Truth and Science

Written by on December 16, 2010 in Commentary with 0 Comments

There is no truth is science. Sorry.

Yes it is a shocking statement that may appear to be an attack on science, but it is not. It is time to set straight a common misunderstanding about what science does. The goal of science is not to find truth or even approach it. Science is more a system of understanding, a continuous study on the natural world that is constantly changing and improving its methods of examination.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not criticizing here… I am a dear fan of science. For me, it is the best methodology in understanding our universe. However, I also feel it is important that we do not regard it as the final word either, for science is constantly changing.

Science comes from the Latin word scientia, meaning ‘knowledge’ but perhaps a more suitable descriptor would be ‘to explore’ or ‘to learn’ for there is no absolute knowledge, only a process of understanding. Science is an ever evolving stream of revision where principles get replaced by newer, more obvious facts as it evolves.

Take for example the classical laws of physics that had developed by the late Ninetieth century, these were arrived at through the combined efforts of an astounding precession of intelligent men, men like: Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler and Newton. These Laws of Motion and Universal Gravitation were iron-clad in their day, confirmed by a few hundred years of successful application. In fact they had risen to such promotion that it was quietly rumored amongst the scientific community that physics had come as far as it was going to go.

Then, early in the twentieth century physics was turned upside down by a man named Albert Einstein who’s Special and General Theories of Relativity, along with the strange and powerful methods of quantum mechanics, gave rise to the new physics.

This juggernaut of scientific certainty that had flourished under a Newtonian system came crumbling down to the feet of new universe, a universe championed by Albert Einstein and his colleagues.

So was Newton wrong? Was classical physics in err? Perhaps it wasn’t wrong within its original intention, but with respect to the Einstein’s new physics, it’s applicability has certainly diminished in scope. In other words, instead of being applicable to all of physical reality like what was meant, its calculations were corralled into a smaller context, finding refuge in special cases of low speed, low mass, low energy calculations.

How can science survive without truth?

The short answer is, it doesn’t need it. Science is a journey and not a destination. Science is an on going process of improving understanding. Science makes our experiences richer because it’s essence is discovery, plain and simple. Yet is also limited, and fallible, the quicker you realize this the quicker you can put science into a proper context. However, it can’t be dismissed that it also provides the cognitive tools we need to give a deeper meaning to this reality, and that’s a rich form of truth as far as I am concerned.


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