• Agents of Change

    • The Edge website decided to find theories that are close to their “death”, one of the most important stages for scientific development.

    177 scientists search for ideas that are “on the path to extinction” / 

    Science is comprised by assertions and refutations, a perpetually moving dialectic based on the principle that our knowledge of reality will always be, by definition, partial and incomplete.

    During the Sixties, the American philosopher Thomas S. Kuhn synthesized, with notable eloquence, this notion through his concept of scientific paradigms, models of thought and understanding of reality, which, every now and then, are questions and are even supplanted by others that also share the same fate.

    What is, in our days, the scientific idea that is on the path to extinction? With this unsettling question Edge.org approached 177 scientists, the brightest minds in the Western scientific sphere; some of the participants include Daniel Dennett and Steven Pinker.

    Among some of the scientific premises we can find here is the “Theory of Everything”, also known as the “Theory of the Unified Field”, an idea that is particularly appreciated in particle physics and which states that it is possible to elaborate an explicative model where all the fundamental interactions of nature take place. Geoffrey West, professor at the Santa Fe Institute and one of its directors, believes that having this idea at an almost theological level poses a risk, since the “idea of everything” would not be very different to the idea of God which, among other disadvantages, can erase the absolute differences that allow us to differentiate from one phenomenon to the next —which is why we require particular explanations. Physics, perhaps, are ruled by a handful of rules that can be stated and proved, but, as West points out, “Where’s life, where are animals and cells, brains and consciousness, cities and corporations, love and hate, etc., etc.?”

    This is, of course, just one of the many examples of the 177 answers available online, stimulating examples which are not meant to be a forecast, but an outline of an uncertain map that follows the course and the trends of contemporary science. 

    Tagged: science, Agents of Change, physics Credits: Image (© eduardomineo)