We observe the world at a certain moment in time. As we do, we observe a world in function. This world around us runs and functions in a number of ways. The physical world is driven by the forces of nature, which are driven by the underlying ‘mechanisms’ of the universe. The social world is driven by our ways of life, our governments, our philosophies, our religions, etc. These exist after a long series of evolution of thought and development, and continue to evolve as we change them. We observe both of these worlds through various means, both the two most basic and complete investigates are done through science and history. Together, they both search for the answers to how, and in the case of history why, things work the way the work and are the way they are.
Science as a term describes a wide array of studies. Physics, chemistry, and biology as fields are huge. Together, they describe the human understanding of the universe. They try to explain the how the world around us works. Yet ultimately our understanding is limited by the bounds of our intellect and the capabilities of our science. We will never answer questions such as ‘what was before the big bang’ not will we be able to study beyond the event horizon of a black hole, but answers to those questions do exist. This ‘true reality’ is what we try to study to explain. The ‘human’ reality is the result of our science. It is an imperfect attempt to evaluate the world, but scientific thought is the best approach to unlocking the secrets of the universe that humanity has ever developed. Through our queries about how the universe works, we begin to unlock the secrets of its function. By doing so, our species gradually develops an explanation for where and how we fit into existence.
We also try to seek answers to why the world functions as it does in our daily lives. We hold onto philosophies, political views, religions, and other beliefs. We are governed by laws and systems, follow certain people and groups, expect certain things to happen. In order to explain this world, and in order to justify our own view of it, we look to see why it came to be. By looking into the past, and studying the developments which led to our present day, we are able to define why and how the world is as it is. This study is called history. History is the human attempt to recount the developments which have collectively led to the creation of the world we now inhabit. Every single aspect of the societies and civilizations we have constructed are the result of a series of decisions and happenings which occurred in the past. Thus, the only way to understand the present is to try to explain and understand that past. Yet history, like science, is a flawed search. We are limited in what we can observe and explain, and many events and choices of the past have become forever lost to those of us trying to remember them in the future. Though reading historical accounts, oral tales, primary sources, and utilizing archeological evidence helps us build a picture of the past, we will never be able to truly understand all of the choices, conditions, and factors which went into play during those times because most of them were not recorded. Because we are so far removed from these distant places and times, even our understanding of the historical recounting might be flawed because of differences in culture and worldviews. What this means is that history presents us with a limited understanding of a defined set of choices which led to our current time. We will never be able to fully explain or understand that history, but our study of it brings us as close to explaining our world as possible.
Thus, history and science are searches for similar answers, and face similar problems. They answer major questions such as ‘why is the world they way it is’ and ‘how does it work’. Yet because we as humans are limited in the amount of information we possess and the capacity to possess further information, we are limited in the way we are able to explain and understand our world. Science and history will ultimately always be imperfect searches, providing incomplete answers. However, this is a result of the simple nature of our human existence, as opposed to a fundamental flaw in these methods of study. So long as we continue to probe the physical and social world with our science and history, so long as we continue to seek out answers to the questions of why and how, so long as we continue to define, refine, and develop our knowledge of the world, our civilization will come closer to understanding and explaining where, why, and how it fits into the universe.