Not being a scientist today’s mention of scientific discovery has begun to irk me. And much of what we hear about science is voiced by people who like me are not scientists. A distinction between science and engineering raised by a lecturer of a course I withdrew from has stayed with me. For despite my Latin dictionary’s definition of “scientia” as knowledge and skill I’ve always understood its descendent “science” to imply knowledge. Skill results from repeatedly performing mechanical actions that follow directions for how to do things. According to an ancient anecdote one need not be able to play a musical instrument to have knowledge of music.
All science is communicated by comparison more abstract than, but similar to The Divine Comedy’s use of recorded actions of people or places of the real world to depict events and characters’ in the other world. Suffering in hell resembles, from line 109 of Canto 9 of the “Inferno”, images of the Alyscamps tombs near Arles in France. Science tells us of the similarity of letters of the alphabet and numbers. What is “x”? It is like some number. What is a foot ? It is like a shoe. What is a centimeter it is like the number 10, one tenth of a meter stick. If one is six feet tall one is the length of six shoes. If one is 2 meters tall one is 200 tenths of 2 metre sticks. What time is it? It is noon or it is lunch time or the sun is at the zenith; both hands of my clock are as one at its circlular face’s top. What knowledge is gained in these comparisons between lengths in feet or metre’s and temporal duration in space? The ability to organize experience to do things and acquire skills so that I can do these things faster and better than anyone else; so that I can get power and money.