MICHIO KAKU AND THE ARROGANCE OF SCIENCE

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I don’t mean that he’s an arrogant person: his conceit is entirely methodological. Everything is a superstition, an old wives’ tale (as he only half-jokingly says in a recent lecture broadcast on C-SPAN), until it is either verified or refuted by science. Only then does something become true or untrue. Why does science arrogate to itself this exclusive claim to the truth?

At its basis, the scientific method is Cartesian, which means it starts out from a standpoint of doubting. Skeptical as a matter of principle as well as of a matter of methodology, science seeks only what it can be certain of, accepting as true nothing but what has been proven through the most exacting method. Everything that has not achieved this validation is, from science’s point of view, a lesser form of knowledge. So that’s where the arrogance comes from.

Now scientific certainty is a great thing to have, but the truth doesn’t require it. Otherwise, there would have been no truth before there was science. Believe nothing unless you have secured its certainty is an excellent frame of mind for achieving certain ends, but it becomes foolish as a reference point for living. It would mean, for instance, that one could not believe in the soul unless science proved that there is one. Okay then: because science did not prove the existence of the soul in my lifetime, I died without believing that the soul exists. But the morning after my death the world is greeted with the headline SCIENTISTS FIND PROOF OF THE SOUL. If only I had lived another day!

Truth exists even where certainty is absent. People successfully operate in all sorts of ways without requiring proof. Why can myths offer profound insights? Because the truth can take different forms. The demand for evidence is made only with regard to certain ends. The basis of truth is not factual verification. It is already there with the unconcealment of existence. In its essence, the truth is not what is confirmed but what is revealed. Here is my concern. As science gets popularized, people, without even realizing what they are doing, begin adopting its method of skepticism as a matter of course, as their starting off point. Even as people gain more certainty about the world around them, they begin to lose the capacity to make the leap of faith necessary for spiritual well being.

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