An ever changing story

A painting by the American Edward Hicks, showing the animals boarding Noah’s Ark two by two.

What we know about the world has depended on our technology as much as it has on our accumulated learning. For all of human history for which there are written records there are theories about the way the world functions and its history.  Writing certainly helped us retain knowledge, add to it and then pass it along from generation to generation.  But much of the “knowledge” that was passed along was inaccurate or simply wrong. It could only be corrected when we developed better ways of seeing, microscopes that looked deeper and telescopes that looked further.

Each advance in technology allowed our theories to improve and evolve; but there is no certain answer or definitive knowledge.  It is all subject to change as technology improves. Two very important ideas are beginning to dominate scientific thinking; the world keeps getting older as our ability to look farther into to space improves; and the basic units of life and matter keep getting smaller and more complicated as our ability to look deeper into matter improves.

What might our theories of life look like in a hundred years – it has only been a 150 years since Darwin – or a thousand years? For me there are some very intriguing question about the development of human language, culture and society that although we speak as though we had the answers, the answers currently available don’t work well.  We have points in time where we say the modern human began, language developed, agriculture was invented, or cities began.  But whenever we find places and artifacts at that point, they are fully developed – clearly not beginning points.  Sometimes the answers don’t work for me by implication – the answers for every scientific question in 2011 are different that they were in 1911 – that certainly implies 2111 will provide some new answers doesn’t it? What about 3011.  Not likely that I will be around to say I told you so is it?


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