I've enjoyed the big bang discussion that took off in the comments on my previous post.
In the course of defending science and the scientific method against a man, Rhawn Joseph, who believes the big bang, evolution, relativity, and the laws of thermodynamics are all myths, I've had an opportunity to reflect on why science appeals so much to me.
Pretty simple: it produces common ground on which we all can stand – reality. Religion divides people, because there's no agreement about the nature of what, if anything, lies beyond the physical universe.
So dogmatic arguments over God, soul, life after death, and such continue interminably. There's no way of resolving them.
Science, however, proceeds steadily (though with many changes in direction) toward a unified understanding of what reality is all about. There's no Western science or Eastern science, no American science or Chinese science. There's just shared scientific knowledge.
And that's beautiful.
Which leads to an important point that's so obvious, it shouldn't need saying. But we often forget it, and this leads to unnecessary confusion, arguments, and emotionality.
Here's how Ken Wilber describes the reality situation. "I" is the realm of the interior individual – me as I know myself. "It" and "Its" (plural) is the exterior side of reality – an objective realm that we all can know communally.
Traditionally, philosophical types talked about the Beautiful, the Good, and the True. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It's also in the realm of "I," subjective.
So when someone commented that they enjoyed Joseph's You Tube video, "God & the Myth of the Big Bang," I thought That's fine. Personally, I found it so obnoxious I could only watch five minutes of it. But hey, vive le difference.
If we all liked the same movies, there'd be no point to the Academy Awards. Each of us has different subjective likes and dislikes. That's as it should be, since our interiors are different.
But what about exterior reality, the domain that science investigates? Now we're into a much more objective state of affairs, which is why scientists can come to a consensus about the laws of nature.
Here, truth rules, not beauty. So I asked people who had seen Joseph's Big Bang video to tell me what evidence he had that big bang cosmology, which is accepted by almost all scientists, is wrong and Joseph is right.
I didn't get an answer. I really didn't expect one.
I've read quite a few books about the big bang, quantum theory, relativity theory, and other aspects of what's often called the "new physics." I subscribe to Scientific American and New Scientist. I read all three weekly newsmagazines (TIME, Newsweek, US News & World Report, and two daily newspapers.
If some guy had overturned a big chunk of science through a You Tube video, I figured I'd have heard about it. However, he hasn't. He's presented some imaginative ideas in an artsy fashion, expressing his "I." This doesn't change the reality of "It" though.
The scientific method is an intriguing blend of friendly openness and harsh skepticism. Scientists are open to new ideas, but if you throw out a fresh hypothesis – particularly if it purports to be an improvement over settled science – you'd better bring your best game.
In "The Demon-Haunted World," Carl Sagan wrote:
Again, the reason science works so well is partly that built-in error-correcting machinery. There are no forbidden questions in science, no matters too sensitive or sacred to be probed, no sacred truths. That openness to new ideas, combined with the most rigorous, skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, sifts the wheat from the chaff.
It makes no difference how smart, august, or beloved you are. You must prove your case in the face of determined, expert criticism. Diversity and debate are valued. Opinions are encouraged to contend – substantively and in depth.
The process of science may sound messy and disorderly. In a way, it is. If you examine science in its everyday aspect, of course you find that scientists run the gamut of human emotion, personality, and character. But there's one facet that is really striking to the outsider, and that is the gauntlet of criticism considered acceptable or even desirable.
That's as it should be. Objective reality belongs to all of us. Human knowledge about the universe is our most precious asset, one which must be passed on to future generations intact – not diluted with subjective drivel, religious or otherwise.
So I hope this helps explain why I defend science so strongly. When I see it trashed, I feel the same way as when I see litter along the rural Oregon road that leads to our house. Hey, that's public property! You've got no right to leave your crap there!
If someone wants to mess up their own home, that's their business. Just as what transpires in your "I" is up to you. But when someone ventures into the realm of "it," staking a claim to the nature of objective reality – that's everybody's business.
Our common ground, truth, is too precious to be left undefended. As Sagan said, openness and skepticism are our bulwarks against pseudo-science.
(Here's another post of mine on this subject).