Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Proof in science

  1. Aug 24, 2010 #1


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    I've come to believe that there are no true proofs in science, only theories and evidence to support them. A proof is something that can never be disputed such as in maths, and in our world, there is always going to be an imperfection to our theories in some regard.

    What I want to know is how this idea I have of proofs in science can be polished. Am I wrong in any respect?

    Why I'm asking this of you is because I am having this debate with a sceptic about the ozone hole (now I know the true meaning of a sceptic by experiencing it first hand - one of my favourite quotes by her is "the science doesn't matter") and I've had enough of her telling me she has "disproven" this and that by giving just one logical idea that counters the evidence shown. Anyway, I told her how things cannot be proven in science but she fought back by saying that things like electricity can be proven to exist.

    I don't know how to counter this because I can't quite see a connection between proving a theory and seeing the obvious (that electricity is there). Any ideas?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 24, 2010 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Well, you should read up on philosophy of science which is all about these questions.
    Popper's "The logic of scientific discovery" is for instance a very influential book on the topic. But you might want to start by reading a more general survey of the ideas of philosophy of science.
  4. Aug 24, 2010 #3


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    Ahh yes, philosophy is what I was looking for. Thanks :smile:
  5. Aug 25, 2010 #4


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Of course scientific theories are confirmed by observation rather than proven.

    But your sceptic has a bigger problem as the ozone hole is itself a matter of observation. Once it was noticed, we also then developed theories about what caused it, and they seem right as it is being gradually fixed. So theory confirmed by further observation.

    I happen to live under the ozone hole in summer and UV forecasts are part of the daily weather report. I can tell you how it fades the carpets and blisters the car, not to mention how fast it can fry your skin.
  6. Aug 25, 2010 #5
    I agree; there are varying desgrees of experimental evidence, observations, that tend to agree or not agree with a theory. But there can't be "true" proofs of much because there is not an absolute reality....Different observers may see different things OR may not even be able to observe the same phenomena.

    If this statement means that a logical idea can counter experimental observation, then it will usually be wrong....As an example, I can claim "Einstein's special relativity is wrong because it is illogical that space and time are variable and only the speed of light is a true constant". The fact that it seems to us in everyday life that space and time are FIXED, and that it appears "logical", doesn't make it true.....
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook