I studied biology and finished college with a degree of master of natural sciences. Because of that, science is an important part of my views. However because I am well familiar with science, I am also no longer credulous about its possibilities. I even took special classes that discussed science, biology and philosophy to gain better recognition in that topic. Below I wanted to explain how I see it. Note that this is still a personal perspective. Because those classes were few years back and I am writing this article from my memory (which is always subjected to errors), I may not remember all details correctly so bear with me. I hope that many of you will find this article interesting, because there is a lot of misconceptions about science not only in occult/esoteric/new age/religious communities but also among those who theoretically believe in science and its correctness about the discoveries of the world. Of course, I am no oracle of truth and I cannot hold right to say that all what I am saying is 100% correct, I can only pass my conclusions, based on my views, experience and ability of reasoning.
Metaphysics is not easily defined (see Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) but in most simplistic way it is understood as branch of philosophy dealing with theories of existence and knowledge. It sounds rather well when you put it like that, however metaphysics and science are often in opposites end of the cognition of the world. Religions, occult, esoterism – it’s all part of metaphysical world. Let me explain it by clarifying how scientific paradigm works and how theories that can be counted to metaphysics are automatically dismissed.
Science, despite common belief doesn’t prove anything. It only creates theories, then design repeatable experiments that can reject false theories with the assumption that what remains is most likely truth or closer to the truth. In a progress of science new, perfected and refined theories are created, verified, acknowledged or rejected. In a nutshell: an experiment has a task to FALSIFY the theory (for example: there are at least two sub-theories A – a theory is true, B – a theory isn’t true), not to prove it! It was recognized that there is no way to prove anything for sure , yet it is possible to sift false theories out. So science is based on negative prove. Of course in reality it doesn’t work that way fully and we gather observations data that are considered valid (if methodology seems right) so there is no falsification here, but the principle still applies to the theories (well, in reality it’s more complicated then presented here).
Because of that way of researching the reality, science beside having a lot of perks has also lot of limitations, that people are not aware off. Below is a list of them (from my memory, so it may be and possibly is incomplete):
1) Theories must base on current, verified knowledge and they cannot be metaphysic theories, because they are mostly not verifiable (by our standards and possibilities). So basically things too afar of what we know are not considered scientific if there is no past, recognized knowledge base for them.
For example, on the beginning of the XX century, there was an embryologist who was interested in the fact, how cells know how to move in the right direction and set up properly cell organelles while dividing. He created a theory that the space is filled with ether (or something like that, not sure if it was named ether but for the sake of example let’s state it was) which consists (among others) of blueprints for living organisms and based on those blueprints cells “know” how to move organelles or divide themselves in space. Of course this theory was quickly rejected and the guy was ridiculed in scientific community because of the simple fact, that there was no way to FALSIFY this theory. So basically it was not a scientific but a metaphysical theory (ether as the matrix of physical reality, does it exist or not?). Today we know that those processes are ruled by spatial distribution of certain substances and by micro-tubules (to simplify it) but at that time this theory was not falsifiable and still isn’t, hence automatically not provable – rejection by default. If there was a way to design experiment that with a high certainty were able to falsify (and thus “prove”) it, situation would look different and this theory would gain status of a scientific one. This theory in various version is still valid in esoteric community but not in a science. Because something is explained neatly in a physical way, it doesn’t mean that there is no energetic blueprint, which ensures that all processes take place correctly (from esoteric point of view subtle energy rules with small particle movements, especially those who are considered by a science in state of chaotic movement, so basically it’s only seemingly a chaos).
Problem with this approach is, as mentioned earlier, that not only metaphysical theories are rejected a priori, but those ahead of our possibilities to verify it. If in early XIX century someone came out for instance with theory about waves, it would be also in metaphysical dimension or like someone prefers – a fantasy. Only once a theory gains grounds to falsify it, we can talk about science, not before.
