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Sunday, October 17, 2004

Limitations of Science

(From Fritjof Capra’s Uncommon Wisdom)

The main point of Laing’s attack was that science, as it is practiced today, has no way of dealing with consciousness, or with experience, ethics, or anything referring to quality. Galileo made the statement that only quantifiable phenomena were admitted to the domain of science. Galileo said: “Whatever cannot be measured and quantified is not scientific”; and in post-Galilean science this came to mean: “What cannot be quantified is not real”. Galileo’s program offers us a dead world: Out go sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell, and along with them have since gone esthetic and ethical sensibility, values, quality, soul, consciousness, spirit. Experience as such is cast out of the realm of scientific discourse. Hardly anything has changed our world more during the past four hundred years than Galileo’s audacious program. We had to destroy the world in theory before we could destroy it in practice.

I agreed with Liang’s analysis of Galileo’s role in the history of science. I also agreed with Laing that there was no norm for experience, values, and ethics in the science of today.

The value of subjective knowledge is surely something we could learn from the East. We have become so obsessed with rational knowledge, objectivity, and quantification that we are very insecure in dealing with human values and human experience.

We must never forget that scientific theories are approximate descriptions of natural phenomena, and accordig to Geoffrey Chew it is essential that one should always ask, as soon as a certain theory is found to work: Why does it work? What are its limits? In what way, exactly, is it an approximation?

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