Writers have an unwritten obligation to the rest of the world – to use words exactly as we wish. We use them to create images in the reader’s mind, the images we want to project.
For writers dealing with science, it gets tougher. Science is a murky word, often used by diabolical sophists for purposes of proving their point, not for finding the truth. And if you are a sophist, you don’t mind using words incorrectly, because your agenda only revolves around winning. The more you can confuse your opponent, the better chance you have to win!
Science writers don’t work that way. We try to get to the truth, and try to communicate the images of that truth to our readers as accurately as possible. The problem with the word, science, is that it means at least three things.
Originally, science was a method, a new way of learning. For instance, in the old times, one could learn by listening to one’s mother. A good way, but not effective if you want to build an arch, or launch a rocket. Reading books was another way, but after a few thousand years almost everyone realizes that the information in the books gets rather stale. What some of our ancestors did was create a new method of learning.
This method takes everything we know about a subject, and tests it out in the real world. In constructing the test we record everything we can think of; this is our notebook. If the test succeeds, we call it truth, or fact. If it fails, we call it false, a myth. We then take what is truth, put it together any way we can in order to create new statements, and then we test those. And we repeat the process.
We teach others by referring to our notebooks. We teach mostly those things that are true. We refer to those things that are false so that our students don’t repeat the same mistakes.
This “science” is a method. It is not the knowledge at the end of the rainbow, it is not a machine sitting on the bench. It is a process, much like “baking” is a process that produces bread.
More on what else science can be in a moment. I need to make some toast.