The Unity of Knowledge vs. Mystery

Some of the staunchest and most brilliant defenders of science are trumpeting the coming "unity of knowledge." Not so sure about that. Here is a thoughtful essay by Marcelo Gleiser that questions that goal.


Can there be some kind of unification of knowledge? One way to think about the issue is to identify what are the common trends in the history of humanity, the essential urges that define us all: to learn, to love and be loved, to create bonds with members of the many tribes we belong to, to defend those bonds. The hope to know it all, to construct a grand edifice of knowledge seems to me to be an impoverishing one. We don't want to arrive at an end where all is one; we want to celebrate the plurality of learning, the unstable nature of knowledge so that we keep on searching and growing.

There are many ways to look at the world — and science provides one of them. I love it, of course, and have dedicated my professional life to it. As the philosopher Jerry Fodor once wrote, "The success of the sciences is one thing: the unity of science is quite another." There is no question that science can illuminate the origins of human creativity; there is no question that the humanities can both augment and illuminate the ways in which we create. But the true strength of our very human ability to ponder beyond the immediately necessary is that we will never know all the questions to ask. It's the incompleteness of knowledge that makes us matter.

Read the entire piece on cosmos&culture.