When someone says “the science is settled” one of two things is true: (1) they know better and are lying; or (2) they are deeply ignorant about the philosophy of science. Geraint Lewis, Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Sydney writes:
. . . science is like an ongoing courtroom drama, with a continual stream of evidence being presented to the jury. But there is no single suspect and new suspects regularly wheeled in. In light of the growing evidence, the jury is constantly updating its view of who is responsible for the data.
But no verdict of absolute guilt or innocence is ever returned, as evidence is continually gathered and more suspects are paraded in front of the court. All the jury can do is decide that one suspect is more guilty than another.
In the mathematical sense, despite all the years of researching the way the universe works, science has proved nothing. Every theoretical model is a good description of the universe around us, at least within some range of scales that it is useful.
But exploring into new territories reveals deficiencies that lower our belief in whether a particular description continues to accurately represent our experiments, while our belief in alternatives can grown.
Will we ultimately know the truth and hold the laws that truly govern the workings of the cosmos within our hands?
While our degree of belief in some mathematical models may get stronger and stronger, without an infinite amount of testing, how can we ever be sure they are reality?
I think it is best to leave the last word to one of the greatest physicists, Richard Feynman, on what being a scientist is all about:
I have approximate answers and possible beliefs in different degrees of certainty about different things, but I’m not absolutely sure of anything.
Or perhaps you prefer Popper:
Science does not rest on solid bedrock. The bold structure of its theories rises, as it were, above a swamp. It is like a building erected on piles. The piles are driven down from above into the swamp, but not down to any natural or ‘given’ base; and if we stop driving the piles deeper, it is not because we have reached firm ground. We simply stop when we are satisfied that the piles are firm enough to carry the structure, at least for the time being.
Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, (New York, Routledge Classics, 1959, reprint of first English edition, 2002), 94.