My PROBLEM With Science
I’m still thinking this through and seriously struggling to articulate it, but I needed to get it out because I know it will really help some of you. It would have really helped me to read something like this a few years ago.
For as long as I can remember – since primary school – I fucking loved science dearly. But I think that the thing I loved about it wasn’t necessarily the technology or the cool shit you could make with chemistry or whatever – but it was the idea of understanding and of discovery.
I loved figuring shit out, and understanding how the world, reality, and universe worked – and for most of my life science was appeared to be the best way to do that. It felt to me like I was in contact with the crux of reality, understanding what the universe was, fundamentally – and that was exciting as fuck.
But as I got deeper into science I guess the more I found out that it wasn’t what I thought it was, and I mean that in two different ways – the first just being the nature of academia.
I quickly found myself getting more and more specialized, and further away from that inherent fascination of discovery and understanding. It became less about discovering the truth, and more about getting your homework and reports in on time. Even scientific research seemed to just lock people into intellectual ghettos, where the priority was finding novel details and projects purely for the sake of publishing them.
I felt real cool in the research lab – especially being relatively young for the scene – but I felt so fucking alienated from myself. I didn’t know why I was doing what I was doing. I was just constantly busy, constantly doing experiments, reading literature, and writing reports. It was pretty cool stuff, and I was making progress, but what was it all for? Was I actually doing anything meaningful? Was I getting to where I wanted to go? Because I felt like I was just running on a treadmill.
Torn in all different directions by conflicting thoughts and feelings I ended up pulling away from science to give myself some time to sort myself out. It wasn’t that clear at the time though – I pretty much hit a wall where I just couldn’t bring myself to work anymore, and I bailed on my research and on Uni without saying a word to anybody for months – not even my closest friends.
I was a mess, and I wasn’t sure where I was headed, so I knew I had a lot of learning to do so I just let my intuition guide me through reading book after book and watching YouTube video after video.
I was in love with the quest for truth and understanding (even if I didn’t realize it in my younger years) and I was assuming that science was the way to get there. As a society we’re pretty much sold that science is the be all and end all – that it’s the truest method of analyzing reality. If things are scientifically proven – that’s it, done.
But after a bit of time I found myself getting sucked deep into fields like psychology, philosophy and existentialism, and it wasn’t too much later that I started to discover that my internal conflict was coming from the fact that I was naïve to the underlying assumptions of science, and that’s when it really hit me that science wasn’t what I thought it was.
Science is based on the assumption that there is an external, objective world that exists regardless of whether or not you’re there to perceive it. We have subjective experiences of that objective world, but the core scientific principle is that the objective nature of it remains the same despite the differences in the way that we might perceive it.
Science is powerful because its paradigms are formed on evidence and experiment, rather than opinion. With real science it doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, what your title is et cetera – if your hypothesis matches the data, you win and that earns you power in the scientific community.
Science strips subjectivity, and it leaves us with something that any rational person will happily agree with. But while stripping subjectivity makes the scientific method an incredibly powerful tool, there’s one problem…
You’re a subject.
When you strip the subjectivity from reality you lose the ability to explain a lot of things that are absolutely essential and dominant in your experience as a human being.
Emotions for one – how the fuck do you explain the sensation of happiness or anger with science? You can give me some sort of molecular mechanism for it, sure, but that can’t describe how happiness or anger feels. You’re not going to find the experience of the colour red by cracking open somebody’s skull and looking at their brain – nor the smell of roses, the essence of things we call ‘beautiful’, or the experience of pain.
They call this the qualia problem – how the fuck does experience and consciousness arise from atoms and molecules, the stuff that science claims are fundamental to reality? From a scientific perspective it's not at all obvious how those emergent properties arise, and perhaps from that paradigm it's an unanswerable question.
Most scientists just dismiss consciousness as a secondary thing – as just something that arises from neurons and isn’t significant. But that just doesn’t make sense to me, because your neuron-model of consciousness is only possible because you’re conscious in the first place – the model is secondary to something that you haven’t explained. (That’s a head-fucky topic that I’ll try to explore and poorly explain another time.)
The main thing that really bugged me was that while science tells you how to build things, what things are made of, and how things work, it can’t say anything about how you should act in the world – and I think that’s probably the most important question that needs answering.
Here are some of the questions that I couldn’t answer, and that started to tear me apart:
How do you live a meaningful life? What is the most meaningful way to live your life? What’s the most worthwhile thing you could do with your time? What should you work towards in your life? Why even work towards anything? Is there any point working towards anything at all if entropy will just destroy it all with time? If not then why even go on living? What’s the point of it all?
Deeper, but less immediately important questions include:
What is consciousness? Where does it come from? What is ‘reality’? What is ‘experience’? Are ‘reality’ and ‘experience’ the same thing? Are they grounded in something?
Look dude, I don’t know. This article is already long af so I’m going to stop there. I’ll write more about this in the future and try to explain myself a little better but yeah let me know what you think. If you liked this and want an update drop me your email address below and I'll hit you up when I figure things out.
P.S. one last thing: All my life I’ve struggled to overcome mental and physical barriers to optimizing my learning and growth in whatever I was doing. Over a period of at least 10 years I pieced together a philosophy that governs optimized practice and long term growth. So if you’re interested in ideas like optimized learning, mastery, discipline and creativity – you should DEFINITELY read this.
P.P.S. I'm struggling to get readers, help a brother out by sharing this with a friend xoxo.