Thursday, October 15, 2009

I Don't Know.

I made it into the office late this morning. After getting up, going to the gym and walking the dog, I was spell bound by a PBS Documentary. This happens to me often, I sit down turn on the boob tube and plan to just drink a glass of juice or something and some documentary pulls me in. I have a mind that is always asking questions. In many ways I am more skeptical than any “skeptic” you have ever met. But the object of my skepticism is different. My skepticism is in the area of science. I’m constantly asking myself, “How do you date a rock? Really, how can you make the claim that it is older than the other one next to it.” I do understand that volcanic rock varies in age, etc. It is mostly the extrapolations etc. Especially when it goes to the age of the earth, or universe. I just don’t get this stuff. Sometimes I want to get a book on it. Sometimes my skepticism is a fascination. I want to know what the evidence is, and what sort of logic was used, or discarded in order to come to the conclusions. That’s why these documentaries fascinate me. This morning I caught the tail end of one with Alan Alda interviewing scientists about the “expanding universe”, dark matter, dark energy etc. Wish I had seen the whole thing.
You see this is one of the questions I keep asking “what is the universe expanding into if it is expanding? What do they mean by that?” See, growing up, I remember it was that brief period of time where I was being homeschooled on the mission station in Kanye, Botswana. (No, not Kenya, believe me I am well aware of where I lived. And it does irritate me, just a little, people who have never lived there, or spent a week there mispronouncing names of cities and countries, trying to correct me in my pronunciation. My dad was at one time fluent in Tswane, and preached in it for 45 minutes a Sunday. I think he taught me well how to pronounce the names, of the places in which we lived.) Anyway, in our science curriculum, which my parents hired Peace Corp workers, for some reason Canadians, to teach me, I learned that the universe is all of space which is infinite. It took me weeks to grasp the concept of infinite, still not sure I have a full grasp of it. But I can’t imagine what is beyond the infinite, any more than I can imagine adding one to infinity. Though that is a fun way to beat a silly argument with a five year old, until he ads 3 to infinity.
So today I learned that by universe they don’t actually mean universe. The scientists were upfront in how sloppy they are with that term. They only mean what we can see of space from earth as being our universe, and they aren’t even sure where that ends. They have taken to calling the universe as I grew up knowing it a multi-verse, into which the universe is expanding. Now, aside from apparent contradictions in terms, and the obvious lack of even rudimentary Latin education (and no, I don’t mean classes about Mexico, or immigrants) that can be the only explanation for the abuse of such terms here described, I now get it somewhat. I’m sure there is more. But at least it isn’t all gibberish to me.
Perhaps though, the most informative and intriguing part of the whole documentary was to hear how many times the scientists said we don’t know. If you ask me, that should be the mantra of science. Science is, at least as I learned it from Paul, the Canuck who first started teaching me about science in Botswana. He was a crazy man as I remember, had a house full of pet scorpions, and walking sticks. Took me hiking in the hills, where we would explore old mines, and watch trains of Baboons walk by. Science is about questioning and learning. Today though it seems there is a dogma behind much of what passes for science that can’t be questioned. It should be. That’s what I think. No scientific breakthrough has ever been made by accepting dogma.
This is why I don’t like it when I hear so many today saying we can’t expect our young ones to believe this and that about the Bible. Science hasn’t disproved any of it. Aside from the logical complexities in proving a negative, science really doesn’t even “prove” a positive, at best you get a high probability. The scientists couldn’t tell you why the universe was expanding, or if it would keep expanding into oblivion, or if perhaps there wasn’t another force yet to be seen that pulls it back together. Most of the problems involving faith and science, I think, are due not to science proving or disproving anything, but to both sides not knowing any epistemology. In other words, the problem the Christian community supposedly has with science, isn’t a scientific problem at all, but an epistemological one. But often, neither side knows enough epistemology to recognize this. We could all read a bit more Popper.


Steve said...

I dated a couple of rocks in high school.

I would'a had better luck getting blood out of a turnip.

(conversation, that is)

'We don't know'.

That about sums it up. All science can do is think God's thopughts after Him.

Bror Erickson said...

Funny Steve.

Brigitte said...

If it is not falsifiable it is not science.

That's all I remember at this point from Popper. Really good philosophy of science, though, worth reviewing.