This article has been co-published on the Popular Rationalism substack of James Lyons-Weiler PhD.
Why science can’t solve complex, biologically related problems
Despite incredible advances in science and technology that have delivered everything from space and deep-sea exploration, skyscrapers, and internal combustion engines, to computers, satellite communications, and organ transplants, progress in many areas that affect large numbers of lives has been very limited. Take for example social development, the prevention or treatment of chronic diseases, the human-induced destruction of the natural environment, or our political systems.
Even the technologies that are touted as massive successes have their downsides. Antibiotics and their rapidly emerging flipside, antimicrobial resistance, and covid-19 mRNA vaccines, and their failure to meet their promise of being safe, and effective in eliminating SARS-CoV-2, are two examples.
Fundamental to the many failures in human attempts to deal with complex problems are two commonalities. One is the over-reliance on a simplistic, unevolved version of the scientific method that attempts to objectify and reduce everything to its component parts, in the hope that when you put all the components together you better understand the whole. Once you understand the whole, or should I say, think you understand the whole, you get a reward. That’s the ability to control the system you think you understand, but usually don’t. A travesty of our time is that we place ourselves in positions of power and do not know what they don’t know. Or, at least, they pretend not to know.
This scientific method has become something we are being asked to follow with almost religious fervour. Quite literally, we are being asked to ‘follow the science’ rather than any religion, spiritual or other path. We should maintain unfathomable trust in science’s superpowers, powers that we mere mortals won’t and don’t need to understand. We need to just trust the scientists, as we heard at the recent Nobel Prize summit in Washington DC, held in May. Any other view will be held as scientific misinformation, and don’t worry, AI will be used to track it down and censor it out of existence.
The blinkered, outdated scientific model
The thing is, the mainstream scientific establishment, which has unquestionably become one the most dominant forces directing human society, has a problem. It operates on a limited and greatly outdated Newtonian-Cartesian view of the world. It may work just fine when you disorganise a machine, break it down into its component parts, evaluate and measure each part, and put it all back together again. That’s something Chinese technologists have mastered, hence their ability to reverse engineer any technology developed in the West, leading to its manufacture and sale at a fraction of the price of the original item. This works because machines operate spatially in 3 measurable dimensions that we know as length, depth, and height.
The trouble is we have known since the time of Einstein at least, that space contains at least 4 dimensions. But it doesn’t stop there. Since Einstein postulated his General Theory of Relativity, String Theory – now widely accepted among physicists – says there are at least 10 or even 11 dimensions, 11 assuming the extended version called M-Theory. Or, if you really feel like getting lost in space, try Quantum Mechanics for size. Here we need to live with the notion of infinite dimensions – something most of us have trouble getting our heads around.