History And Philosophy Of Science Essay, Research Paper
The world of science, as we know it today, is a difficult subject to grasp. So many new ideas are present and these new ideas are not interchangeable. Some parts do work together although as a whole they don?t fully coincide with each other. The three basic ideas that science is now based upon come from Newton, Einstein, and Hawking. I call these ideas/theories ?new? based on what I classify the state of the scientific community of today. After looking at what is going on in science, it is clear to me that the scientific world is in a crisis state. According to Kuhn, a crisis state is when science is in the middle of choosing a particular paradigm to work under. For scientists, there is a general theme or way of thinking which constitutes how they conduct their work and how they analyze their results. Kuhn goes to great measures to classify this scenario as paradigm. In chapter two of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Kuhn states ?(paradigms)…provide models from which spring particular coherent traditions of scientific research,? (p.10). If this is what scientists agree upon as paradigm then it is obvious that science is in a crisis state. At the present time, scientific explanations vary depending on what part of science is being explored. Until there is an idea/theory that explains science as a whole, science will be in a crisis state. In order for scientists to successfully remove themselves from this crisis state they need to understand how science arrived to this point and why it has stayed there for the past century.
In the seventeenth century a scientists known as Newton came forward with his Principia Mathematica. In Shlain?s Art and Physics he states that, ?He made sweeping discoveries about gravity, motion, and light.? This Principia explained every part of science that was known to man. (Keep in mind that ?Science that is known to man,? is a very important piece to my theory.) In the time of Newton, the three laws of motion were sufficient for explaining how and why the world works as it does. Newton?s theory consisted of the three laws of motion. The first one, every body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion, unless it?s compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it. The second law states that the change of motion is proportional to the motive force impressed, and is made in the direction of the right line in which that force is impressed. The third law simply pulls the two together by stating that to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Newton had given the world what we now know as physics. For the past three hundred years Newtonian Mechanics have been taught to every student aspiring to elevate their minds. Newtonian Mechanics were the end all to the questions that had plagued thinkers since the beginning of time. The key difference is that Newton was never exposed to the world of science that technology had made prevalent to the likes of an Einstein or Hawking, or even my colleague studying neuro surgery at John?s Hopkins University. When Newton was sitting under his apple tree conjuring up ideas for how and why he did not fly off into space or why the harder you hit something the farther it goes, technology was moving along at the rate of most people?s grandmothers in their walkers. The scientists that had surrounded Newton knew only of what they could see. Their were no people looking to the far ends of the galaxies and their were no people looking in to the unseen cells that make up everything that we can see. Basically, Newton did not have a reason to explain what he was not aware of. He did have quite good reason, however, to explain why he got a bump on his head from that ripe apple that no longer needed the shelter of the tree. According to Shlain, Newton set the world he knew to mechanics and set the parameters for the new and final, well what was thought to be the final paradigm of the world.
Then in 1905, Einstein came forth with his special theory of relativity and his general theory of relativity. This opened up a whole new world of science that Newton, in the seventeenth century could not even fathom. For this very reason, the crisis state in the scientific community began. Although Einstein explained the new frontier in science, he still agreed with some of what Newton thought. Again, they worked together, but they did not totally agree. For Newton, space and time were two different entities. Einstein put these two entities, or as Newton called them absolutes, together and formed the fourth dimension. Einstein had formulated what is now known as the spacetime continuum. This theory is extremely hard to grasp, so some background of Einstein is needed to completely understand it. First, Einstein stated his special theory of relativity, which is dependent upon two postulates. The first is simply that the laws of physics are constant throughout the universe. In the second postulate when he states that the speed of light is constant for all observers regardless of how fast and in what direction they are moving. Up until the emergence of Einstein?s general theory of relativity he was still conducting normal science under the thinking of Newton. He began the crisis state of the scientific community with one simple equation. Einstein stated that energy and mass are equivilant (E=mc2). With this he claimed that ?space is time? is equal to ?matter is energy?. This describes mathematically how matter tells spacetime how to curve and how spacetime tells matter how to behave. This is very different from Newton because of the fact that Newton was certain that light was always a straight entity whereas now light could in fact be bent and sometimes is. This also brought about the fact that gravity is no different than acceleration which for Newton, was impossible. Einstein?s theory also said that the universe was static. Again, science was being conducted under the paradigm of technology of its time. Other scientists took the findings of Einstein and started looking into other aspects that Einstein could not explore.
In 1922, Friedmann speculated that the universe was identical in whatever direction we look. This would be true if we were observing the universe from anywhere else. Friedmann was implying that the universe was not static, but I don?t think he knew this until the emergence of another scientist. That scientist was Edwinn Hubble. He built the Hubble telescope which allowed scientists to see something that was never thought was there. Hubble began to investigate the motion of the galaxies. Hubble noticed that the light of distant galaxies that were moving away form us was red-shifted and the light from galaxies moving towards us was blue shifted. These findings led to more studies of scientists and the depth of these studies grew as the technology advanced. Eventually, Roger Penrose began to discover and study black holes. Through his findings he showed that a star collapsing under it?s own gravity is trapped in a region whose surface and volume eventually shrink to zero. This brought about a singularity contained with in spacetime. Stephen Hawking then took Penrose?s findings to another level. He basically reversed the direction of time and showed that the shrinking could have been an explosion. If this was the case there must have been a big bang that caused the universe to be created. There was a catch to this theory, however. In order for this to be the case the general theory of relativity had to be correct and the universe had to contain as much matter as we perceive that it does. The falicy of this argument lies in the theory of quantum mechanics. This is the theory that describes small scale phenomena. The problem is that quantum mechanics does not coincide with the general theory of relativity. So now, scientists have a theory that describes the universe and a completely different theory that describes how things such as atoms and molecules work. This is the epitome of what Kuhn calls a crisis state in the scientific community.
Newton produced a paradigm, and that was sufficient for about two-hundred years. Technology advanced and Einstein used it to prove that Newton was not completely correct. This was sufficient for about twenty years and technology gave way to Hubble who then gave way to scientists such as Penrose and Hawking. Technology also allowed scientists to further explore the minute realm of what we consist of and this produced quantum mechanics. Today, the scientific world is faced with the most difficult problem ever confronted in scientific history. In order to completely understand what the world we live in is, the two major theories of present science have to be meshed together in a way that both can work. This would then propel the scientific community in to the comfortable hands of a paradigm. There is only one problem that I see with this endeavor. If, and that?s a big if, technology does not advance at the rate that it has in the past century or half century or even in the past two decades I have no doubt that an all encompassing theory could be brought to the table. My question is, what happens to science when technology opens up a frontier that quantum mechanics can?t explain and a whole new theory is needed to explain that? Is the scientific world now compelled to constantly remain in a crisis state because of the advancement of human knowledge? These are questions that only time can answer, but I would like to leave you with one thought; Is the elimination of God in order to know how the universe began really that important?
Calder, Nigel. Einstein?s Universe. Penguin Books. London, 1990.
Hawking, Stephen. A Brief History of Time. Bantam Books. New York, 1996.
Shlain, Leonard. Art & Physics. Quill William Morrow. New York, 1991.
Kuhn, Thomas S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. The University of Chicago Press. Chicago, 1996.