The achievements made in technology and medicine, even over just the past century,are astounding. Science has accomplished so much and has taken society to new heights by answering both the questions of the time and those we never even knew we had.
Yet modern science has its limits. There are always more questions, and we sometimes aren’t even sure how to pursue them. Some of the limits are technical, and others are more philosophical, or perhaps even spiritual. Other questions still are queries of engineering, towering problems and challenges to which minds have yet to find solutions. Some questions even ponder potential dangers relating to the progress we are making.
Yet to move forward and to find the limitations of modern science, we must first imagine some problems. Here are some of the questions we still have difficulty answering to this day:
What Happens After We Die?
This is perhaps the greatest question of them all. The nature of consciousness and the human mind cannot be measured after death, and for the most part, we leave this question to the speculations of theologians and those interested in the supernatural. Yet what if this question, and its answer, on a more biological level, allowed for more medical advances, or better ways to cheat death or prolong the inevitable?
We are coming close to some answers, with the increased measuring of post-mortem bodily processes and the great strides taken by medical science in its battle with death. Still, modern science doesn’t have all of the answers and the long-term question of what happens after we die continues to elude us.
Will We Ever Be Able to Predict Events Perfectly?
The goal of some sciences is to observe phenomena to discover trends that can helpbetter predict future events (meteorology is a classic example of this). In fields such as physics, we’ve become moderately successful at this, while in others, we’re still looking for better models. Yet we cannot extend too far into the future, as we do not know how to account for every variable in the universe. The question remains: will we ever be able to?
The same could be said of the social sciences. Would the pinnacle of sociological study be to perfectly predict the effects a policy or event would have on a society? Could we eventually perfectly predict human behavior after we study it enough? These goals seem a long way off, but with improved investigation techniques and data mining happening all around us for good or ill, there is a strong trend towards efforts to try and predict our behaviors. Currently,this power is used mostly for marketing purposes, but will it be able to influence more human behaviors?
What Are the Limits of Human Achievement?
While the world record books might not be the most scientific of texts, they pose interesting questions for us as a species: what are our limits? How far can we go and how perfectly can we condition our bodies? Whenever an athlete seems to achieve perfection, a dedicated individual (perhaps with a genetic advantage) surprises the world once again. Will we find someone faster than Usain Bolt? If we do, at what point in human history will we find someone faster?
We can speculate, but humans keep finding new ways to succeed. There are also debates as to what constitutes human achievement? What if we master the secrets of genetic engineering? What if modern medicine allows us to overcome our natural flaws? Even then, how will we measure such perfection? It still seems like we’re far off from the answers. Understanding our limits implies reaching some sort of final conclusion about the abilities of the human race, something modern science does not seem prepared (or capable) of doing.
What Was Before the Big Bang?
As our ability to observe the universe improves, we can continue to look back into the past and determine what happened near the beginning of the universe. Our greater understanding of astrophysics and particle physics has let us delve into concepts such as antimatter,allowing us to theorize as to the “inflation” of the universe.
Yet we still haven’t been able to figure out what happened before the big bang, with the exception of fractions of fractions of a second before it. We are getting a clearer picture as to how our universe came into being as it is, but not how it sparked into being in the first place. There is a large debate amongst the scientific community as to the nature of this event (as well as what will happen billions of years from now), but an answer still seems well out of reach.
What Is Real?
Without going into Matrix-like pseudoscience, our reliance on our senses to make empirical judgments about the universe makes it impossible to make any determinations outside of those senses. Even striving beyond the limits of those senses, we must use them to derive meaning from readings, putting data at risk. It is possible to determine that we live in a shared universe outside of solipsist speculation, but little more.
That being said, philosophically speaking, it might not matter as to the nature of our reality so long as it’s consistent, and we need to measure that consistent universe. Nonetheless, we will need to continue as before, knowing that there may be more out there which we may never be able to pierce, except by outside intervention, accident or, perhaps, a very clever method of measurement.
The second we have some answers, we soon find ourselves with more questions. Yet that is the nature of science, and curiosity is never sated, only stayed for moments at a time. Perhaps these questions will have answers in the near-future, but in the meanwhile, it is important to answer the questions we have and hope they lead us towards a more enlightened future. The questions aren’t going anywhere. Science can afford to be patient, but it can’t afford to be inaccurate.
Are there any other questions you still wonder about? Are there any issues that you wish we had more solutions for? Please leave a comment below and tell us what you think.
About the Author: Carla is a writer and blogger who regularly writes about political, technological and scientific issues. She encourages self-education in all regards and hopes we soon have a more scientifically literate society. She reads science blogs and journals regularly and hopes this article makes you start pondering some larger issues in the world.