The game of science is, in principle, without end. He who decides one day that scientific statements do not call for any further test, and that they can be regarded as finally verified, retires from the game."
- Karl Popper in "The Logic of Scientific Discovery" (1934) Ch. 2 "On the Problem of a Theory of Scientific Method", Section XI: Methodological Rules as Conventions
My own thoughts on the quote:
Science can always be based only on the best possible currently available knowledge. There are no absolute or 'final' truths in science. The prevailing scientific 'truths' are always just those facts and ideas based on these facts that do enjoy the widest current support in the worldwide and extremely open scientific community.
Of course, someday people of the future will laugh at the things that we now see as 'truths' in science, just as we often laugh at the science of the people of 300 years ago. However, the current level of our knowledge is the best that we can have. Just now do not yet have no means for finding out better and more accurate facts about our only existing universe.
However, we can rest assured that our knowledge will expand even vastly in the future when new methods for exploration are invented. Yet, science is a human endeavor, and as such always fallible. That is the reason why it cannot ever become a similar religion such as the current faith-based religions. Religions are based on beliefs in non-moving, final truths, when science is based on the ideas of discovery and change.
A religion that is based on the modern scientific method would be malleable, changeable and adaptable in a way that no religion has ever been. All of its central tenets would be always open for criticism and change, when new discoveries would be made, which is of course unheard of in the world of current religions.
Of course, such 'religion of science' does not really exist. This is true, even if some people do quite commonly talk about others having a 'religious' relationship with science. However, this is a quite different thing. Normally this means the same as 'religious' relationship with Harley-Davidson- motorcycles or with the computing-products by Apple.
There is also, of course, the danger of accepting things presented as science at their face-value. Sometimes strongly held opinions and value-based ideas are, in fact, just dressed up as science. Happily science is based on critical thinking. It is not automatic acceptance of ideas even by people with position of authority. Given enough time, the false ideas will normally be weeded out with time.
The history of science, like the history of all human ideas, is a history of irresponsible dreams, of obstinacy, and of error. Science is one of the very few human activities — perhaps the only one — in which errors are systematically criticized and fairly often, in time, corrected. This is why we can say that, in science, we often learn from our mistakes, and why we can speak clearly and sensibly about making progress there.
Karl Popper in "Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge" (1963), Ch. 1 "Science : Conjectures and Refutations"
(This piece was refurbished on 3rd of December, 2012)
Karl Popper is in Facebook at:
"Sir Karl Raimund Popper, CH FRS FBA (28 July 1902 – 17 September 1994) was an Austro-British philosopher and a professor at the London School of Economics. He is regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of science of the 20th century, he also wrote extensively on social and political philosophy."