One of the subject that occupy some of my time is trying to understand how we perceive things and the foundation of our consciousness. If you recall some weeks ago I shared with you that a fly sees our hand moving in slow motion because scientist say that its heartbeat is in the range of 370 beats per minute which is about five times faster than a human being. The scientists explain this phenomena on the bases of sense perceptions that the ability of fly to process light that strikes its eyes at a faster rate and that it has a complex eye structure.
Herein lies the basic problem of science, with which philosophers have been grappling with for ages that the foundation of science is based on sense perception. What it means is that bulk of the scientific discoveries and theories are derived from the observations made in a lab using five senses of smell, sight, sound, touch and taste. Even the lab instruments are built on these sense perceptions. For instance an electron microscope helps us see at a micro level that are not visible to the naked eye. So in a way it extends the vision of the eye just like a telescope does to see objects at a far off distance.
This reliance on sense perceptions has served mankind well and resulted in our ability to master the matter to improve our lives. But since observations are deductions using a trial and error method we cannot say for sure that we have knowledge of the exact nature of things as in that case there would be no side effect of a product. For instances if we knew the exact nature of diesel fuel we would be able to design an engine that does not discharge a residue that pollutes the air. Consequently there is something about the nature of diesel as a fuel that is still not in the grasp of our knowledge.
Even development of mathematics is an attempt to give sense perception to abstract ideas. These mathematical models of theoretical physics enabled us to accept them as valid and verified. For instance electron at the sub atomic level or gravity at the terrestrial scale could not have been possible to perceive in the absence of mathematics. But these mathematical models are approximations so we cannot say that they depict the true realty of these phenomenon. For instance these mathematical models do not answer why it was necessary for electron to appear at the first place. Is it possible to create some other particle that can replace electrons or combination of particles that could create the atomic balance needed for a stable atom but are different in nature than electrons? Science in most cases assume that things or events happen by chance rather than a plan. It is quite amazing that a complex system arising from these chance happenstances could operate so harmoniously which defies the logic. Our view of matter is from the utilitarian perspective rather than the larger scheme of things.
So what is the best way to approach science? It is not an easy question to answer. But one way to approach it could be to understand the process of creation by which diesel, for example, came to be and why it came to be. I mean why was it necessary for the nature to combine the elements of carbon and hydrogen in a particular format and structure to produce diesel.
The current thinking of science is that the creation of diesel in nature was a chance occurrence that was bound to happen because certain environmental factors occurred in a particular sequence. Since scientists cannot definitely say that it was a chance occurrence let’s present the hypothesis that creation of diesel had to happen not just because certain environmental factors happened but also because creation of diesel was needed to balance the whole ecological equation to work. This means we need to investigate what would happen to nature if a particular element or compound did not exist and how its existence contributes towards balancing the equation of life and nature.
To elaborate this point lets go back to the example of fly. We define the fly’s ability to perceive motion in a manner we ourselves perceive things in our human consciousness. But is it not possible that the consciousness of a fly is different than ours. We cannot say that fly does not have consciousness because in that case it would not move away to avoid a risk arising from the attack of our hand. How does the fly know that this moving object coming towards it is a risk to her life and not a friendly gesture?
For instance it is in nature of things that it will interact with light in a particular way to produce a consciousness about it. But how did our mind know in advance to construct the image of that thing in a particular shape which is same for all human beings. In the absence of this priori we could not give it a name that would mean the same thing to everyone. It is only possible when human consciousness is preconceived at a prior time and is same for everyone. Now the other question would be how other living things perceives the same object. Does the light produce the same shape of an object for all these other animals and if it does than what emotion or name is associated by them to it.
Since sense perceptions has limits, despite our efforts to extend its reach through modern tools, our reliance on it has also created limits for science which we are quite close to exhaust. For science to leap forward with much deeper knowledge it has to reform its foundation.
Imagine the conversion of two state data into a three dimensional object produced by a 3D printer. What I am trying to propose is that the foundation of science should evolve from two dimensional approach of cause and effect to the three dimensions of cause, effect and purpose. German philosopher Immanuel Kant proposed that pure knowledge should be first pursued from the perspective of why rather than how. At his time sophisticated data processing tools were not at the disposal of scientists and environmental science did not existed as it is today. Now it is possible.
We need a radical departure from the way we see things in our scientific consciousness.