Now do you see the problem? Those who claim a god or any deity exists have only a metaphysical theory. Opponents treat it as false, although it is not proven true but also it isn’t proven false, so no one can rule it out with certainty. Of course those opponents rightfully recognize that if something isn’t provable then it is an area for all kind of bullshit, because you can throw there everything. So many people assume that everything isn’t true, until “proven” scientifically. Yet personal experience, that cannot be put in frame of falsifiable theory, nor involved in repeatable experiments, is always out of the scope of the science. Also all phenomenons that are too rare, too irregular, unforeseeable (by current experience) or too elusive, are automatically dismissed, although they exist. Science has no way to address them, so the best way for it is to ignore or deny it. So there can be a lot of things that are there, are true, yet still eluding our ability to “prove” it. Unless one claims that we already know all that there is and there is nothing more to study… Believe or not, a 100 years ago there was many people who believed that science has already explained all…
2) To falsify/”prove” a scientific theory one must (it applies to natural sciences and other hard sciences; humane science is an another tale) create a repeatable experiment that will be acknowledged by a scientific community. The key is here in a methodology. It must be set in such a way, that it utilizes our current resources, minimize possible errors (which ALWAYS take place), is logical and explained in a way, that others can repeat it and check if they obtained the same results. Well, again, that’s only an approximation to make a point. A methodology differs depended on a field of study and those methods usually are already set and blessed by scientific community. One must really well brake his head to come out with something innovative, yet convincing for others. Most researches are based on well worked out patterns. Now, a delinquent that published his research in a scientific paper is put on a trial of a scientific community. Of course this trial have many stages and many of them take place even before publishing (co-workers, authorities of the institute, authorities of an esteemed scientific paper, etc.), yet lot of happens afterwards as well. If one is in the process of defending a master, PhD or other work, he/she must convince others that his researches are well designed (methodology), well conducted, lift all doubts and points of arguments. Of course, there are some rules how to judge such work but still, lot of it is based on personal opinion, that varies, but it is enough to gain general agreement, although some may still have reservations, doubts or objections about the study. Like it or not, this stage, although based on some rules is subjective and is judged based on current scientific consensus, meaning that works outside it, have troubles to gain recognition. Some more controversial topics have supporters and opponents, often both with a grounded scientific position. For an innovator it is not easy to pass something new, one must gain community recognition and respect. Basically, this conservative process ensures that a lot of bullshit won’t go further, but it also stops many potentially innovative studies. Science is a social endeavor and as such has all limitations that come out of it. People who believe in science uncritically tend to think in simplistic terms and have often no direct knowledge about complexity of it and how scientific lore was obtained. But how laymen could think otherwise? We all are experts in small number of areas, but are laymen in rest. If one has no access or knowledge from certain area, one must trust in others competence and in a certain system. It is a belief system, like it or not. People assume permanently that all that makes through that social process (that is still burdened by a human errors, social trends, social pressure, all social phenomenons) is correct.
There is more. Methodology is so crucial, because one can manipulate results with applying suited methodology! I’m not accusing people who do that of perfidy, most just yield to their convictions, expectations and they don’t see all sides of the problem so they design methodology in accordance to their views and unawarely influence result in a way they expect. Community trial isn’t perfect and there is a lot of situations when papers with flawed methodology are published. One it happens, others can quote it and have evidence that something was scientifically “proven”. There are those who find an error in it, make studies that give different result. Who is right? Opinions are divided and everyone shows results of the side that is most convincing to him/her! Especially when those studies were financed by various lobby groups and that happens a lot! Imagine telling your boss that his investment worth few billion dollars is potentially dangerous and he must withdraw… Officially such firms explain that they support studies and do all they can to ensure safety and blah, blah, blah. They even might really mean it. But face it, scientific studies aren’t so inerrant as people so easily assume. People yield to pressure and science is conducted by people. Luckily, most of scientific researches are done within safe parameters of community recognition so fakes or manipulations are rare, even when some esoteric groups try to convince otherwise. There are always at least two sides of a coin.
But there is more… Many studies will be never repeated or checked in practice! They stay valid only on paper and only a given researcher know how many small errors were done during that process. Importance of errors and their underestimation is constant defect of human psyche: we want research to be done so we are selective, pressured by deadlines, sometimes tired or restless by other issues… In such conditions errors come easy. If a publication sounds correct on first or second glance (is agreeable with current state of knowledge), reasonable, methodology seems to be good, results are maybe not revolutionary but add to the current knowldge – it is accepted by authorities so in the end all treat it as correct, until proven otherwise. Luckily lot of other cross-over and similar researches based on such publication utilize results and when they don’t check out, new, corrected results are published. So despite all that errors they are regularly eliminated to insignificant level. But there are such publications that are not questioned through years and people BELIEVE them to be correct until someone finds out and can CONVINCE others that they weren’t. That happens, so one must be wary and not assume correctness all the time. The whole process shows that it has limits as to accuracy. A bit of skepticism also again scientific research is needed. But since there is no rule and clarity in what to BELIEVE, some overdo in one direction or another.
