At the South Pole (1912) L to R: Wilson, Evans, Scott, Oates and BowersWhat is the final frontier?

It depends who you ask.

Fermat had his “last theorem” and Hilbert had his decisive “problem”[1];

The crew of the Enterprise searched for it at the center of our galaxy (Star Trek V);

Robert F. Scott might have named the South Pole;

And scientists the world over search among countless frontiers of knowledge.

The great philosopher of science J.B.S. Haldane put it this way-

Finally [science] is man’s gradual conquest, first of space and time, then of matter as such, then of his own body and those of other living beings, and finally the subjugation of the dark and evil elements in his own soul.[2]

In other words, the final frontier of science lies in mastery of good and evil in the human soul.  Indeed this has been the perennial hope of thinkers throughout all millennia, and the sad history of the 20th century shows that science has not yet conquered the final frontier of good and evil.

Another searcher asked pretty much the same question two thousand years ago-

“Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” [Matthew 19:16]

Adventurers, philosophers, scientists and theologians all arrive at pretty much the same questions: What should I do? How then shall we live?  Every generation seems to start their search over again at the very beginning, without having inherited the answer from the previous generation.

Scientific knowledge grows daily, and yet the questions of ethics persist. Ethics is the final frontier: “How then shall we live?”  Is there any other question that can claim priority?

And since the final question persists in the face of all human knowledge, it is a question that demands faith. Faith in something, or someone lies at the heart of the heart’s search for ethics, the final frontier.

[1] The German philosopher and mathematician David Hilbert in 1900 proposed to find a “general process that could decide, given any formal statement composed of mathematical symbols, whether that statement was true or false.  He called the problem of finding this decision process the Entscheidungsproblem.” (the deciding, decisive, conclusive, problem). – quote from Freeman Dyson, The Scientist as Rebel, (The New York Review of Books, 2006), p. 9.

[2] J.B.S. Haldane, Daedalus, or Science and the Future (London: Kegan Paul, 1924). 


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