Wednesday, April 6, 2011
It's All a Big Misunderstanding
Millions of humans have walked the earth before us. Some of them left little messages, some left big messages, some left little more than their remains.
We have not met these people, we do not speak the same language as they did, we have completely different cultures and ways of learning about the world around us.
Why do we assume that in ANY way we can interpret what they were saying? I don't have a problem with us attempting to understand our predecessors, I have a problem with the assumption we've got it figured out.
For example, take the Rosetta Stone. It was a hugely important discovery as it linked hieroglyphic texts to texts in other languages in a way that we could say "oooo! So THAT is what those hieroglyphics meant!" That's fantastic - an amazing discovery that shed some rays of light on ancient Egyptians lives.
But, as usual I have to raise my hand and say "Whoa! Why do you assume that this is all there is to know about their language?" The Rosetta stone has explained what some of their glyphs mean, has shown us that some glyphs are used as a standalone thought and some form words and phrases, and that many of them are treated differently from others. This is all very good work and incredibly useful, but you cannot sit back on your heels at that point and say "We've translated all the texts, we have a nice clear picture of what they were saying, and we're done!"
One of the biggest fallacies of mankind is to assume that when we've figured something out we automatically know all there is to know about it. There is always more to it and most of it we may never know.
Add that to all the other stuff that we know about the history of this planet and the conclusion is that we're brilliant, we know it all, and we're WAY smarter than they were.
I'm not buying it.
This may be a rehash of prior posts, but this is a subject that I feel is very important to drive home to the public. We do not know JACK about the past. Sure there are bits and pieces and we link them together to form a picture that makes the most simplistic sense we can, but it in no way accounts for all possibilities and certainly does not exclude any possibility.
So... science cannot prove that anything DIDN'T happen. They can barely prove that anything DID happen (and as far as I am concerned, they can't.)
Skepticism towards religion is extremely common. I know that when I talk about it I am largely preaching to the choir on that subject. Whether someone is devoted to their own religion but skeptical about others or is skeptical about every religion... or only skeptical about Scientology because L Ron Hubbard said there was great money to be made in religion and then... surprise! The therapy he suggested somehow decides it deserves religion status...
I'm digressing. Just call me "Tangent Girl".
Anyway, we are all kinds of skeptical about religion but not science. Oh no, we accept that shit as FACT, baby! They know way more than I do, with their fancy words and big equations. How can I, a non-college educated** woman of simple means contradict big fancy equations?
Equations are math. Math is a creation of Man. Man is imperfect.
I'm not saying science* doesn't do good work. They do. Some incredible things have come from science, and so much of our daily life is filled with the benefits of our scientific advances. Great things come from science. Their knowledge is incomplete and they are basing theories on theories which have been proven to work but do not necessarily represent the complete picture. And in most cases, scientists are fully aware of that, but it isn't necessarily conveyed as the information reaches the public. It also may not always be considered when new theories are based on existing "proven" theories.
It comes down to a factor of variables. In some situations we can control the variables, such as creating a vacuum and adding only gasses that we choose, trying to light a flame and finding if there is no oxygen in the included gasses that it will not light. This proves that fire requires a fuel, commonly in the form of oxygen. For things like the physics of gravity, space, and the exploration of history through archaeology, there can be any number of variables we are not aware of. These variables being unknown means that our knowledge is incomplete.
Conclusion: Our ancestors have spoken to us, but without knowing the context or even the full translation of the language, we cannot fully understand what they have said. There are things which are and may always be lost in translation which prevent us from fully comprehending our past. Additionally, it also means that what we know about our world, our bodies and our universe will always be limited by our ability to know the variables and rule them out as we work on discovering what there is to know.
Super simple conclusion: We can prove nothing to be absolute fact. Period. The pyramids could have been built by an interstellar travelling band of carnies for their three ring show.
*I'm including all branches, particularly archaeology. Science is essentially "the study of _________", as referenced by the "ology" in the name. Humerously, that means "scientology" is "the study of science". It doesn't really relate to what they do though, I think it's just a fancy smart-sounding name. Fancy.
**I don't feel formal education as proved by a piece of paper is worth a whole lot. I have known an extensive number of college students. I know what the vast majority do and how they view their "time in college". There is something to be said for taking a variety of classes that introduce you to new concepts you had not previously considered and that improve your vocabulary and ability to express yourself. College does not make one intelligent, what it does do is teach people method and knowledge and standard practice, all of which they could learn by other means if so inclined. This is especially true with the availibility of knowledge on the internet.