Belief should be tempered with scepticism, scepticism with knowledge and knowledge with humility. Far too often we humans tout our knowledge with undeserved arrogance and explain away phenomena which challenges our conceptions. This attitude is not only foolish but insidious, stifling the very curiosity which is the basis of science and philosophy. This column could be aptly sub-titled "What do we really know?!", because the data that comes from UFO related investigation and the response it receives, highlights the deficiencies in our science and indeed our scientists.
The basis of our science is theory. Regardless of what is accepted as current scientific "fact", when you delve deeper and deeper into cause and effect you will reach a point that can only be explained in terms of theory. Of course there are laws, Newtons Law of Gravitation the Laws of Thermodynamics etc. etc. but these are models.
Theory and experimentation are used to build a model, a set of rules and equations that describe something to a level of detail that can be used practically. For instance there are two main models for gravity, Newtons and Einsteins. Newtonian theory can be effectively used to calculate the orbits of bodies in space and the motion of bodies near the surface of the planets but Einsteins Relativity model must be used where space-time is curved in the vicinity of some massive body like the sun. A model is a tool and the old saying applies, "the right tool for the right job".
Scientists are also human. They suffer the same peer, political and economic pressures as any vacuum cleaner
sales-person. The scientific process has been described as "illusion, delusion and collusion" where the theory
of one becomes accepted by a few and then is deemed to be "officially accepted" by politics. A good
example of this is Quantum theory and the Standard Model for nuclear physics. These models can be used to
make nuclear bombs and the micro-electronic devices for computers etc.
They provide the means (the mathematics) to create the designs but no-one understands why they work and the predominant interpretation of Quantum Mechanics held sway for 50 years because of the power and influence of Niels Bohr. In the 1980s Paul Davies was co-author of a book "The Ghost In The Atom" in which eight of the top quantum physicists described their interpretations of Quantum Theory, all different, many mutually exclusive.
One of the principal unresolved issues in Quantum physics is non-locality, what Einstein described as
"spooky action at a distance", and yes, there are many theories that explain it, like String Theory and theories
describing waves moving backwards in time. The only trouble is that non-locality is probably the key to
understanding all the forces in the universe, not the least gravity, and faster than light space-travel.
(Non-locality is the phenomenon where two or more particles seem to have an instantaneous interaction through space, which is independent of distance and the speed of light. It is almost as if two related particles are aware of the others existence and state, as well as the observer and the nature of the experiment!)
Our science has given us some wonderful things and the history of science is full of brilliant and talented people. Just as there was a 19th century science there will be a 21st and 22nd century science where humans will discover wonders beyond our comprehension. They will look back on us with amusement at our achievements just as we look back on the invention of the steam engine or the telephone, but how do we regard the folly of those who loudly and publicly stated that the first x-ray photographs were a hoax or that if you exceeded the speed of sound your aeroplane would disintegrate?
All I mean by "humility", is being able to say "We dont know". "Impossible" is clearly a word in only a fools dictionary.
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