How science works

The scientific methods works like this: you make a guess at how something works or at how something is – we call this a conjecture – and then make experiments to check if your guess was correct. So knowledge comes from alternating conjecture with criticism.

The role of experience is merely to test our conjectures against reality so we can then improve upon our conjectures.

Empiricism is the view that we derive (extrapolate, generalize or induct) knowledge from experience. A common metaphor is that our mind is like ‘white paper’ onto which experience writes or that we can read from the ‘Book of Nature’ by making observations. Either way, knowledge is discovered, not created.

But in reality, scientific theories are not derived from anything. We do not read them in nature nor does nature write them onto us. They are guesses. We create them by rearranging, combining and altering existing ideas with the intention of improving upon them.

Experience is essencial to science but it’s role is not to be a source of knowledge, as empiricists suppose. It’s main use is to choose between theories which have already been guessed.