Science: the Cold Killer

This is not an argument against science but merely a commentary on the unhealthy idolization of science, which through the eradication of alternatives to science, creates illusions of truth. The choice is simple: either accept science (the truth) or be ostracized. All of this is eerily familiar to the righteousness of religion in the middle ages before science took over. But just as fatedly as science came to mankind’s rescue as the knight in the shining armor to defeat the all-powerful religion, science too has started losing its shine and its charm as we are starting to see chinks in its armor.

Why is science the all-powerful, invincible, and flawless force that has gotten mankind on its knees with the sense that it can do no wrong? The reason is the apparent certainty of logic. Some society in the past, perhaps the ancient Greeks, decided that the purpose of man should be the pursuit of truth and that there was only one vehicle to truth: logic, thought of as the process of nature and everything in it including thought. Intuition was completely ruled out as a possibility to reach the complete and accurate truth because truth wasn’t truth if it wasn’t complete and perfectly accurate. Intuition never has a hundred percent certainty and there is no such thing as ninety-nine percent truth. Hence, intuition can never be a means to attaining the truth, it was decided.

Therefore, after science took over, various fields of the study of nature and of truth were sent to the mental institute, so to speak, because they were not completely based on logic, and were therefore irrational or delusional. Examples are the age-old fields of astrology and alchemy, alternative methods of medicine such as acupuncture, various forms of spirituality, eastern philosophy, metaphysics, and so on. To even look at the conclusions reached by any of these fields in relation to the truth was considered absurd. There is only one way and that is the way of science.

Ironically, a breakthrough in science came in the form of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. In the sub-atomic world, said Heisenberg, the position and the momentum of a particle cannot be known at the same time. The more you know about the position of the particle, the less you know about its momentum, and the more you know about its momentum, the less you know about its position. The two fundamental qualities of a particle, its position and its momentum, could not be known together. Thus, no certainty exists in the sub-atomic world. (The book The Tao of Physics offers great insight into the newfound uncertainty in science in quantum physics and how scientists are only beginning to understand what the eastern philosophers and mystics have been saying for thousands of years.)

All this time, science thought there was logic to everything and all of a sudden everything was in doubt because the stuff that everything is made up of behaved in a way that was completely illogical. There had been many scientific revolutions within science, from the heliocentric model of Copernicus to the theory of relativity and the fusion of space and time, but this one challenged the very essence of science: logic.

The tool that was thought to be infallible and completely definite in its discovery of truth was after all not so infallible and definite, as it could not explain the behavior of particles that made up all matter. Now, logic too could not ascertain truth a hundred percent – the same reason that intuition was ruled out as a vehicle to truth. If science were to be completely honest and true to its beliefs, it should at once abandon its facade as the only finder of truth because it once ridiculed and exiled fields of study that used intuition as their tool to find the truth because intuition never gave certainty.

Now science, with a bit of a red face, is beginning to accept that nothing is certain. Therefore, science is now as good as any other field of study that tries to attain truth by means of intuition and other human faculties. In fact, if modesty and humility get any points at all in character judgment, science would have to be inferior to most fields that employ intuition as their main tool because they don’t claim to be a hundred percent certain about truth.

While science has provided mankind with many benefits that are hard to ignore, such as the eradication of polio and malaria in many parts of the world, it has also forced upon us the impression that only it can be relied on to provide answers about the world we live in. Now that we know that even science and logic cannot explain everything, as I think we felt all along with our intuition, it would only be fair to keep an open mind about alternative forms of seeking the truth. The loudest and the most dominant one isn’t always the right one, or the wisest one.

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About fliqside

This blog is called back to evolution because it is partly influenced by evolutionary psychology as a tool to explain human behavior in the modern world. It is also influenced by the belief that nothing should be taken at face value and everything should be challenged. Most importantly, it is inspired by the possibility of understanding the human psyche in order to promote the well-being of our global community as a whole. - Hridesh Gajurel
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4 Responses to Science: the Cold Killer

  1. Very well articulated. I agree completely. I find that another victim of the ‘certainty of science’ is the old adage – ‘the numbers don’t lie.’ Apparently, they do – judging from the recent worldwide financial crisis caused single-handedly by the financial sector itself. Numbers (quantitatives) are as subject to manipulation by human beings as are subjective, qualitative findings.

    • fliqside says:

      I completely agree with you. Economics is such a joke that only economists know it (and I studied economics in college). Even though 1+1 always equals 2, if you quantify things such as tastes and preferences and happiness (utility) and try to add them together, multiply them, and so on, and try to make sense of the final answer with accuracy, all you are doing is using the facade of mathematics to give credibility to a completely ridiculous idea to quantify things such as happiness in the first place.

  2. rationalman says:

    This article would be much better if the premise it is based on were actually legitimate. Science bases itself on logic, so much is true. However, science makes no claim to certainty. Science relies on logic to disprove ideas, as such the only certainty science provides is that something is not what it was thought to be. There is no ultimate fact in science, or 100% certainty. Your argument incorrectly implies that the ability to predict outcomes with certainty means that it claims to provide the complete truth. Yes, science seeks to explain the world around us, in that sense it seeks and provides truth. That truth has no inherent value, not does science attribute any value to it, it simply is.

    Your argument that the Heisenberg uncertainty principle rocked the world of science because it challenged logic is also off the mark. The principle does not challenge logic, it challenges the accumulation of knowledge of physics prior to the discovery of the principle. The principle itself was the result of logical reasoning, that is what rocked the world of science, it seemed at odds with everything that was known. Everything had to be rethought, recalculated, and the approach had to change, as it does with every other discovery science makes.

    • fliqside says:

      When you say that science makes no claim to certainty and then go on to say that the only certainty that science provides is that something is not what it was thought to be, you are basically contradicting yourself. If science makes no claim to certainty, then how come it is certain that something is not a certain way? As you know, there are aspects of science where certainty is necessary. But, at the same time, as the famous quote goes, the only certainty is that nothing is certain. Therefore, if nothing is certain, science is inherently flawed. I’m not denying that science is beneficial to mankind, but I am pointing out that science is flawed, like any other field that seeks out truth.

      It may be that some scientists don’t claim outright that scientific principles are certain, but it is perceived that way by people outside of the scientific community and it is taught that way in most schools, especially before college. A very good example is that Newton’s laws are considered to be the way things are or, in other words, the truth. There might be a few scientists that do not believe that but the majority of the world does and has done for a very long time. Now, why were they considered to be truths? Because Newton proved them through mathematics (logic). Now, since logic is legitimate and is considered infallible, Newton’s laws became widely accepted truths (and truth is a 100% certain by definition) about the natural world.

      Newton’s third law says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. But eastern philosophy has had this belief for thousands of years. It believes that the world consists of polar opposites in everything, and when the magnitude of one rises, the opposite will eventually rise to an equal magnitude so that balance in attained. The Ying-Yang symbol is a representation of this. The third law would be one way to describe the Ying-Yang. But this belief not only applies to physical bodies, but to everything, including human feelings. If there is happiness, there will eventually be sadness, which will eventually equal the magnitude that happiness had reached. But this theory, if you may, does not have the level of reverence and reliance that Newton’s theories do. This is because the belief of eastern philosophy was derived by observation and intuition. It knows that this can never be proven with a hundred percent certainty because humans do not have the capacity to do that, but, more crucially, it also knows that it doesn’t matter if it is proven with a hundred percent certainty or not, because it’s up to an individual to want to believe it or not.

      Continuing with eastern philosophy, it does not have a definite system or method to reach conclusions about nature that must be followed thoroughly to give legitimacy to the conclusions reached. Because of this, it allows the existence of other fields of seeking the truth, such as science. But, on the other hand, science, because it has the scientific method to reach a conclusion about anything, has to dismiss anything that does not adhere to its strict guidelines to seeking the truth. Thus, to be legitimate, science has to dismiss fields such as eastern philosophy because it is not based on the scientific method of logic. What this does is, as the majority of people firmly believe in science, it makes them ignore beliefs such as the ying-yang, until there is a scientific proof of it, such as Newton’s third law. Just imagine how many legitimate ideas the majority of the world is unaware of, or is ignorant of, just because science has not proven it yet. Therefore, in the end, this firm and absolute belief in science is limiting, because it shuts many doors beyond which may lie very important views about nature and man.

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