The Changing of the Paradigm Science isn't what your high-school chemistry teacher told you it is. Neither is it the old movie cliche of men in white coats, disheveled Einsteinian hair, and wild eyes, in a laboratory full of bubbling retorts and flashing electric coils, performing earthshaking experiments that reveal some long-hidden reality; nor is it a matter of blindly voyaging into uncharted realms, like Captain Kirk and the starship Enterprise, to discover something no one has ever seen before. The truth is a good deal more subtle and interesting--and it is critical to understanding the workings of our Earth, the significance of the changes in scientific thinking we are now undergoing, and the implications of that change for our future. What Science Is, and How It Really Works Science is no monolith. There isn't a single science from which all the various disciplines--e.g., biochemistry, physics, astronomy, and zoology--derive. I have friends, for example, who are devoting their research careers to the laboratory task of characterizing groups of related proteins. This empirical, highly specialized pursuit is definitely science, but it's not anything like what I do as a geologist and paleontologist who is a generalist by choice. I find myself closer to the nineteenth-century naturalists like Charles Darwin and Alexander von Humboldt. These thinkers were drawn to collecting and analyzing facts and making sense of them in a way that, by allowing us to comprehend, experience, and appreciate the order inherent in nature, provides an understanding at once intellectually useful and esthetically satisfying. My work is both empirical and philosophical. Still, despite the obvious differences between Charles Darwin, myself, and my protein chemist friends, all scientists agree on certain points. It is these agreements that make science an enterprise as distinct and definite as writing poetry, designing a skyscraper, or deriving a mathematical proof. All scientists share a fundamental agreement on the primacy of natural law. Fundamentally, everything we observe in the natural world depends on relationships between matter and energy governed by the fundamental physical-chemical forces and constants, such as gravity, relativity, and thermodynamics, that make up natural law. Science doesn't allow for divine intervention or miracles as explanations for natural phenomena. This doesn't mean that scientists cannot be spiritually inclined or religious--in fact, many are--but divine intervention lies outside the bounds of scientific analysis. Science requires its practitioners to be rigorous, consistent, and logical in a natural world without supernatural apparitions or divine interference. Likewise, all branches of science share a commitment to testing their ideas against the real world. A proposed scientific theory may boast a delightful elegance, but if it does not stand up when tested against reality, then it has no value as science. To me, this is the most important aspect of science: theoretical explanations of natural phenomena that can be tested against the real world. Without such testable explanations, we don't really know which facts to look for, yet it is the facts themselves, whether derived from laboratory experiment or from observations in the natural world, that ultimately determine the worth and validity of the ideas. As we proceed more deeply into this exploration of time, catastrophe, and history, we shall see again and again how fact and explanation are interwoven and in some ways mutually dependent. A further aspect of scientific thinking, particularly near and dear to my heart as a working scientist, is parsimony, also known as Occam's razor or the principle of economy. William of Occam (also spelled Ockham), a fourteenth-century scholastic philosopher, wrote, "Never is multiplicity to be postulated without necessity," and "It is vain to do with mMcNally, Robert A. is the author of 'Voices of the Rocks: A Scientist Looks at Catastrophes and Ancient Civilizations - Robert M. Schoch Ph.D. - Hardcover - 1 ED' with ISBN 9780609603697 and ISBN 0609603698.