The Reality of Science

Imagine a deaf, blind person who only has his sense of touch available to learn about his surroundings. But it gets worse than that. This person can only feel his surrounding by using a needle. He holds the needle and rubs its tip over the surfaces of objects around him. The tip of that needle is his only window into the world. That tiny needle tip is his only source of information about the entire universe.

So imagine our surprise when this man tries to tell us about the nature of reality. Imagine our confusion as he explains to us what “it all means.” Imagine our amusement when he insists that the only things that exist in the world are what he can feel through his needle.

Now imagine that instead of this needle, the man has to use a small piece of thread to feel out his environment by dragging the thread over surrounding objects. That will give you a more accurate understanding of the scope of scientific inquiry.

Consider that human beings are only privy to a very small sliver of the electromagnetic spectrum, i.e., visible light, that we perceive with our eyes. Of course, due to relatively modern technology, we can detect other kinds of electromagnetic radiation that our ancestors had no idea about, e.g., infrared, ultraviolet, x-rays, gamma rays, etc. What makes us think that there aren’t other “channels” of information that we as of yet, due to current technological limitations for example, have no idea about?

Just considering our faculties of perception, there is simply no way for us to know what we don’t know. If we get lucky, we might stumble upon something. But considering the vastness of the universe (the piece of it that we even know about, at least) and the fact that even so much of our own tiny planet has yet to be explored, there is plenty to suggest that we are in the dark on a whole lot.

Now consider our mental capacity. Perception, after all, is inexorably connected to the brain’s ability to “process” sensory information. And that “processing” is a prerequisite for our ability to consciously register that information. What if our brains can’t “see” certain things that our sensory organs nonetheless pick up? Again, there is no way to tell for sure because we cannot, as it were, step “outside” of our brains to see what we’re missing.

The ironic thing is that science itself implicitly acknowledges these extreme limitations. According to scientific consensus, after all, we are nothing but evolved apes. Our perceptual and cognitive capacities, we are told, are suited for finding edible fruit in trees and getting the best hairy body to mate with. Yet, somehow those functions of day-to-day ape-hood are also amenable to probing the depths of the universe, pondering what it all means, and waxing poetic about everything from human nature to the biological origins of morality.

You’ll have to forgive me for chuckling in the face of such blind hubris.

 

The Reality of ScienceImagine a deaf, blind person who only has his sense of touch available to learn about his…

Posted by Daniel Haqiqatjou on Friday, August 12, 2016

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