People seem to be disillusioned with many things, including love, religion, spectator sports and cinema, but not science. If asked what people have excelled in, everyone can say ‘science’. Other areas of extraordinary human performance, such as athletics, are also attributed to ‘advances’ in science.

At first glance, the science is impressive. It shows us spectacular images of galaxies; claims to have photographed a black hole and claims to know the origin of mass and to have evidence that gravity is a wave. And it is very difficult for sick people to die anymore because there is some magic potion or some miraculous medical procedure. The word ‘scientist’ continues to evoke respect and gratitude. They just add ‘quantum’ to something and we accept that it must be important. And they just have to prefix their profession with ‘neuro’ and they can say anything about the mind like they know what they’re talking about.

Despite all this brilliance, science has been a disappointment. It has been a disappointment in its contribution to the quality of our lives, to our understanding of the nature of physical reality and consciousness. The healthier you are, the more frustrating it is.

This is not an easy argument to make. When I say science is ‘disappointing’, what does that have to do with it? Science has fared very well compared to many other professions. Take my two – journalism and literary fiction. Both have deteriorated. They have lost prestige and importance. Middlebrow fiction has survived because of transmission, which is technological evolution, not artistic. Yes, science in 2022 isn’t as exciting as science fiction predicted, but we shouldn’t hold science responsible for writers’ fantasies. In any case, good-natured science fiction has been more prophetic than political dystopian fiction, such as The Handmaid’s Tale, or the works of George Orwell, who got almost everything wrong, driven as he was perhaps by the darkness caused by tuberculosis that generations depressed. intellectuals have misunderstood it as political analysis.

So science is disappointing compared to what? The science is disappointing compared to its reputation.

Consider knee replacement surgery. The knee is a simple joint. When bones wear out, as happens in the elderly, some parts are replaced with plastic or metal. Hospitals give the impression that people who undergo this procedure gain new knees. But the fact is that they simply roll less after replacement. It’s not like seniors can suddenly start running after “replacing” their knees. Even in fixing a simple joint like the knee, the medical field is far from mimicking the power of the natural human body.

Modern medicine does not rejuvenate. It does not extend life; prolongs death. It may seem that science has helped people live longer; but the fact is people are just dying later. Most seniors have a poor quality of life for decades before they are finally allowed to go. I don’t know about you, but all of this just isn’t good enough for me. According to current science, my knees only have three more decades of running left. After that, I’m expected to accept the substandard life of an elderly person and a generally meaningless existence. You could argue that in three decades some amazing innovation will help me run forever, but the science has been so bad on actual rejuvenation that I’m very concerned.

Also, science is unable to clearly answer many simple questions. For example, is it good or bad to fast when you have a viral injection? Science does not know the answer to every reasonable question about fitness. A search for clarity would be a journey through camps and cartels, all claiming different conclusions based on the “scientific process.”

Also, our understanding of the nature of reality has not changed significantly in the last hundred years since the Copenhagen Interpretation formalized the ideas of quantum mechanics, despite the investment of billions of dollars in large hadron colliders and the apparent discovery of many particles. Many exotic things that have been said in science are more speculative than people think. Our understanding of the universe, dimensions and time, too, has not changed significantly in decades. There is a hint of this in popular science.

Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar talks about the same cool sex science mentioned in Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, published in 1980, in Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, published in 1988. It would be absurd to say that it doesn’t. there has been no progress in the last 50 years, and I do not suggest that at all. But I say that the progress made has been quite modest. For example, the James Webb telescope, launched last year, captures sharper images of galaxies than Hubble, which was launched in 1990, but the Webb telescope is not the transformative machine that Hubble was despite coming three decades later. Commercial air travel, too, has not gotten any faster in the past 60 years. In fact, if we consider the demise of Concorde, air travel has slowed down for the wealthy.

You could argue that Concorde’s failure suggests that it’s not that we haven’t made advances in science; it’s just that these advances don’t yet make commercial sense. Also, the modern technology industry has products it cannot bring to market for ethical reasons – such as some forms of genetic engineering. But transformative technologies that are hidden for commercial or ethical reasons are very few. In general, we don’t have some things because we don’t know how to do them.

Manu Joseph is a journalist, novelist and creator of the Netflix series, ‘Decoupled’

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