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The Ever-Changing Science

Nabodit Bhattacharya

The curious and inquisitive nature of the human mind has given birth to science. Humans are always in pursuit of rationality, searching for the truth behind various kinds of occurrences and phenomena in and around them. Our ancestors were in quest to explain natural occurrences such as sunrise and sunset, study the constellation patterns formed by stars and the formation of rainbows, and so on. Later, they realized that there was a need for generalization which would help to explain any phenomena in a more rational manner. This gave rise to scientific theories.

Force of Gravity, Concept of friction, Theory of relativity, Electromagnetic wave theory of light, etc., are all generalizations which help explain a majority of the phenomena happening around us. However, if we actually sit and think about these theories, they are basically abstract ideas and concepts that explain natural occurrences to close approximation and lay strong foundations which withstand the constant advancement in science. Conversely, models of atoms, theories on nature of light, research on genetic material of living organisms, and many such understandings, have undergone constant changes over a period of time. As Pirsig wrote “The whole purpose of the scientific method is to make valid distinctions between the false and the true in nature, to eliminate the subjective, unreal, imaginary elements from one’s work so as to obtain an objective, true picture of reality.”

All research starts with an aim to answer a specific kind of question. The first task is to carefully and correctly state the scientific question. Once the question has been clearly stated, the most important stage of research is to come up with a logical and reasonable hypothesis. Thereafter, numerous experiments and tests will be conducted to prove the hypothesis and observations will be noted down. The rigorous analysis of the observations in light of carefully designed control experiments will finally show whether the hypothesis stated is capable of explaining the problem statement. In case of positive correlation, the hypothesis will be considered to be the possible answer to the specific question. Combining many such similar questions and analyses will give rise to a new theory or concept or model. However, this is not the end of the story… As more observations are made over time, the concept or model is revisited and moulded to fit a “universal truth”. But, is there such a thing?

Remember, it is the rational mind which tries to find a hypothesis that best explains certain phenomena. And if this hypothesis survives numerous tests and satisfies the rationality of the human mind, it is adopted as a scientific theory. But, will this scientific theory be eternal? Never. Theories undergo reforms, improvisations, and after a certain period of time, they may lose their original identity and evolve into completely new shapes and forms. Just like an individual’s life which undergoes constant change, science is also ever-changing and those who acknowledge these changes are able to grow throughout. Take, for example, Newton’s classical theory of Gravitation which was initially used to explain almost every phenomenon around us. With the emergence of Quantum mechanics in the 20th century, this theory was overturned, and the very fundamental nature of existence was brought into question. Quantum mechanics made predictions that the classical theories of physics could not explain and with closer inspection, many theories which form the bedrock of physics are falling apart.

I leave you with this question: does the scientific method and its structure for pursuing the truth accurately represent what is actually true or meaningful in the world? If yes, then we probably already know everything there is to about the natural world, do we not? If no, can you contest the ever changing nature of science? That in this world of science, nothing remains constant and our quest for rationality and the true nature of reality will be never-ending as there is no zenith to which human thoughts can reach...


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