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When will Science Give up Its Metaphysical Pretentions?

April 27th, 2009

From ‘Stephen Hawking is Wrong’ by Hilary Lawson:

The notion that we might uncover the nature of the world through a combination of careful observation and logic goes back to the inception of the scientific project. It was the dream of the Enlightenment and it could even be said that this vision has defined modern western culture. A motivating and liberating force, it has given us a sense of progress, a sense that unlike previous cultures and other societies we are on the road to truth. Nevertheless, it is profoundly mistaken…

A century ago Lord Kelvin declared, “there is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more measurement.” Those like Stephen Hawking today who suppose that we are on the verge of finding the ultimate theory will be similarly embarrassed. If instead science gave up its metaphysical pretentions and stopped supposing that it was uncovering the essential character of the world, it would be stronger not weaker.

For more see the full article here.

4 Responses to “When will Science Give up Its Metaphysical Pretentions?”

  1. What a wonderful article! It made me squeak (!) with excitement because it articulates so brilliantly things I can barely put into words but am reaching to understand. The concept of Maya comes to mind reading this. I really like the idea of ‘closures’ because – unlike a unifying mono-theory – there is this sense that the true Mystery at the heart of life (that ‘openess’) is truly beyond the limits of perception, cannot be contained or explained away, and because of this the ways of perceiving that ‘openess’ become potentially infinite. This is not to devalue people’s intellectual creativity – there is real joy and value in the urge to understand – but finite theories inevitably lead to dogma, a closing down of a wider vision. I don’t want that Mystery boxed in and reduced to an abstract theory – there is a great arrogance in the assumption that we could possibly achieve this and it seems to me to be counter productive – we close down our range of experience and fail to acknowledge the solutions that sit outside our known frame of reference, solutions that might help us to transcend our limitations.

    Thanks for this Philip – inspiring stuff – I feel bouncy and bright now!!

  2. I was just reading about Pico della Mirandola saying that mathematics would reveal the soul of the world and allow humans to reach their true god-selves.

    There’s definitely something in the tradition of maths and science as religious pursuits that illuminate the soul, but it seems that in the US and UK (the only places I’ve ever lived), there’s a perception of a spirit-material dichotomy that runs so deep we tend not to notice it.

    Seems to me that science can provide us with an essential part of our understanding of the universe, and can be a spiritual path in itself. I have a fuzzy notion that scientists often know that but are scared to say it in case it makes them look squishy.

  3. “The infinite set of infinite sets of infinite numbers”
    sounds like pure mystic to me; problem of course lies in the understanding of “infinite”. Enough too go mad when pondered long enough 🙂

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