This article isn't out to bash modern science over the head with a big stick -- I personally agree with much of the scientific ideas and concepts which I know of with a few exceptions, and I would like to think that I have applied fairly decent scientific understanding and meta-scientific understanding (philosophical reasoning) to those areas. I don't claim to have a very deep knowledge of science either, but I feel that I know enough to share certain ideas I have had.
The term I objected to in each section of the aforementioned educational article was "myth". Not the real, true meaning of myth,
but the implied meaning and the subconcious synonyms which arise in the mind.
Technically, a myth is a) a tale with supernatural characters or
events or b) an imaginary object or person. This particular definition is different from common perception of the word.
Usually the latter association is used, and I feel that it is this perception which should be reconsidered.
In our apparently open and tolerant western society, everyone is said to be entitled to have their own beliefs. No one set of ideas is deemed to
be absolutely correct or true. This philosophical idea is supposed to be one of the bases of postmodern thought and something held in the worldview.
Why, then, does the world permeate the concept that science is outside of this set? We see it in schools more than
most, the aforementioned article being a prime example of the way society views "religions" in comparison to something they think is in a different
realm of its own; outside of beliefs and religious-type discussion. Science seems to be treated as intrinsically correct in education (at least in my own, that is), and it is possibly seen as an absolute truth system, where beliefs are rooted in the supernatural and the spiritual, science is rooted in reality. Trust in science and scientists can be formed implicitly, as I feel I have to a certain extent. This lead me to think in this way:
- Reality is a self-contained set
- Reality is consistent
- Ultimately all reality will be explained by science or meta-science
This view is highly inconsistent with the postmodernist axiom of the nonexistence of truth. Science cannot prove anything, implies this concept -- many take the opposite for granted. We hear of brave "futurists" who confidentally predict the huge leaps and bounds science will
take in days to come, almost as though, like computing power, the power of science will exponentially increase. But science isn't like that in my understanding. Science
is as much a hazy subject in its own way as religion is. I feel that something which is important is the model nature of science.
Put simply, science is only a possible model of our world and universe. As far as I know, fundamentally physics is the underlying model on which the rest of mainstream science is based, and the physical nature of the universe determines this fact. The idea is that if this underlying model is
correct and true, so the extrapolations will also be true. Biology and chemistry are two large areas of such extrapolations. However, the main thrust
of this particular argument is a more general one: much of science is based on a single model -- one possibility. This implies that our particular
model of the universe could have a definite end and limit of its applicability, but another, different model may carry us on further. One example of
this is Newtonian mechanics and quantum mechanics - Newtonian is one way, albeit limited, to look at the universe; all this went only so far at which
point quantum physics was developed to take a look at the universe at a different angle, and enabled us to discover further. I think that our particular model is by no means infallible.
I suppose that many people may have been bludgeoned (like me) into believing scientific facts because they come from the mouths of well-respected characters, perhaps
never thinking of reasoning the idea out in their own head. For example, I can't deny that in my mind the theory of evolution has holes, in some ways
I'd like to believe it since it is a very elegent theory, but it's easy to take this as being the be-all and end-all of life. We have developed by chance,
over millions of years and somehow have managed to evolve into sentient beings, capable of advanced thought, technological creation and a have obtained a highly complex emotional set. I believe that some theorists may point out the that transitionary stages of the evolutionary process don't exist, and the maze-like probabilities which evolution would have to satisfy would require more than the several hundred million years we have apparently been developing, but to be honest, I'm not fully qualified in this area, and I'm merely speaking as from an outsider's viewpoint. Theories always have initial problems, and no one theory will ever be the "only" way of seeing our world.
Yet a great deal of this is held as a common, "correct" viewpoint in our schools. Anyone who reasonably critises it is in danger of being against established common knowledge scientific opinion. Other such theories are taught as fact in our schools, not as one of the ways (to the best of our
current knowledge) of describing the world around us. But the difficulty is how to provide a more balenced view. Therein the main problem lies -- in the almost philosophical nature of the underlying concept of scientific models, which, admittedly is difficult to begin with. It is therefore easier to believe that one prototype is the only truth than that model being a possible description of the truth. This does sometimes make some of the uncertainties of human existence temporarily disappear;
we are able
to understand and relate to such common-knowlege concepts as sound, which for example occurs in accordance to a particular scientific model which we
know exists. Perhaps the way forward is to start conceptualising reality as being something which is ultimately beyond complete and formal description.
