Warning: The following is not intended to be taken seriously. If you're getting annoyed as you read it, you'll know you're taking it too seriously.
Ok, take two theories about what stars are: One is the modern contemporary theory, which is that they're balls of gas, reacting nuclear-ly, throwing off heat and light, and all that. The other is that stars are the eyes...of gods...which are clinging to a giant blue, uh, balloon surrounding the earth. Oh, and the US never landed on the moon, too. Or Mars. It's a conspiracy! You can also take pop music, just for the hell of it, but that won't enter into this discussion.
Firstly, we're talking distant stars, here. Stars we have no hope of ever examining in more detail than we do now. Ok, well, maybe from 1.14572x10^25 light years instead of 1.14575x10^25 light years, if we manage to get to Alpha Centari or whatever.
Now, you have no way of ever proving either theory, not for certain. The only thing that differentiates between theories is that one is a valid, legitimate, contemporary and much cooler scientific theory which is up-to-date and hip and with it, whereas the other is not a valid scientific theory, because, after all, if they were god's eyes, then
obviously they'd have to blink from time to time, wouldn't they?
Now, you have a tribal shaman who believes one, and an astrophysicist who believes the other--for a twist, let's say in respective order. Now, attempting to aquire knowledge in either case is pointless and, in fact, absurd. Um...that was my hypothesis, labelled retroactively.
Now for my reason why: Both are likely to turn out wrong, to some extent--one more likely than the other, at least given our current understanding as to the nature of stars and the nature of, well, nature--but I don't deal in degrees. They're both likely to turn out to be wrong, is the point. IF, that is, we could check one way OR the other, which we can't--not absolutely. Plus, they're both totally impractical and irrelevant in our day-to-day lives (well, unless you wanna show off for the gods). Finally, in any case whatsoever, they're both only descriptions of what we see--nothing more, nothing less. One is merely more detailed than the other. So, you have:
Innocent Bystander: "Look! There are little whitish dots in the sky!"
Tribal Shaman: "Using my multitude of telescopes, spectroscope analyzers, gamma-ray detectors, and giant tubs of heavy water, burried hundreds of feet below the earth, I've seen quite clearly that those thingies are stars made up mostly of hydrogen, densely compressed and therefore hot, that eventually fuse with other hydrogen atoms, causing intense reactions emitting energy in many forms, including heat and light."
Astrophysicist: "Ugh! Gods they look down from big bah-loon in sky--you must obey Zod the Astrophysicist! Gods say so!"
All three are merely different ways of describing what is observed--to more or less detail. And I'll say again, degrees don't concern me--I'm a computer programmer by occupation and hobby, I'm looking for binary shit here. Therefore, to me, they are all (almost) equally legitimate. One cannot be said to be inherently better than the others. One is merely understood, in contemporary times, given contemporary knowledge and assumptions, to be more likely.
So, it can be said that there's no more point in striving to be a doctor of astrophysics than there is in striving to be a tribal shaman, aside from the fact that it is significantly easier to find a university offering courses in astronomy and physics than it is to find a tribe in search of a shaman.
Scientific knowledge for knowledge's sake is therefore nothing more than a glorified description of what we observe, treated it with almost sacred seriousness and respect.
Note: The stars don't really have to be distant. I just wanted to emphasise the fact that we'll never know for certain what those particular stars are made of--but the fact is, we can never be really sure what our own damned sun is made up of...
Disclaimer: The opinions and/or ideas expressed above are those of the author of the article, and do not necessarily represent those of any sane person. Heck, in this particular case the opinions and ideas don't even really represent those of the author himself. The above may be taken as nothing more than idle speculation. Feel free to set me straight regarding any mistakes or incorrect assumptions I've made in the above gibberish, or if I am, in fact, merely repeating what has been said before on another node.