In a recent book and group meeting, the question was raised, "What is the greatest invention/discovery?".

Here is my answer...

Science is the rational belief-system/philosophy that uses the methods of observation, objectivity, experimentation, and organization to understand and explain the underlying patterns and structure of the universe. It does this by creating an ever-evolving model of the actual universe, a mathematically-based approximation which provides logical explanation and prediction of natural phenomena.

Mathematics is the core logical foundation and structure upon which science rests. Mathematics allows for the calculations necessary to build, and often extend the structure of the model. In a sense, you can say that mathematics is the language of science. Since the concept of proof is built-in to mathematics, we can be sure that the foundation is solid. Mathematics has shown itself to be fundamental many times over in its application to reality. New discoveries in math often lead to new discoveries in science, as well as vice-versa.

understand, adapt to, and manipulate the universe that we live in for our benefit.

The universe and all that it contains is simply too big for the human mind to comprehend in whole. However, by studying the patterns observable in nature, humans can simplify and condense the amount of material necessary to understand certain aspects of the universe. These patterns are then combined and integrated logically/mathematically into a model, called science, or physical science. This model is a human-level representation of the universe which is large enough to be predictive, but small enough to be comprehensible. Often, the Universe is referred to as the big Reality or Big-

Now, let me expand on the idea of a belief-system. All belief-systems (a.k.a. religions) are really just the methods for seeking the truth and avoiding the falsity within the universe. Each of the various belief-systems has different methods of gaining knowledge, different authorities to appeal to, different methods of proof or verification, different explanations for how things work, different reasons for why things are the way they are, etc.

Meanwhile, great thinkers in different areas of the world, and at different times discovered the basic methods of mathematics and science. Great strides were made, especially during the Renaissance or Age of Enlightenment. In mathematics the concept of proof was born. In science, the concept of experiment and evidence was born. The union of the two was the discovery of a new belief-system, one with built-in error checking. No longer were appeals to faith necessary. With Science, one could do experiments to get the answers, and use the mathematics to prove them. Why does it rain? The sun provides heat which evaporates water on the surface. The water rises and then cools and condenses into clouds. When a critical saturation point is reached, the drops become too heavy to be suspended in air, and water falls back to the surface as rain. Or snow, or sleet, or hail, or mist, or fog, all depending on particular variables such as local air pressure, temperature, humidity, wind speeds and directions, etc. Science not only gave complete detailed explanations, it gave details for variations as well, giving great predictive power. While this is the explanation, there were many experiments done with different variables over a long time to prove it. Let me list some of the ways that the scientific belief-system prevails over others.

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Now then, are there questions that science cannot answer? Yes, anything involving unrealistic, supernatural, or divine phenomena. Do such phenomena exist in reality? Only the universe as a whole knows the answer to that. I personally have never experienced anything requiring a non-physical explanation, nor have I heard convincing evidence of such, and therefore believe that such phenomena do not exist in nature. I am not ruling out the possibility of something extra-universal, I have simply never observed any such thing. Is there anything else that science cannot answer? Certainly there are areas of nature in which our models are still in the infant stage, such as the details of awareness, consciousness, sentience, psychology, etc., but there is no physical system yet discovered which is in theory not understandable via the methods of science.

My 2nd choice for greatest invention would be the technological invention of the Personal Computer and the Global Network, as enabling devices that allow one person in an hour to perform the work that would normally take thousands or perhaps millions of people to accomplish without such aid over years.

Email me, especially if you notice errors (which I will fix ASAP) or have interesting comments.

Please, send comments to John Wilson

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