Thank god for science

I love science.

Just as there is only one type of medicine - not conventional or alternative - but rather only that which works, there can only be one science - one that comprehensively describes the universe without leaving anything or anyone out. As long as there are blind spots in our scientific understanding, science must continue to update itself, even reinvent itself if necessary. In other words, for science to truly be science it must dare to be as complete and free of inconsistency as possible.

For science to be science, it must meet three criteria:
1. make observations
2. formulate hypotheses
3. design and carry out experiments

These three activities, repeated over and over, constitute the scientific process. So far, this process has been applied toward an objective understanding of the universe. And for many decades, this objective approach yielded breakthroughs in understanding. Today, we are at the tail end of our asymptotic progress via objective inquiry, crawling ever closer to the unyielding ceiling of what we can know through this approach. More and more work is being done to keep up the specter of real progress, with few breakthroughs in our understanding of a big picture that promises to wrap up space, energy, gravity, and consciousness together in one package with a pretty bow on top.

Science - that great bastion of knowledge that barely chews up unexamined beliefs before swallowing them whole - is slowly coming face to face with its latest and greatest challenger - a mirror. Having turned its lens on the entire breadth of the vast universe before us, it is now finding that there is naught else to do but examine itself and its own assumptions. Great scientists of the past like Max Planck knew the importance of this. They dared to not only look objectively, but also to examine what it meant to be objective. Thus they were aware of not only the potency of science, but of the importance of filling in the foundations that buttress it.

Today, we are fortunate. Science has matured to such an extent that it is indeed capable of looking itself in the mirror and straightening out that bow tie. It doesn't have to hobble around anymore, although its imbalanced gait is so familiar that many scientists are reluctant to give it up and glide across the threshold of complete knowledge. No matter. Today, science is strong enough to lift its gaze and see that the objective is always couched in the subjective, and that the sprout of objective understanding is incomplete, unsustainable, and nonsensical independent of the roots of subjective knowledge that nourish it.

Today, I see numerous scientists, philosophers, and intrepid thinkers taking a new path, once again correcting the course of the evolution of science and steering it clear of the trenches of dogma. They are venturing into that forsaken land - the land of the subjective. A land of jewels for millennia on end, the subjective world grew desolate over the past couple centuries, beckoning science from afar to little avail. Now, by coming face to face with its mirror, science is seeing what it left behind, and, staying admirably true to its name, doing an about-face.

Like long lost lovers, the subjective and objective are once again meeting, this time under the graying, watchful, wise eye of science.

Science commands, Observe!
The objective and subjective say, Yes!

Science demands, Hypothesize!
They say, Of course!

Science roars, Experiment!
They say, Look for yourself!

Science is exhausted, but inspired. For the first time in forever, the big picture is within grasp. The blind spot has been recognized, acknowledged, and action to address it has commenced. Science doesn't have to run anymore. It's about to break through that ceiling and turn it into a floor. What new technologies might emerge? What miracles will we accomplish on demand? Science smiles. It is once again on the side of possibility.

Now there is a new gleam in its eye. It is a gleam that sports the spirit of youth and the strength to do what needs to be done, while also revealing an undercurrent of recognition of how it all all ends. Yes, science will do all it can. It will do more than many in any single camp thought possible. But having looked in the mirror, science knows there's one place it can't go. There's one itch remaining that can't be scratched. There's still a blind spot, albeit a new one. How big is it? How small is it? What does it signify? Another gleam in its eye. And science smiles again.

I love science.


-Anoop Kumar, MD, MM

Anoop Kumar is the author of the upcoming book The Three Bodies: How redefining the human being can transform your health and reinvent healthcare. He is a practicing emergency physician in the DC Metro area.