Straight from the Horse’s Mouth

January 31st, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

No doubt we’ll be discussing the SOTU in days to come, but for now on a different subject, Harvard’s Center for Health and the Global Environment organized a congressional briefing last week on what science is and is not, according to a story in the New York Times today.

So now, when scientific questions pervade legislation on issues like climate change and stem cell research, there is growing concern that Congressional misunderstanding can produce misguided policy. To fight such misunderstanding, Mr. Boehlert and others sponsored the Jan. 23 briefing, organized by the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard. Capitol Hill has briefings by the dozen every year in which industry, academic and activist groups address diverse topics related to science. Some criticize these briefings as little more than showboating. But Mr. Boehlert, like many others, thinks they are “absolutely” useful. And the briefing was unusual in that its subject was not avian flu, the budget for NASA or any other relatively narrow issue, but rather “how science works.”

Harvard’s Sheila Jasanoff, a widely read and respected scholar of science studies, took a less positive view of the session, one that I largely share:

Not everyone thought defining science was even possible, in such a short session. “It makes me extremely tired that they are going to do this again,” said Sheila Jasanoff, a professor of science and technology studies at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, who has written widely on how science policy is made. “There is no easily graspable definition.”

Some interesting quotes from the New York Times article:

The worth of any scientific finding, Dr. [Donald] Kennedy [editor of Science] told the crowd, is not the prominence of the researchers responsible, the prestige of their institutions or the authority of their funding agencies, but whether other researchers achieve the same results. Dr. Kennedy did not refer explicitly to a scandal that is roiling science, and Science — the discovery that highly praised cloning experiments in South Korea survived the magazine’s peer review process to win publication, only to be declared fraudulent. But he said: “Peer review is not a process that guarantees truth. If it were, no one would ever repeat experiments.” Replication, he said, “is the ultimate test of truth in science.”

I am sure this will be seized upon by the opponents still beating that dead horse involved in the “hockey stick” debate, with one side claiming that other studies have found the same results as the controversial earlier study and the other side claiming that study has yet to be fully replicated. Both sides are probably right.

The following excerpt caused me to raise an eyebrow and is pretty telling about science in politics:

Dr. [Harvey V.] Fineberg [president of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences] spoke of the way scientific knowledge was turned into information useful to society, a process that he said the National Academy encouraged through its regular production of reports on topics as diverse as national security and arsenic in drinking water. The academy’s reports are influential, he said, because of its reputation for integrity, because of its avoidance of conflict of interest, because researchers who produce its findings are volunteers and because “nothing is kept back.”

Now if an official from just about any other organization such as tobacco companies, big oil, environmental groups, etc. stated that their group had no conflicts of interest, it would pass the laugh test. For some reason, scientists get a free pass, even in the face of ample evidence to the contrary, which we’ve documented here in abundance.

If Congress wants to learn about how science works, it should of course talk to scientists, but it should also talk to people whose expertise lies in how science works. When might we see a congressional briefing starring Shelia Jasanoff?

32 Responses to “Straight from the Horse’s Mouth”

  1. Andrew Dessler Says:

    “It makes me extremely tired that they are going to do this again,” said Sheila Jasanoff, a professor of science and technology studies at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, who has written widely on how science policy is made. “There is no easily graspable definition.”

    That’s a telling quote and makes me more certain than ever that the STS community’s arguments about separating science and politics are without merit. In my experience, people who say “I cannot explain this because it is too complicated” do not really understand the concept themselves.

  2. 2
  3. Roger Pielke Jr. Says:


    Thanks. Let me ask you then, what is science?

  4. 3
  5. Andrew Dessler Says:

    Science is a multi-layered, collective, and impersonal process consisting of three parts: 1) individual scientists working under the scientific method, 2) the results of the individual scientists undergo peer-review and are published for the community to evaluate, and 3) important claims are then re-tested in the “crucible of science” — they are either reproduced by independent scientific groups or they have
    their implications tested to insure consistency with the existing body of scientific knowledge.

    In the end, claims that are repeatedly verified by the scientific community (e.g., the Earth is warming, DNA is a double-helix, CFCs destroy ozone) eventually come to be accepted as true.

    That’s my definition of science in about 100 words. What’s Sheila’s? Or is it too complicated for me to grasp?