Conclusion: at the end it is still your belief, your choice, not always conscious, many is trusted upon others and a system but the system and others are… fallible at times, so sane reason is needed when evaluating scientific results. My view is that science is great and has proven itself that it generally checks out in practice. Nevertheless it has its own limits and one shouldn’t be uncritical about statements: this wasn’t proven, scientists proven that, science hasn’t confirmed that, etc.
3) Experiments use our senses or tools to measure, count, see, photograph, depict stages of the process or results. People are erroneous. They mistake numbers or write in a bad column, give too little or too much of a reagent, stop or start reaction too quickly, too late, etc. There are countless possibilities for such small errors. There is a great deal of effort to minimize them, to make them insignificant. However no research is made perfectly and one must accept it and be happy from the next possible result. Tools we use aren’t perfect either. They don’t have enough sensibility, resolution, endurance, ability, etc. After publishing, no one can check out or correct such small mistakes, no body has time to do it, certain trust is placed upon researcher. Conclusion: there are borders of accuracy. For most studies those borders aren’t much of an issue. Yet in some situation they may influence results or render the whole experiment pointless.
4) In order to design an experiment one must influence the system he/she is observing, which changes results. This is a great topic on itself but here I leave it be and go further. To create clear, repeatable experiment system must be simplified, limited to less factors. If it hasn’t, it’s not possible to decide which one factor was most decisive and how it influenced results. Simplification checks up when doing simple physics or inorganic chemistry but issues begin when working on biological questions. It’s bearable at least to some point when results are too strongly influenced, then different methods are used (like observation, classification using some artificial systems).
5) We must stop at some point in researching. Nobody studies movement of one or billions of billions air particles in defined space. We have no means to do trace it so detailed at the moment, we have no means to save and store all that data – there is no enough computers on the world, also human brain is not designed to work with such resolution and store such amount of sensory data. What I am talking about are pointless researches, at least pointless based on current knowledge and abilities. Yet such things happen all around us, but science must chose most representative, most important, most significant, most useful, most informative. Science looks to major or distinguishing phenomenons, processes that we can study. And there is still plenty that we can’t… Personal experience isn’t repeatable – too many factors, especially those who cannot be measured, observed directly, yet we try to sum they up and have some conclusions. So in effect, a great deal of life events is left out
6) Reductionism is already refuted in scientific community.
Reductionist movement claimed that it is possible to reduce all things to most basic laws, once we get to know them. In other words, everything is explainable by most basic physical laws. So for example, mind is only a clump of neurons with electric surges and altered proteins (memory), all thoughts can be easily explained by neurological processes – that’s all there is in that subject, because neurons are cells made of organic particles, some ions and few other things. Reductionism was quite popular and sometimes still is, especially in non scientific community (when still considered a scientific!). However in 80’s of XX century debate was finally settled. It turned out, that various levels of organization are linked with relations many to many, also that there are many levels or sub-levels of organization, they are all linked on various, none equal levels. Conclusion: it’s impossible to predict Ms. Brown decisions by knowing quantum physics of all her particles… On each level of organization, new phenomenons arise, that were not existent before. Complex relationships and mutual influence creates new elements. Yes, the whole is still under the law of basic physics, yet those laws aren’t describing directly higher levels of organizations, so further studies, proper for those levels, must be conducted.
Here we come to an interesting point. Biology embrace wide variety of phenomenons, researching life on many levels of organizations, so one can easily see different solutions that must be applied to do that. As mentioned before, a repeatable experiments are no longer possible when studying social relationships of animals or plants. Too many changeable and/or unforeseen factors, too huge influence when one wanted to design an experiment, too large time frames, too little certain data. Yet we try to study those phenomenons anyway. Lately statistic became very popular as a way of measuring results. It is said on the beginning that statistic never proves anything (!!!) yet for the sake of simplification, statistical significance/insignificance is treated as a “prove”. When applying statistics to basic physics, it works quite well. Issues begin with the higher levels of organization, because on those levels exist so many phenomenons, that basic laws aren’t applicable. For a biologist it is natural to know that on such levels, there are always exceptions to every rule, so when counting statistic for swan population research, we must assume that what is seemingly proven by a statistic is merely a most likely outcome, not a certainty. In other words, statistical results become less and less reliable with increased level of organization! They work well when we toss the coin, but when applying to social systems that living beings create, then we know that statistical person may have for example 2 and a half leg… So how to “prove” anything on that level? Well, you can’t, at least not with high certainty, because statistics and reality become more and more two different things. So far nobody worked out better solution.
