is a series of judgments,
revised without ceasing."
We have already considered some of the more philosophical issues associated with the scientific worldview, therefore it is the intention of this section to, at least, start to consider some of the topics within the broad remit of modern science. However, there has to be some recognition of the breadth and depth of science, which is now so enormous that it is capable of filling entire libraries. Therefore, by necessity, the scope of the following section is more by way of an overview in which further questions can be raised. As such, this section represents a personal attempt to address the challenge thrown down by Clifford's essay entitled The Ethics of Belief in which he argued that any belief cannot be expressed without a duty of inquiry. While Clifford wrote his essay in the context of the secular debate of his day, it would seem that if these principles are valid, they must also apply to science and especially my own limited understanding at the start of this journey. Therefore, this section is broken into 3 major sub-sections that broadly align to the principles of inquiry, authority and inference:
- A Duty of Inquiry: Foundation Principles
This subsection is described in terms of foundation principles because it starts with some basic mathematics that act as a prerequisite to any review of the more classical models of physics associated with particles, waves and electromagnetic theory. While some of the mathematics of classical physics can be complex, the general principles or conclusions can normally be described in plain English, which makes it more accessible to a wider audience. However, it is important to note that while many of these theories have been subjected to a high level of empirical verification, subsequent theories appear to show that much of classical physics to be, at best, only an approximation of physical reality.
- The Weight of Authority: Accepted Theory
This subsection attempts to review some of the key theories of modern science, i.e. relativity, quantum physics and big-bang cosmology. Reviewing these topics is not always an easy process for a number of reasons. First, there is the level of mathematical complexity or abstraction on which these theories are often predicated. Second, is that while there are many who try to translate this complexity into plain English, the justification invariably refers back to a mathematical derivation. Third, few people are recognised authorities on these topics, although this does not seem to stop many from alluding to the claim, especially on the Internet. As such, many people must either reject or accept such theories based on a degree of trust. While this section makes absolutely no claim to any weight of authority, it does try to review some of the key issues and raise questions, no matter if some of these questions may appear naive to a genuine expert.
- The Limits of Inference: Speculative Direction
In the final subsection, topics will be discussed that are known to push or possibly exceed the 'limits of inference' and, as such, must be placed firmly under the heading of unverified hypotheses, i.e. speculation. While a note of caution needs to be raised against such speculative ideas, it seems that many with a scientific background, including some eminent scientists, still take issue with the accepted models of science. This position might be quantify to some extent by considering the scope of outstanding problems within science in general. Therefore, this section will also reflect on some of the speculative ideas, which might be considered in response to the perceived problems, because they might just suggest the latent potential for the next major paradigm shift in scientific thinking in cosmology and the structure of matter.
However, overall, this section will proceed on the basis that unless
people adhere to some basic principles, as outlined by Clifford, science
may be reduced to little more than an unsubstantiated belief for the
majority in society. This said, we may still have to accept that some
aspects of modern science may have already become so complex that
are forced to depend on the weight of authority of those who have knowledgeably
and truthfully examined the evidence on our behalf. Even so, it might
be foolhardy to just assume that science has not, and will not, exceed
the limits of inference, not only in its hypotheses, but more importantly
in what it already assumes to be accepted scientific fact.