I’ve heard it said that Religion is one way we try to make sense out of nonsense. I would soften the “nonsense” to “what we do not understand” and then I would expand that idea to all other belief systems as well.
Physical science, the hard sciences of theory, experiment, repetition, and continued research is an exception in its overall process, although individual practitioners may still be seduced by their own passion.
But all of the other would be “sciences”: social, psychological, economic and political drape themselves with the name badge of science when their would be proofs are so often designed only to promote their own particular understanding of the dynamics of our shared and contentious life together.
When physical science reports on the outcome of an experiment or a series of experiments, that reporting does not change anything about the subject of the experiment. It may change our understanding of the subject, but the subject itself is unchanged. The rock is still the rock, the chemistry is still the chemistry, the physical universe remains the physical universe.
All the other scientific pretenders are designed with the intent to change the subject. Political scientists offer, in addition to theory, the prescription for changing the political relationships they describe. The same is true in psychology, economics, sociology etc. etc. And as these theories are put into practice the subject itself is changed.
The published results of a new discovery in chemistry may change the way the think about the subject, but the chemistry itself remains as it was before the experiment. But the published results of the latest poll on one kind of behavior or another of one group or another changes not just the way we think about the group, but it changes the behavior of the members of the group and our own as well. Chemistry is not affect by what I think about it; people are affected by what I think about them.
The masquerade of the social sciences has been so successful that the “research based” recommendations they offer, demand and receive the same kind of acceptance as that of the hard sciences. And as these recommendations begin to be experienced as less than effective, individuals begin to see them with a suspicious eye which they then focus on the theories and results of the hard sciences.
The result is that the hard truth of the physical sciences is treated with the kind of suspicion that should be reserved for the soft, social sciences. Research and evidence that produced and sustains the theories of evolution and climate change are denied in the service of the economic and social theories that support and give “foundation” to political positions, positions which in our current situation are utilized to substitute firm belief for ambiguous understanding, and argument for dialogue.
Truth in the great abstraction, may be unknowable. But there are truths about the physical world that should be undeniable. We all die. What happens next may be up for grabs, but we do all die. Rocks thrown up into the air fall back down. Period.
The theory of evolution is true. It may be incomplete, we do not know if there is purpose in our design beyond the struggle for genetic survival, but in its explanation of our relationship to earlier forms of human, and human like life, it is true.
The theories of the why and wherefore of our changing climate are true; the climate is changing at a rate that can only be attributed to the choices and decisions that we as thinking creatures made. Although we made those decisions with limited understanding of the consequences, we made them, and continue to make them everyday.
The irony is that in our attempts to include ourselves in our scientific understanding we have managed to blur the lines between speculation, investigation and realization. What we have discovered, more or less, is that despite our abilities we are truly limited. That is not very comforting, not to each of us as individuals, nor as members of families, groups, clans and nations. We can live into that reality or we can choose to deny it.
What our experience has taught us is that we have the creative inclination and ability to help each other transcend our limitations, and we have the reactive inclination to blame each other for them. We have the choice to live in collaboration or in conflict. Unfortunately, to live in collaboration requires us all to make that choice.