Science Doesn’t Have All the Answers
by Amanda Fischer
It’s the beginning of another semester at my university, and this past week I sat in my required “history of life” science class listening to a description of what science is and isn’t. Or, said another way, what is and isn’t science.
“If you can’t falsify a hypothesis, that’s not science. And that’s okay—not everything is or should be science. But we can’t pretend that something that’s speculation is real science,” my professor said. She gave an example of someone claiming that an invisible alien stole their car keys. Could you point to any observable evidence that would disprove that statement? Go ahead, try it: “Someone would’ve seen the keys moving on their own through the air!” “No, they became invisible when touched by the invisible alien.” See? It can’t be falsified, so it can’t be tested by science.
Now, all this seems rather obvious, right? It’s a ridiculous example—no one in their right mind would insist on a story like this. The fact that my professor chose this example shows that she’s trying to avoid condemning real-life instances of this, instead leaving it open for people to think through and realize the implications. I think that’s clever of her, because not only was it subtle enough to avoid stepping on toes, she also left room for each student’s mind to automatically fill in the bank with an example personal to them. Here’s where my mind went:
Invisible aliens created the world.
Sounds just as ridiculous as the car keys, right? How would you test this? But what if you change the subject of the sentence?
An invisible God created the world.
Aha. Now we’re in a pickle. According to this definition of the scientific method (hypothesis testing and observations, with a hypothesis that can be falsified), this statement is outside the realm of what can be examined by science. This is a great example of how just one line can undermine whole foundations of thought.
So how do we deal with this? Is our whole case overturned? Should it be thrown away? Science would like to say so. However, this is only a problem if science is the only thing that gives us answers, or, that science is the only reliable way to truth. But science doesn’t have all the answers. Science can’t have all the answers, and that’s very easy to demonstrate…