  6. 4
  7. Roger Pielke Jr. Says:

    Andrew- Great! But since your definintion included the terms science or scientists about 7 times then you probably won’t mind a few questions, to start:

    1. Who is a scientist? (And please avoid the circular answer, “Someone who does science!”?

    1a. Is an economist a scientist?
    1b. Is a detective a scientist?
    1c. Is a CIA inteligence analyst a scientist?
    1d. Is a philosopher a scientist?
    1e. Is a cosmologist a scientist?

    2. What do you mean by the “scientific method”? Consider this from Wikipedia:

    “here is often disagreement in scientific communities over the various aspects of these understandings. In philosophical circles scientific method has been the source of much controversy. Philosophers and historians of science have not only questioned the nature of scientific method, but also its supposed efficacy.”

    and then maybe have a look at this book.

    Perhaps, like your hand waving dismissal of all of STS, you might also do brush away all of the philosophy of science as well? ;-)

    2ba. When Donald Kennedy says that Katrina was caused by greenhouse gas emissions, was this a scientific or pseudo-scientific statement?

    2b. When the Discovery Institute says that complexity reveals the hand of an intelligent designer, was this a scientific or pseudo-scientific statement?

    2c. Are the report of the IPCC science, or non-science?

    That should do for now! Thanks!

  8. 5
  9. Andrew Dessler Says:

    Here are a few answers:
    1) A scientist is someone who publishes in the peer-reveiwed literature on some subject. For 1a-e, the answer depends on whether they publish in their field.
    2) Scientitic method: hypothesis, test, conclude. Just like in the 10th-grade science textbook. I am sure that someone out there with a Ph.D. has thought deeply about it and rejected it … but I think the success of the system speaks for itself.
    2a. Not science. Kennedy’s comments do not reflect the process I described in my last post.
    2b. Not science because that conclusion is not the result of a debate in the peer-reviewed literature.
    2c. The IPCC reports are neither science nor policy. Its reports are not science, because they do not seek to push back the contested margins of science, nor are they policy, because they do not discuss what we should do. Rather, they summarize what we know on scientific questions and how confidently we know it.

    And rather than criticizing my definition, I’d like to focus this discussion on the STS community’s definition. How do you define science?


  10. 6
  11. Rabett Says:

    I think the problem is that Roger and Sheila Jasanoff are trying to descibe science in the sense of what is called Wissenschaft in German. The latter I would define as the description and understanding of real things (e.g. atoms, people, economies). This excludes imagingary realms such as novels and plays, but not much else. The answers to questions 1 are yes in this sense. (For cosmology see and links therein)

    Andrew, on the otherhand is restricting science to the more common (in the US) sense of the study of natural systems with the goal of being able to define them and understand their function. This excludes political science, sociology and economics. Anthropology and psychology are on the borderline. Where they fall depends on personal taste. Of course, it would be sensible to differentiate between physical sciences, biological sciences and behavioral sciences, in which cases things are pretty clear.

  12. 7
  13. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:

    Andrew- Thanks. A few quick observations and then an offer.

    1. Your definition of “science” is a function of a social process invented in the late 19th century – peer review. By this defintion Issac Newton, Copernicus, and Ptolemy would not be engaged in science. Are you really suggesting that science is socially constructed?

    2. Being in the earth sciences you should know that many, many scientific papers are not organized in the mode of hypothesis, test, conclude. Here is an example:

    Would you really argue that this is not science?

    3. Your definition says nothing about “natural” phenomena, which is of course standard in the definition used by people trying to prevent the encroachment of ID. Of course this is because those folks have a different perspective than you do, and different interests.

    4. Eli’s attempt to rescue you from (3) only adds to the confusion. Economics if of course based on peer review, hypothesis/data-driven research, tested in the “crucible of science” (sounds cool!), yet he says it is not science. According to your criteria you’d disagree. If you two scientists can’t even agree on what science is then maybe Jasanoff has a point?

    The offer: We’d welcome a book review from you of Philip Kitcher’s Science, Truth, and Democracy which we will happily publish here. Link here:

  14. 8
  15. Terry Says:

    Maybe this is helpful:

    Science is the attempt to understand the world. A scientist is someone who attempts to understand the world.

