In philosophy, it’s name is in-determinism but in science it is referred to as the burden of proof. Yes, fact is the foundation that science rests upon. In fact, the search for quantifiable and observable proof may just be the defining quality of science. Science searches for truth and its compass is proof. But much like the real thing, could this compass also not always point north? Could this absolute dedication to observable validation lead us astray?
As children we are confronted with the harsh reality that absolute certainty is realistically unattainable. When children observe their favorite play toy covered by a box or a blanket, at first they are distraught that it has disappeared forever. It is not until later that they realize that, out of sight does not mean our of reach and their toy is simply obstructed from view. This is a very important lesson for man to learn as he grows to accept this seemingly observer independent universe. A idea so ingrained in humanity that it leads most men to truly believe that the world keeps on spinning even with their eyes closed, a belief supported by a myriad of data from when his eyes are open but none from when they are actually closed. The truth is, that there is no way to have absolute proof in that dark moment but instead we base our thoughts on the experience we gain from opening our eyes. And so, man has grown to ignore this uncertainty of the unobservable as a logical loophole.
Science has not done the same. Perhaps, its foundation in observation is too deep to be uprooted by common sense. But there has seemed to be a recent disconnect between scientific theory and common sense with the advent of quantum theory, most specifically the Copenhagen interpretation. This interpretation essentially states that the world is instead observer dependent and it is our observation of the universe that brings it into existence. The idea is that it is our observation that causes the world to go from a realm of infinite possibilities to actually one of these possibilities being reality. More technically, anything can happen and is happening as a wave function of the quantum world but when it is observed by a conscious being; the wave function collapses to one possibility. We call this collapsed wave, reality.
The best example of this disconnect is the mind experiment of Schrodinger’s Cat. In this experiment, a cat is placed in a box with a container holding poisonous gas. This gas is rigged to have a random %50 chance to go off using the decay of radioactive particles. Once the cat is put in the box we have no way to observe it if has survived of died. Its survival is based on random chance. The Copenhagen interpretation would state that the cat actually exists in both states, that it is both alive and dead. And that it is only until the box is opened that we force the possibilities to become one reality.
While this may seem ridiculous, there is in fact a large population of the scientific community that has thrown away their childhood lesson of a observer independent reality and put themselves back at the focal point of reality. So steeped in the scientific method of observation that the black moment of doubt caused them to derive an extravagant explanation. Might the scientific method have failed them? Like children we are so determined to bring the darkness to light. But instead, we might have to grow up to realize that the room has remained in tact during the obscured walk from the light switch back to our beds and no monsters lurk in the shadows.