannot be validated using the methods of statistics.
Relativism teaches that all moral choices are in the end arbitrary. A value free or relativistic social science takes away the ground from making choices.
On the political level, a value-free social science does not allow us to differentiate better regimes from worse ones. A value free social science does not allow us to condemn tyranny or to praise democracy.
A distinguishing feature of democracies is that they allow for the peaceful coexistence of diverse ways of life within the same larger democratic community.