Discuss the claim that some areas of knowledge are discovered and others are invented By Olivia Emans In my opinion an invention may be defined as a new device, method, or process developed from study and experimentation whereas a discovery is an act or process of finding something or somebody, or learning about something that was not known about before. Another way of differentiating discovery and invention is in the following: A discovery is something someone else can test for himself and find out if it is true or not. An invention is something that is true (and exists) only because of the inventor.
Some people would say: Invention is of our making while discovery is what we can learn from God’s making or from the nature. There are many different areas of knowledge, from natural sciences (most notably physics, chemistry and biology), mathematics up to areas like human sciences, history, religion and arts. As a generalisation it can be said that discoveries play a bigger role in natural sciences and even in mathematics than in areas like religion or arts. Art, be it a painting or a piece of music or certain literature, is generally invented by individuals. If a piece of art would not have been invented it simply would not exist.
Laws of nature like the gravitational forces are not invented. They exist on their own and can only be discovered. Such laws are generally described in mathematical terms, by using equations and mathematical models or systems. Discoveries are unleashing something that already exists. Many discoveries only became possible because of inventions (like the microscope, the telescope, the transistor or many other machines) made before which enabled new observations. I’m not aware of any inventions contained in the human body; it simply exists and certain discoveries can be made, i. e. regarding the cell structure or how the human brain works.
However, certain machines can be invented. An invention is something new that did not exist before, like the transistor, the integrated circuit or the internet. Many scientists including for example Francis Bacon observed that nature is ruled by laws and the task of the scientist is to discover and describe them. A scientific method has been developed which includes observation, the development of a hypothesis, predictions on the basis of a model and the development of laws and theories. A law discovered can be correct within a certain range and fail beyond such range. This was the case with Newtonian Physics.
So rather than thinking that scientific laws once discovered are eternal truths we should always be prepared to question and test their validity. Discovery directly relates to nature. It can comprise new laws of nature (like electromagnetic forces or gravitation) or new components like electrons, protons or quarks. Discovery often relates to something that exists in nature. A discovery frequently leads to the development of a new theory. However, things are more complex and at times it can be the other way around, as I will demonstrate below. Mathematics is needed to describe observations made in natural sciences.
Mathematicians are still puzzled when asked if their area of knowledge is discovered or invented. There are different schools taking either position. It seems to me that both views have their merits. Plato believed that mathematical objects exist “out there” and that they are even more real than physical objects. Mathematical objects have clarity and immutability; the Pythagoras theorem discovered two thousand and five hundred years ago still holds and is apparently timeless. It seems that the underlying truth has been discovered. At the same time one can argue that (at least large parts of) mathematics is simply invented.
Every mathematician can define a set of axioms and invent a system around this. This was the case when Riemann defined axioms different from Euclid. Amongst others he stated that two points can determine more than one line and that there are no parallel lines. These axioms lead to the conclusion that two straight lines enclose an area instead of three straight lines as would be the case for Euclid. Although his theorems sounded pretty strange Riemann could build mathematics around them which was consistent, i. e. did not contain any inherent contradictions. More than 100 years later physicists discovered that not all effects observed ould be explained in the context of Euclid’s geometry. Today we all know that an airplane flying from country A to country B on the shortest way would take a curved path instead of a straight line. And I have heard that the relativity theory of Albert Einstein can be described with Riemann geometry while Euclidian geometry fails. I consider this very interesting because it proves that while the mathematical system was invented it was discovered that such invented system provides a perfect description to reality as it could be observed in physics experiments.
Scientists frequently invent a theory to see subsequently if it works, i. e. describes the object studied perfectly well. Art is different. Art does not only consist of paintings and sculptures but also things like film, literature, music, dance and theatre. First one must take into account the two perspectives: On the one hand the actual work of art and on the other what the artist tries to tell us with his art. While paintings or poems are invented the background to each of these things can well be a discovery of the artist. While natural science uses mathematics to describe laws or theories this does not work for art.
An Exception may be “fractional” art which is based on mathematical formulas. We must use language to at least partially describe what we see or hear. And even the language is often not sufficient to express the emotions generated by a piece of art to people who observe it. Natural science is lacking the personal aspect which is generally found in a piece of art. Another example of an area of knowledge that in my opinion has been invented is Religion Many people turn to religion to answer questions such as “what is the meaning of life“, or “is death the end? They try to answer such questions by using emotions, reason and perception. There are so many different religions spread across the world and many of them are based on some religious aspect which occurred years and years in the past. However all of these religions have one thing in common: God or some form of leader or worshipper. The most common religion in Europe is the Catholic view on the world. The biggest mystery in religion is probably the question: “Does God exist or not? ” How do we know that God really exists? How is it possible that the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus?
Many people who believe that God exists apply the method of reason because they assume to have proof: The Bible. But there is no scientific proof of anything and it all comes down to believing or not believing. Personally I believe that many people only believe in religion because of the existence of this book, which assures them that the events that are stated in the bible are true. I think that religion and the perspective of God who invented earth was just a natural answer to the same and doubtful questions that people asked themselves back then and that we ask ourselves still today centuries after the commence of religion.
Back then people could not explain certain things and so they referred back to God and Religion in order to have some perspective and explanation in their life. This is also where perception and emotion comes in. Because so many people had this point of view it was like a trend which the rest of the population followed. Today you can speak freely about your opinion on different matters but back then the Church was the capital of various countries and it also represented the religion.
One couldn’t just not believe in what the rest of the people believed otherwise there would be severe consequences. So also I guess religion back then was what you would today call: “Mainstream”. Today still people approach religion with a lot of emotion. In times of misery people would ask God, or whatever kind of leader they would have, for help and in times of sin for salvation. Religion as we know it is and always will be a very vague matter. It is surely a mystery that will always lie beyond the reach and justification of science.
I cannot see how religion is discovered as it is not something made by nature that humans have found or discovered. There is no other answer to the fact that religion with all its ideals and perspectives is invented. Therefore in my personal opinion there are areas of knowledge that are either invented or discovered. Then again there are other areas of knowledge where it seems that both are dependent on one another and sometimes one step is necessary to come to the other. So I conclude that there is not one that is more important as there is no absolute truth.