The Role of Logic in Science

For manifold reasons, the words ‘logic’ and ‘science’ seem, among the general public, to find themselves in the circumstance of having a great deal of negative connotations associated with them. In this article I shall attempt to make clear first what logic is and isn’t and second, how science is based in logic and what it is and isn’t.

Logic is a language of trues and falses. A logical expression may always, and only, be evaluated to either true or false. For example, the statement “the sky is blue” evaluates to true if the sky actually is blue and it evaluates to false when it isn’t. The mathematical equivalent looks something like this: x = 1, [if x = 1]: true; x = 0, [if x = 1]: false. X is one when the sky is blue, zero when it is not. Since X is one during the first check, the expression evaluates to true whereas it must evaluate to false in the second. It’s not really important that you understand the mathematical notation as long as you understand that it CAN be expressed mathematically.

Boolean Algebra is the branch of mathematics that deals specifically with logic; the name comes from George Boole, the guy who gave it form. Boolean Algebra allows for some unique operators, the simplest of which are the ‘AND’ and ‘OR’ operators (symbolic notations exist as well). By using these operators you could evaluate more complex arrangements of logical statements. For example: “the sky is blue” AND “it is raining”, only evaluates to true when the sky is both blue and releasing water droplets. The algebra itself can be abstracted from human observations and made to deal strictly with ones and zeros, where one equals true and zero equals false (this is an arbitrary designation). As I said before, a logical statement always evaluates to one or zero; instead of making up a statement, we can just take the one or zero that it would’ve amounted to and plug that into a boolean equation: 1 AND 1 = 1, 1 AND 0 = 0; in English (the case being that the sky is actually blue and it is actually raining): “the sky is blue” AND “it is raining” = true; “the sky is blue” AND “it is not raining” = false. This is the foundation upon which the rest of Boolean Algebra is built. In it’s full form, Boolean Algebra allows the expression of any sort of logical idea that you might find yourself wanting to convey.

If it’s not obvious, the reason why you’d want a mathematical language for dealing with trues and falses is that it provides a communication protocol that lacks any form of ambiguity – it is literally perfectly clear. For this reason (among others), it is the language we have built computers to work with. Without a perfectly clear communication protocol, humans could hardly express to computers their exact calculation requirements. There are other practical reasons why computers basically operate on Boolean Algebra but they are beyond the scope of this article.

Mathematics, including Boolean Algebra (i.e. logic), are among the only things that are absolute truths in the universe. They are not human inventions they are human discoveries and have been discovered independently by isolated groupings of humans who have come to the same conclusions about their nature and uses. We could expect the same conclusions be made and the same uses found by intelligent entities in entirely different galaxies.

In order to gain knowledge we combine logic with observation; the result is science. Science really is nothing more than logical conclusions based on observation. Using this strict definition of science, any ‘knowledge’ that is gained without using it can be labeled as speculation. The following is an example of science using this definition: Observation: At the point which a ball is released from a holding mechanism, the distance between the ball and the earth decreases steadily until none remains. Conclusion: The earth commands a drawing force to which all objects are subject. This is all that science is in its most basic form.

Any argument that wishes to dismiss science serves to isolate the person presenting it from other humans by breaking down communication. Without logic we cannot communicate and without observation we cannot find external truths. Even after this point has been made you will occasionally hear someone pleading, “but what if this particular can’t be discovered by science?”, the reply to this should be something along the lines of, “even if science turns out to be incapable, it is all we have aside from an ability to make blind guesses.” If science truly is incapable of discovering something then why is it any better than making a blind guess? Because it is not possible to actually know that science is incapable of discovering something; it is conceivable that we one day find a way to tear through the fabric of space time and steal a glance at the beyond. And if you give up science then you have given up searching; why condemn yourself to believing in a blind guess when you can settle for not knowing now and retain the ability to keep looking?