Friday, 17 June 2011

Engineers vs scientists

When you say something like "water boils at 100C" you are stating a fact. But usually such statements are modified by 'modalities', for example you may say "I think water boils at 100C" which is an additional modality of uncertainty. Or you may say "everyone knows water boils at 100C" which is a modality of authority. Then we have "scientists say water boils at 100C" which is kind of like "the priests tell us this or that so it must be so.". The scientist with the white coat and test tube is the priest of today.

But many scientific facts are built upon modalities. For example no scientific fact is ever accepted these days without presenting a paper, and within that paper you must have citations. For example "Boiling point of water vs pressure, Jones 2001". Then further down the line "“Numerous studies (Jones 2001, Smith 2002, Jones 2003, Brown 2004) have shown that the boiling point of water is around 100C". Somewhere back down the line are modalities which are now taken as fact. Eventually we read “it has been established that water boils at 100C". It is now a fact. Unfortunately a lot of scientific "facts" are not so clear cut as the boiling point of water.

This of course applies to the global warming scam - each supposition and shakey "proof" is built upon the next, like a house of cards, citing people down the line who have taken ice samples or whatever and come to dubious conclusions. Dissenters are of course never cited. Yet, that there are dissenters at all casts doubt on the "facts".

But science is supposed to be a discipline of proof. Whereas I understood science to be a case of experiment, observation, proof - for example when adding A to B the resulting color is red. Now we have someone running a computer model, using factors supposed from all those modalities, and coming to concrete conclusions. These conclusions are far from fact and far from the rigors of proper scientific proof. A chain of well chosen citations is all that is needed.

How does this differ from engineering? The proof of engineering is "does it work". Supposition, citations, did not stop the Titanic from sinking. The jet engine, the computer, the robot work because they were designed and engineered, tested and proven to work and continue to work. Mistakes and oversights result in loss of performance or reliability are are put right. Any false suppositions are discarded in the process.

Oh and by the way there is no such thing as rocket science, or a computer science - they are designed and developed by engineers.

My point therefore is that the rigors of engineering far outweigh the burdens of proof in science or even in a court of law.

Finally what is engineering? It is design, development, building, testing a solution to a technical problem. A "motor engineer" does not do that. Someone who fixes cars is called a "mechanic" not an engineer. The same applies to other misuses of the title such as domestic engineer.


  1. For scientific advancement and engineering achievement, I think both disciplines are important and rigor in the sense of closely reflecting the reality. There are numeric valuable findings made by both engineers and scientists. Michael Faraday was like a engineer than a scientist while James Clerk Maxwell was like a scientist or mathematician than engineer. Regardless they were working rigorously in the engineering or scientific approaches, both of them had made significant contribution to the human understanding and development of electricity.