    Perhaps many of the issues you are driving at are more concerns about differentiating between “good science” and “bad science.” Good science correctly understands the world while bad science does not.

    Some implications: a wide array of people are scientists including many psychological researchers, cosmologists, economists. Perhaps an exclusion for simple “fact finders” such as detectives and CIA anlaysts who simply want to find out specific facts that do not add to our understanding of how the world at a more general level works.

    The inclination to exclude ID strikes me as more an argument that it is bad science. If they were actually correct it would be immensely helpful in understanding the world and would rival Darwin’s achievements.

    Rather top-of-the head I admit, but the point that you are really trying to differentiate good science from bad science could have something to it.

  16. 9
  17. Chris Weaver Says:

    “It makes me extremely tired that they are going to do this again,” said Sheila Jasanoff, a professor of science and technology studies at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, who has written widely on how science policy is made. “There is no easily graspable definition.”

    For me, the question is the following: Even if we cannot agree on a comprehensive definition (depending on our disciplinary training and philosophical bent), can we develop heuristics that help policy makers understand better what science can and can’t give them? Does having scientists go on in a forum like this help to sketch out these shortcuts? I would argue that there is value in these exercises, but how much value is unclear. Would it be more useful if we had a science policy expert give the briefing instead, or some combination of the two?

    Also, regarding 2ba from Roger’s post above, “When Donald Kennedy says that Katrina was caused by greenhouse gas emissions, was this a scientific or pseudo-scientific statement?” I was at the briefing, and it was interesting to hear Don Kennedy be very explicit that his essay should be taken as an opinion piece, similar to a newspaper editorial, and that the views he expressed were not the direct result of any scientific process. Of course, this begs the question of how the editor of Science interpreting his position in this way feeds back onto the science-policy-politics overlap.


  18. 10
  19. Mark Bahner Says:

    “The inclination to exclude ID strikes me as more an argument that it is bad science. If they were actually correct it would be immensely helpful in understanding the world and would rival Darwin’s achievements.”

    ID is excluded from science not because it is bad science, but because it’s not science at all.

    The key to science is falsifiability…if something is science, it must be able to be proved wrong. To postulate God is doing something can’t be proven wrong.

    For example (and I’m not intimately familiar with the situation, so this may not be completely correct), apparently under “normal” circumstances, only about 1% of elephants are born without tusks. But elephant poaching has put genetic pressure on elephants being born without tusks, such that now rates are as high as 9-15% in some places:

    Now, is this a case of evolution, or is it God?

    Well, if evolution is the cause, then stopping the poaching should make the rate of tuskless elephants go back down to 1%. And if that DOESN’T happen, then evolution must be questioned.

    But if God is the cause, who can say what would happen if poaching is reduced? Maybe the rate of tuskless elephants would go down (by God’s will) or stay the same (by God’s will) or even go up (by God’s will). There is no result that can prove that God doesn’t exist.

  20. 11
  21. Roger Pielke Jr. Says:


    The discussion on this board I think effectively proves Jasanoff’s point. Each of us may think that we have somespecial insight on what science is, but when we air it out we find that others have different conceptions. Philosophers and others have spent a lot of time trying to square this circle.

    Chris Weaver’s excellent post gets us back on track: “Even if we cannot agree on a comprehensive definition (depending on our disciplinary training and philosophical bent), can we develop heuristics that help policy makers understand better what science can and can’t give them?”

    And it is precisely the knowledge in STS that can help answer this question. Some scientists may not like or welcome what the STS community has to offer, but of course there are many people who don’t like the knowledge that climate scientists have to offer!

  22. 12
  23. Andrew Dessler Says:


    Here are a few thoughts.

    1) Of course science is a social activity. and I agree that my definition is of “modern science,” as it’s been practiced for the last, say, 100 years.

    2) I’m sure academics argue about the exact form of the scientific method. Regardless, all scientists follow some system of hypothesis testing to generate research that then goes into the peer-review system. That’s the important point here. The argument that different fields might use slightly different methods here is trivial.

    3) re: natural. In 100 words, I could not put everything into my defintion. Of course my definition of science includes only natural explanation, and that’s another reason ID is not science. (I did actually think about including that, but did not in the interest of brevity)

    4) If the best you can do is point out that my definition does not clearly identify whether economics is a science or not, then I’m going to declare victory right here and now. And if this is what Jasanoff was referring to when she said a definition of science was hard to grasp, then my opinion of STS will plummet to zero.

