The Edge of Understanding

There is a line somewhere out there. It is the edge of understanding. On this side of it is things we can observe and come to unanimous conclusions about. These constitute science. These create the framework that keep science going.

On the other side of this line is speculation. It uses the imaginative functions of the human mind to go to places where observation can’t take us. On this side are conclusions that have been reached neither unanimously nor with the help of methods that we consider scientific.

The scientific mind stands on this line, looking this way and that. The scientific mind knows the difference between the known and the unknown. The scientific mind does not let the observant function get in the way of the imaginative one, but it cherishes them both because at the end of the day, the scientist is human as well.

More than one brilliant mind has tried to define science. More than one genius has raised questions regarding what is understood to be the scientific method. But science, after all is said and done, is a bubble inside which we work. It is a lens through which we view the world and try to understand it.

And here is why allowing speculation into the framework that is science can be dangerous. It is a simple matter of setting precedents. For example, we know almost everything there is to be known about chemicals. This knowledge helps us come to other conclusions about the world. We know a certain chemical would behave in a certain way under certain circumstances. We use this knowledge to make measurements that we otherwise would not have been able to make.

If we entertain the possibility that Sodium Carbonate has feelings that can be hurt by the scientist’s state of mind, we do away with the advantage that our understanding had given us so far. By allowing unverified speculation into the realm of hard science, we poke a hole in the fabric of the bubble that is science. We risk blowing up the edifice of science as we know it.

Speculation draws from science. Science often follows in the general direction of speculation. But if we do not keep the two separate from each other, we risk arriving at a place where neither means much.