what do people mean when they say science is always changing, and what is the example of science changing?



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the easiest one is the model of our solar system.

for the longest time, everyone on the planet believed that everything revolved around the earth. so *fervently,* in fact, that anyone who dared to say otherwise was executed for heresy against God. rationalists tried forever to prove their theories, but were often met with death or excommunication. and so it remained for the longest of times.

fast forward a few hundred years, and we’re peering into the corners of the universe.

People don’t say “science is changing.” They say “*the* science is changing.” Science itself as a methodology – observation, analysis, peer review – doesn’t change much. The scientific method has been the heart of it for hundreds, arguably thousands of years.

When *the science* changes, it means the scientific knowledge within a particular field has developed or is in active development. So you might say, the science of climate is changing because we suddenly have more scientific interest, more research and better models in response to a global crisis, so our understanding is improving. Or you might say the science of quantum computing is changing because nobody’s figured it out yet and it *seems* like it should work (but there are massive holes in our knowledge).

Science is the process of finding out the truth. Sometimes, aspects of reality remain hidden due to limitations on our technology and methodology, and when those limitations are removed, our knowledge expands.

For example, we used to think that our bodies were composed of humorous energies, and that all things were made up of mystical elements.

We started examining bodies more closely, and getting finer and finer magnification, and we found that our body was made of cells, and those cells are made of different parts, and those parts are made with different chemicals, and those chemical molecules are made up of atoms, and those atoms are made of particles and those particles are made of even smaller particles.

With each advance, we learn something new, and sometimes that new thing completely invalidates an old paradigm.

That is what it means by “the science changes”. The world didn’t suddenly flip upside down, we just learned to look at it from a new and more accurate perspective.

Science is not necessarily the explanation of everything it studies. Science builds models. We rigorously test these models and see where they break. We use these models to try to predict future outcomes. Sometimes, these models last a long time. We put men on the moon using Newton’s equations for gravity. They are very very accurate… On most scales that we deal with. The main problem was when Newton was around, we didn’t have the technology to probe anything other than the situations we deal with most of the time.

Now that we have better technology, we find out that when things start moving closer to the speed of light, or the density of an object approaches that of a black hole, the error in Newton’s model start to grow and grow until the predictions are meaningless. So we took this new information and made a new, better model (I say we, I think Einstein gets the majority of the credit). This new model is much better at predicting what happens in these situations. And the difference between the predictions of the new model and Newton’s model become negligible at normal scales.

But where are the limits of Einstein’s model? What happens when we get close or go beyond them? We don’t know because we can’t do that yet. We don’t have the technology. But for basically everything we use Einstein’s model for right now, it’s good enough that we don’t have to worry about what’s wrong with it. Just like Newton’s equations were good enough to get men on the moon even though they weren’t perfect either.

As for how it is always changing. I like to use the why question. We can chain explanations together. If something is what we call an emergency property, then there are some more fundamental causes that group together to produce the property. Example, why does water dissolve salt? Because both water and salt are polar molecules. But why are they polar, and why does that make a difference. We can answer these questions too, but eventually, we get to the most fundamental thing we know (or at least that we think we know). It explains everything downstream. But we can’t answer why it happens to be that way. Example: why does an electron have a negative charge? All we know right now is that it does. We don’t even know if there is a reason. Maybe someday, we’ll find an even more fundamental fact that will explain why the electron has a negative charge, but the why question never goes away. It only gets pushed one rung down the ladder.

The whole point of science is to produce knowledge in which we can have confidence.

Scientists do this by proposing a question and a tentative answer (a hypothesis), devising a reliable test that will answer the question, observing results, then drawing conculsions based on these observations that explain if they support or exclude the hypothesis.

Scientists then submit their results to peers who go through it, searching for errors or ommissions, or who propose counter hypotheses to test whether the research is sound.

What makes science valuable is scientists’ faithful commitment to truth, which includes plainly and humbly accepting when results do not tie in with an expected outcome; intense curiosity then drives a new search to discover why, which usually results in learning something new about the world.

In this way, as our capacity to study our reality broadens, it often uncovers new data that contradicts our prevailing understanding of a phenomenon’s nature. Scientists’ capacity to change their views based on sound evidence gives them and their field credibility.