There are rules to follow with experiments. I know it as the scientific method:
Hypothesis “I bet this will happen if I do that”
Experiment –do that
Observe –did it happen like I thought?
So tidy. So trustworthy. Just follow the rules.
Until the rules start to change. I can’t stop thinking about Kuhn’s book The Structure of Scientific Revolution. He’s talking about the rules of science, and how they change. The world isn’t flat. And if it’s not flat….what do we do now? It used to be flat. Or at least we thought it was. We have to ask different questions now.
There are only certain sorts of questions the scientists ask, though. Stray off the study map, and “that’s not a question for science.”
Faith in science is it’s own sort of belief. Big trust that if we hang on it will lead us through. Never lets us down.
I’m a fan of Steven Pressfield. He’s not a scientist, he’s an author and a champion of all things creative. Here is an excerpt from his book DO THE WORK:
Imagine a box with a lid. Hold the box in your hand. Now open it.
It might be a frog, a silk scarf, a gold coin of Persia. But here’s the trick: no matter how many times you open the box, there is always something in it.
Ask me my religion. That’s it.
I believe with unshakeable faith that there will always be something in the box.”
Pressfield shares this faith with scientists. The scientists believe that the science box will always have something in it.
Pressfield’s faith in the box is a faith in imagination.
I like to think it’s even bigger.
Someone on the Internet quoted Einstein saying, “I think the most important question facing humanity is, ‘Is the universe a friendly place?’ This is the first and most basic question all people must answer for themselves.”
For me, the something in that box is a combination of my imagination and the forces of the universe. I could try to put something in that box, but if the universe is not friendly that day that marvelous object could fail to appear.
As terrifying as it might be for a scientist to come to the conclusion that his experiments no longer result in any useful knowledge all experiments are forever proven useless.
There would be no more reason to be.
It seemed an extraordinary thing for Einstein to say, far outside the usual realm of scientific inquiry. And on further research, it is highly doubtful he said it.
But whoever said it has a point.
It’s a most rational sort of faith. This universe, this system we all must live in and cooperate with, must be trusted. Deeply, thoughtlessly trusted. Trusted like sunrise and gravity.
I have dark nights when I don’t trust. I hate those nights. Who am I kidding? Daytimes can be doubtful too.
I wonder if a scientist sometimes doubts. If he thinks, “That’s it. This will never work and the universe does not follow any pattern at all.”
I would hope they avoid that sorrow. I hope I can learn to avoid it too.
I reach in my heart for the box, and I open it slowly.
If I try I could find evidence that the universe is out to get me. And if I try I could find evidence that it’s on my side. Bad things happen. Good things happen.
What will I see when I open the box?
I will likely find what I am looking for. I want to find friendly cooperation. I will try to look for it.