These unpublished notes are focused on science. But they shouldn’t be taken as singling science out for unique censure. All human enterprises are fallible. Science is actually, on the whole, pretty good at correcting itself — though not quite as good as some devotees of scientism imagine.
A note on humility.
There is no question that modern science, since, say, the days of Galileo, Copernicus, and Newton, has been staggeringly successful. Its achievements have been astonishing. It is one of the greatest enterprises of humankind, and richly merits our admiration.
We are all aware, of course, that science has a history. Before Copernicus, for example, everybody believed that the earth was the center of the universe. George Washington probably died because of the leeches that his physician attached to him, in a very up-to-date medical effort to lower his fever [?] through bleeding. Lamarckianism gave way to Darwinism, which has been modified to various forms of neo-Darwinism. Newtonian physics has been revised by relativity and quantum theory.
In recent years, contrary to what the biology textbooks led everybody to expect, scientist have found colonies of microbes thriving near hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean. Water, superheated by rising magma and laden with toxic substances like hydrogen, arsenic, lead, cadmium, and hydrogen sulfide, spews forth at temperatures rising up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit. Microbial DNA has been located two miles below the Antarctic ice cap. Living creatures have been found in solid rock at the bottom of deep mines, in brine pools that are five times as salty as the ocean, in volcanic rock twelve hundred feet below the sea floor. Where all living organisms were, until recently, thought to depend either directly or indirectly upon the energy of the sun (via photosynthesis, or eating things that live by photosynthesis, or eating things that eat things that live by photosynthesis), organisms have now been discovered that living off of sulfide, methane, iron, manganese, and hydrogen.