The Limits of science: an actual discussion

How does science work? And what's all this about quantum mechanics?

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Kuznetzova
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The Limits of science: an actual discussion

Post by Kuznetzova »

I had a choice to either create a new thread, or to post this in the existing thread with the same name. As many of you know, that older thread has deteriorated into 24 pages of directionless trollbaiting and personal attacks. Even the main 'character' of the thread (who calls himself skakos) has deteriorated into posts that are barely more than 20 words long. But even in his short, shrift posts he still finds a way to pack the most insulting personal punches -- making sure to remind us that he is "reporting our posts" and that we are all "ignorant" and "dogmatic".

To demonstrate to the entire world (and to the dear moderators here) that we are neither ignorant of science, nor philosophy, nor are we dogmatic, I will post the following actual discussion of the LIMITS OF SCIENCE.

If any of you want to discuss the limitations of science, here is your home thread. If you want to play internet Trollbait insult game, you will want to leave this thread and go two doors down the hall to skakos's thread.
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Kuznetzova
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Re: The Limits of science: an actual discussion

Post by Kuznetzova »

In any discussion of the limitations of science we must carefully differentiate two different topical claims.
  • 1. The topic of whether the content of the scientific knowledge is limited.
  • 2. The topic of whether science is methodologically limited.
The first topic is easy to lay to rest, since it is factually true that the content of scientific knowledge is limited. These limitations are seen in both the incomplete theories and in the plain lack of data on physical objects which humans cannot yet measure. Even physics does not have a complete theory. There may be a set of rules by which life first forms and evolves on planets which support it. There may even be "laws" by which this happens. But science remains silent on those rules and laws from lack of data on extra-terrestrial life.

Transitioning to the second topic. This topic is whether science, as a methodology adopted by professionals is, in some way, intrinsically limited. This is a completely different claim than the proceeding section. An analogy here would be writing that, "science has no data on organic life forms outside the solar system" versus the claim, "Science can never collect data on extraterrestrial life outside the solar system, even theoretically."

An analogy (which is more pertinent to us here at this forum) would be comparing "Science has no data on near-death experiences" versus the claim "Science can never compile evidence about near-death experiences because of an intrinsic methodological shortcoming" or "The scientific method is impotent in having to ever form a theory of NDEs, ever."

In all cases, it would be counter-productive to simply keep listing the lack of data of particular phenomena in nature as a demonstrations of a methodological limitation of science. The usual form of this fallacious argument goes: "Science cannot explain X, and science cannot explain Y, and science cannot explain Z, ergo science is limited (methodologically)." This is patently fallacious, since the lack of particular data on any given phenomena says nothing about the limitations of the methodology within the disciplines of science.

Both of these topical arguments (lack of data, versus methodological limits) are plausible topics in philosophy. Each are equally valid and interesting for discussion. In the case of David Chalmers, he points out an actual methodological limitation. That is, it needs to be emphasized that Chalmers's writing on Consciousness is fundamentally different than "Science cannot explain consciousness right now!" Chalmers literally is taking the position that science lacks the epistemological tools to describe consciousness at all, even theoretically. The, raw empirical sciences of biology, and neuroscience, as they exist, suffer from an epistemological gap when it comes to knowledge of consciousness. The overly-rough synopsis of Chalmers would be to say something similar to, (for example) :
Even if neuroscience had a complete wiring diagram of the human brain down to molecular binding sites on synapses, you still could not infer from that diagram that the person was having internal experiences.
That is, even if neuroscience was taken to methodological completion, the completed neuroscience still cannot reach this conclusion. This limitation of science was received well. Even the most hardened reductionists agree this problem persists. (e.g. Richard Dawkins)

