Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Reply to comment

Lauren's picture

What Langston's Ant Tells Us About Science

I believe a duality exists in science, where its true nature may be rendered either quantitative or qualitative depending on the perspective from which it is viewed. Convention states that for something to be considered science, it must be quantitative with measurements and equations that will, in theory, demystify the scenarios and questions that surface in any scientific field and explain phenomena like Langston's Ant. In reality, if every issue could be reduced to a simple calculation, most of Man’s enduring questions about himself and the world around him would have, in all likelihood, been put to rest in the last few centuries of unprecedented inquiry and "progress". Therefore, science must exist in a more qualitative nature and should be approached instead by studying the logical contexts of these computations--through a context like emergence.

In many ways, the scientific drive to gain and possess knowledge lies at the heart of human nature. Man seeks to exert dominance and to demonstrate mastery of the world around him, and it is in this drive for physical and psychological control that the fundamental “problem” occurs. Mark Twain once said: "There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesome returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact". As this statement insinuates, scientists frequently spend a short amount of time experimenting and calculating before arriving at a conclusion, which is often incomplete but accepted as universal fact. If one studies the progression of leading scientific theory over the centuries, it becomes painfully evident that one is only “true” as long as it has not been disproved by another. Regardless if one is talking about the makeup of the solar system or the anatomy of a body, humans generate volumes of conjecture based on incomplete evidence and guesswork in an attempt to fully understand the dynamics of a system. To the human mind, this understanding represents knowledge. In turn, knowledge is viewed as a kind of ownership and mastery over information; this ownership only further imparts to Man a sense of control that may not be entirely stable in its foundation. The only thing that humans can be sure of is that they are only just beginning to understand how and why things work. Langston's Ant is proof of this. In fact, there may be many more questions posed before Man's ability to fully and thoughtfully answer them catches up. Overall, there continues to be new discoveries because there still remains that much more that Man does not even realize he does not know.



To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
4 + 11 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.