Stratford Festival, Ontario 2016
“The Challenge of Science”
So, these two physicists and a philosopher walk on stage. This shaggy dog story is only for those who know the difference between a quantum and a quark. Today at The Studio we were conducted into the realm of our current understanding of physics, the cosmological constant, and the challenge of science today. On the panel was Neil Turok, former professor at Cambridge and Princeton and now director of the Perimeter Institute in Theoretical Physics; Margaret Wertheim, science writer and media commentator with a talented background in pure and applied mathematical constructs; and Mark Kingwell, author, professor, and associate chair of philosophy at the University of Toronto.
We discovered that as science reflects the nature of society that the state of such areas as mathematics and physics may be suffering. There is evidence of a level of stagnation in the field of new research that is composed of an elite few and most of those are white males. There is a need to expand our knowledge by broadening the base to include additional women and people of color. What is required are more minds working on the issues of science. Notice that it took 100 years for Black Holes to be substantiated. It took 60 years to create the methodologies to prove the existence of Higgs boson. Theories it would seem require a good deal of effort not only to formulate, but also to verify.
It was posited that we seem to know a great deal about the miniscule (subatomic structures) and the very large (cosmological content); however, we know less about the “middle zone” where humanity resides. For example, how does life work; what is consciousness; what is the nature of human psychology; and how do societies relate to one another.
We look to science to create profound ideas and new inventions. It is clear that science has overtaken religion as our means of explaining the world. Yet, it would seem impossible to ask science to explain such entities as beauty, morality, altruism, or selfishness. We also notice that science is based upon data and observation, but that we often take such information and “bend” it for our uses in a form of political “truthiness.” Where hard science is about reason and rationality the “softer” sciences (sociology and psychology for example) are relying upon empirical data and mathematical formulae to justify their studies. What we were left with is that we can teach science and math, but we how do we endow wisdom or the moral endeavors that fortify society.