This thread involves the topic of limitations in science; science as both a body of knowledge, and science as a method engaged in by professionals. It is therefore, not a place to make self-fulfilling prophecies, tautologies, word games, seances, or utilize invisible unicorn defense. The "Invisible Unicorn that I know exists, but you can't measure it because it is invisible" has no place in this thread. If you want to discuss the "invisible human soul that exists but science can't measure it because science is limited to physical things. But woopsie, the soul is non-physical" please go back and do unicorn-talk in skakos's thread. Not here.
Ginkgo
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Re: The Limits of science: an actual discussion

Post by Ginkgo »

Kuznetzova wrote:

This thread involves the topic of limitations in science; science as both a body of knowledge, and science as a method engaged in by professionals. It is therefore, not a place to make self-fulfilling prophecies, tautologies, word games, seances, or utilize invisible unicorn defense. The "Invisible Unicorn that I know exists, but you can't measure it because it is invisible" has no place in this thread. If you want to discuss the "invisible human soul that exists but science can't measure it because science is limited to physical things. But woopsie, the soul is non-physical" please go back and do unicorn-talk in skakos's thread. Not here.
I think I demonstrated the shortcomings of metaphysics in the skakos thread, and why metaphysics isn't science. Chalmers does metaphysics and he would be the first one to admit this. He would in no way ever claim that something like qualia is demonstrable through science.

Hameroff on the other hand is both a scientist and a metaphysician. At no stage has Hameroff ever claimed he has successfully combined science and metaphysics. Both Chalmers and Hameroff would be acutely aware than no one to date has been able to do this despite the claims by people who do pseudo-science.
Felasco
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Re: The Limits of science: an actual discussion

Post by Felasco »

This topic is whether science, as a methodology adopted by professionals is, in some way, intrinsically limited.
The answer is yes. Science exists in the medium of thought. Thought is limited, just as every other aspect of the natural world is limited. Thus, science is intrinsically limited.

We could discuss the nature of thought, that which all science and philosophy are made of, except that this appears to be a subject of very limited interest to both scientists and philosophers.

Scientists and philosophers are typically interested only in the content of thought, but not the nature of thought. This is the equivalent of researching all the creatures in the ocean, but never getting around to investigating the water that they are all made of, that they all swim in.
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Arising_uk
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Re: The Limits of science: an actual discussion

Post by Arising_uk »

Felasco wrote:The answer is yes. Science exists in the medium of thought. Thought is limited, just as every other aspect of the natural world is limited. Thus, science is intrinsically limited. ...
Your evidence that 'thought' is necessarily limited?

Your evidence that the 'natural world' is limited?
We could discuss the nature of thought, that which all science and philosophy are made of, except that this appears to be a subject of very limited interest to both scientists and philosophers.

Scientists and philosophers are typically interested only in the content of thought, but not the nature of thought. This is the equivalent of researching all the creatures in the ocean, but never getting around to investigating the water that they are all made of, that they all swim in.
This is an example of your lack of philosophical knowledge as the nature and content of thought have been the discussion of Philosophy for at least three hundred years, if not two and half thousand. Its also the current discussion of Science.
Blaggard
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Re: The Limits of science: an actual discussion

Post by Blaggard »

The only people claiming their wisdom is perfect are religious idiots, everyone else has the common sense to note that all thought is biased by perspective. Science is of course no exception which is why the method exists to try to minimise the subjective inputs on the results. Of course science is still biased but then it never claimed to be perfect nor does it have to contest such a straw man in the first place. It is what it is. Inadequate, often biased but at least it has filters, filters that don't require you burn people or pull them asunder with wild horses if they have have points of view that differ from yours... ;)

The only perfect area of reason which is basically just mythical arm waving in lieu of any evidence is religion in general, I find though it is a dog pile on of idiots talking circular shit about how their God is bigger than someone elses God and hence is right about oooooooooooo everything, like some automaton with a perpetual boner for absolutes and a lack of real reason about anything at all. Yeah well God created heaven and Earth in 6 days and rested on the 7th, yeah well FSM created the Earth in 4 days and then had 3 days off, creating the first four day weekend, which shows how he is hence more powerful than your God who took way longer to create a man a midgit and a mountain et al. Yeah well my God has 96 arms and shoots lazer beams of pure logic out of his ass. Yeah well my God has Machine gun mounted nipples and shoots infinite lazer beams from his magic hat, so stroll on you heathen idiot.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fXm3Ivgr04

"Because, I said, all the others are obviously wrong and mine is right! Pfff idiot."

