How little we know – some known unknowns

“ … it is often assumed that modern scientific accounts of the origin of the universe, the evolution of life, and the development of civilization are objective and true. But this attitude is simplistic. The disciplines of science and history are themselves influenced by the prevailing culture and shaped by the dominant paradigms. They involve implicit assumptions that are often deeply habitual.

Scientific theories are like myths in that they are mental constructs, ways of making sense of the world; they are also like myths in that they have a cultural dimension. Scientific paradigms are shared by members of scientific communities, and indeed play a major role in defining the activities of these communities.”

Paradigms are “generally accepted models of reality.” These quotes are from ‘The presence of the past’ by Rupert Sheldrake. He is a multi-disciplinary researcher who believes that “memory is inherent in nature,” and that “through repetition the nature of things becomes increasingly habitual.” It is an interesting book, and easy to read.

He lists the following (amongst others) as unexplained mysteries: how a seed grows into a tree, and a fertilised egg develops into a fly; and “the organised societies of social animals such as termites and flocks of birds.”

I would add the following as unexplained or inadequately explained: the human mind, how memories work, the inheritance of instincts, the evolution of species, cosmogony (the origin of the universe), whether mathematical relationships are timeless truths, and whether life is purposive. Attenborough’s videos about Nature seem to imply that purpose is built into the adaptive responses of plants and symbiotically-linked birds and other forms of motile life.

How much do we know about the most important aspects of our existence on Earth and of our place in the Cosmos?