For all those who read ‘Nebulous – the science journal‘, you’d remember the article i wrote there, about ‘The dimensions of the procedure‘. It was basically a philosophical article meant to examine how the activities of science have been conducted over the years, and how it might be limiting our quest for knowledge. I received a comment on that post telling me that the article didn’t provide something solid, and I admit to that guilt that I wrote it when my thoughts were in a rudimentary stage. Therefore, now that I’ve given some thought over this, I’ll be able to muster it into a post, which hopefully, will clear you off any ambiguity regarding the stance I’m going to take.
So, what was the initial spark that led to me question some of the fundamental aspects of science? It was the advent of the final examination of my school. It’s this simple – when solving some mathematics paper, i discovered a new formula in arithmetic progression; although it doesn’t hold that ‘awe’ element, but still, the message it carried to me was obvious and amazing at the same time. Human capacity to engage in the quest for knowledge is an amazing one, and something we definitely need to focus on. It’s the art of thinking coupled with the need to attain satisfaction that has really played the pivotal role in human’s progress but the question is, are we limiting ourselves in that very quest of knowledge?
Examine the nature of science itself: It’s something that is ever-evolving and keeps on correcting itself whenever it stumbles on to a flaw, and it’s purpose is to discover reality, which it does by following a set of methods. Keeping in the mind the versatility of science, one thing has really led me to question the bases by which it discovers anything: Are the rules which science has circumscribed – eternal? At least that’s what the case has been over hundreds of years now. Examining the ‘progress’ that science has rendered so far – citing the examples of Newton and Einstein might give you a hint towards the way we’ve progressed and if not – well, here i go once again: the conventional story is on the cards, people; Newton was sitting under an apple tree and the apple fell down, and suddenly – from extrapolations and hypotheses, he published a paper in which he set out certain ‘laws’ – one of which are the most popular of the category i.e. the laws of motion.
However, Newton’s brilliant ideas and discoveries had an inherent flaw. What Newton had catered for, was the mere physicality exhibited in this world, but as the human mind went on to engage with the mysteries hidden in the ‘bigger picture’ of the universe, many problems started to emerge. One of the most obvious were the relativity paradox: If according to Maxwell, everything is relative to the speed of light, then what is light itself relative to? and how then, does the Newton’s laws function? Such a simple question as you read it, yet – it was able to give a striking blow to the very foundations of physics, and the existence of it’s laws were in a state of peril.
The man who finally broke the ice was Albert Einstein; If you ever went on to read the ‘Theory of Relativity‘ , you’d understand how remarkable his work was, and how the planet Earth had once housed a genius within it’s parameters. I’m not going to digress from the main topic at hand therefore, if you’re interested in understanding the concepts of theory of relativity, just click above on TOR. So, where were we? – yes, Einstein – this man was able to think ‘out of the box’ and deliver a remarkable solution of the foundation-shaking problem to physics. This, well, just proves how science corrects itself as the layers of time unfold.
Let’s talk about the versatility of the nature of science, and this time, I’d highlight a fairly simple and an understandable example: Consider that you have an equation to a curve, and you need to find it’s gradient. What can you possibly do? Simple – from the equation of the curve, you can find the co-ordinates and draw a line, and then – considering that the curve is a straight line – you can find the gradient via the ‘difference in y-co-ordinates/ difference in x co-ordinates’. But there’s also another way to go about all this and ah, i don’t know why I”m so obsessed with Newton – you can differentiate the equation of the curve and put in any x co-ordinate, and alas, you have the gradient at your lap.
Similarly, since you’ve drawn the curve from the equation given, a new question takes shape: ‘Considering that the curve represents the elasticity of a material and the mass gained by the material, find the elastic energy in the material with the mass applied to be 5 kg’. So basically, I know that the area under the curve is the elastic energy, and in order to find it, we can possibly squirrel with two ways: Either you determine the area by applying the formula for the area of a triangle (since a straight line would form a triangle with the axis) Or you could simply integrate the equation by applying limits from 0 to 5, and find the answer to your question.
By analyzing the two examples i gave to you, there’s one thing absolutely certain: by two different routes, we reach the same conclusion. So, what exactly is special about it? The problem is, that in order to find the area by the integration method, i would need to acquaint myself with whole of this concept, and it might be difficult for me to do so but on the other hand, the area of triangle doesn’t seem to be much of a fuss therefore, I’d definitely go with the idea of finding the area by the shape the curve actually makes. Similarly, in some cases, the exact opposite happens; the curve gets so ‘variant’ that area method would be a mind-boggle even to conceptualize, but on the other hand, the concept of integration seems to offer much more and seems easy for this problem. Therefore, to conclude the analysis of the examples, we can say that there are several methods of solving a problem given to us, and each problem may exhibit a different degree of challenge.
If we talk about the problems we face today, one thing seems to strike my mind. Are we limiting ourselves by ‘standardizing’ the quest for knowledge? I’ve already explained to you that since Science itself is ever evolving and corrects itself as the layers of time unfold, but there’s one problem: we’ve never thought about the way we achieve our quest i.e. the method that we employ to discover reality. Virtually, all of the scientific method has remained the same: observation, hypothesis etc. have remained the way they were. So, even drawing a parallel with the versatility of the nature of science, why isn’t the method of obtaining scientific knowledge versatile as well? I mean – this might sound weird, but I’m referring to the general philosophy that governs every scientific method like observation, hypothesis, experimentation etc. We’ve had the example of Einstein coming up with a super-human solution to the problem of relativity, but the thing is, we might not have someone like him to solve problems that we face today e.g. the unification of gravity with the rest of the fundamental forces.
If you get the chance to read my article called ‘Science or Philosophy‘, you might now understand what I’m trying to insinuate towards. There are many possible avenues by which we can find to a conclusion, and thinking within a set of framework we’ve set ourselves – without even revising it – reminds me of International Monetary Fund (IMF) where they have basically only one type of Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP) to solve the economic crises in a country, and believe me, they end up screwing it even more. Therefore, we need to take a dive into another dimension; we’ve got to revise the way we obtain knowledge because this might be one of the ways we might solve some difficult problems we face today.