The Error of Sokrates
A Little Polemic Against Too much of Belief in Science

by Helmut Walther (Nürnberg)

Today, not just a few adore again the probably most famous statement in the history of philosophy, "I know that I know nothing" - and mean to express with it a reflected self-honesty. Very often, with such an attitude is, paradoxically, connected a certain sense of pride in this 'not knowing'. Therefore, such a statement can be either born out of real stupidity or out of a 'pretended' insight - for us today, this will never hold true: rather, we know too much, where Sokrates, at the beginning of the development of reason, 2,400 years ago, was still able to justifiably make his famous statement.

Much more consequential, however, than the erroneous application of this old statement of the reception of reason on our reflecting times of the completed metaphysic is another belief, which is still practiced today and which also began with Sokrates: that other famous statement that knowledge equals virtue - so that, whoever knows the right and the good, would, because of this, also behave in the right and good manner. Does not this belief, even today, stand behind the modern contention of all those who believe in science and progress: "Endow mankind with the 'right knowledge', consisting of the basic statements of today's overall completely developed natural sciences, and we will experience, quasi automatically, an end of all those peculiar behaviors of mankind that manifest themselves in religion, fundamentalisms, mysticisms and other superstitions."

It is not only the smoking physician and the church-going scientist who let us question the power and effectiveness of science - as if there was a guarantee that this knowledge would be applied to the reasonable guidance of one's own behaviour, and not more often abused for quite different purposes!

No, it is also the belief in the completeness or perfection of knowledge that is scary here - and which is not any less metaphysical than the belief in God, for here, 'man of reason' believes in himself in that he declares as an absolute a certain status of the development of the human mind.

As soon as science sets its hopes in itself in such a fashion by forgetting self-criticism, as, for example, with Stephen W. Hawking who believes to be able to unveil 'God's secrets' very shortly, it will turn into dangerous metaphysic itself.

As high priests, the cast of scientists then conveys to the 'people' that secret knowledge that is not understandable to them; for example, that of the theory of relativity, as the 'highest truth'; as with the priests, their own role as 'conveyancers' is firmly established in forbidding 'ordinary' people to think for themselves, as in such lofty realms of thought, only the scientist is (supposed to be) at home. Furnished with this authority, he then declares the 'big bang' theory as the new God, just as unimaginable and as unapproachable to mortal man as the old 'God'.

Whoever maintains that he could imagine the universe to fit into a pin head, is lying or believing. He does not or cannot gain this from knowledge that can be verified by 'sensory perception'; rather, using reason, he concludes with reason, in order to gain a solidified and closed concept of the world - just like that 'proof of God' that draws conclusions from the clock in the field as to the clockmaker.

This 'drawn conclusion' of the 'big bang' remains as unproven as God - those who do the concluding know this - and yet, they perceive it (the conclusion) to be truer than God. The knowledge of particle physics that we have access to does not force us to such an assumption, at all, but, rather, at the utmost, it deals with the visible or present parts of the microcosm and macrocosm, from quantums to stars, but nothing beyond that. Everything else is speculation that is mainly based on the 'movement of flight' in the universe. Dare one not say that science, particularly physics, is not susceptible to metaphysic...

Where Nietzsche, humble as he was, only wanted to reach 'the super human for one second', modern man, convinced of his knowledge, declares that 'God's plan' has, in principle, been discovered, and perhaps still undiscovered parts (of knowledge, of concepts) will be in our grasp 'very shortly'. One may only ask oneself why most people on this globe, in spite of all crystal 'beauty' of scientific theories, act quite differently than those high priests would expect. Had those who believe in science not forgotten Sokrates' error, they would know that knowledge per se does not lead to virtue, quite regardless of the problem of how, in the face of the evolutionary condition of mankind that is, as a whole, anything but reasonable, it should be manageable to arrive at an adequate transmission of knowledge in the first place. Knowledge is important and knowledge can free humans from superstition, but only then when one reaches them with it, thus putting them, with Kant, into the position to think for themselves instead of putting before them secret scientific systems that have to be accepted and believed as 'absolute concepts'.

Here, alleged natural laws are postulated that, so-to-say, rule nature and, with that, gain a kind of metaphysical import and necessity, as once 'divine laws', instead of holding on to the fact that these are all interpretations by the human species as to how the repetitiveness in space and time (as next to, after and, above all, together) that is based in causality, appears in its respective own state of development.

Here, with the special or specific theory of relativity, time is introduced as a fourth dimension, that allegedly emerged, together with space, in the 'big bang' and thus 'took part in constituting' the universe, although until to this very day, no-one can say what 'time' actually is. God also created the world in an inexplicable way...

Until now, time was considered a form of measurement by means of which humans, for the purpose of managing the sequence of things 'one after another' and of the surrounding processes, introduced into nature. Even still today, the juxtaposition of the sun to the earth determines the counting of years and with it time-counting - does this, however, turn time 'into something'? Is a 'meter' an entity as a 'certain something', thus, more than a mere 'means of measuring'?

However, time obviously, in a miraculous way, gained quite a new status: in that Einstein proclaimed that a second would be precisely the equivalent of that 'time' in which light travels 300,000 km, that (by whatever reason) unsurmountable speed barrier, in space, mutated time into such a 'certain something'; the human means of measurement was turned into a divine 'fact' (natural law). How does Einstein, however, want to know what speed exotic galactic rays can have that we may not even know yet? Whoever thinks thus, proclaims with it that he can already oversee everything that is - and also everything that is possible: metaphysical and concluding thinking.

What will the scientific concept of the world look like some day, when man will, first of all, have understood gravity? Until now, he only sees its phenomena, but the way in which it works is still, as before, unexplained. Concepts such as gravitiational fields and waves only cloud the fact that one does not know the actual mechanisms of the transfer of gravity.

We laugh about the humans of the age of 'understanding' because they, in their mode and ability of counting, estimated the age of the earth to be approximately 5,000 - 6,000 years and because they considered the earth to be a disk; do we, in considering our modes of thinking and counting, not also move ourselves into the same position?

What do or can we know as to how future generations will be able to think and interpret, if we only, be it due to our fundamentalist striving for power as well as due to our partially self-destructive belief in science, still give them a chance to do so?

Will our ideas not also represent a similar kind of ridiculous concept as the superstition of our forefathers - up to and including Christianity which is still 'in swing' today -, may seem to us?

Translation by Ingrid Sabharwal-Schwaegermann
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