Writing

Science Vs. Things Unseen

  • February 5, 2011
I was always curious about my father since as far back as I can remember.  My father and I have been polar opposites all of our lives, but recently as my father has been spending more and more time with me, I feel as if we’re not so opposite anymore.  In some ways, we have in some respects found our own common ground.

My father is a classically-trained scientist who believes that everything in life is governed and explained through the laws of physics and the scientific method.  He solves his problems mathematically with a pencil and paper, and should something happen that can’t be explained with math or science, it gets dismissed almost immediately.

I am a free spirit and my thought process is far too abstract for science.  I prefer to solve problems creatively and socially, using science as a last resort.  And as such, I believe in things unseen, regardless of what scientists claim.

Yet, as time goes on, my father in some ways is beginning to accept the reality that while most things in life can be explained scientifically, there are some things that defy exclamation.  I’m trying my best to see things from my fathers’ point of view that everything that can be studied and understood by science probably should be, even if at times I disagree with the methods used to do so.

My father and I have also been having a lot of great father-and-son conversations, the majority of them centered around that fore-mentioned common ground.  We also typically share observations and theories about the ever-changing world around us.  Sometimes this will turn the conversation to a story about my fathers’ life years before I was born and how he has learned so much about himself and life in general through me.

However, the one thing my father and I are still up in arms about is the way the world is changing.  My father tries to prove or disprove the theory of global warming depending on the latest scientific developments, his mood, or both.  I say the world is changing due to scientists trying to be god and create things that don’t need to be created, bringing back what was extinct long ago, and experimenting with things that are most likely better off being left alone.  Science Fiction is slowly becoming Science Fact and sometimes I fear that in our quest for knowledge, science might one day go too far and become responsible for our own undoing.

My father obviously knows more than he will ever tell me or even let on that he knows.  And yet each time we run into a sensitive topic having to do with his career as a scientist, he ends the conversation abruptly and says that there are some things he simply cannot discuss or talk about, and I don’t know why.

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2 Comments on Science Vs. Things Unseen

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  • Harvey L. Slatin says:
    March 29, 2011 at 10:40 AM

    I am compelled to add to your excellent blog. There are so many aspects that require clarification and should not be answered in one blog post. The most important one is illustrating what Science really is and to refute the notion that many have that Science is a destructive force that will doom us. Scientists don’t create or “invent” things. They discover (if they are lucky) what already exists, seen or unseen, like bacteria. Michael Farady did not create or invent magnetism or Benjamin Franklin electricity, they discovered it. No one has ever seen electricity or magnetism, we only are aware of its effect. No one has observed an electron, yet we are aware of what it can do. The entire universe, every bit of it, animate and inanimate, solid, liquid and gas, visible and invisible, galaxies, all of it is made up of three particles, namely, protons, electrons and neutrons. That’s it! Scientists did not create the universe or any particle of it, they discovered its parts by observation and experiment, confirmed many times by others.

    An excellent example of how scientists think and operate concerns fire. Scientists did not “create” or “invent” fire. Fire existed as an example of combustion, the chemical reaction of fuel and oxygen, long before man appeared. But man saw the effect of fire and learned to use its benefits. It was a means for keeping him warm, making his food digestible, keeping carnivorous beasts from eating him up, and later, much later, learned how combustion could covert water to steam and steam to drive machines and added to the global warming. There is no question of the benefits derived from the Industrial Revolution, brought to mankind and of course, social and political problems galore. You have often remarked during out extended bull session discussions how we managed without computers, TV, the Internet, autos, microwaves and a host of other conveniences. Scientists merely take the discoveries of the past and puts the several parts together to make something that you consider “new,” when in fact the concept may have been conceived long ago. Da vinci conceptualized a flying machine and a war tank years before it was possible to build one. Johnn Von Neumann conceived of a computer (and he was not the first) but it took a lot of other concepts to be realized before your laptop came to exist. Finally, a fleet of main frame computers can not replicate (yet) your body computer, your brain.

    My secrets? I really don’t have secrets. The part of my life that affects you and I think you need to know, I have revealed to you when it was pertinent and proper. (You are still bewildered by some of the revelations. You were born when I was in my sixty-fourth year. You were and are the delight of my life. I am so grateful to your mother. Unfortunately at that time I was doing a lot of traveling (lecturing) and was away from home. Whenever I returned home, I always brought you a present. Not the stuffed bears and toys others showered on you (there is a photograph of you buried in a mass of stuffed animals. Speaking of photographs, I took over 4000 pictures of you that first year), I always brought an electronic toy or device, a scientific project, like a box of forty mineral samples, always something to intrigue you. When home, you were given into my care, reading you to sleep, for example, and not fairy tales. Where ever we went, you went, restaurants, museums, art galleries, amusement parks, holidays, vacations, Europe, you were one with us.

    I had a happy and successful career as a scientist and plotted to steer you in that direction. However the plethera of electronic early computer devices I fostered on you, physics and mathematics was not your cup of tea. But I realized I was not you and you were not me. I loved and played tennis (until I was 92) and you hated it. I favored the New York Giants; you don’t care for football. Desite the disparity in our ages, I still managed to do all the proper father-son activities, even doing the 5 mile boy scout hike with you when I was 75. We both enjoyed the ocean, swimming, dancing, bicyling, the outdoors, reading, and shared the same social and political views. That was fortuitous. There were indeed many things about life that I am grateful you taught me, mostly by example. Who could ask for anything more?

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