What is Science? - a fledgling book by Graham Lappin (visiting professor of Pharmacology, the University of Lincoln, UK)
My bookshelves and Kindle are packed with popular science (most of which I’ve read) but within all this repository of enjoyment and knowledge, it occurred to me that something was missing. The majority of the books I have tell eloquent tales of scientific endeavour, personal stories of the pioneers and mind-blowing scientific facts that weave disparate points of knowledge into new wisdom. There is little however, on the way in which science works; how the evidence was attained and why scientists can be so confident that they have it right. How do we know these scientific facts in the first place and why are they facts and not just speculation or someone’s opinion? The erstwhile Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin has said that... “she wants people to ask questions about what is being said to them from the science community … if 97% of all scientists believe that man’s activities are creating changes in the weather, [their attitude is] who am I to question that?” She certainly has one thing right, we should question what we are told, from scientists and politicians alike. So why should we believe the science community over the politicians? Why should a consensus of scientific opinion be any better than that of Sarah Palin?
The answer is not with scientists, who are but frail humans, but much deeper in science itself. For science and scientists are two different things. And that is what I intend to address in my fledgling book, "What is Science?" (working title). I want to look at the way science works, its mechanics, its way of thinking and how it builds solid foundations of convergent and consilient knowledge upon which further scientific progress is built. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about genetics or physics, chemistry or biology - or indeed climate change - the application of science is the same, and it goes by the name of the scientific method.