Scientific Facts and Meaning

Our last post argued that facts are relevant to the meaning of our lives. Scientific facts are especially germane, since you can’t have a coherent picture of the world without some understanding of modern science. Why? Because science is the only cognitive authority in the world today. Yes, there are things that science has not or cannot discover and scientific theories are always provisional. Still the well established truths of science should be the starting point for serious inquiry into the human condition—theoretical musings are no substitute for empirical evidence. To understand the world and our place within it, we must begin with the knowledge of modern science.[i]

But which parts of science are most relevant to the meaning of life? The problem is that the scientific areas most relevant to our inquiry—anthropology, psychology, sociology, and history—are imprecise sciences; and those least relevant to our concerns—mathematics, physics, and chemistry—are the most precise. If a science is to help our search for meaning, it must be both precise and relevant to our concerns. Are there such areas of science?

Cosmology and biology would be those sciences. Both are precise and both have important things to say about the meaning of life. Cosmology, broadly conceived as referring to the current state of the universe as well as to it origin and fate, is obviously applicable. Biology is also important; it tells us what human nature is. To understand the question of the meaning of life we need to understand the origin and fate of both the universe and ourselves. must have a basic understanding of these sciences.

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[i] I would argue that science, not philosophy discovers truth. Philosophy should concern itself with values and meaning. For more see Jean Piaget’s The Insights and Illusions of Philosophy (New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1977).

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