As time passes, the claim that science can comprehend everything looks increasingly nutty
Does anyone still believe that science can explain, well, everything? This belief was ascendant in the 1980s, when my career began. Bigshot scientists proclaimed that they were solving the riddle of existence. They would soon explain why our universe exists and takes the form it does, and why we exist and are what we are.
For years I believed this claim, out of deference to scientists propagating it and desire to believe. The vision of a revelation to end all revelations thrilled me. Eventually I had doubts, which I spelled out in The End of Science
and other writings. Lately, I’ve begun to look at the vision of total knowledge as a laughable delusion, a pathological fantasy that should never have been taken seriously, even though brilliant scientists propagated it.
Stephen Hawking was the most influential know-it-all. In his 1988 mega-bestseller A Brief History of Time , Hawking predicted that physicists would soon find an “ultimate theory” that would explain how our cosmos came into being. He compared this achievement to knowing “the mind of God.” This statement was ironic. Hawking, an atheist, wanted science to eliminate the need for a divine creator.