Why we may never fully understand the Universe

by | Nov 7, 2021 | 0 comments

One of the main goals of this platform is to explore the mysteries of the Universe with the hope of broadening our understanding of it. This goal has been shared by many thinkers throughout time and still continues to this day.

One of the biggest quests in the scientific community has been to find a Theory of Everything. A hypothesis that could unify the four fundamental forces of Nature and explain all known physical phenomena in the Universe.

“I want to know how God created this world,” Einstein told young physics student Esther Salaman “I’m not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts; the rest are just details.”

Fields such as science, philosophy, religion or alchemy were created in an attempt to provide answers to our questions on the mysteries of Life.

But we must ask ourselves the following: will we ever be able to fully understand the Universe?

We sometimes act as if we could, but there exists many factors that could prevent this from ever happening. This article was not written to express cynicism, but instead, to remind us to practice humility in order not to let our ego consume us. I believe we can achieve a great understanding of the Universe. The real question is, to which point?

The most materialistic base themselves upon “scientific proofs” in order to decide whether they should believe in something or not. But what if there was no such thing as an actual “proof”.

Here is the definition of “proof” according to Cambridge Dictionary:

  • “a fact or piece of information that shows that something exists or is true”. 

And here is the definition of “scientific proof” according to the Medical Dictionary:

  • The principles and empirical processes of discovery and demonstration considered characteristic of or necessary for scientific investigation, generally involving the observation of phenomena, the formulation of a hypothesis concerning the phenomena, experimentation to test the hypothesis, and development of a conclusion that confirms, rejects, or modifies the hypothesis”.

Let’s discuss why I believe that proofs may not prove anything. As quoted above in the first definition: proofs express something that is true.

“There is no one truth. There’s only what happened, based on how you perceive it”.  – Julie Picoult.

Truth is a funny subject, not as straightforward as we wish it was. There are many kinds of truths. The one based on our perception of things, which strongly relies on the mind, as our perception of reality is nothing but a mix of beliefs and information picked up by our senses which can be deceitful (Check article: “What is Reality?” for more) .

And then, we have mathematical truth, described by Pythagoras as the most absolute of all truths. Let’s keep this in mind as we explore one of the most important mathematical theorems.

In 1931, Austrian mathematician Kurt Gödel asserted that for any mathematical system, there will always be true statements that cannot be proven. This is also known as Gödel’s incompleteness theorem. This theorem shows that truth and provability aren’t exactly the same, as certain mathematical statements such as the twin prime conjecture cannot be proven despite being known to be true, due to factors such as infinity or unpredictability.

This caused many physicists such as Stephen Hawking to wonder if a Theory of Everything was possible to find because this issue must certainly also be the case for certain physical statements.

So how could we ever find the Truth if we cannot “prove” it? When can we categorise a statement as true?

Truth must therefore rely on our current knowledge and as a result, on our perception of the world.

A good thing to remember is that we do not know anything, rather, we hold the belief that we know something.

What we think we know, may end up being wrong, partly wrong, or incomplete. In fact, I tend to believe that everything is incomplete. Physicist and mathematician Professor Philipp Von Jolly, believed our understanding of reality was almost complete, until Max Planck proved him wrong with his discovery of quantum physics.

How could we be sure that we have fully explored a subject matter?

“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns – things that we don’t know we don’t know”. – Donald Rumsfeld.

There will always be unknown unknowns and there is no way to know what they are exactly.

Think about our current understanding of the Universe. We certainly know more than we used to a century ago, or even a decade ago.

However, physicists such as Alex Filippenko from the University of California, Berkeley, asserted that we may only understand about 4% of the Universe. Following this assumption, how could we believe that we are even close to solving the biggest riddles of Life?

As Lee Smolin pointed out in his book ‘Three Roads to Quantum Gravity’, we currently are able to observe anything that is about 14 billion light years away from us. The more we move through time, the more we may be able to observe, due to the expansion of the Universe. But the limits of the observable Universe are not the limits of the Universe. Ervin Laszlo quoted this perfectly :’The boundaries of our Universe are not the boundaries of the Universe’.

What is the Universe?

A Theory of Everything would explain all known physical phenomena but isn’t there something beyond the physical, which also belongs to the Universe?

‘L’instinct de l’homme a été faussé par le savoir’ (The instinct of men was taken over by the intellect)  – Gitta Mallasz.

Science offers us an intellectual approach of Life, which is of course beneficial in a society that values logic and materialism. However, this “disconnected” view has caused us to neglect the spiritual aspect of the World. The intellectual must have certain limits. See how even the brightest minds are confused with the intricacy of quantum physics? If we cannot wrap our minds around the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, what makes us think the rest will be easier to grasp?

Perhaps, the term “understanding” will eventually have to be replaced by “innerstanding”, a state of inner knowingness that does not require external or intellectual endorsement.

Not only this, but we may also have to see beyond the duality of right and wrong. We have seen that our perception of the World is limited, why should we further limit ourselves with biases?

We believe that “if I am right, you must be wrong”. We trust that only one field such as religion or science bears the truth, and that the other is only heresy or superstition. How can we see the Truth if we are constantly building walls around our mind in order to protect our belief system? This constant division does not support an authentic quest of Truth but rather a quest of flattering the ego by “proving” others wrong.

Will we ever unite? Will we ever agree? How can there only be One Truth in a World that holds countless?

One day, we might have to confront the idea that we may never achieve a full understanding of the Universe we live in. And perhaps, this is for the better.

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

About Melina Maghazehi
Melina Maghazehi is the founder of Noviria. She loves learning and has for goal to share her passion for the Universe with other curious minds. Hoping that this will allow people to become more conscious of the beauty of the World we live in.

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