. "9 The Universality of Science: Examples from History--Hossein Masoumi Hamedani ." Science as a Gateway to Understanding: International Workshop Proceedings, Tehran, Iran. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2008.
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Science as a Gateway to Understanding: International Workshop Proceedings Tehran, Iran
aspect, and the historical aspect. These three aspects are somewhat related. Before discussing the main subject of my investigation, which is the historical aspect, let me say a few words about the other two.
The first aspect of the universality of science, the epistemological aspect, concerns the logical status of scientific theories and results: To what degree are scientific results and scientific theories acceptable to every human being? The answer seems to be straightforward enough. The universality of science is said to be due to the universality of its methods and the way its results are shared. The natural sciences are considered universal because they follow the scientific method and their results can be shared and understood by different human beings. Many schools of science philosophy define these two properties as “intersubjectivity” and “testability of science.” At the root of this concept is the idea that scientific results can be communicated in an unambiguous way and tested by anybody who wishes to do so. As far as simple, down-to-earth facts of science are concerned, the explanation of scientific methods and results seems to be relatively simple. However, when it comes to more sophisticated theories and results, the task becomes very prohibitive. Scientific theories and facts are often expressed in the kind of mathematical language or theoretical jargon that is far removed from the vernacular and outside the experience of ordinary sensual perception. To understand a scientific theory and thus to be able to test it, one must belong to a defined scientific community, master the language used by its members, and share the methodologies specific to that community.
A way out of this dilemma is to state that scientific results are universally testable in principle. However, this statement does not solve the problem. One can always ask how this principle can be realized, and the answer brings us back to our starting point.
The German physicist and philosopher Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker suggests another criterion that seems more practicable. According to him, the universality of science is measured in terms of the trust we place in science. In everyday life, the layman has little direct contact with pure science. All he knows of science is its