Thursday, 2 June 2011

Science - "The Global Language"

Science has revolutionized the world – today technology makes our life easy and fast. We are now able to do much more work than out ancestors, with the advent of machines and computers – thanks to science. The roots of scientific thinking in man are untraceable – some scientific inquisitiveness, a quest for knowledge and learning was there ever since, may be the discovery of fire in the Paleolithic age. Making stone tools, weapons, invention of wheel, discovery and usage of metals all indicate the gradual development of scientific temperament in man. Science today looks so different, and advanced. Everyday newer discoveries are being made. All this is well known to all of us – I put it in here just for completeness.

Of late, I have been thinking along the lines as - is science as we learn today is complete by itself? Will the process of investigation ever end? If yes, when and why? Deliberating along these lines, I came up with an interesting viewpoint about how science is being taught and learnt today. The thought is radical, and I am putting it across just incase it might interest you.

First, it is important to understand what science actually is – it is essentially our understanding of the universe based on our perception of the universe. In science, all we do is try to describe this in terms of laws, patterns, theories, models etc. Most of today’s research in science is based on existing laws, which have been “proved” to be true, and any new observation is “made to” conform to the existing laws, so that they are in agreement. Hundreds of papers are being published this way.

But do you notice the fact that science is completely “objective”? It has no room for “what you feel” about something. Even before Newton had proposed the laws of motion, man knew that bodies moved. Even though they did not know about momentum and force, they somehow understood and used some principles of motion, which were unique for each individual – “subjectivity”. After Newton proposed his laws, every student is made to learn (sometimes even by rote!!) these laws and made to believe this is just how bodies move. May be it is true (verified experimentally) but do you see that there is no scope now for what the student “feels” about motion?

Science is just a “language” that you and I speak. And when we speak science we just cannot disagree with each other, (because everything had been “proved”) even though in real life we actually have different ideas about things. Influential scientists have laid down the rules of this language, and others have no say. If I ask you “Is there life on other planets?” you will tell me what you feel about it, because science has not made any law about this yet. But later on if some influential scientist discovers an answer and supplies a “proof” for it, then you will probably change your viewpoint to agree with the answer given by science. But think of it – what is this proof based on? Other proofs. And it is proofs all the way! In this way, science is killing subjectivity, or uniqueness in human thought.

I also feel, an objective description of nature is incomplete and insufficient. Why should nature conform to laws and patterns? Whenever it does not conform, we call them exceptions. Why define a pattern at all? Why can’t we understand nature more intuitively, more personally so that our views about it are also taken into account? A blind man has sharp sense of hearing; he uses a completely different theory of motion, which has nothing to do with momentum or mass. And his understanding of motion is “well adapted” to him. Then why does it not qualify to be science? The way in which science is developing today is quite narrow that way. If we are more open to other ways of understanding nature, rather than just mathematical and logical modeling, we will probably discover lots of undiscovered truths that we have been avoiding all the way…

Philosophy is also a close associate of science, but where questions are asked about nature and its ways, and answers to these questions are debated. But there is one specialty of this subject – everyone is allowed to have his or her own philosophy. They do not need to “prove” what they believe is true. You are welcome to believe God exists or that God does not exist. Or even something like God exists but he cannot influence our lives in any manner. Or just about anything that you believe is right. And it works great that way, as people come across various situations, they form opinions about why nature behaved the way it did, and try to use this experience in future for understanding nature better. It is, this way much broader, and has a much higher scope. But there is one problem - Philosophy often dwells on abstract things like God, mind, and feelings, emotions etc., which are quite complex by themselves. As such these topics cannot be modeled as such with scientific arguments. And they are not physical phenomenon either. So, philosophy cannot take over science completely. Science has its own special place. But if it could be made more subjective, it would surely have broader scope for progress.

I feel, rather than learning hundreds of formulae and equations, may be we can learn how to look at nature, and deduce our own models to work with. The original Indian Teaching system had such a curriculum, and it produced really wise people. The art of teaching and learning science this way has been lost now under the influence of Western study curriculum. I sincerely hope some day we see wisdom, in reviving back the traditional way of studying science – for in the current direction, it cannot proceed for ever- there will be a dead end some where, when man won’t be able to discover anything else. Then we will have to look for alternate viewpoints for the research to continue… and that’s when breaking objectivity will allow further research.

“Knowledge is Power”

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