7) Knowledge changes, grows, is corrected, replaced, discovered a new one, etc. That what was valid few years ago, may not be valid today. And what we know today, may not be true tomorrow. This constant flux of knowledge is visible to the insiders who work on a particular problem, yet laymen see only superficial, simplified surface that is often obsolete (yes, we often learn in schools things that are refuted decade ago or earlier…). As students we were required to learn both from old books, even from 70’s and from most current ones to have a wide view on a topic. That payed off. Things that were certain and “proven” in 70’s were changed over and over and till now, those old theories are completely inadequate! Even things from articles few years back were already obsolete and not true with the newest state of knowledge, because some new informations put light, altered our views on the matter, included new variables.
Many scientific facts which people commonly know, isn’t really true in details. And even if some elements are true (so far), there is much more to it, so the conclusions that people hold are not so obvious for experts in a given topic. The best example is theory of evolution. In society there is still a consciousness of old Darwinian concept that evolution is survival of the fittest. Beside the fact that no one can with certainty define what fittest mean in that situation, lot has changed since then. In 60’s of XX century, if I recall well, a modern evolutionism arose thanks to genetics that changed everything. Evolution was seen rather as mutations and change in alleles frequencies. Now, it all is refuted again and it turned out that modern evolutionism was oversimplification and it all looks completely different, although this simplification worked out to some degree. Now the next, revolutionary level of evolutionism understanding was created in form of evo-devo. Yet public opinion stays over 100 years back to the science… It is so weird to see pages, articles devoted to certain topic and using the most obsolete understanding of evolution. Yes, also or especially on satanic sites.
I remember times when the though about life outside earth was considered crazy. Life outside earth? How such life would be created? Where? But now we discover microbes on meteorites. Still, it’s not an intelligent life, but today theories about extraterrestrial origin of life aren’t so absurd anymore.
8) Quantum physics – introduce a new level of understanding of universe, a complete revolution in science, but at the same time it hits the wall, because of scientific paradigm. Lot of theories arose with no way to “prove”/disprove them for sure (sounds familiar? we’re closing to metaphysics), creating a rich nourishment for occult/esoteric/new age movements. Quantum physics is often seen as a branch on the edge of science and spirituality. Orthodox scientists try not to comment too much on it, yet many others created their own bridge between scientific and spiritual frame of mind. It’s a big topic on its own and my article is not a place to discuss it, I merely pointed out what is out there and what eludes science so far.
Summary: Science as a way of knowing world was a great invention and provided us with tangible and above all practical results. Science managed to put a light on things that were before a domain of religions, pushing those aside to a small metaphysical corner. Yet science in its basic paradigm and way or researching still has a great deal of limitations, limitations that are often omitted. People experiences and abilities of mind to research metaphysical questions were found baseless by a hard science (now it’s changing), yet those questions aren’t going away. Since science isn’t providing people with answers on those topics, people use other methods that yield with various, sometimes contradictory results. For me, spirituality is very real and tangible (my experience). It’s all part of the universe and present day science hasn’t discovered it yet, although we have first breakthroughs (quantum physics), that surprising fit in hermetic principles or more generally in pantheistic (or panetheistic) bases that are seen in all natural religions and now also in science. Now you stand alone and have nothing but yourself to decide what to believe in. In science? Sure, you can, it’s advisable, yet be aware of its limitations. Be aware that people, especially atheists put science on a monument of truth, believing in it uncritically, creating new way of religious thinking. Atheism is a belief. Trusting in science requires belief, because you can’t embrace every specialization in it, it’s too complex. You have to relay on others or on system, in this case on social trends, to believe that all that is, is verified by science while everything else is not existent. An easy state of mind, yes, we all yield to such simplifications, otherwise we went crazy. We must decide in what to believe, to know what are the rules, how to control own life. The choice is yours, yet it’s all a belief, confirmed or not, reality is too big for one person to know, it’s also too big for science, at least for now.