Even in a postmodern world, science is often afforded more that it can possibly own. That is not to say it does not have value. But, in dealing with the big picture of “life, the universe and everything”(as Douglas Adams so keenly put it), science becomes as transparent and vague as the massive clouds of gas and dark matter it attempts to study with small eyes.
Further study into the ‘nature’ of science, will reveal a few somewhat startling assumptions that must be dealt with.
Firstly, science must assume that everything in the universe is knowable and comprehensible. On the surface, this may not seem like such a leap. The universe, as we know it, is immense, but still finite in the sense that we can measure its expanse, or at least we think we can. But to know the universe is not only to know its size, but its depth. To comprehend the universe is to know its processes. Can we truly say with certainty that all of the causes in nature are truly understandable? Can our brains handle that amount of data and complexity? Can we possibly wrap the 1500 cubic centimeters of the only true power humans have around that vast an expanse or that deep a chasm. Sure, we have tamed the atom and gone to the moon, but these are drops in the ocean to the true universe (an assumption on my part) – which brings us to the second presupposition.
Science must assume that the universe is uniform. For science to birth any ‘truth’ it must show that the processes that happen here, happen exactly the same on the other side of galaxy Abell 1835 some 13 billion light years away. At last report Voyager hasn’t quite made it that far. It’s about 14 light hours out on what is so far a 30 year sojourn. This is a tremendous accomplishment by human standards, but not quite what we need to be conclusive. Therefore, the bulk of data on uniformity at that kind of distance is still forthcoming. Still, science can tell something about it from the light it gives off. They can tell how far away it is after all, can’t they? Well…maybe.
Our third improvable assumption science requires is that the universe is uniform over time. Do processes happen today exactly as they did 4 billion years ago? How about 5 Billion? Or 7? Was the speed of light the same? Was the nuclear half-life as long? The only evidence that science can make use of would be in studying the result. It would be like trying to pinpoint at what temperature and which oven was used to bake a 10 billion year old cake. This type of science, without observation or control, can only be theoretical at best. Because of this, even the dating of things becomes completely obscure. If we cannot be sure of the process in which it was made, then how can we be sure the cake is 10 billion years old? So the only truth we can glean from our endeavor is that we have a relatively old cake. Anything else is speculation based on assumption…the very thing science abhors.
Hence, we have come full circle science, requiring proof, trying to prove what is improvable. When it comes to the big questions science collapses on the weight of itself. It becomes as vacuous as the amount of space between the stars.
It should be noted that science in the practical sense has made a significant inroads. But the marks that science has made, has never been by the result of natural process or data, but have come by leaps of imagination something science has never explain. In our daily lives, our sum discovery’ of the universe has made differences to each and everyone. On the whole it seems to have helped, but are we truly healthier and happier? That is an unscientific, philosophical judgment that each of us must make. Either way, it would do us well to remember that science is the student of humanity, not its principal.