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pic_23.jpg (14292 bytes) NOW I WOULD LIKE to speak about the limitations of science's exploration and knowledge. Going back just a little, I said that there are differences in the nature and scope of our object of knowledge, which prompts a number of observations. I have said that Buddhism conducts its research within the human being, and asserts that to thoroughly know the truth of a human being is to know the whole universe, while science studies only the external material world, the knowledge of which leads only to an understanding of the physical world. At the most it can lead only to the frontiers of the mind, as it influences the material world (and vice versa), which is of limited scope.

I have also mentioned that science, and in particular, physics, has made such great advances that it can almost be said to have reached the limits of its field of knowledge. Previously, science believed that it could obtain an understanding of the whole universe simply by knowing the external physical world, through scientific observation based on the five senses. Science took the view that all phenomena relating to the mind were rooted in matter. By understanding matter completely, the mind would also be understood. Nowadays only few scientists still believe this, because the enormous amount of knowledge amassed about matter has not shed any light at all on the mind.

At the present time, concepts about the reality of matter and mind fall into two main categories, or models:

1. that the world of matter and the world of mind are like two sides of one coin. That is, they are separate, but they interact with each other. This first group believes that these two realities are on opposite sides, and each  side must be independently studied and then integrated into one body of knowledge.
2. that the world of matter and the world of mind are like two rings in the same circle. This second group sees the borders of knowledge as being a big circle, having an inner ring and an outer ring. The inner ring is limited to its own circumference, while the outer ring covers both its own area and that of the smaller ring. That is, one ring surrounds the other. If the larger ring is understood, then all is understood, but if only the smaller ring is understood, such knowledge is still incomplete, because the outer ring is still not known.

Now if, in this model, the knowledge of matter is the smaller ring, even if our knowledge covers the entire world of matter, still it is only the smaller ring that is understood. The outer ring, which includes the mind, is still not known. If, on the other hand, the outer ring is matter, then to know the truth of matter will automatically be to know everything. Now which model is more correct? I will not attempt to give an answer here, but leave it to those concerned to figure it out.

In any case, many eminent physicists have said that the knowledge of science is only partial, and is only a beginning. In terms of the model of the rings, it would seem that the knowledge of matter is only the inner ring of the circle, because it is limited to the five senses, ignoring the sixth. Beyond these senses we arrive at the world of symbols, mathematical proofs, in relation to which we have Sir Arthur Eddington's words:

“We have learnt that the exploration of the external world by the methods of the physical sciences leads not to a concrete reality but to a shadow world of symbols.”

Another eminent physicist is Mr. Max Planck, who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1918, and is regarded as the fathered modern Quantum Theory. Planck was known to have stated that no sooner was one of science's mysteries solved than another would arise in its place. He conceded the limitations of scientific truth in even clearer words: 

“... Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature, and, therefore, part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.”

One scientist went so far as to write:

“...the most outstanding achievement of twentieth-century physics is not the theory of relativity with its welding together of space and time, or the theory of quanta with its present apparent negation of the laws of causation, or the dissection of the atom with the resultant discovery that things are not what they seem;  it is the general recognition that we are not yet in contact with ultimate reality.”

So it has reached this stage! This is the most significant advance of science: the realization that it is incapable of reaching the truth. All it can lead to is a shadow world of symbols. If science accepts this situation then it must be time to choose a new path: either to redefine its scope, or to expand its field of research in order to attain the complete truth of nature.

If science is content to limit itself to its original scope, it will become just another specialized field, incapable of seeing the overall picture of the way things are. If, on the other hand, science really wants to lead mankind to a true understanding of nature, it must extend its field of thought, redefining its fundamental meaning and stepping out of its present limitations.

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