The ultimate goal of the scientific method is to falsify the closest approximations to reality. There are no absolute truths in science because all theories are liable to perpetual refinement and revision.
In science, plausibility is established not by proving things true but in fact, but by demonstrating that they have not yet been shown to be false. Tentative statements of empirical reality, or hypotheses, are constructed from observations of natural phenomena. The observations are derived from experiential information obtained by the senses. The hypothesis is then tested using carefully-controlled experiments and tests that aim to falsify it. If it continues to survive a battery of falsification tests for a prolonged period of time, then it becomes a theory, which is a conceptual framework that relates facts together into an explanatory structure. Theories can never be proven true but they can only be shown to be false. Acceptable theories are ones that are temporarily not wrong.
Thus, the way that the scientific method claims epistemic authority on anything is by recognizing its own fallibility. A hypothesis must be falsifiable, otherwise it is not an acceptable hypothesis. Repeated failure to falsify a hypothesis does not confirm its absolute truth, whereas just one falsification alone can be enough grounds for rejecting it. Therefore, we cannot be certain about what is true, but we can, however, be certain about what is wrong. There is a possibility of disconfirmation which must always be acknowledged.
Theories can replace preexisting theories if they have more explanatory power. Einstein’s theory of gravity replaced Newton’s theory not because Newton was wrong but because his model was incomplete in accounting for some of the anomalies observed in planetary motion (the problem of Mercury’s perihelion). Einstein’s theory accounted not just for things that the Newtonian model explained but also for the new observations that were found to be incompatible with Newton’s theory. As previously discussed, what theories fundamentally are is that they are conceptual superstructures that describe facts. When there is a better way to relate those facts together, a new theory emerges.
Creationists always like to point to evolution as “only a theory” as if that’s a bad thing. But, in science, a theory is a good thing. In fact, catapulting a hypothesis into the status of a theory means acknowledging its good epistemic value and its high empirical content. In addition to that, creationists never present a side or attempt to support it with evidence. Their only evidence is to attack evolution, which somehow lends credibility to their beliefs that, to begin with, are not really grounded in any testable hypothesis. Creationism is a belief that has no explanatory power and which cannot and does not generate predictions that can be tested against experiment. You cannot deduce any facts from it. And, most importantly, it is a firmly held conviction that leaves no room for falsification. To be a creationist means to have already decided what is true and to be blinded by your preconceived prejudice that anything contradicting your beliefs must be inherently false. If you set up an experiment, you would impose a prejudiced idea of what the results should be like and you would twist the scientific evidence to fit your bias.
But, science never runs on assertions. Science is a discipline that recognises and celebrates uncertainty. This is crucial because it provides opportunities for ongoing refinement and for new ideas to be hatched up. To cling to a belief and will it into existence means to miss out on any new insights and ideas that have been clouded out by your preconceptions. Facts about the natural world should be presented simply as the evidence of reality presents them to our logical faculties. They should not be presented as our assumptions want them to be. Our logic should therefore always derive from and be continually morphed by the evidence of reality because nature is so much more imaginative. To hold a firm conviction prevents that.
“It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” – Sherlock Holmes
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