Three Thoughts from Two Authors on Science and Reality | Oct 1986

FMBR Editorial: Oct 1986

Three Thoughts from Two Authors on Science and Reality

"Imagine that the Earth were visited by a metaobserver from another world, free from the prejudices of our conceptions of science. I think his report would probably look like this:

"Science is a kind of Game. The Game has special rules which are known and clear to everybody though they have never been classified and codified. The rules have been basically constant for about 300 years. In the process of the Game, ingenious and ever more complicated theoretical structures are created, but the players do not seem to believe them absolutely. Anyway, they perceive ultimate knowledge as a delusion since only the scholar who manages to destroy what has previously been created is considered truly gifted. What is the prize in the Game? This is not quite obvious. For some, it is the ability to build a more ingenious theory; for others, and for those not directly participating in the game, it is the ability to master previously unknown powers of nature, which they unaccountably succeed in doing by proceeding from their ephemeral theories; for still others, it is the ability to get hold of something purely material. The remainder play the same Game, but they play according to quite different rules and interfere with other people. One of the principal rules seems to stipulate that the Game must not be dull. The moment it loses its acuteness, more ingenious conjectures start arising, the rules are modified, and, surprisingly, again everything is all right, though it becomes more and more difficult to play."

— “Faces of Science", V. V. Nalimov (Soviet mathematician) pp 33, ISI Press, Philadelphia, 1981

"I could point to three basic and obvious structural constituents in science: problems, i.e. questions to be answered; hypotheses whereby these questions are answered; and, finally means which allow these hypotheses to be accepted or rejected. ... Every culture can be characterized by a set of questions, some of which are permitted and formulated and others of which are forbidden. ... The difference between cultures is first of all the difference in the questions permitted. ... Retrospectively, it seems that science can be regarded as a series of answers to a number of profound questions. ... In science there exists an implicit but universally acknowledged ban: do not ask questions which cannot be answered in the system of accepted structures."

— “Faces of Science", V. V. Nalimov (Soviet mathematician), pp 2-3, ISI Press, Philadelphia, 1981

"I propose the following four point syllogism as an explanation for why our modern world view has collapsed and become truncated in comparison with the reality that is there:

"Science has now become our sacral mode of knowing, i.e., science has replaced revelation as the oracle for truth.

"The crux of modern science is the controlled experiment, that is why we have confidence in it.

"We can control only what is inferior to us. Have you ever encountered in a science text book anything that is greater than we are by every criterion of worth we know for example intelligence, benevolence, or more compassionate?

"Therefore, because the crux of science is the controlled experiment and we can control only what is inferior to us, science can only show and disclose to us what is inferior to us."

— From a talk by Dr. Huston Smith former Professor of Philosophy, M.I.T. and Syracuse University, October 10, 1986

Scroll to Top