Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Seeking Answers: The Search for Universal Truth in Science

Of all the human traits that separate man from the other animals on the planet, the inquiry as to Why we are here has to be one of the most fundamental. Many highly intelligent and mentally sophisticated animals can reason quite profoundly, yet, the higher cortical functions that attempt to discern an individuals place in the grand scheme of things are largely absent in those creatures.

Regardless of whether an individual's belief is based on science, religion, or an amalgam of both, the common thread that's shared is the attempt at answering the most fundamental question of all. The Question of origins -- as to how and why we are here resonates deeply across cultural and historic lines. Until the era of Industrialization and the Scientific Method, the attempts at answering a question of origins was based largely on religious, mythological, and mystical thought. A safe grouping would be to include those early tools as philosophical ideas developed to grasp the vast unknown and gain a measure of control over the universe. The belief that beings more powerful then man were involved in helping shape (whether positively or negatively) the direction of our lives was extremely pervasive.

Since the advent of the Scientific Revolution, the order of the questions we ask has changed. Those who have embraced the Scientific Method have come to realize that the question of why we are here cannot be readily answered until more pertinent information can be gathered. Primarily, one must first try to understand the universe in it's physical state. Questions such as How does the Sun glow so bright? What makes the oceans salty? Why do camels have such large eyelashes? Why are other galaxies so far away? What prevents us from floating off into space? Why are Human and Chimpanzee genes so similar? All of these questions start with a curious inquiry and open a vast door into the astonishing world that we live in.

It's highly unfortunate to realize just how many people in the world could care less about many of the most fundamental questions. The curiosity present in children is often lost to the detriment of the human condition. Perhaps to many, the love of science has been destroyed by apathetic teachers, religious extremists, and closed minded individuals. Having a deep seeded love and respect of science is treated by less inquisitive minds as a threat. Because of the intimidation of those who are ignorant, scientists are maligned and especially during the budding years of primary and secondary education, the scientifically minded are often ostracized by their peers. Derogatory names such as Nerd, Geek, Dweeb, Poindexter are used excessively to dissuade the passion of science, and ease the threat that those who are ignorant feel.

When Trillions are spend yearly on the War Machine, and yet, conflict arises because budgetary constraints prevent certain scientific projects to be undertaken, the loser is always humanity. There are countless fundamental questions to ask, and perhaps begin to answer, yet, politics and bureaucracy collude to prevent the dissemination of knowledge and advancement from taking hold in the general population.

If one looks at the self absorbed politicians of the world, regardless of political ideology, an interesting truth emerges: only a handful have any background in the sciences. It has been proven without a doubt that a greater educational level results in more moderate and rational thought. A scientific debate, although sometimes highly charged, has a self moderation mechanism. Scientific theories can constantly be refined and reorganized based on gathered observational evidence. Just as the wheel, evolved into a cart, a horse drawn carriage, and eventually a car as we know it today, so does science through its constant search for answers evolve to include more complexity. At first, we were the center of the universe, then with more and more information, we came to realize that not only are we not the center of the universe, but that there is no center of the universe. Religious belief however, cannot be refined through observational evidence. As I've mentioned in previous blogs, religious refinement is based on political independence. The reason for the various branches of Christianity for example, are rooted in political autonomy. Rome did not want to be governed by the Byzantine empire, so they branched separately resulting in the great Schism between Orthodox and Catholic.

Therefore, with all the problems of the world created by incompetent politicians, there are many solutions to avoid planetary catastrophe. I propose all elected officials to have at least a crash course in the general sciences, regardless of religion, personal belief, or any other constraint. As an elected official, it's one's duty to have a better understanding of the world around. Whether those officials carry any of that knowledge is a different matter, but having the fundamentals can be enough to jump start a trend that embraces free thought and expression. Science cannot function freely and efficiently under constraint, and neither can the human condition. It's an absolute shame that ultimately, politicians and politics involve lawyers instead of scientists. It's my belief that to have a rational world, every head of state should have a PhD.

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