Sean Carroll's Very Big Picture

July 17, 2016

Hubble ESA via Creative Commons Flickr

Caltech physicist Sean Carroll thinks big...really big. And not just about quantum physics, the multiverse and the other weird ideas in his field. He also loves philosophy and wonders whether there's any underlying meaning to our lives. In this wide-ranging conversation, Carroll talks with Steve Paulson about science, the universe and what he calls "poetic naturalism."



Mr Paulson: "Hm. Okay."

Mr Paulson doesn't understand Professor Carroll's assertion that

"Science doesn't prove anything. That's not what science does".

This isn't surprising, since essentially 100% of the journalist / humanities universe doesn't understand this. Along with the vastly larger majority of human beings who never contemplate such assertions at all, the somewhat more curious journalist-o-sphere has missed the point that the noun phrase "scientific proof" is an oxymoron. It is meaningless.

More profoundly from the point of view of both the philosophy and the activity of science, the non-scientist may think that this assertion is just another weird thing that scientists say - such as telling us that bats are horses with wings rather than mice with wings - rather than a fundamental truth, which it is. Not to be able to apprehend this assertion completely and fully and for it not to inhabit every thought, when considering any aspect of scientific inquiry, as much as guarantees misunderstanding, misconception, mischaracterization and miscommunication of all further assertions from the world of science. It is utterly and completely fundamental.