A friend recently asked: how can we seriously read philosophers from before the 18th century, now that we know of their lack of knowledge regarding the cosmos and the universe? How can we read them and draw any serious conclusions now that we know that they knew almost nothing that we currently do, based on our supreme technology and modern science?
And my answer was: Actually it is only those philosophers whom we need to read! Because their thought was pure and not yet poisoned by the knowledge we think we have.
My friend was stunned. But what about all this knowledge we have amassed?! All the things stubbiness know for the universe? All the things physics knows about the workings of the cosmos? My friend was not the exception. It is really unfortunate that so many people believe that science today has proved things regarding the truth of our cosmos instead of what it is really doing: formulating theories to model the cosmos based on specific unproven assumptions.
But what do I mean by that?
Let’s take for example the field of astronomy and the infamous cosmological principle. This is a principle which governs astronomy today and which in two words holds the belief that the universe is homogenous and isotropic. This principle is based on observations and on this principle many theories are built by modern astronomers.
So far so good, one might say. Except the fact that nothing of the above is true.
What is true is that there are indeed observations which support the cosmological principle, but there are also observations which refute it. (See https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmological_principle or https://philpapers.org/rec/KAKFGT)
So why do we hold that principle? one might ask. The answer to that would be more shocking to someone not acquainted with epistemology: Science continuously used unproven theses as a starting point of theories! This is not bad nor good. It is just the way science works. What is wrong is to take these starting point as “true” even though they never meant to have any relation to what philosophy calls “truth” or “reality”.
Scientific models are just… scientific models!
Think of a glass dropping to the floor for example. This is something we all observe. Let’s now try to formulate a theory to explain this observation. The modern atheist will hold the belief that the explanation of why the glass is dropping to the floor is something “objective” and based on “facts” and data. But he would be wrong. For the observational data is just… observational data. The theory to interpret that data is something else. And for the glass dropping to the floor we have many!
Ancient Greeks thought perhaps that Zeus made the glass drop. Then came Newtown. And we explained the observation with the help of an invisible all existing field called gravitational field. And then Einstein changed everything and now we have not a field but curved spacetime!
Same observation, three different theories!
But are those theories equally valid? And do they all adhere to the data equally successfully?
The answer is yes, if we wish so! Even the theory which wants Zeus to bring the glass down to earth can be formulated in such a way that there is full compliance with the observational data in hand. (E.g. by starting that Zeus makes the glass fall with an acceleration equal to g) In the same way the theory of Newton can be also as accurate as the latest theory of Einstein if we make it so. The problem is that scientists rarely tend to update the details of old theories, so people tend to believe that these theories were abandoned because they were less accurate. A grave misunderstanding which is based on the arrogant ideas that we know more than the people before us. And yet the ancient Greeks could easily predict celestial phenomena centuries in the future even while believing that the gods were moving the planets in the celestial sphere…
To the modern atheist all this is crazy of course.
People who believe in scientism today can hear nothing which could refute their perfect idea of science as a method to reach the “truth”. Not even Godel could change their mind.
Going back to the cosmological principle, today’s believers (in science and scientism) truly believe that this is a fact we hold true on the basis of observations. My friend and his friends could not even consider an alternative. So here we are. Men who do not know if Mars had water, but who do know with certainty that the whole universe is isotropic and homogenous! It would be comical if not so terribly arrogant…
At the end it is not a matter of data or knowledge. It is a matter of the ability to think freely without just following what others say.
Today’s atheists and proponents of scientism would be the greatest followers of the institutional church during the middle ages. Because what makes them blind today is not a lack of knowledge for something specific, but the arrogance of a man who does not want to admit that others might be able to see things clearer than him. These people would follow the Pope in whatever he said, in the same way they now follow the opinion of the majority regarding the truth of science.
The same people would swear that you can only draw one parallel from a straight line.
They would argue fiercely in favor of the fifth axiom of Euclid and would mock anyone trying to attempt to utter a different opinion.
At the end, we will discover if Mars has water…
At the end, we will “know” that no parallel lines can be drawn…
At the end we will draw multiple parallel lines…
Do you see?
There is nothing there.
Except for the things you see…