Many of you, I am sure, saw the April 10 issue of Time presenting 25 anticipated breakthroughs in science and space for the 21st century. What particularly grabbed my attention was the debate between physicist John Horgan, author of The End of Science (1997), and Paul Hoffman, former editor of Discover magazine and past president of Encyclopedia Britannica.
You may be amazed to learn what Horgan argues. He claims that “science in its grandest sense—the attempt to comprehend the universe and our place in it—has entered an era of diminishing returns.” He laments, “Scientists will continue making incremental advances, but they will never achieve their most ambitious goals, such as understanding the origin of the universe, of life, and of human consciousness.”
Not once in their exchange did either Horgan or Hoffman question the presuppositions of naturalism, though the scientific method demands a new hypothesis when the old one fails to produce significant results. Horgan’s gloom reflects his mind-lock on naturalistic answers to the three big questions.
In other words, what Horgan observes is not the end of science; rather, it is the end of a naturalistic model for the origin of the universe, of life, and of human consciousness. In saying this, I am not accusing either man of being a bad scientist. Like other good scientists, they resist abandoning a failed model until they find another plausible, testable model to take its place.