Is Science the Answer?

What is science? According to its definition, “Science is a branch of knowledge concerned with the material world conducted on objective principles involving the systematised observation of, and experiment with physical phenomenon.”

Science has divided the world of knowledge into two parts—knowledge of things and knowledge of truths. According to this division, science has confined its study only to a part of the world – the knowledge of things – and not to the entire world. A scientist has rightly remarked, “science gives us but a partial knowledge of reality.”

This means that science being confined in its scope to the physical aspect of the world, has kept itself aloof from higher spiritual matters. No scientist has ever claimed that science attempts to find out the absolute truth. All scientists humbly submit that the “search for truth” is not their target. They are simply trying to understand how the objective world functions and not why it functions. For instance, the chemistry of a flower may be chemically analyzed, but not its odour.

Chemistry can describe how water may be turned into steam power, but not why a miraculous life-giving element such as water came to exist in our world. Similarly, while science is concerned with the biological aspect of man, it is not the aim of science to try to discover the secret of the strange phenomena commonly known as the mind and spirit.

Science has never claimed that its objective is to discover the total truth or absolute reality. The concerns of science are basically descriptive, and not teleological. Although science has failed to give a satisfactory answer to the quest for truth, it is not to be disparaged, for this has never been its motivation.

Many people had pinned their hopes on science providing them with the superior life they had sought for so long. But after more than two hundred years, it has dawned upon recent generations that science has fallen very far short of fulfilling man’s hopes and aspirations, even in the material sense. Now it has been generally acknowledged that, although science has many plus points for human betterment, it has many minus points as well.

Science gave us machines, but along with them it also gave us a new kind of social problem: unemployment. Science gave us comfortable motorcars but at the same time it polluted the air, making it difficult for human beings to inhale fresh air. With the rise of modern industry, there came the pollution of life giving water and the environment. Production may have been speeded up, but at the cost of adversely affecting our whole social and ecological structure. All of this has eventually led to global warming that is taking man on the verge of total annihilation.

If the object of science was to provide man with the answer to his search for truth it had obviously failed. If the search for truth was not within the province of science, there was no reason for it to figure in such discussions at all. In other words, science cannot be legitimately blamed for not helping man to grasp the ultimate reality, for this was not something expected of it. Indeed the reality lies far beyond the boundaries of science.