Every so often, someone comes up with a story about the miracle of seeing an image of the Virgin Mary or Jesus appearing in a frying pan, dirt on a window, a cloud shape, or some other unilaterally object like a tree or a potato. When the object is put on display, it is pretty difficult for some people to figure out how anyone could have put together a divine image from such a blurred smear. The first thing that usually strikes me about these stories is why someone would sit around staring at a potato long enough to have some kind of image pop into their brain. The second thing that occurs to my curiosity is how this kind of activity may be spilling over to create errors in other aspects of our interpretations of what we can observe.
The human mind is a magnificent machine that works to constantly interpret the sensory information that comes flooding in on a daily basis. We focus our brains on whatever captures our attention, and start working to put things in some kind of order. Unfortunately, if we focus on the task of finding a pattern buried in the folds of a random and chaotic shape, our brains tend to reject chaos, and invent a recognizable pattern from it. If we repeat a process enough times, and receive a similar result in the recognized pattern of the output, this approach becomes part of what we rely on as scientific method.
The science of "seeing is believing" can have some rather intriguing implications. Current scientific methods are based on the philosophy of Newtonian physics and mathematical theory. The business of science has not always placed its trust at the feet of Isaac Newton. Prior to Newtonian physics, the world revolved around the scientific explanations founded by the Greek philosopher, Aristotle. When Aristotle's ideas rule the forum of observational science, there were lots of things that sounded perfectly plausible to most scientific minds of the day, but those pesky open questions associated with Aristotle's explanations kept a few people busy trying to find a better explanation. The work of Isaac Newton created such a huge contrast with the concepts put forward by Aristotle, the scientific community was originally forced to jump the fence, and start seeing science through the eyes of Newton.
Today, Newtonian physics is certainly persuasive when brainiacs explain the reasons why everyone should categorically believe in the validity of anything rising from modern scientific methods. Newton's science is loaded with mathematical calculations, formulas, and proven observations that absolutely refute the earlier observations of Aristotle's explanation for how things work. Although society has advanced significantly after the change over to Newton's methods, there are still some of those pesky open questions associated with Newton's explanations that remain without resolution.
Despite what comes from the hallowed halls of science, the practices and conclusions currently on the table are not as absolute as our educational processes would have us believe. The closer a person gets to examining certain levels of present theory, the more we learn about aspects of science more akin to finding the face of Jesus in a potato than they are an accurate representation of reality. As long as we can achieve some practical applications for scientific observations which help us utilize foreseeable outcomes, our methods have a place in bringing order to our lives, whether these tenets are absolutely true or not.
The dangers come when we trust science as the absolute foundation for all our beliefs and activities. If we put all our trust in flawed observation based methods, we can be drawn into areas of thought which cause us to rely on incorrect conclusions. If we carry on in a life filled with flawed conclusions, we move away from finding answers which can help us continue forward in our quest to advance our knowledge of the universe. Ultimately, it is not the things that science has helped us to explain that pose obstacles to our way forward. Whenever anyone says that a way of thinking should not be explored because it is not scientific, it is these people who stand in the way of finding answers to questions that science can not yet explain. We may never succeed in finding out the definition of ultimate truth, but we should not allow scientists to claim that they are the truth, the way and the light for us all.
All it takes to prove that our senses can supply incorrect information is to look at an optical illusion, or spend some time on a warm afternoon lying in the grass, finding shapes in the clouds. There is a part of our being that tells us when we are seeing something that is not real, even though our brains are supplying us with a pattern that looks like something we recognize. In science, we use the best conclusions we can reach until someone comes along with a better explanation. For our future, there is plenty of room for better explanations of things than certain aspects modern science can provide.