Sunday, March 27, 2011

We can be right but wrong

For almost five thousand years, we were certain that the sun rose in the east and set in the west. People went about planning a day's routine based on this knowledge that the sun moved in the sky around the earth. No one was hurt or killed even though our understanding was badly wrong.

Newton put forth many laws of physics that govern almost everything we do. We build bridges, skyscrapers and aeroplanes based on those laws. No one has been known to be injured or killed because any of Newton's laws were faulty. But 300 years after Newton, Einstein's theory on relativity showed that Newton's laws were wrong! Newton was right only if speeds were slow.  Luckily the rocket scientists had time to make the adjustments before sending people to the moon.

So, we can be right but still be wrong, and be the none worse for it.

We can be wrong in totality, but if our application of knowledge is restricted to the scope of what we know, it is possible that we can still be successful in thinking that we are right, while actually we are wrong.

So we are no better than the blind men and the elephant. We are the blind men floundering around with a big elephant.

Back to the earth going round the sun. How certain are we now that the earth is indeed moving round the sun? It is possible that the earth could still be the center of the universe after all. If someone with a good understanding of this subject matter were to propose this today, he won't be persecuted like Copernicus or Galileo were, but he would be ridiculed. I would keep an open mind.