Friday, March 18, 2005

"Science you see is not infallible!"

The title of this post is a quote from the once-popular G.K. Chesterton vs. Clarence Darrow debate back in 1931. In the debate, when the microphone malfunctioned for some reason, Chesterton continued his speech with his own booming voice by first commenting on the malfunctioned piece of technology: "Science you see is not infallible!"

That anecdote came to mind as I was reading an article entitled 13 things that do not make sense. It lists down 13 scientific anomalies that scientists today still aren't able to explain fully. The list includes scientists' headaches of such varieties ranging from the Placebo Effect to the Cold Fusion theory, things that today's Science still can't explain (or explain away). Of course, I'm not saying that Science can't be trusted; neither did Chesterton 76 years ago. In fact, after Darrow's speech promoting the advantages of scientific study (probably assuming that Chesterton was against Science), Chesterton stood up to announce that he agreed with everything Darrow said (thus bewildering the celebrated American lawyer). At any rate, that Science is not infallible isn't supposed to be an insult to Science at all. It is a statement against the foolish people who think Science is some sort of alternative philosophy to theism, who point excitedly at technological advances as "proof" of Hume's Dictum. These people cannot see that Science can only work if they stop treating it like a cosmic philosophy. In fact, proper Science is the complete opposite of an all-encompassing set of beliefs. It is merely the observation that knowledge of nature still needs improvement; that's what the endless scientific researches are for.

Science is, has always have been, and always will be just a practical method of approximating reality based on one of mankind's stubborn, dogmatic, and totally irrational beliefs: that our senses could be trusted. They're not infallible, but when it comes to the material universe, they're all we've got.