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Is truth a goal of science?

The main goal of inquiry seems to be truth, or at least that's what we're told is the main goal of inquiry. This is especially true of science. Science aims at truth, and it gets to the truth via experimentation.


Yet, when we look back over the last 100 years, we find that science aims to get closer to the truth, rather than directly to hard truths. Popper, for example, seems to have gotten something right about the nature of scientific investigation when we talks about believing the best that we have because it hasn't been falsified. It is the best theory that we have, which is closer to the truth than the theories that have been overturned by recent experiments.


Our best scientific theories could turn out to be false. If that is our only view of scientific matters, then it's safe to say that scientific inquiry's goal isn't truth. It is, rather, to get at the best scientific theory that we can afford under the limited circumstances.


(This post is a quick note to remind me of some issues to consider when we test for truth amongst specialists working in the natural and physical sciences. It is also a reminder to consider some arguments that undermine the view that scientific progress should be measured by truth and considerations of truth. For example, it's entirely possible that progress is measured by knowledge and its accumulation or understanding and its promotion.)

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