Science makes no philosophical claim to ‘Truth’ but instead provides useful approximations based on its ongoing peer-review methodology. What is reliable information by way of science is the result of similar enough results from replicated experiments that are strictly controlled and abide by the parameters established by a long succession of scientists. Their hand-me-down story is called epistemology.
In the end, all it tells us is that under such and such of circumstances, it is most likely that these results will be achieved regardless of who you are or where you are as long as you abide by the parameters of the experiment. This consistency of results is what allows us to make engineering choices based on scientific ‘truths’.
When people say they believe in scientific ‘fact’, they usually mean engineering applications of the science. No one bothers to question the science behind the combustion engine as long as their car runs reliably.
But the key phrase here is ‘approximations of truth’. More absolute truths, the understanding of ourselves and the objects in themselves requires a different kind of perspective outside of the scientific framework; one that takes the observer and the point of observation into account in the observation.
This involves a separate methodology as structured as scientific methods but with different aims and thus different kinds of conclusions. The overlooked discipline is that of Phenomenology, coined by the mathematical genius turned philosopher and teacher of the great Martin Heidegger, Edmund Husserl.
Husserl believed that our understanding of phenomena was completely based on our disposition towards the apperception (or the incorporation of our perceptions into our existing body of knowledge i.e. our understanding of the perception). Although a mathematician, this view of truth being determined by the perception of the observer as much as the thing-in-itself which can never be truly perceived apart from its set of traits and characteristics is a natural extension of Kant’s Idealism, for which Time and Space are far from objective physical phenomena and more akin to categories of perception. In effect, shared psychological states of awareness.
This is precisely where Phenomenology collides with post-Modernism, Einsteinian physics (Relativity) and Freudian mapping of the unconscious (everything that we don’t know or did know but forgot).
This post-modern relativism owes a great deal to the mystical and alchemic traditions to which it shares a common ancestry with science. Science, after all, derived from mystical and alchemic experimentations by mainly monks who upon separating from the spiritualism of the Church, (thanks to that first and great secular martyr, Giordano Bruno), continued their quest for god’s Truth.
Mysticism (unlike Spiritualism), is not superstitious; rather it engages with the world in pursuit of solving mysteries unknown and unsolvable by science. Mysticism poses questions science would never bother to ask and then attempts to answer them. Metaphysical questions such as ‘Who am I’ outside of my name and a social construct? Why am I here and who really lies behind the many masks upon mask that I wear and why do I wear them in the first place?
Psychoanalysis and Psychology at their best are not sciences at all, they are merely enquiries into the nature of the mind (although the current bias towards quantifiable conclusions might make one think otherwise). They are a result of mystical enquiries into the nature of the mind and how it shapes our most intimate and fundamental perceptions of the world we live in; the space in time we briefly occupy before dying. Medicine is yet another example of a supposed science that in fact is based on a field of knowledge that predates scientific methodology.
Nor is mathematics strictly speaking a science and yet it is by far more predictive of the unknown and unexperienced than science could ever hope to be.
I feel that this is a very relevant issue in the face of the current data-fixation of human experience as well as the current bias of valuing quantifiable truths over qualifiable ones. Just because you can count something accurately doesn’t mean you understand it better.
The truth is never in the data as such, it’s in the interpretation of the data, as long as you’re smart enough to factor in the interpreter.
I’ll take a breath now;
And recall who I am.