The humanism of astrophysics
This narrative of planet formation has yet to reach its conclusion - theories and computer simulations take our understanding only so far. Although the debate has two very distinct sides, both sides are in agreement with Alan Boss as he explains that future “observations should largely settle the question of the formation mechanism” (“Formation” 521). The ideal solution would be to witness planets as they form around a new star in real time because still images of the process only lead to more theories and debates. This technology is already being pursued and “new facilities are being planned to detect planet formation in action” (Greaves 70). In this way, the rational scientist is leaning towards the humanist philosopher’s reliance on experience and observation. They can neither prove nor disprove that either theory is correct, they can only attempt to persuade their readers with use of rhetoric. Just as “the sixteenth century followers of classical skepticism never claimed to refute rival philosophical positions”, so too do our modern day astrophysicists wait for clearer observations to refute one theory or the other. Astrophysics is still a very rationalistic pursuit, and their goal still is “to bring to light permanent structures underlying all the changeable phenomena of Nature” (Toulmin 34), specifically among the cosmos. In this way they carry on the Cartesian claim that nature is something we can understand and predict. Even being completely removed from these events by millions of light years, scientists still adamantly pursue an understanding of the Cosmos in which we exist. Yet, their field is still largely dependent upon rhetoric, and it is because of this dependence that their science embodies the ideals of the humanistic philosophers.