Can we ever prove who we are

No scientific theory can ever be proven

Just like the big bang, every scientific theory always stands on an uncertain ground of truth. Every prediction derived from it must be put to the test of reality. The riskier a deduction, the better. So the prediction that tomorrow the sun will rise is not a very daring deduction from the Copernican theory of the rotation of the earth. A risky deduction, on the other hand, was the prediction that the rotation of the earth would continuously change the direction of oscillation of a pendulum. It could not be verified until 1851 by the French physicist Léon Foucault. In the dome of the Paris Pantheon, an astonished audience watched as its 67-meter-long pendulum slowly changed the direction in which it swung back and forth.

The more verifications a scientific theory receives, the more certain we can be that it depicts the world correctly. Or that it is at least the best approximation to the truth for the time being. But nothing more. No scientific theory can ever be proven! A single falsification: And the textbooks have to be rewritten. But since this can happen to any theory at any time, no natural scientist can ever be absolutely sure of his cause.

Knowledge of the world grows

The layman is amazed. By scientific truth he had imagined something else. Accordingly, he is easily unsettled by all kinds of religious, economic and political interest groups for whom doubts about the scientists and their theories fit well into the concept. Is man a creature of evolution and closely related to the ape? Is smoking harmful? Climate change? And the same skepticism attacks on the theoretical structure of science more. Everything according to the motto: nothing was except hypotheses.

What a disparagement of the natural sciences and of the worldview they have created in painstaking research over centuries since the Enlightenment. Although we can never prove that this world view is the true picture of the world, the growing knowledge of the world represents one of the greatest cultural achievements of mankind. And last but not least, we owe our material prosperity to this knowledge, in which we are healthy and longer than ever slide through our life beforehand. The natural sciences have actually made us “rulers and owners of the world”, as the French philosopher René Descartes foresaw four centuries ago. But they also show us the high ecological price we are paying for it.

Looking for something better

The recipe for success of the scientific knowledge method is based on the permanent uncertainty about the truth of the knowledge gained with it. This also seems to be their weakness. The truth is always in question. But this method of “critical rationalism” (Popper) draws its strength from precisely this. Every refutation of a theory forces us to search for a better one.

Karl Popper applied this method to the evaluation of political systems. Result: only those societies that constantly and critically examine themselves and the conditions prevailing in them and that are ready to recognize certain truths as errors and to correct them, are capable of improvement and develop further. Popper called them "Open Societies".

Their enemies are the simple, because they cannot be refuted, eternal truths of totalitarian systems and populist politicians. They can "make us beasts" again, as Popper warns. "But if we want to remain human, there is only one way to an open society."

The open society includes open natural sciences with their journey "into the unknown, uncertain, insecure". The travel destination is the knowledge of the truth, i.e. the true representation of the real world and its laws. Even if we will never achieve this goal, we can still hope that we are on the right track. We don't know anyone better. In our little brains, the entire cosmos is already reflected with its history and all its laws that have driven this history up to the present day. Nobody has described this secret better than Albert Einstein: "The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that we can understand it."

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