Science and ‘Discovery’

The feature of science most pushed on non-scientists as what defines a ‘great’ scientist is the notion of discovery. Heidegger resurrected the literal meaning of aletheia, truth, in Greek as ‘uncoveredness’, and occasionally science has used that to bolster its claims to be the arbiter of truth, despite Heidegger’s work containing a fundamental critique of modern science that so far, I have seen no convincing response to. One question, though, that immediately presents itself, is what has modern science actually ‘discovered’ or ‘uncovered’? For anything to become an object for scientific investigation it has to already be discovered in some way, revealed by something itself not scientific. The source of this revealing, and what makes modern science specifically modern, is technology.

Galileo didn’t discover the moons of Jupiter, they were revealed by the technology of the telescope, to give a simple example. Technology, though it reveals entities that were covered over and therefore unknown, does so only in a limited manner, one that precludes access to the full truth of the entity involved by predetermining them as something they are fundamentally not, as resources.

The scientific ‘object’ is the abstract double of the resource; both are stripped of their inherent meaning as things, and replaced with a determination that comes from elsewhere and not from the entity itself. This lack of access to the truth of scientific entities, of course, makes science as the arbiter of truth itself absurd. The reliance on technology marks out a further delineation of the scope of the sciences and their provenance. Science in the modern sense does not discover, it is incapable of discovery because the certainty of its objects has to be guaranteed beforehand by their being revealed technologically, revealed as measurable.

In deferring discovery to technology, though, science itself is no longer science in the original sense. The basic science for Aristotle was physics, the science of motion, since it includes all change and any observation is fundamentally an observation of change. The basic science in modern terms is accounting. Modern science, in its desire for a guarantee for its objects that is itself founded in a misplaced subjectity, can at best account-for what has already been discovered. The embarrassment of modern science is that even simply as an accounting-for what is already known, it has been phenomenally unsuccessful in the very creation of accurately predictive models, which since they have no demonstrable ontological status are completely worthless if their predictive power is found lacking.


Glynn, Andrew. Horizons of Identity

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