Monday, September 23, 2013

A Most Helpful Diagram: Science and Reality

In previous posts, we defined science, explored its characteristics, and established that it is limited by its method and our five senses to investigating testable, falsifiable hypotheses about the natural world. (Have I beaten this point into the ground enough yet?) Hence, it is not a system designed for investigating all of truth-- such as love, beauty, spiritual experience, ethics, and most of the other things religions talk about.

Of course, there are plenty of people who believe that everything can be explained by science-- or rather, that there is nothing beyond the scope of science. This view, called “scientism,” is not part of science itself (because it’s not testable or falsifiable); it is something these people take on faith, ironically enough. Still others have trouble with the word “truth,” because they believe there is really no such thing. (I would ask them to explain how they know that is true and catch them in their own paradox.) So instead of talking about “truth,” maybe a less problematic term is “reality”-- the way things really are, whatever that turns out to be, and whether we understand it yet or not. Whatever our view, let’s all adopt a little bit of humility and assume that reality-- the whole of it taken together-- is far beyond our current understanding.

Okay-- we are ready! (drumroll) Here it is, folks, the most helpful diagram I have ever thought of (click to enlarge):