Scientific theories are, I believe, only a part-reflection of the absolute truth system which is veiled by our imperfect and finite view of reality. Like a fractal
landscape, we will never succeed in uncovering all the detail of it's construction and design. Different models reflect different sections of the
ultimate image, but none will uncover the whole image.
We cannot see subatomic particles, but we have developed a model that incorporates them because it seems the best way to explain the interaction we can
observe. It is analogous to being able to see an object which is covered by a sheet. We can see the bumps and that object creates, and theorise as to
its shape, but never see the true shape as a whole, or all the details on that shape. We can see merely the interaction that the object
produces on the sheet. I do not know whether we will ever be able to remove the metaphorical sheet from our reality or not, but hopefully this
isomorphism may convey something of the profound nature of the fabric of our universe's makeup.
Some see beliefs in a sub-category of many other things of the world, possibly as a side-issue, or a non-parallel concern to other things in life.
I personally see it the other way round. Beliefs are based on our perception of the world around us, and science is based on perception as much as some
faiths are. Both require some faith or an inexplicable reasoning to get anywhere - in many religions it is the knowledge of God, and in
science it is the desire to discover more about our universe; however, for others it is a mixture of both. One example of a mixed
approach to these areas of life was Isaac Newton, who was probably one of the most inventive and brilliant scientists who has ever lived. I state
"inexplicable reasoning" as a driving force behind scientists, and many other professionals -- although people may not feel that there is a spiritual dimension to their work, it is fair to say that most people normally want to discover more about our world for some "inexplicable reason". It is this force that I would like to understand -- I ask why we wish to explore the universe and progress.
I feel that it is easy to have missed this "inexplicable reasoning" or choose to ignore it. In fact, this same rationale can be applied to all professions but particularly to science.
Why continue - what point does it have?
Perhaps for me personally, this is the oversight which pervades much of our culture, where distractions are pretty common.
Many people have their reasons for pursuing their own goals, but it's understandable when our understanding falls down when we approach the larger scope of things. Is there any
meaning in our universe that ultimately can be fathomed? In my view, the only thing that would justify even slightly the need for progress is the belief in our own species. Our culture does at times push the image that people should attempt to climb their
own personal ladder through the pursuit of a vain faith in humanity. Vain may sound harshly critical, yet we need to apply that kind of discernment
and stricture to a civilisation which has maimed, slaughtered and killed each other since the very dawn of our existence. This fact cannot be thrown
The only explanation for me in our relentless quest for development must be attributed to some kind of in-built search for a hidden backdrop to our world and universe. This may sound like a resignatory excuse, but until there are other theories which match up to the powerful logic of this one, I seem to
have only one option of explanation (give me your view!). That this explanation should require a force external to the universe is possibly a foolish thing to many people.
It seems to be far too irrational and unfounded. Much better is the concept that it is a genetic-based drive, yet I consider this to be a perhaps
shallow observation of the evidence. For me, this drive seems to be far too complex and profound for mere genetics to be a bedrock. The sophistication
and chaotic nature of human emotions should be enough to imply that, not forgetting that motives such as artistic ambition seem illogical when
scrutinised. Such things do not progress humanity in an evolutionary logic.
All of these ideas could be considered from an opposite viewpoint, of course -- that in-built genetics and the human condition have collectively brought this "phenomena" about.
In conclusion, the missed "myth" of science from the article mentioned earlier only ratifies the notion that it is all too easy to rely on
common-knowledge science to think out issues for you, and that common-viewpoint is all too common. Science requires faith in something; whether
this is humanity or a higher power is a subject of controversy. Personally I believe in the latter, but others perhaps believe that they are self-motivated at a base level. I don't find this satisfactory, because as stated before, I believe it to be
somewhat missing the evidence.
Whatever your beliefs, if we are to succeed in discovering more about our world, we must continue to realise the depth and subtlety of the universe we live in, and not
be content to "dumb-down" the cosmos as if it were all within our rather measly grip. Respect for this is, I believe, highly important.