Significant advances in science often come through theories, for example Pasteur’s germ theory, Darwin’s theory of evolution and Einstein’s theory of relativity. In these and many other theories, an underlying general principle explains complicated observations and phenomena.
By finding this general principle, a theory organizes and simplifies knowledge in a particular field. It transforms thinking – the old familiar world gives way to new understanding.
The search for truth remains the grand adventure of life.
The human mind has two ways of thinking and coming to the truth about anything in existence, and the ancient Greeks were the first to describe and put names to both methods:
– Empiricism is practical experience – what your senses, observations and experiences tell you about this complicated world. Your mind interprets these facts; therefore empiricism is subjective.
– Rationalism is the search for truth independent of experience. Rationalism is objective, i.e. evidence determines true or false. It is reason over opinion and belief.
These two different ways of thinking can be at loggerheads, or they can be combined to solve difficult problems. This combined effort is the essence and purpose of a theory – integrate proven, objective science with subjective insight and discovery to explain the currently unexplainable and understand the world more completely. Rationalism supplies the pieces to a jigsaw puzzle; empiricism can put the puzzle together to form a beautiful picture!