Is Everything We Know About the Universe Wrong? is another excellent BBC Horizon documentary.
Cosmology is undergoing a great shift. The traditional Standard Model is unsatisfactory because it does not explain dark matter or dark energy. And the modifications to the Standard Model that do are unsatisfactory because they are inelegant add-ons. Something is missing from our understanding of the universe, and it is either new forms of matter and energy, our understanding of the basic habits (natural laws) of the universe, or a combination of both.
It is another reminder that what we think we know about anything, however elaborate or useful it may seem, is vanishingly small compared to the infinity we do not know. Our experience is always very limited. (*) And our interpretations of this experience is just one of an indefinite number of possible interpretations, some of which would make equally much or more sense to us than the ones we are currently aware of.
Whenever we have a story about something, there will always be something that doesn’t fit. And if this is something that appears significant to us, or if many smaller things that do not fit keep cropping up, it requires us to reorient, to reorganize how we look at ourselves and/or the rest of the world.
It is a continuous process for us at individual and collective levels.
Science is a good reminder of this. We have what appears to be a good theory or map. It is refined and tested in great detail. It seems to work well. And yet, new information keeps cropping up that does not fit, or require us to modify the model in ways that are inelegant and clunky. There is a period of confusion and struggle to make sense of the new information. A new model is created that seems to incorporate the new information. This one works well for a while. And it all repeats.
This reorganization can happen in several different ways. For a while, we may be able to keep the model and enrich it with new viewpoints and perspectives. The context may change, requiring us to reinterpret the model. Or a dramatic and thorough reorganization may be required, sometimes turning our view upside down and inside out.
As someone said, we are all equal in the infinity we don’t know.
Note: They seem to have run out of visual ideas for this documentary, unfortunately, but the content is good.
(*) There is always indefinitely more we can explore and learn about of any terrain, and indefinitely more terrains available to be explored. Much of what we discover would fit our current views and maps, but some would require a dramatic reorganization.
- everything wrong?
- what we think we know, is nothing compared to the infinity we do not know
- always revised, sometimes dramatically
- a continuous process
- at personal and collective/cultural levels
- always something new that doesn’t fit, require us to reorient, reorganize how we look at ourselves/the world
Some say models are “approximations”, but that is accurate in only a very limited sense. They may work approximately well, in a practical sense. But they are still just models, maps, stories about the world. They are vastly different from what they (apparently) are about, in type and form. They are only guides for attention and action. Nothing more. There is no “truth” to them.