Why believe in so-called scientific knowledge
Posted on November 12th, 2011

Wilfred Fernando

Dear Editor

Mahinda Weerasinghe’s letter in today’s Lnakaweb website prompted me to send the attached letter similarly rejected by the Island paper, due to matters in favour of Buddhism.

The letter attached is a reply I wrote to a challenge extended to me by Carlo Fonseka. After such a challenge appearred in the Island of 5th November it was an embarassment not to reply. That was the predicament I was left with by the Island after their refusal. Later on last Wednsday I have sent another letter to the Editor imploring to publish it after modifying it if he wish; but for no avail.

This is not the first occasion that I had to sort the assistance of this patriotic website under similar circumstances, again at the hand of The Island.

I would be thankful if you could kindly publish the attached letter.

With kind regards

Wilfrd Fernando

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ On so-called scientific knowledge ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” VI

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ This reply is regarding the reply of Carlo FonsekaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s reply (the Island 5th November)to my letter(the Island 28th October), which is a reply to the M. Z. AbdeenƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s letter (the Island 26th, November) regarding the Prof. Nalin de SilvaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s sequel of essays titled ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-on the so called scientific knowledgeƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚. This was the title all through in this string of letters until Carlo Fonseka changed the title to ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Why believe in so-called scientific knowledgeƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚. So the correction for the first misinterpretation of my reply; I did not give the title ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-On the so-called Scientific KnowledgeƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚. CF refers to it as the title that I have given. Another misconception of CFƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s reply is he wrongly assumes that I am against the scientific knowledge. I donƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t know how he got this impression. In the first paragraph and right through his harangue, he keeps harping on the value of the scientific knowledge, and belittling some other knowledge which he chooses not to identify.

I cannot understand what this other knowledge he is talking about. I did not mention any other knowledge in my reply. It looks that CF is highly emotional about my reply and with some othersƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ writings. The tone of the letter appears to be calling me for a duel. He wants to deal the final blow to them. Who are ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-theyƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ that CF is parroting about? If he wants to deal final blow to somebody else he mentioned in his reply, he must confront him directly, for I did not start this title. In this day and age we settle things in civilised arguments. We donƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t burn people at stake any longer.

On one occasion in the same paragraph he mentions ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-WF is able to talk blithely of ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”so-called scientific knowledgeƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ giving the impression that I should be grateful to the scientific knowledge. I am stressing here I did not condemn the scientific knowledge anywhere in my reply to MZA. Therefore I donƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t intend to reply to the content of this paragraph, except that I was compelled to comment on what I have observed in CFƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s subservient, almost awe inspiring and worshipping attitude to Scientific Knowledge. It is hardly an impressive attitude for a ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-So-Called Scientifically mindedƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ person to have. To impart such a infallibility to scientific knowledge or to any knowledge is not what I expected of a knowledgeable person. Elsewhere he mentioned a list of technological advances made in the last century and establishes that he gets the confirmation (for scientific knowledge I presume). This is not a stand fit for a Scientist; this is an attitude more or less of a Scientologist I would say. When CF speaks of revered Scientific Knowledge I get the impression that he is speaking of knowledge of an omniscient Supreme Being.

This reminds me the time in school when I was selected to do science in year 10 or so. I have selected all Mathematics subjects with Physics, while some of my other friends chose to pursue other knowledge. At that time we thought we were following the ultimate knowledge. When later in life we read about other knowledge, we felt how foolish we were. How narrow minded and puerile were our thoughts.

This is not the scientific knowledge we know of or many others know of. The scientific knowledge we know of evolved over thousands of years if not ten thousands of years making blunders after blunders. I cannot pin point when the modern science began. Is it Mesopotamia, China or India? If the Scientific Knowledge was evolving in dribs and drabs, making many mistakes on its journey to present day, is CF happy to declare categorically that now it has come to fruition and it doesnƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t make any more blunders, and we know all the solution to natureƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s problems? I donƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t think anybody will dare to declare that, let alone CF. Is medical science a perfect science, knows all the solutions to human ailments? Can Psychology solve all human mental conditions? How about Meteorology, Chemistry, Physics, Economics, etc?

