Do we really understand Science?

do we really understand science?Science is not isolated from society; scientific discoveries can be an important reason for social changes. For example the discovery that earth is not flat influenced not only the scientific society but the whole world-view of the educated members of the society and helped in the separation from the Church . Philosophy was always inspired by technological innovations and scientific discoveries. Actually, someone can say, that Philosophy itself  is a by-product of the technological achievements in sea commerce; in ancient Greece trading provided people with massive new experiences that lead them to independent thought.

Philosophy and science should go hand in hand; Philosophers should decode the “true” meaning behind scientific discoveries and lead society to world-view change.  But this, of course, in not always the case or at least it doesn’t happen for the last couple of centuries. According to the humanists there is a big failure of philosophy in the latest years;

Dewey concluded that most of the problems of society during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries stemmed from the colossal failure of philosophy. He claimed that philosophers had forsaken their responsibility to explain the findings of science as they came to light, and to provide leadership in the continuous forging of a world view compatible with those findings–that they had, instead, lost themselves in the “quest for certainty.” The result was that much of the intellectual progress of the Enlightenment era stagnated and even regressed with the reemergence of a belief system that, once again, divided the world in two.

The reason for this failure is what they call “dualism”; Philosophers tried hard to reconcile science and religion by separating matter from “soul” which actually means to prevent science of studying humans as a part of nature.  If we describe thinking as another expression of Nature then there is no absolute truth and certainty any more.

Altogether, Kant provided a world view within which science was itself a quest for certainty –but a quest appropriate only for “the inherently rational and immutable domain of material substance.” As for that realm of change for which the methods of science are not applicable, humans were advised to rely on faith in metaphysical explanations, with their promise of escape from uncertainty through the soul’s ultimate connection to a realm of perfect being.

Dualism is the reason that Darwin’s theory was under attack for so long; This scientific theory treats humans and their “soul” as a part of Nature, and “dualists” cannot allow that.

For well over a century we have witnessed a battle, virtually to the death, to fence off psychological, anthropological, and sociological studies from that remarkable ordering paradigm now providing the very foundation for our understanding of all living things. This war has been fought not only by theologians but by many established academics in the humanities and so-called hard sciences. If it could be shown that evolution has no implications whatsoever for the spiritual and practical realms–that is, for human emotions, values, ideals, and actions–then the long-established reconciliation of religion and science in our culture need not be endangered.

The growing distance between dominant philosophy and the the philosophical suggestions that derive from scientific discoveries, creates a barrier to science itself;

No wonder we are producing so many mystics who throw all criteria for truth claims to the winds, while crying blithely, “All, all is mystery. We must learn to live with contradiction–to intuitively `know’ the unknowable!”. We tend to be satisfied only if a particular truth claim or value makes sense in terms of what we already believe–that is, if it fits into our current “meaning frame.”

What “dualists” refuse to abolish is certainty and  the idea of “absolute truth” behind scientific discoveries. Humanists, and evolutionary science in general, accept that we are bound to our nature and that our quest for knowledge is a gift that evolution gave to us. We are developing scientific methods because we evolved this way, yet we cannot handle the world views that Science suggests!

A very good demonstration of the problem can be the example of Relativity; Special theory of relativity is based in the assumption that there is no special system of reference in this world, there is no aether. But still people want to think that they hold a unique position in the Universe; that they are the only “intelligent” life form, even if the theory of Relativity suggests that time is bound to space which means that there are limitations on what we can learn about the universe (light cone), and that there can be parts of the vast universe that we cannot experience.

Another example is the one described in the post below; (In physics we can have two theories that describe the same world and they can be both correct)

So let us put it yet again in another, more pointed way: There is a surface of N dimensions without general relativity, the stuff of which obeys some rules that allow for evolution and all that, only to end up with conscious systems that argue in all earnest that the world fundamentally must have N+1 dimensions and that anybody who does not pledge full allegiance to general relativity as the fundamental last answer is a total quack and has no place in science or philosophy.
This is basically the state of the world today, and the especially sad part is: we already know this for quite a number of years by now, but at least my entire generation has to first bite the grass before it is widely accepted. As always, progress goes on funeral by funeral, established philosophers are mostly windbags, and pop-science sells via time-travel and worm-holes, but fails to communicate insights.

So the question is; do we really understand science or we like to believe that Earth is still flat?


Related questions/discussions

The Importance of Understanding Science

Why don’t Americans understand science better? Start with the scientists.

Why We Need To Understand Science

Related Books

Can we understand science?


So you think you are special!

Posted in comment, Philosophy, Philosophy of Science, Physics, Science by e1saman on September 23, 2010

special According to Lee Smolin in “The trouble with Physics” the standard model of Physics was based on Natures symmetries and the spontaneous symmetry breaking;

Spontaneous symmetry breaking is the process by which a system described in a theoretically symmetrical way ends up in a non symmetrical state. For spontaneous symmetry breaking to occur, there must be a system in which there are several equally likely outcomes. The system as a whole is therefore symmetric with respect to these outcomes (if we consider any two outcomes, the probability is the same). However, if the system is sampled (i.e. if the system is actually used or interacted with in any way) a specific outcome must occur. Though we know the system as a whole is symmetric, we also know that it is never encountered with this symmetry, only in one specific state. Because one of the outcomes is always found with probability 1, and the others with probability 0, they are no longer symmetric. Hence, the symmetry is said to be spontaneously broken in that theory.

This mechanism is the basis for the unification of the three forces in Nature; electromagnetism,weak force, strong force. According to this view, and my understanding  the laws of physics that we experience are just an outcome of a random choice. There were other possibilities for this world; for example a possibility that the strong force is not so strong to hold the nucleus of the atoms together. In this case life, as we know it, is not possible. If you take this idea a little more further you can easily assume that there can be worlds that they are completely different from this one. These worlds cannot develop the same chemistry that our life is based on, but nothing forbids them from developing some other kind of life which we cannot even imagine.

I was reading the following post about the fine-structure constant;

the observer effect

fine-structure constant variation; If confirmed, this revelation could reshape physicists’ understanding of cosmology from the ground up. It may even help solve a major conundrum: Why are all the constants of nature perfectly tuned for life to exist?

As you can see the writer thinks that we are very very lucky that we live in a ‘place’ that is “life friendly”. I will not comment on the tautology of the view, but I am surprised that people are interested in science just to find the same answers rephrased; We know that we are here and this is the mystery, we want to know why and how. Learning again that we are here because the laws of Nature are ‘so well tuned’ does not add any kind of knowledge and does not answer something more! Maybe people like to think in this way because they just love to be reminded that they are special nothing more.