    In the end, I don’t think that your arguments demonstrate that science is hard to define, or that my definition contains significant errors.

    Finally, I’m surprised that, despite repeated requests, you have not provided the STS definition of science. It seems inconceivable that you don’t have one, so why not provide a short summary? (although I appreciate the fact that you have not pointed me to a 10,000 page book by Jasanoff/Sarewitz/Wynne/Bocking/etc.)


  24. 13
  25. Roger Pielke Jr. Says:


    There is no “STS definition of science”. To move beyond such questions in my courses I state that for our purposes science is the “systematic pursuit of knowledge.”

    The question of what is/is not science is not particularly interesting or useful a question to me in the abstract.

    If you want to know in particular cases what information is useful, how to produce useful information, the factors that shape the misuse of information, why scientists act the way they do, the role of information in decision, etc. etc. the STS and STP literatures are exactly the place to go.

    Postivistic pronoucements that good science = good policy are of course wiudely shared by scientists, but again, whether a particular scientist has a high or low opinion of STS does not change the reality that is apparent in decades of hypethsis-driven research, published in peer-reviewed journal, and tested in the “crucible of science” (couldn’t resist) any more that if a STS researcher has a high or low opinion of theories of gravity has an effect on falling bodies ;-)

  26. 14
  27. Andrew Dessler Says:


    Your suggestion that the posters on this thread disagree and prove your point is ridiculous. I don’t disagree with anything in Eli Rabett’s post. I think Terry’s post is consistent with mine, although his (her?) definition of science is much more general than mine. And Bahner’s argument of falsifiability is implicitly included in my definition.

    Thus, I believe that if Rabett, Bahner, Terry and I all sat down at the same table, we could come up with a definition of science that suits all of us, and it would be close to the one I provided up above.


  28. 15
  29. Roger Pielke Jr. Says:


    Based on experience seeing Mark Bahner and Eli Rabbett agree on something would indeed be special. Ask them each about climate science/IPCC and your fragile consensus may shatter ;-)

    This will be my last point on this subject as much fun as it is, and you can have the lst word if you’d like. If you do think that you have THE definition of science, then I’d encourage you to publish it in the peer reviewed literature and enjoy the fame and fortune sure to follow. Just like folks who post comments on Real Climate about their pet theories of this or that climate theory, the real test of solid knowledge is not opinion on blogs, but the peer reviewed literature, which I think we both agree with. You are of course free to dismiss then all of STS and philosphy of science, including the works of Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos, Jasanoff, Wynne, Gieryn, Kitcher etc. etc. as being unnecessary to read or understand but do recognize what it is you are doing. Thanks!

  30. 16
  31. Andrew Dessler Says:


    Since you have not provided an STS-approved definition of science, I will give you what I think you’re definition of science would be:

    “Science” is the process by which scientists push their preferred policy positions in political debates. Science and scientists are no different from any other political faction, and their claims consequently merit no deference in policy debates.

    I know you said you were not going to respond, but if the mood strikes, let me know if I’m dead-on or almost dead-on … :)


  32. 17
  33. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:

    Andrew- Ha! Ok, I’ll bite … You have confused science and politics ;-) Here is what I teach:

    Science = the sytematic pursuit of knowledge

    Politics = the process of bargaining, negationation, and compromise that determines who gets what, when, and how

    Policy = a commitment to a course of action, a decision

    “science policy” = decisions about or in light of the results of the systematic pursuit of knowledge

    Does the systematic pursuit of knowledge have politics? Of course.

    Is science used in processes of bargaining, negotiation, and compromise? Of course.

    Does science = politics? No way, but there are a lot of peoople, on the left and the right who are working hard to make it seem that way!


  34. 18
  35. Rabett Says:

    Roger, as I said, your version is a lot closer to Wissenschaft than science. I also think that the systmatic is more theory than practice.

  36. 19
  37. Mark Bahner Says:

    “Politics = the process of bargaining, negationation, and compromise that determines who gets what, when, and how”

    Why give anyone anything?

  38. 20
  39. kevin Says:

    because then you’re Ayn Rand and as beautiful as her utopian ideas seemed, it was always clear that Reality held a different view of human interaction

  40. 21
  41. Dano Says:

    Indeed, kevin.

