Science is much more than a body of knowledge. It is a way of thinking. This is central to its success. Science invites us to let the facts in, even when they don’t conform to our preconceptions. It counsels us to carry alternative hypotheses in our heads and see which ones best match the facts. It urges on us a fine balance between no-holds-barred openness to new ideas, however heretical, and the most rigorous skeptical scrutiny of everything — new ideas and established wisdom. We need wide appreciation of this kind of thinking. It works. It’s an essential tool for a democracy in an age of change. Our task is not just to train more scientists but also to deepen public understanding of science.
Many times, because of the success of technology, we seem to forget that science is not a “thing” but rather a process,or even better yet, a worldview. It is a world where not only do the theories change, but often even the “facts” themselves. When Darwin started collecting information for the theory of evolution the earth was thought by many people to be 6000 years old, by many scientists to be hundreds of thousand of years, and a few scientists a couple of million. A few years later, many millions. Now, about five billion. A scientist’s “faith” cannot be in the “facts” or theories, they are ever changing. Their faith is in the method, that being open to new information and allowing the data to lead the way that some more light will shine into the dark corners, which will reveal even more dark corners. But along the way, pictures emerge, ideas come together and puzzle pieces fit, giving tremendous satisfaction and meaning. Until it all changes and we have to begin again. Humility is the virtue of a scientist.
There was neither non-existence nor existence then.
There was neither the realm of space nor the sky which is beyond.
In whose protection?
Was there water, bottlemlessly deep?
There was neither death nor immortality then.
There was no distinguishing sign of night nor of day.
That One breathed, windless, by its own impulse.
Other than that there was nothing beyond.
Darkness was hidden by darkness in the beginning,
with no distinguishing sign, all this was water.
The life force that was covered with emptiness,
that One arose through the power of heat.
Desire came upon that One in the beginning,
that was the first seed of mind.
Poets seeking in their heart with wisdom
found the bond of existence and non-existence.
Their cord was extended across.
Was there below?
Was there above?
There were seed-placers, there were powers.
There was impulse beneath, there was giving forth above.
Who really knows?
Who will here proclaim it?
Whence was it produced?
Whence is this creation?
The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe.
Who then knows whence it has arisen?
Whence this creation has arisen
– perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps it did not –
the One who looks down on it,
in the highest heaven, only He knows
or perhaps even He does not know.
Rig Veda, 10:129 Translated by Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty. From the Book “The Rig Veda – Anthology”
The famous “Pillars of Creation” have been revisited by the Hubble Space Telescope in this more detailed view than the one taken in 1995. Scientists now theorize that not only are stars being created in this region, they are also being destroyed. And so it goes.