Friday, 11 September 2015

Science is a work in progress

This year there have been three big discoveries within the broad ambit of what we call science - actually just the study of the natural world, and what lies beyond it, as opposed to the rather less fruitful study of a deity; "science" used to be called "natural philosophy" in order to fit the endeavour as neatly as possible into the overall architecture of disciplines that were traditionally pursued within academia - that will provide material for those who are daily writing the story of the universe.

In South Africa, the discovery of a cache of bones attributed to a new species of hominid called Homo naledi, is stunning. Equally amazing is the discovery in England of the Durrington Walls, a man-made structure resembling in type the more well-known Stonehenge, but which is larger than it in size. Then we have NASA's New Horizon's pictures of the erstwhile planet, Pluto, which sits out there in our own solar system spinning in eternity like a drunken boat.

All of this new activity reminds us that science is always a work in progress. Especially when dealing with large swathes of time, as we are in all of these instances, it is difficult to be absolute when stating facts. Rather, we rely on the most up-to-date information to enable us to draw conclusions as to truth. It's a wonder. Our human story evolves as time goes on. We find new artefacts that support one reading of the truth or another, then we move onto the next thing in the series. There is always more evidence emerging to season our reflections and make our enquiries fruitful in one direction or another. We write out story regardless. The important thing is to keep on searching, and to keep on thinking and writing about our past as we crawl like a multi-coloured and spiky caterpillar along the unidirectional branch of time toward the final something that awaits us in the sky.

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