Why Science Needs Some Modesty

One thing my mind often drifts into is this ocean of thoughts about our universe, its intricacy and the complex ways in which it has evolved to sustain a miracle we have all agreed to call life.

What is life? Particles that followed a burst into existence, auto-improvising evolution road-map for billions of years to transform itself into complex and conscious beings that work, play, procreate, have memories and feel emotions?

Could you list out the parameters that govern your emotions? And the parameters that govern those parameters? If you were to trace your emotions back to their physical origins, modern science would take you to quarks, leptons and bosons. To think that these silly little whatnots define your heartfelt emotions definitely sucks, doesn’t it?

Have you felt that our familiarity with our world sometimes make us take this world for granted? Have you taken that little pause to zoom out and look at the world we have all grown familiar to and wonder whether our existence could have attributes to it that are not congruent to established common sense? You might wonder, why is it fair to be complacent in our knowledge? Aren’t we’re all stuck inside a bubble that our knowledge is?

Enter science.

The scientific method has taken this step in liberating human minds from the locks of ignorance and has embarked us on a never ending quest for reason. It has pushed our civilization forward by leaps and has made all our lives better. No question there. But with increasing popularity and a globalized media culture, science has escaped the walls of laboratories and has begun to live in the tongues of common people. Results that took years of research and experimentation now propagates in condensed words that sometimes don’t even convey facts superficially. As a result, the image of the scientific method has suffered so much wear and tear. The innocence and childish curiosity that had once embodied science is slowly fading away. It’s now becoming the fashion of the academically privileged and the local know-it-alls. People now perceive everything scientific as the distilled truth. It has become the ultimate yardstick and the final cure for our never ending idiocy.

But isn’t that what it’s supposed to be?

The very notion of science as the ultimate yardstick has a pretext that human reason is a foolproof and full fledged tool; that our senses of intuition and prediction are all boundless; that every mystery in nature can be deciphered by our little brains. For the lot of us who have these assumptions sealed at the back of their minds, it is hard for them to realize the fact that our senses are merely functions defined by the earthly abilities of our body.

We study the universe only through our lenses and manipulate what we see. We get amazing results. If our success gives us the confidence to push our ideas forward and make this world a better place to live in, that is the Science I’m in love with. If it instead causes us to forget the limitations of our lenses, become overconfident and arrogant, then there begins the subtle issue of scientism. It makes us punify and explain away everything. It makes us reduce a rainbow into merely a bow shaped spectrum of light that is caused by reflection, refraction and dispersion. It makes us unable to immerse ourselves in it’s beauty and get enthralled wondering how complexly interconnected our conscience and our lives are with this universe.  We define motion in Newton’s Laws and choose to be complacent with it. But if Newton’s laws were as alive as we all are, it would just beg this question, “Am I really just Newton’s laws, and that’s the full stop?!” The same goes with Faraday’s laws or any other scientific law, for that matter. Just because Newton or Faraday (with all due respect) discovered certain ways in which nature behave, it doesn’t mean that those laws were ordained by them. Of course, none of us take those literally but it definitely is saddening when people choose to become overconfident in scientific jargon. People nod away things that are worth a lot of stupefaction with an arrogant “Oh, it’s science!”.

Well, it’s not science. Science isn’t the full stop. It never is and it never will be. It is nature, and she is begging you to notice her. Little questions like “Just why are the dark skies dotted with beautiful little stars?” can go a long way if you’re humble enough to ponder.

Science should be more about knowing that we don’t know than we do. It should humble us. It is just our little attempt to translate nature into a language we can comprehend. It should be beyond obvious that it only gives us a tiny projection of the reality of  this universe. It just should miss out the larger portion. The reason for the reasons, the whys of the whys and the hows of the hows, will always remain shrouded in the dark shadows of nature’s infinite unknown. And this is exactly how nature teaches us the petty nature of our knowledge. This is why it is never smart of us to walk around big-headed and bash people with science. Our engagement in anything scientific should begin with defeating our own ego. If we fail ourselves in this, we’ll only see little progress. We won’t notice ourselves diminishing into a bunch of repulsive, condescending robots that would render the larger picture invisible to us. Great scientists accomplished so much only because they were humble at their heart and never had an arrogant opinion about everything.

In the example of tracing your feelings back to the fundamental particles laid out by the standard model, questions can be asked. Is it really the ultimate truth? Could there be anything beyond it? Could there be facts about it that are not apparent to us? These are questions that are relevant despite all the appealing facts that science provide in all it’s concreteness.

The mystery never dies. To say it fairly, our understanding of our emotions based on leptons and quarks is nothing but the most reasonable one from what we see and observe. No genuine man of science will snap at you, “Yep, this is absolutely how it all works. Period.”. This is simply because our thoughts and ideas are irrelevant things in this universe. A bird has it’s own views about the world. We know and understand things beyond the bird’s view. Why should the same analogy stop with us? Aren’t we just a speck of dust that appeared and then instantly disappeared in the cosmic timeline. These are little facts you can grind on for hours on end but like I said, they can go long way if you’re humble enough to See, not just see.

Nature is mighty but she is humble. Perhaps that was the first lesson we should have learned from her.

When You Sit Down To Write

After the day’s routine rows of drudgery, things slow down to an easier pace. You retire for the night and get back in your room to settle yourself down. You look out the window and see that it’s raining. You open the windows and let the cold breeze gush in the petrichor emanating from the dying earth below. Just the perfect time for a good long time to sit down and do nothing but breath.

Or perhaps to sit down at your desk, switch on the lamp and write. Yes, write. After all, writing is not a thing reserved for the doctor of all jargon. It is a time tested fact that wonderful environments create wonderful thoughts and feelings worth writing down. You have stumbled on an amazing opportunity you have determined not to let go; this night shall be unlike any other night. So, you arbitrate against your self imposed notions of inferiority, and resolve to bring out all the rainbows inside you. You stretch a bit, take a deep breath, get hold of that pen, roll it around your knuckles, and then look outside the window, eyes sparkling with anticipation.

Ideas don’t bounce in so quick but you’re not gonna give up so quick too. You dive deep into the ocean of thoughts inside your mind, scour it’s waters and try to come up with something interesting, perhaps a thought you had in a dainty daydream on a delicate day.
You haul out that notepad from one of the dusty piles of books stranded on your desk since weeks and try to pen down some of those thought threads. But the problem, as it always is, is coherence. You never get coherent thoughts. Your thoughts branch out so quick into numerous short fragments which eventually makes a cobweb out of itself. The more you play with it, the more you get tangled in it. On one hand, you can’t remember all the little fragments together and on the other, as you try to connect some of them, you lose sight of many others. They’re like light bulbs blinking at random behind your brain, laughing at your inability to sort them up in any sane way.

Nevertheless, you try hard to make some sensible constellations, and in a desperate cloudburst of words, you get yourself to scribble them down. You then try to reorder the jigsaw, make some careful additions, give it the Midas touch and finally, breathe it to life.
Content at your accomplishment, you jump into your bed, roll over and snore away, knowing you’ll be waking up happy.