I happened to pass two colleagues in the hall today. One said to the other, earnestly, "Science can't solve the mystery of ..." and I walked out of earshot before that final noun phrase hit the airwaves. But I can guess-- beauty, consciousness, language, life -- you can fill in a couple more, and you may have some of your own.
In my mind, I whirled around and said, in a calm but piercing voice, "Yes it can."
Blank looks (In my mind I get to direct the entire conversation). Then, they ask, "Well, what is the answer?"
I say, "I don't know. Science doesn't know."
Puzzled looks this time. Then, "If science doesn't know, science can't explain it."
I shake my head wisely. "No," I say. "Science can explain it. It simply hasn't done it yet."
Why do people who are supposed to be capable of critical thinking make such a simple error? Hasn't is not the same as can't.
When we consider the things that, over the years, people claimed science couldn't explain and science finally did explain, we have a long list. When we consider the things that, over the years, science hasn't explained, we still have a long list. But the first list is growing and the second shrinking.
I firmly believe that, eventually, science will explain everything. This stand usually provokes one of two responses. Response A: "But that will destroy all the beauty in the world." That seems to me like one of the dumbest statements a human can make. Why should beauty be hooked into ignorance? We finally know pretty much how the northern lights work, something we didn't know when I was a kid. Yet, somehow, those northern lights are just as beautiful to me as they were when I first saw them on a frozen January night in Alaska.
Response B: "There are some things that humankind is not meant to know." Another dumbest thing. This is the driving force behind all the anti-science novels of people like what'sizname who wrote The Andromeda Strain and all those novels about science gone bad. As if ignorance were a passport to grace. Pffffft!
Beauty will remain.