wiser today

A man should never be ashamed to own that he is wrong, which is but saying in other words that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.

David Lodge


I was surprised he was so hostile, and asked him why. 'Because they're essentially hostile to science. They've picked up some modern scientific ideas without really understanding them and flash them about like a three-card trick. They think that Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and Schrodinger's Cat and Godel's Theorem license them to say that there is no such thing as scientific proof and that science is only one interpretation of the world among others equally valid.' 'Well, isn't it?' I said, just to be provocative. 'Certainly not,' he said. 'Its explanatory power is of a quite different order from, for example, animism or Zoroastrianism or astrology.' 'Well, I grant you that,' I said, 'but those examples are rather extreme.' 'Choose your own examples,' he said, with a challenging lift of his chin. I couldn't think of any off the top of my head. 'Since the Englightenment,' he said, slipping into lecture mode, 'science has established itself as the only true form of knowledge. This has created a problem for rival forms—they've had to either take it on board, try to make themselves scientific, and run the risk of discovering that there's no foundation to their conceptual world—like serious theology, for instance—or put their heads in the sand and pretend science never happened—like fundamentalist religion. These postmodernists are mounting a last-ditch defence of their disciplines by saying that everybody is in the same boat, including scientists—that there are no foundations, and no sand. But it's not true. Science is for real. It has made more changes to the conditions of human life than all the preceding millennia of our history put together. Just think of medicine. Two hundred years ago doctors were still bleeding people for every ailment under the sun. If you had cancer, would you consult a postmodern oncologist who thought reflexology and aromatherapy were on a par with surgery and chemotherapy?' 'Not when you put it like that,' I said. 'But aren't there areas of human experience where scientific method doesn't apply?' 'Qualia, you mean?' he said. 'I suppose so,' I said. 'I was thinking of happiness, unhappiness. The sense of the sublime. Love.' 'Of course that's the big unsolved problem,' he said. 'How to connect brain states, which can be observed, to mind states which, at present, can only be reported. But if you're a scientist you must believe there's an answer to be found. That's what the Centre is for.' I asked him if he thought that one day somebody, a new Einstein, would wake up in the morning and have an idea like Relativity which would solve the problem of consciousness at a stroke. 'To be honest, no. I think it's more likely that the problem will be solved by a computer than a human being. The question is, will we recognize it when we see it?'