Science is hope. The depths of human misery and want have been answered by science, and we may all be glad. We will tell you of the highest fruits science may yet bestow, and invite you to stand beside us in wonder, and imagine the world which awaits. As you will soon see, that world is already here.
What is science? Science is man’s attempt to grasp the unimaginable and place a practical harness around the inexplicable problems and facts which present themselves all around us. Science offers us answers to questions, questions of what and why. Why is the universe the way it is? What are the limits of reality, and what are its boundaries? These are the questions of science. For millennia, science has answered these questions. Does science answer these questions with certain fact? No. Never. Science, uses models.
Please think of the role of Newton. His theories were brilliant and timeless, and contained within them much truth about reality in the way models do. We quite rightly do not speak of the accomplishments of Newton as being foolish or wrong headed simply because a more detailed model such as relativity or quantum theory comes to the fore. No, we understand that the picture has been sharpened and the model made anew, so we might gain further insight into the nature of reality. Experiments sharpen the limits of our models and in this, we have scientific progress. Scientific progress is found in the refinement of its models, nothing more than that. Einstein himself understood the limits of scientific model making, and often related his doubts to those with whom he had correspondence. It is to be remembered that Einstein was a good scientist, and did himself doubt the validity of his own models, models of things which involved the concept of curved space-time. He also strongly doubted the validity of quantum models.
Einstein wrote about his misgivings concerning his own theories in a letter to his friend Michel Angelo Besso: “I consider it quite possible that physics cannot be based on the field concept, i.e., on continuous structures. In that case nothing remains of my entire castle in the air, gravitation theory included, [and the] rest of physics.”
Einstein understood the situation. One must always be on the lookout for the new idea, the new model, which will claim even more of the elusive prize. Dogma has no place in science. None. Einstein knew this best.
Indeed, the models of quantum theory and relativity have brought us a new world of hope and wonder. We have nuclear fission and fusion, we have the most accurate model ever conceived by man: Quantum Electro Dynamics (QED). Of course, Feynman who helped perfect QED was no less the scientist than Einstein, and admitted without hesitation that QED was causally, a mystery of confusion to him and all others. A re-normalized theory of stunning accuracy, but based upon unknown grounds…Feynman is famous for saying this illustrious theory of unprecedented accuracy was based on a mystery, and much was ‘swept under the rug’ as to the causes. Recall that Feynman shared a Nobel Prize in 1965 for his work with QED and also note how clear he is about the fact that QED, stunningly accurate as it is, is a model with limits, and not a pure representation of truth. Just as Einstein, we see good scientific thinking, and lots of doubt. From his famous book QED, the strange theory of light and matter in typically direct language we read (p. 128): “The shell game that we play to find n and j is technically called “renormalization.” But no matter how clever the word, it is what I would call a dippy process! Having to resort to such hocus-pocus has prevented us from proving that the theory of quantum electrodynamics is mathematically self-consistent. . . . I suspect that renormalization is not mathematically legitimate. What is certain is that we do not have a good mathematical way to describe the theory of quantum electrodynamics: such a bunch of words to describe the connection between n and j and m and e is not good mathematics.” Here, Feynman describes the single most accurate model ever devised by man! Of course Feynman is correct and we see in QED only an accurate model and not certain truth, as science itself is based on models and mathematics, no more than that. Progress is to be found in sharpening those models. Those who profess certain truth in any current scientific dogma, are not strictly honest. We speak now as always, only of science, only of models. Just ask Einstein or Feynman. Dogmatism is anathema to good science.
As we look around us, we see what appear to be limits cast in stone. There are finite resources, the world is filled with pollution and energy is in short supply. The environmental devastation which science has wrought, as it has attempted to create a better life for us all, is clear to see. Cars spread polluted air, factories and power plants cast a net of deadly poison around the earth. It appears that science has found its limit, and humanity as well. But do remember that we speak not of reality, but of models! Clearly, the limits of our models of relativity and quantum theories may be evidenced in our current situation, and not any limit within the situation itself. Perhaps, we only see the flaws in our scientific models and not any actual limit endemic to reality!
Next week, another step in the pathway toward hope. In the meantime, a book and the latest version of our paper concerning gravitation and relativity:
Practical and theoretical assessment of relativistic theory v. 2
Beyond the veil: Deception, truth and the hidden promise of science
You may contact me through the staff contact page at Mind magazine: www.mindmagazine.net
This work is the sole property of the authors, Rich Norman and Jeremy Dunning-Davies © 2016, and is used by this forum with both permission and gratitude.