    As surprising as it is for some, there are a great many people who _like_ doing things for others.

    And thank goodness for that, else we’d have no teachers, forcing us to all be Googlers – all information, no wisdom or education.



  42. 22
  43. Hinheckle Jones Says:

    “Science = the sytematic pursuit of knowledge”

    That’s just the definition that those ID guys gave me.

    I do wonder if Andrew is correct:

    “”"Science” is the process by which scientists push their preferred policy positions in political debates. Science and scientists are no different from any other political faction, and their claims consequently merit no deference in policy debates.”"

  44. 23
  45. Andrew Dessler Says:

    I have to say I’m a bit puzzled, Roger. Your definition of science, “the systematic pursuit of knowledge,” is not obviously at odds with mine. I’m not sure what your objection to my definition was … unless you think that my definition is too specific, and that in reality one cannot come up with a more specific version than the fuzzy one you provided.

    Of course, another explanation was that you actually agree with me, but were very upset that I had the temerity to criticize Sheila J. for her idiotic quote.

    As far as your other statements go, I think that I can agree with most. I suppose it’s likely that we would disagree on the extent, however, with you arguing that politics has a dominant influence on science, while I would argue that the influence is negligible. I guess that’ll have to wait for another thread!


  46. 24
  47. David N. Cherney Says:


    From my perspective, the issue is not whether your and Roger’s definitions are at odds with each other. Rather, it is that there are a number of different legitimate definitions of what science is. Although your definition may not be at odds with Roger’s, surely you must admit that they are different…and that they are both legitimate.

    As you point out, if we “all sat down at the same table, we could come up with a definition of science that suits all of us.” However, at a national or international scale this conversation is near impossible; hence, Roger’s challenge for you to publish “the definition” of science. With a multitude of different legitimate definitions at a national level, the boundary between what is and what isn’t science becomes blurry (where the definitions differ).

    My interpretation why Jasanoff is “tired that they are going to do this again” is in the blur between what is and is not science – the blur referring to the fact there is “no easily graspable definition” – we find ourselves in a situation where policy preferences are scientized. In other words, that policy preferences are promoted as objective authoritative knowledge when in fact they are value laden…which is an ongoing theme on this Blog.


  48. 25
  49. Rabett Says:

    David, it would be a contradiction if Roger or Jasanoff held your opinion while being backers of Popper. Popper’s basic strategy was to define science.

  50. 26
  51. Terry Says:

    Roger said:

    “… science is the ’systematic pursuit of knowledge.”

    Terry said:

    “Science is the attempt to understand the world.”

    Sounds like we agree. (And others agree as well.)

    So then, the real debate is about “good science” versus “bad science.” That seems to be just a practical question (or an engineering question if you will). For instance, the question of peer-reviewed versus non-peer reviewed is a question about which system works best.

    Since the world is a complicated place, I would expect that different scientific systems would have different strengths and weaknesses and that the “best” system would differ depending on the discipline and the era.

  52. 27
  53. Andrew Dessler Says:

    David Cherney-

    You argue that:
    … there are a number of different legitimate definitions of what science is.
    However, I contend that all the definitions provided on this thread are the same as mine, although slight semantic differences might exist.

    Given that, I continue to argue that Shiela J’s argument that science is too difficult to grasp is wrong — while slight (semantic) differences might exist, they are so minor that one can still give policymakers a legitimate and useful definition of science.

    Like many arguments on this blog, this one seems to me to be more complicated than need be.


    PS: If you do have a materially different definition of science, then I’d be very interested in hearing it.

  54. 28
  55. David N. Cherney Says:


    I think we may have to agree to disagree. While I agree that there is much overlap in definitions on this thread, I still see more than just a slight difference in semantics.

    Sure, the scientific method, peer review, and the “crucible of science” all fit neatly under the heading of the systematic pursuit of knowledge. However, from my perspective, there is plenty that falls under the systematic pursuit of knowledge that does not necessarily follow the scientific method, peer review, and the “crucible of science.”

