What Does Science Know? There's the Rub

posted Nov 11, 2014, 9:25 AM by Martin Roy Hill   [ updated Aug 5, 2015, 8:33 AM ]

 A recent article in Epoch Times by astrophysicist Geraint Lewis was headlined: "Where’s the Proof in Science? There Is None." In it, Lewis contests the assumption of the lay community that scientists "prove" facts. In fact, he says, they don't.

 What scientists do, Lewis explains, is develop models that explain why something happens in the universe. Some are good models -- as far as they go. It comes down to "how confident you are in a particular model being an accurate description of nature, based upon what you know. Think of it a little like the betting odds on a particular outcome," he writes.

 This article struck a cord with me because the plot of my latest book, Eden: A Sci-Fi Novella, revolves around the question of just what does science know?

 The narrator, Army Captain Adam Cadman, an archaeologist in civilian life, is confronted with evidence that makes him doubt everything he thought he knew about the history of mankind. Eventually, Cadman is forced to concede that scientific knowledge is, in reality, simply a form of general consensus among researchers— a consensus that frequently falls apart when confronted with new information.

 For instance, we celebrate Christopher Columbus' birthday because for hundreds of years it was believed he was the first European to "discover" the Americas. Yet today, we know Norseman Leif Erikson visited North America 500 years before Columbus.

 The fact is, science is limited by what we don't know. And there is quite a lot we don't know. For instance, how did evidence of apparently man-made nanotechnology a relatively new technology become encased in rock found in the Ural Mountains that was dated back to an age before man even walked the earth? How did ancient stone masons at Bolivia's Puma Punku site carve enormous interlocking stone blocks with a degree of precision that can't be reproduced with today's technology? Why are there areas of the earth where vitrification has turned huge areas of earth into glass, something usually only seen produced by nuclear blasts?

 William Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio/Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." In Eden, Captain Cadman, the scientist, learns how true that is.