The mysteries of nature

It’s tempting to think we know almost everything. After all, we have high-resolution spy satellites to peer down at us. We have instruments to detect subatomic particles (or something like that, I never really paid attention in physics). We’ve got supercomputers, massive archeological digs, ubiquitous exploration, and deep sea submarines. Oh, and don’t forget Google.

And, yet, we’re not even close to understanding some of the most basic things about nature — about our own planet. I love these reminders, these things that knock us out of our hubris zone. Here’s a great example. Wired has a great photo of “Morning Glory” cloud tubes that appear every fall in Queensland, Australia, and a few other places on earth. They can be 600 (!) miles long. And no one knows why or how they’re formed.

If we can’t explain how some clouds are formed, why do we continue to think we know everything? More important, why do we behave as if we know everything?

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4 Responses

  1. Erp says:

    I should point out that if we thought we knew everything, all scientists would be out of their jobs. The usual attitude is we don’t know, yet, but, we are working on it.

    Also it is wrong to say we aren’t even close to understanding it. People are working on forecasting them and to forecast you have to have understanding.

  2. Scott Gunn says:

    Erp, thanks for your comment. I didn’t mean to say we’re not close to understanding these clouds — rather, that we’re not close to understanding our whole planet and how its systems work. No doubt, there are plenty of things we do understand, but there are plenty more we don’t.


  3. MadPriest says:

    You are so right, Scott. And, what is more, our arrogance in believing that we know much stops us from asking questions that might debunk that belief. This is particularly true in the biological sciences, especially in the study of evolution. The more I read about this theory the more it becomes obvious to me that there are huge questions that nobody is asking. But whenever I dare to raise doubts as to evolutionary theory’s ability to explain life, I am attacked by all and sundry and accused of being a creationist as a matter of course, even though my doubts have nothing to do with my personal faith in God. It is as if people are scared to contemplate the idea that they may have got it wrong in part.

  4. Erp says:

    MP, which questions might those be? Note that evolutionary theory is not meant to explain how life arose but how, given life, different species arose. There are various hypotheses on how life arose but which one if any is correct is still debated.

    Scientists agree we don’t know all yet by any means, but, we know quite a bit more then we did and hope to learn much more (unless Prof. Rees prognosis that we’ll probably manage to destroy ourselves or at least our civilization is right).

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