Science marches in — basic theories

Four theories of science are essential to our understanding of what our “environment” is and how it and we got that way. These are theories in the scientific sense, bodies of accepted knowledge – not at all the same thing as hypotheses. All have been tested by innumerable experiments which have found them to be true to nature. This does not mean that they will never be improved upon, but whatever other theory or extension does so must also explain why they are true in current applications.

We generally consider physics to be the most “basic” of sciences, because it is self-contained and explained by no other science. It in turn explains chemistry – and therefore geology – and parts of biology. Thermodynamics, quantum mechanics and relativity lie within the domain of physics. They are explained here, because they are necessary to an understanding of the first subject, cosmology. Evolution through natural selection is also explained here. Plate tectonics only directly concerns geology and so fits well into that chapter. Chemistry is a fairly vast subject, more than a theory, and will be discussed with physics as well as with biology.

The result of it all is that we live in a world where matter sometimes behaves like a particle and sometimes like a wave and where on the atomic scale only probabilities can be calculated. All this is taking place in a curved four-dimensional space-time in which space is expanding at an accelerating rate! And this space is not an empty vacuum, it is something. Got that? If not, you might want to read it again. But above all, do not give up. It takes some getting used to, that’s all.

And that is not all. Since mutation is random, both evolution and quantum mechanics inject the theme of randomness into our understanding of the workings of the universe.[ref]In spite of this, some scientists think the laws of nature are deterministic. I will not discuss this subject, as it tends to make my mind seize up. [/ref] Relativity brings in the vastness of the universe and the puniness of man’s place therein.

It is clear that the universe was not created for us. A much better proposition could be defended that it was made for bacteria, which greatly outnumber us and are essential for our lives. In fact, the universe was not created for us or for bacteria or for any other creature. We get along, anyway.

The bottom line is that the real, physical world is not at all as we imagine it. We really should not be surprised at this.

Now that you have the basic stuff down pat, you can go on to read about what atomic physics and chemistry tell us.