On science, society, philosophy and literature by George Zarkadakis
Monday, April 27, 2009
Modern science is a hypertext narrative describing the birth and evolution of the Universe. Its chapters interconnect in multifarious ways with the many branches of scientific enquiry – and this includes the humanities - and many of the chapters are being written even today. Many important details are still missing, but arguably most of the work has already been done. Some, the “Platonists” (see “Spontaneous dichotomy in scientific debate”), would argue that the Scientific Corpus may be totally revised in the future and that indeed we may be very near that tipping point in history. I will argue that this could conceivably happen but it will only affect a small part of the Book of the Universe. It will revise the understanding we have for its beginning, it might even revise the understanding that we have about the origins of life; but it will not re-write the Book of the Universe. The narrative has been written and delivered, what is left to do is editorial work. It is not therefore surprising that many contemporary philosophers and scientists, notably Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennet and others, argue that science has already given to the world an excellent explanation of just about everything. They argue, in the name of universal peace and brotherhood that the Book of the Universe is taught across the globe, to everyone, to children of all nations, so that scientific understanding replaces religious belief. Their argument, which I happen to approve, is that religion and irrational belief systems in general, are too dangerous ideas to permeate the nations of a technologically advanced, nuclear-armed world like ours. On the contrary Science, as narrated in the Book of the Universe, unites in a rational and wondrous way all races of the planet, in the common appreciation and respect of nature, so instrumental in establishing some kind of peaceful co-existence and, ultimately, survival. What interests me about their argument is that I find in it a fine example of the interplay between literature, science and the society of the future. But I will have to return to this point that I am making and expand it further.