The first section of Kitcher made me think about science in terms of a pursuit towards a complete understanding of the universe. It seems like every time science comes up with a good theory to explain the universe, it eventually is proved wrong by someone else. The exception is in mathematics; if an idea becomes a theorem it is forever true. Good example is Newton’s idea of gravity. It was later disproved by Einstein with his theory of gravity. However, Newton’s theory proved to be able to predict phenomena as it applied to his world. It was only when technology was able to observe beyond the limits of Newton’s theory were we able to prove he was wrong.
So it makes sense to say that theories only work when they are applied in the correct setting. Best example of this is general relativity and quantum mechanics. It is impossible to explain the gravititational force with quantum mechanics—likewise with explaining the other three fundamental forces (electromagnetic, weak, and strong) with general relativity. In fact, the mathematics behind the two theories are almost opposite of one and another. From this, explaining why mathematics is ‘absolute’ becomes trivial; the first thing mathematics does is specify the set in which the operations are preformed.
So the driving force behind new theories being developed and putting old theories into doubt depends as much on technology as it does with individuals with poor fashion sense. As a result, I firmly believe that we may never truly have one theory that can explain everything in the universe. Well, maybe everything in our universe but not everything that exists (little bit of theoretical physics). The theory of the atom leads to atomic particles which lead to the standard model of particles. Eventually, I believe we will be able to detect/observe particles that are ‘more fundemental’ than those in the standard model. Then probably something beyond that and so forth until we lose the ability to perform science.