    One alternative method is a practice-based approach. Unlike a controlled experiment testing a hypothesis, a practiced-based approach starts with a particular goal in mind but leaves flexibility to innovate as unexpected challenges and opportunities arise. This can be though of as a continual process of innovation, diffusion, and adaptation. Does a practiced-based approach need to follow the scientific method? No. Does it need to be peer reviewed? No. Does it need to be replicated? No. Is it a systematic pursuit of knowledge? Yes. There are plenty of people who would consider a practiced-based approach legitimate science, particularly in the social sciences.

    And no, I don’t have a substantially different definition of science than Roger’s. ;) However, because I agree with Jasanoff (which I know makes you cringe!), I consider this definition a tool to practically move forward in understanding how useful knowledge is produced, perceived, and utilized in policy.


  56. 29
  57. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:


    I have taken a closer look at your new book, which for others FYI we will be profiling here on Prometheus over the next few weeks, so we will have a chance to discuss in some depth.

    I now have a better understanding of your views. You write at p. 42:

    “One essential key to such improvement [of science in politics] lies in disentangling the policy debate into separate, precisely posed questions and noting which of these are positive questions of scientific knowledge about the world, and which are normative questions of our values, desires, and political principles.”

    This is also called the “fact-values distinction” which is a highly contested concept:

    Brief intro here:

    In-depth critique here:

    You follow up the above statement by observing “”It is not always possible to draw these distinctions [positive-normative] perfectly cleanly, but trying to do so to the extent feasible can bring large benefits.”

    Very Jasanoffian, if I do say so. You assert that there are benefits to such a distinction, Jasanoff says that there can be some real problems. You two are not so far off after all. I also note with some surprise that on p. 45 you cite for further reading Sheila Jasanoff! And you accurately describe how her book The Fifth Branch “examines the processes by which the boundaries between scientific and political domains were negotiated in several regulatory controversies …[ leading to] a more or less constructive relationship between scientific advice and regulatory decision making in each case.” If they are negotiated case-by-case then they are not clear and distinct are they?

    You closet social constructivist you!

    (You also cite Weinberg’s “Science and Trans-science” which makes a compelling case against the fact-value distinction in practice!)

    Finally, a question: Are you not committing the very naturalistic fallacy that you complain about throughout this book when on pp. 175-176 you write:

    “Our conclusion is that scientific knowledge about present and likely climate changes calls for an urgent, high-priority response – principally by not exclusively through international negotiation of coordinated national policies – to reduce future emissions and to prepare for a much more uncertain and potentially less benign climate than we have been fortunate to live in for the past century.”

    Can you explain to me how it is that “scientific knowledge” calls for such a response? I thought a response was based on values? Are you conflating the fact-values dichotomy here?

  58. 30
  59. Andrew Dessler Says:


    A few responses.

    1) I always try to make nuanced and subtle arguments, but nuance and subtlety tend not to survive in the blog format … I think you can find many of these “surprising” statements on my previous posts. (e.g., I’ve said several times that WGII and III are much less amenable to separation of normative/positive questions than WGI). As I think I said on this post, where you and I probably disagree is on degree …

    In writing the book, we recognized that not everyone agrees with our views of science/politics and tried to present some balance (e.g., see “Aside: Is this how science really works” on p. 29). As part of this, we felt it was important to include a wide range of views in the additional readings.

    2) I don’t have a problem w/ Sheila J. … I just thought her quote in that NYT article was arrogant and unhelpful, and worthy of criticism. But that doesn’t mean she hasn’t done good work.

    3) We say several times (e.g., end of last paragraph on p. 17, end of first paragraph on p. 127) that the 2nd half of chapter 5 (section 5.4) is our personal opinion about what should be done … so, yes, it clearly includes our personal values. We tried to make that clear, so I’ll be very disappointed if readers do not pick up on that. Maybe in the next edition we can put in big red letters “WARNING! Personal Opinion Ahead!!!”

    I also thought you’d be really pleased to see academics presenting their policy suggestions. We spent quite a bit of time trying to decide whether we wanted to give our personal opinion, but in the end decided that it was a statement we wanted to make.


  60. 31
  61. Rabett Says:

    Roger, Andrew, that is very good stuff. Keep it up!

  62. 32
  63. Rabett Says:

    I know this thread is pretty much dead, but I was re-reading it and it occurred to me that the systematic pursuit of knowledge includes theology. You have to restrict it to the pursuit of knowledge of naturally occurring things.