Now coming back to my reply – my subconscious says I should not have done wasting my time – I only concentrated on the last two sentences of the MZAƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s letter. That is abstract concepts that have crept into SOME scientific ideas. I can give ample examples in Mathematical sciences. In Geometry which I mentioned in my reply to MZA there are many Non-Euclidean Geometries that has no real models. Even in Euclidean Geometry taking the simple Pythagoras theorem which is mostly used in two dimensions, can be extended to three dimensional level – still with practical validity. When this is extended to higher dimensions ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” as many do – we come to fictional world. This is what I meant by abstraction.

Extending further, did not some scientists use the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-reliable scientific methodƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” CF is so highly fascinated withƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” to prove damn lies? I am referring to HitlerƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s scientist who tried to establish that Aryan were superior to others in intelligence and many other ways. What about the Bell curve? It is an open secret that drug companies are financing the biological research. DidnƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t we hear enough that hackneyed clicheƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Lies, damn lies and StatisticsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ if CF regards Statistics a science.

Another impression I get from CFƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s letter is that he is unable to differentiate between Technology and Science. Most of the examples he gave as Scientific Knowledge are technological inventions. They were done mostly by clever people with no knowledge of science. The man who invented the wheel had no idea of Science. He may not have even developed the skills of language. CF was – I noted – highly elated with the invention of Airplanes. Australian aborigines have invented the Boomerang 30 or 40 thousand years ago which work on the principles of Aerofoil theory and gyroscopic principle. Nobody is going to suggest that they had access to the scientific knowledge. Not only humans even animals have made very primitive inventions, if anyone has seen the TV programs that David Attenborough used to air. What I am trying to say that inventions came first and scientific theories came later in with many faults to explain these phenomena and inventions. Sometimes they get it right. Archimedes and Da Vinci made lots of inventions before science developed. If the Technology is well advanced today, it is because the printing and writing have made it possible to store these simple technologies for posterity. The modern car is a combination of many of the inventions developed over the years. On the same note there are many inventions that science has no explanations yet; Acupuncture, Ayurveda, Astrology, etc for example. Even some of our ancient irrigation systems are marvels today.

One more important aspect of the present scientific knowledge is all of its deductions and inferences were done based on the Aristotelian logical system, which is propounded over 2000 years ago. There is a more advanced logical system known as Fuzzy logic, which is used in highly advanced computer applications replacing the Bivalent system of logic. The Fuzzy logic is based on an ancient Indian system. Prof. Bart Kozko, of University of Southern California, a well known proponent and the populariser of Fuzzy logic credited Lord Buddha with the discovery of Fuzzy system. It is strange that the Western Science called this system fuzzy. Though strange I am not surprised.

Considering the scientific theories and to illustrate the manner how they evolved, a good example is the theory of the propagation of light. First they thought it is by waves; then they thought it as particles next it was both. When I last heard about it was by electromagnetic radiation. They are still working out how electrons behave. There are many medical researches that ended in disaster. The Thalidomide tragedy is the case in mind. And there are nuclear disasters. I think there may be hundreds like this. DonƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t let me start on the Heliocentric theory once we believed in.

I can write volumes about this subject – probably already done so by others. My point in all this unwarranted effort is to say that there is vast information yet to fathom. We have not finalised all the Scientific Knowledge contrary to what CF would like to think. And some of the theories that we may have already finalised – as some pseudo scientist like to think – might collapse at any time when further evidence come to light.

Finally I like to suggest CF to read my letter again, without thinking about ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-themƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚.


Wilfred Fernando

One Response to “Why believe in so-called scientific knowledge”

  1. Ben_silva Says:

    Science does not rely on ‘belief’ but rely on observations, evidence and supporting theory. Science is continuously evolving and is a result of the effort of humans, in attempting to understand nature and also be able to predict the behaviour of nature. Theories are modified or rejected, if there is a conflict between prediction and observation. In explaining nature, by far science is the most logical and reliable method. On the other hand, religions including Buddhism and Christianity rely on unproven beliefs. and myths.

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