Originally posted on the new ussr illustrated:
During a recent gathering with neighbours I found it hard to keep my cool when someone told me recent evidence had come out supporting reflexology’s credentials as a healing technique. Expressing just a touch of scepticism, ho ho, I got the irritated response that ‘science doesn’t know everything’. I’ve already treated that ‘criticism’ in my introductory ‘fountains of good stuff’ podcast, transcribed here, but I feel the need to go further in dealing with this odd line of attack, because it annoys the shit out of me.
‘Science doesn’t know everything’ is one of those semantically not-quite-right phrases that reminds me of the half-opaque lines of Ringo Starr (examples are ‘tomorrow never knows’ and ‘it’s been a hard day’s night’) that tickled Lennon and McCartney into basing songs around them. Science isn’t a sentient being as far as I’m aware – and if it is I hope it’s not a supernatural one – so there’s no chance of it ever ‘knowing’ anything.
I’ve already had a rough go at defining what science actually is in the aforementioned ‘fountains’ intro, but any definition should, IMHO, be light and provisional rather than hard and fast. Certainly it’s about reliable knowledge, and the means of arriving at it, but it’s also, as many have said, about a way of thinking, a way of life. A way of life characterised by, and fueled by, curiosity and wonder. And what better words can there be, in our language?