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Tok Essay - Science

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Science does not as yet have a full understanding of the universe. However, it is suggested that with increased technology and theoretical advance, it may be only decades before this is achieved. Do you agree this is possible? What might be the consequences?

Science is, at its heart, a quest; a quest whose goal is to create an understanding of the universe. In effect, science attempts to quantify reality. It does this in many ways; through experimentation and observation, through theorizing and testing. This quest has been undergoing since the birth of mankind and yet the further we go the further away the end of the quest seems to be. Despite this, it has been theorized that man will eventually understand the universe through science and its relentless quest for knowledge. Not only has it been said that this is likely, but it has been said that this understanding lies mere decades away from the present. Is this possible, not only mere decades from the present, but is it possible, at all, to achieve an understanding of the universe? In short, no. The extended answer, however, takes a little more time.

First, to begin the answer to this question, it is necessary to understand what is meant by understanding the universe. First of all, the word "understanding", according to Funk and Wagnalls standard desk dictionary (Deluxe edition, 1964), means "the act of one who comes to know the meaning or import of; who apprehends". Well, in the realm of science (1), understanding the universe would probably entail the creation of a TOE (Theory of Everything). The TOE is to the theoretical physicist as the holy grail was to King Arthur; it is the most desirable peak of achievement. To the uninitiated, a TOE is a theorem that explains, literally, everything, from the motion of subatomic particles to the existence of black holes and the motion of galaxies. The TOE would, in effect, explain the behaviour and nature of everything in the universe. It could, in effect be a way through which we could understand the universe and it has been theorized that such a theory is not far away.

Does this theory, however, if it is created, indicate that we do understand, in full, the nature of the universe. The answer is, simply put, no; not in any regards at all. First of all, the creation of a TOE that works does not even mean that it is right. It is possible that any formula created may function out of mere coincidence instead of out of a profound truth. Discounting this fact for a moment, the creation of a formula in no way imparts understanding. Man has discovered and expressed the speed of light (in vacuum) as being 3 * 10^8 m/s. However, this in no way means that everyone understands this and, in fact, it is improbable that anyone can even begin to imagine this speed. Thus, how can we hope to derive understanding out of a formula that would be almost infinitely more complicated then a mere number? The answer is, of course, that most of us, if not all, could not begin to understand such a formula much less its implications or meanings.

Why, however, can we not hope to understand such things? Are we not sane, rational beings? Well, to put it simply, human beings seem far to simple to actually understand the universe in all of its entirety, even if it is reduced to a formula. It has been theorized that there are hundreds of billions of galaxies each containing an equal number of solar systems. Despite this, most stars' closest neighbour is more than 10 light years away. How could a human mind, being comprised of such a tiny amount of brain cells, hope to understand something so big? The fact is that there is such a limited capacity in the human mind that such understanding almost unequivocally escapes us.

This is, of course, all assuming that a TOE would represent an understanding of the universe. Perhaps, however, the universe is not a static place and such a theory would not express the sum of

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