Or at least, it is as true as any other scientific statement. You see, I think that scientists are wrong. About evolution, about atomic energy, about astronomy and about the life, the universe and everything. (42.)
Now, I am not about to dismiss science as the thing to which all intelligent apes should aspire. And I am not about to subscribe to “Creationist Weekly.” (Their slogan? ‘God made it in a week. And so do WE!’) But I have some issues with science, generally accepted scientific truths, and the way that we simply accept them.
There is this trend in which the theories of before are ridiculed and debased before the altar of contemporary science. Today’s scientists may be standing on the shoulders of those that came before, but they’re kicking a few heads as they stand. Old theories are taught in schools with scorn and the invitation to join in the learned chuckling at those poor silly buggers that came before.
The Earth is flat. This was the prevailing theory for hundreds of years. And the chances are that you were probably taught this in a “How could they be so stupid?” way. I know I was. But the problem is this. At the time that the statement was first made, the theory was sound. It made sense. All the bright sparks agreed. It become public knowledge. And you know what? To the average layman, the earth MAY AS WELL BE flat. Does the curvature of the earth really effect your day? Really? No. But you see, at some point, this theory was binned in favour of the shiny new theory that the earth was round. And public opinion was once again changed, and flat-earthers were regarded as morons. The problem is, you see, that the earth ISN’T round… never was, never will be. It’s geoid. (Which is a fancy way to describe a slightly flattened ball.) Now that we know that the earth is geoid, we can safely regard ourselves superior to both flat-earthers and round-earthers.
We have all seen the evolution of astronomy, and we all know the stories about how the universe was formed. Sure you do. First, the sun and all the planets revolved around us. Then, they didn’t, we revolved around the sun, and the universe revolved around us. Then, it didn’t, and we became just one planetary system in a large universe, all expanding away from some central point. And now, now we don’t even have that. Now, we are in a universe that is both infinite AND expanding. (Don’t ask what an infinite universe can be expanding into, your head will hurt.) Also, despite the theory of red and blue light shift and our means for establishing relative distances between stars and galaxies, apparently, we are now ALL simultaneously at the centre of the universe, and we are ALL moving away from one another. See… I am not sure what you were taught at school. I was taught that once upon an instance (because before the instance, there was no time. Geek joke, sorry)… there was a sigularity. And that singularity existed at a point where time had no meaning. t=0. Something happened, some critical mass was reached (Don’t ask how something unaffected by time can undergo change, your head will hurt…) and it blew up. Bang! BIG bang! And from that moment onwards, the universe basically exploded outwards into a uniformly expanding hole. That’s what I was taught, and that was what passed for public opinion. Now.. it is one step behind the curve. And I am sure that in a few generations, children will be indulgently taught just how quaint we were at the turn of the century, just how mislead and ill-informed we were. And perhaps we are. But as right as scientists may be in the future, they only go to demonstrate that until we have an absolute truth, we can only be correct until someone improves on our theories.
Newton. Arguably the greatest mind our race has ever known. Have a flick through The Principia if you have any doubt, and remember that he did it all by himself. He gave us universal gravitation and the three laws of motion. (As well as a LOT more.. Newton was a very busy boy.) He was a bright lad, and he revolutionised science. But even he was proven incorrect (or at least partially incorrect) by the brighter boys of the twentieth century. Atomic gravitation and particle theory changed the way we look at gravity, and well… basically, Newton may have laid the foundations, but someone else is going to decorate the living room. (Newton had a few other failings as well… he remained convinced until his death in certain basic theories of transmutation of elements. He believed that it was indeed possible to turn lead into gold, make himself invisible, and a bunch of other things.) But the thing is… in time, even Einstein and Hawking will be proven incorrect, or improved upon in some fundamental way. (Einstein may already be on the way out, a science team has recently determined that the speed of light is NOT necessarily a constant in a vacuum. )
Evolution is another thing that is evolving. (Cough)
There was a time when the best of the biological world were firmly of the opinion that life as we know it is the way that life has always been. This despite some embarrassingly big bones that were being discovered. Along came Darwin, and his theory of adaptation determining the survival of a species. It was violently opposed (Not least by the Church… but seriously, I am not going to bring them into this… suffice it to say that the Church has always been the grumpy old man of the human race, resistant to change and demanding of respect for tradition.) by basically everyone at the time. In retrospect, they were perhaps not all that incorrect in doing so. There are a few issues with the theory of evolution, and even Darwin was said to have despaired of trying to explain the evolution of the eye. Now, I am not saying that evolution was wrong. The fossil record clearly demonstrates that creatures evolve, and then some. My contention is that the Theory of Evolution, like most scientific theories is subject to correction subsequent to advances in the field. Who is to say that we are not going to find something out in the next decade or two that will force us to rethink our current truths? As it is, anthropologists are divided over the diaspora of the human race, how it was that we spread from Africa to India, what happened to our tools along the way (apparently, after mining for flint, crafting flint tools and using them for almost a million years in the Olduvai Gorge, we somehow forgot how to use them on the way to India and the Asian sub-continent. It is something that has yet to be explained.) and why we decided to go to India in the first place…. I mean, have you seen what they eat?
I guess what I am trying to say is this:
Flat-Earthers, Creationists and other non-believers are wrong. But in a few generations, so might we be.
I have a sneaking suspicion that at some point, someone is going to have a good look at Quantum mechanics and is going to point out that really, honestly, truly, it’s bullshit. It has been said of Quantum mechanics that anyone who is not outraged at the description of its base theories has not understood them. And I think that that statement may be more prescient than originally thought. Consider… we are currently unable to explain the actions of certain particles. Thus, it is theorised that the particle is both a particle and a wave. It requires a fair amount of mathematical hokum, but the numbers eventually work. So now we have something that is two things simultaneously, but assumes the form of only one when it is being observed. The same applies to the half-lives of certain radioactive isotopes… they only degrade if they are not being observed. It’s tantamount to suggesting that as long as you stare at your banana sandwich, it will never go bad. Patently, something is happening, and my argument is that we simply can’t understand it.
This has happened before in science… hell, it happens ALL the time. When we lit a fire, we were not witnessing an exothermic reaction of particulate matter… rather, we had succeeded in igniting the phlogiston contained within the item we were burning. Mountains were not formed from the grinding together of tectonic plates, but rather had always been there, formed during the formation of the planet. Meteor impact craters were not the result of strikes from extra-planetary bodies, but the result of underground steam explosions. So perhaps… just perhaps, quantum mechanics will someday be exposed as an understandable error based on the knowledge that mankind once possessed.
We are constantly evolving. Not just biologically, but in philosophy and mentality too. Our children ARE more advanced than we were. They’re exposed to concepts far more advanced than those we were taught, they are kept at the cusp of our understanding. They stand on our shoulders, and we stand on the shoulders of giants. All we need to remember is that one day too, we will be kicked by those above us.