Limitation of Science

Limitations of science and adapting to Nature

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Historically, science has pursued a premise that Nature can be understood fully, its future predicted precisely, and its behavior controlled at will. However, emerging knowledge indicates that the nature of Earth and biological systems transcends the limits of science, questioning the premise of knowing, prediction, and control. This knowledge has led to the recognition that, for civilized human survival, technological society has to adapt to the constraints of these systems. Simultaneously, spurred by explosive developments in the understanding of materials (non-biological and biological), applied scientific research pursues a contrary goal of controlling the material world, with the promise of spectacular economic growth and human well-being. If adaptation to Nature is so important, why does applied research pursue a contrary course? Adapting to Nature requires a recognition of the limitations of science, and espousal of human values. Although the concept of adapting to Nature is accepted by some, especially conservation ecologists, such an acceptance may not exist in other fields. Also, in a world dominated by democratic ideals of freedom and liberty, the discipline required for adapting to Nature may often be overridden by competition among various segments of society to exercise their respective rights. In extreme cases of catastrophic failure of Earth or biological systems, the imperative for adaptation may fall victim to instinct for survival. In essence, although adequate scientific know-how and technological competence exists to facilitate adaptation to Nature, choosing between that and the pursuit of controlling Nature entails human judgment. What that choice may be when humans have to survive under severe environmental stress cannot be predicted.


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