Letter: Science should glory in its limitations

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The Independent Online
Science should glory in its limitations

Sir: In his article introducing Science Week (18 March) Tom Wilkie tells us that the importance of trying to understand science for the non-specialist is "simply that science provides a profoundly satisfying way of looking at and making sense of the world in which we live". Surely, on the contrary, it is profoundly unsatisfying on that score, despite its telling us that the world is "not all arbitrary and chaotic".

Science assists us not one whit in understanding all that distinguishes us as human beings. It tells us a deal about the machinery by which nature functions, but this hardly qualifies it for the description "profound". As William Hartston pointed out in his piece on coma patients (12 March), even the understanding of the physical basis, within the brain, of consciousness itself "still seems a very long way off indeed".

What does it tell us about disinterested love; of our essential need for artistic expression, be it in words, line, colour, form, movement or sound, and the beauty in these forms of expression? What of the need for moral precepts, dealing with the ideas of good and evil, by which the societies in which we live may be viable? And what, perhaps above all, of what Jung described as being autochthonous - man's sense of the religious?

Perhaps the value of so much of the truly marvellous discoveries of modern science, in its own field, lies in the fact that we become aware of the inability of the scientific disciplines to help us in solving our profoundest questions, which concern the nature of Man, and his destiny.

John Danser

Penarth, South Glamorgan

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