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Beyond Science


Today I listened to the latest program of “Simple Psychology” radio station “What exactly is mindfulness therapy to improve mood?” ”, which talks about the New Age movement that was once very popular in the United States. Later, it was marginalized by mainstream science and became more and more marginalized. Scholars studying this movement can only obtain research funds through sideline methods.

This makes me want to talk about the world outside science. And before we talk about science, let’s start with science itself.

Wikipedia’s definition of science is: Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.

Three characteristics of “science” are highlighted:

  1. The purpose of science is to understand the world (the original text is “universe”, I use world instead to avoid people limiting the concept of the universe to outer space);
  2. Scientific knowledge is formed through systematic creation and organization;
  3. Scientific knowledge is built on testable explanations and predictions.

The first point is that the purpose of science is to understand the world. This is easy to understand and not explain. Secondly, the key word is systematicity. Systematicity is the most important feature of science. Systematicity not only enables science to comprehensively study and explain various phenomena in the world, but also facilitates inheritance and dissemination. The third point is that “testability” is the most famous feature of scientific methods. Anything that cannot be verified by repeated tests cannot be used as scientific basis. Science also ensures its authority in this way.

Now let’s look beyond science from the three characteristics of science.

Science is indeed a good way to understand the world, but it is not the only way. Everyone has his own way of understanding the world. If you encounter something you cannot understand, you should either ask for help from others or ignore it. When science faces phenomena that are currently unexplainable, it can only be placed under the label of “to be studied”. And because people can’t get a scientific explanation, they ignore its existence and even label it “pseudoscience”. This has to be said to be a strong prejudice.

Although the level of human intelligence is getting higher and higher now, it is still not enough compared to the wisdom of the universe. Therefore, it may be only one billionth that can be summarized into a systematic phenomenon? Why did I set the scale so small? Just think about classical physics and quantum physics.

At that time, classical mechanics represented by Newton made us mistakenly believe that we could already use formulas to describe the entire world, but there were just some corners that needed to be improved. The discovery of quantum mechanics made us realize that we were short-sighted.

To give a simple example: in classical mechanics, it is impossible for people to penetrate walls, and it is easy to understand from common sense. However, according to quantum mechanics, people can penetrate walls, but the probability is very, very low.

This brings us to the third characteristic of science: testability. For example, in the test of a person walking through a wall, no matter if you test it tens of thousands or hundreds of millions of times, the results should all be impenetrable. So can we conclude that people cannot walk through a wall? Before the discovery of quantum mechanics, this was the conclusion, the theorem, and if by chance an ultra-low probability event of successfully passing through the wall happened, because of the difficulty of repeating this event, there were only two endings waiting for it: either it was ignored, or Throw it into the “corner to be studied.”

So what is hidden in the “corner to be studied”?

I saw an example about color in “Antifragile” some time ago. There is no word blue in the ancient Greek vocabulary. When they want to express blue, they use “the color of the sea” and “the color of the sky.” wait. Of course, this directly led to the rare use of blue in ancient Greek literature (I’m not sure if the same is true in ancient Greek paintings?).

Modern science is similar to this situation. We can only express those things that can be described in language. Although modern language is much richer than in ancient times, and the speed of creating new words in modern times is getting faster and faster, new vocabulary is constantly filling in. The previous gap (quantum physics is describing the gap of classical physics, and as a result, the deeper “truth” of this world was discovered). But even so, our language is still very crude when facing the real world.

It’s a bit like getting infinitely close but never reaching it. We can touch as many details as possible of the “elephant” with our increasingly sensitive “hands”, but we can never really use our “hands” to “understand” the real “elephant”. In fact, every time our “hands” become more sensitive, we always find that there are so many unexplored areas in the original “known” areas.

Why? Because “hand” is not “elephant”. We have to understand “elephant” unless we become “elephant”.

We cannot understand the world unless we become the world.

Yet we look to language to understand the world.

I am not belittling language here. Language is currently the most convenient method of communication (the summary function of language is not evaluated here). However, compared with the sense organs of the body such as vision and hearing, language can convey too few feelings. , not to mention that the feeling of language is based on the feeling of the body.

Based on the roughness of language, science is actually the world in our imagination, and outside of science is the real world. Science is just a microcosm of the real world built with rough Lego bricks like language.

Therefore, don’t think that we understand the physics of this world just because we have physics. The world does not work based on scientific theories, and we only scratch the surface of this world.

As an aside, if people could telepathically communicate with each other and directly transmit physical sensations without using language, how much clearer would our world be? What will our civilization develop into?


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