Friday, April 16, 2021

For science, not for scientism, by Aliyu Dahiru Aliyu


Jaafar Jaafar
Jaafar Jaafar is a graduate of Mass Communication from Bayero University, Kano. He was a reporter at Daily Trust, an assistant editor at Premium Times and now the editor-in-chief of Daily Nigerian.
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All our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike — and yet is the most precious thing we have — Albert Einstein

Philosophy as a mother of all fields of knowledge begot physical and biological sciences from natural sciences. After Ibn Khaldun, in his magnum opus, Prolegomenon (Muqaddima), whose epistemology was based on dividing rational knowledge into Revelation and Intellectual Sciences, David Hume was the one to come and re-divide the Intellectual Sciences into Mathematics, Natural Science and Metaphysics. The objective and subjective knowledge can be derived by following these branches of knowledge. Among all of the above mentioned fields of knowledge in the vast ocean of Intellectual Sciences, Physics with its branches (Cosmology, Astronomy, Astrophysics, e.t.c) emerged as the queen of all the sciences.

Science is beautiful and arouses sense of wonders. Some questions that men consider too childish are the gap creators between us and the likes of ingenious Albert Einstein. When I was a child, I used to ask why do candles melt and the sky is blue? How one MINI 100 dwarf car possessed by my neighbor moved? How can I make another rickety bicycle for my old father, Mallam Dahiru? After growing up, the questions changed to deep scientific speculations. What happened before Big Bang? What really are black holes? How did universe come into being? Where are we going on this natural vehicle wandering in the cosmic space?…

The objective scientific answers derived from control laboratory tests, not like in Humanities and Arts where emotions play big role in the answers they give, stand the tests of time. The stress of pseudo religious dogmas and other vested interests trying to destabilise the peaceful flow of scientific attitudes fall fatally on ground. Church burned Giordano Bruno but his multiple universe theorem are still cited in scientific journals. The imprisonment of Galileo Galilee did not make his astronomical and gravitational theories false. All the antagonistic approaches and the roles played by church against science and scientific discoveries couldn’t stop the rays of science from shining.

However, there is limit to where science can go. One should not expect to be able to perceive supra-sensory and metaphysical realities by means of laboratory tests and sensory criteria. In fact, science can not determine whether a non-material beings, like God and angels, exist. The simplest definition of science says it studies the natural things around us. Supernatural and metaphysical beings are not within the scope of scientific empiricism. Material knowledge is a lamp illuminating some aspects of unknowns and leaving other areas in total and partial darkness. Albert Einstein told us that within the nature and the scope of scientific discoveries, we have over eighty percent of the nature within the mysteries of unknown. To imprison human knowledge in narrow and restrictive material science is to deny Man an ability to grasp total vision and reality of knowledge, including the rational one.

The poor dogma of scientism, which gives empirical knowledge alpha and omega, is epistemological stupidity. The science worshippers in the religion of scientism are proud of their knowledge because of the progress that has been attained with experiments. They think anything beyond their reach is not “Truth” and, therefore, a pseudoscience. Realities like revelation, telepathy, epiphany, e.t.c and all other metaphysical concepts are regarded by scientific empiricists as pseudoscience because they can’t test them in laboratories under microscopes.

By the way, this is not opening door for superstitious beliefs standing on the wishy-washy line of thoughts. A community which prefers dogma to rational thinking, superstitious beliefs to scientific methods and old stagnant pool of ignorance to an evolving civilisation, will move to nowhere. Our battle is to separate the knowledge driven method of science from stupid dogma of scientism.

While science can quench the thirst of wonders in our inner beings, scientism is blocking our way from attaining the highest levels of wonders. How can we know “Time before time”? How “Space is before space”?

The scientific relative time is different from metaphysical absolute Time prior to the Hubble’s Big Bang. The same applies to Einstein’s spacetime continuum and the eternal Space in the metaphysics of Ibn Sina, Suhrwardy and Aristotle. While language is too narrow to tell us “Time before time”, and science depends entirely on language, Metaphysics is there to translate what language cannot tell us to an intuitive knowledge where mathematical formulae fail.

The question is, where physics stops and metaphysics takes the role?

One of my good friends, a Ph.D student at University of Nottingham and scientist working with National Space Research and Development Agency, Mallam Ibrahim Gumel, asked me a question similar to this after I posted about the limit of science in answering our spiritual questions on Facebook. The answer to this is simple using Ockham’s razor, without zigzags. As Science studies the “natural” things around us, anything “supernatural” that cannot be tested or observed in laboratories or any other controlled environment, under microscope or any other scientific apparatus, and at the same time, senses are too poor to play role in understanding it, the hands of science cannot touch it. Examples of these are: God, souls and angels.

Twitter: @aliyussufiy

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