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The Tree Of Knowledge

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Posted by Benjamin Nelson on February 14, 2001 16:08:35 UTC

Our search for truth has carried us along a single branch of the tree of knowledge until we are so far out on a single twig at the end of a certain limb that we are powerless to imagine how it could be otherwise. But what if, at the end of many other twigs, there are equally valid -- maybe even better -- ways of explaining the universe? We would never know. We can’t jump from our leaf to the next, leaping across the terrifying vacuum of empty conceptual space. To get to another leaf, we would have to retrace our steps, go back down the twig, the branch, the limb, perhaps all the way to the trunk, and start the climb all over again.

And just as there are many ways to climb a tree, and one is channeled in certain directions by decision made early on, perhaps there are many ways to construct a science. With a tree, however, it is possible to climb back down, to start over again. But with thousands of scientists all working together in same direction, it is all but impossible to go against the flow.

Nevertheless, the magnificence of our particular vantage-point has become so firmly lodged in the brain that mere humans can be heard to speculate confidently about the very origin of the cosmos. But we cannot escape the fact that the one explanation this creation story should include -- what caused the big bang in the first place -- continues to elude us. And who could be satisfied with a science that can say no more than Genesis, "Let there be light"? But perhaps this is the best we should expect from a theory that explains nothing less than the very origin of the universe.

B. L. Nelson

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