The Successor to Science
The Institute for Parallel Studies
In the years of the Institute's existence, the research staff has striven to provide answers to seemingly unanswerable questions. The use of parallel field technology has opened vast areas to scrutiny which had never before even been imagined, but these discoveries have also turned our notion of science on its ear.
The central concept of science is that of a knowable world which could be induced to give up all of its secrets. Discoveries of the twentieth century have put a lie to this notion. Parallel technology and quantum physics seem to agree that systems are altered by observation therefore making their unobserved state unknowable.
This is our most important discovery, proof of the existence of the unknowable. We must now make our approach to learning based upon the clear understanding that there is a portion of reality which no living being is able to directly observe.
We, at present, do not have any idea what this should mean to the body of science. This central premise of the knowability of the universe is the foundation of science and now it has a great big ol' hole in it. Is it time to graduate to yet another system of knowing? In our short history as a species, we have advanced ourselves from superstitions and myths to observation based systems of knowledge.
We are on the brink of a new epistemology which could result in putting science as we understand it into the same shoe box on the back shelf with superstition. We may from time to time take it out to play with for the sake of fun or drama, but it will belong to our discarded heritage. Science might well become a force in society, like religion, used cynically to control innocent minds or maintain a status-quo. We have certainly seen this effect with religion where the fewer adherents it has, the more mean spirited those adherents become. Once science is relieved of the responsibility for being the voice of truth in society, it could well sink into a strange form of decadence with a secretive "priesthood" which favors the world with the occasional "miracle", for, in spite of the fact that it may not be the road to the explanation of nature, its prior accomplishments will still stand. What is to be the successor to science? I do not and cannot know. My bet is that Science will persist for several more centuries in its current position in spite of mounting problems. As scientific knowledge increases and we discover more of the frontiers of knowability, patience for its methods will wane. I predict that like science and religion, the new epistemology will emerge from the disciplines of philosophy. At first, it will be strongly flavored by a kind of backlash psychology and may well attempt to embrace superstition which by that time might be even farther in the background of the mainstream human consciousness. This will be the young system of knowing in its "alchemy" stage.
One possible source of a new epistemology could be the so called "parasciences" which concern themselves with a vast array of phenomena from ESP to UFOs. The only thing these things have in common is a general unresponsiveness to scientific inquiry and a hold on the public imagination. Another might be some sort of complex, but rational, nonlinear logic, a philosophical analog to fractal geometry. One feminist friend of mine labeled such a logic system "female thinking". It would be characterized by leaps of imagination and intuition as much as it would be by sober inquiry. Sort of a modern shamanism. Both of these possibilities might very well discard the notion of an "objective" reality and therefore not depend on reproducible results.
These are of course merely examples of the possibilities of the sort of thing that a new way of knowing might emerge. The test for such a system would be to provide an explanation for something which science has been unable to explain or demonstrate in a convincing manner. Further, it should be able to show a basic inadequacy in the methods of science. Perhaps demonstrating that some major paradox (Schrodinger's for instance) is not actually paradoxical or showing the mechanics of precognition would make good tests. Similarly, I am moved to question the validity of mathematics. We have conditioned ourselves to believe that mathematics is a great universal model for all sorts of behaviors of space and time, but what if this is merely a human perception, a mechanism we have evolved to aid our survival in the world. What if the models created by math are no more real a representation of the world than the flat pictures created by our eyes. Our brain is constructed to deal with enumeration, geometry and time in a certain way, but we all ready know that these perceptions fail on the quantum level. Math is capable of explaining these particular breakdowns, but the literature of mathematics is filled with hundreds of well known unsolved and possibly insoluble problems.
A new epistemology would no doubt include a major modification of math, might even put it aside altogether, although I consider this unlikely given our propensity for bean counting. Finally, I propose that there might not be any absolute system of knowing and to maintain our advancement of knowledge we must discover a new epistemology every few thousand years and that the universe is vast, complex and subtle and unlikely to be responsive to any single method of understanding its ways.
© 1997 by the Institute for Parallel Studies