Lol priceless.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bINA6Fzigrk

"The Lord our God is a Jealous God, and that is why he had Jesus killed before he became too popular."

LMAO.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=leYKr2Q ... t5B3kock9D
Last edited by Blaggard on Sat Apr 26, 2014 2:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Arising_uk
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Re: The Limits of science: an actual discussion

Post by Arising_uk »

Blaggard wrote:The only people claiming their wisdom is perfect are religious idiots, everyone else has the common sense to note that all thought is biased by perspective.
I'd have thought thought is perspective? To think otherwise is to think there is a 'thought' that isn't?
The only perfect area of reason which is basically just mythical arm waving in lieu of any evidence is religion in general, ...
How is it perfect reasoning?

Truth-Functional Logic is a perfect area of Reason.

As I guess is Mathematics.

Why are you trying to turn this thread into a discussion of religion?
Blaggard
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Re: The Limits of science: an actual discussion

Post by Blaggard »

Well maths relies on the axiom that 1+1=2, and hence is only pure because you establish all the rules as absolute in the first place. There's nothing perfect about any area of reason and that was the point of bringing religion into it which of course claims the opposite.

One could also say any area of reason that establishes absolute values or absolute truth as a precursor to reason is likewise flawed if you wanted but then where would that leave us..? ;)

How do you go about establishing something is absolutely true objectively anyway, if its not to say it just is because God said so?
uwot
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Re: The Limits of science: an actual discussion

Post by uwot »

Kuznetzova wrote:In any discussion of the limitations of science we must carefully differentiate two different topical claims.
  • 1. The topic of whether the content of the scientific knowledge is limited.
Scientific knowledge is empirical. Essentially, it is limited to what we can see.
Kuznetzova wrote:[*] 2. The topic of whether science is methodologically limited.[/list]
No it isn't. It doesn't matter how you discover or demonstrate a phenomenon.
Kuznetzova wrote:The first topic is easy to lay to rest, since it is factually true that the content of scientific knowledge is limited. These limitations are seen in both the incomplete theories and in the plain lack of data on physical objects which humans cannot yet measure. Even physics does not have a complete theory. There may be a set of rules by which life first forms and evolves on planets which support it. There may even be "laws" by which this happens. But science remains silent on those rules and laws from lack of data on extra-terrestrial life.
Well there is the field of astrobiology, but as you point out, they haven't got anything extra-terrestrial to go on.
Kuznetzova wrote:Transitioning to the second topic. This topic is whether science, as a methodology adopted by professionals is, in some way, intrinsically limited.
Most science done by professionals, is what Kuhn called Normal Science; it is basically rigorously checking data. Different sciences have different techniques and accepted practices rather than methodologies. Even they can change as new phenomena are discovered, but if there isn't any data, there isn't any science.
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Kuznetzova
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Re: The Limits of science: an actual discussion

Post by Kuznetzova »

Arising_uk wrote: Your evidence that 'thought' is necessarily limited?

Your evidence that the 'natural world' is limited?
The word "limited" is getting lost in a flurry of semantics. I didn't really intend to talk about whether the absence of all limits implies the existence of something infinite. (I suppose it needs to be said...) What the word "limited" means in this context is that the method of science cannot actually perform up to some satisfactory level of success in which it is normally perceived.
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Arising_uk
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Re: The Limits of science: an actual discussion

Post by Arising_uk »

Depends what you mean by level of success? Are there questions that science is not suited to answer? Sure, pretty much anything to do with existentialism or phenomenology. Otherwise, as long as one is happy with how answers, science does a bang-up job providing them when the observations are possible. It also provides a pretty nifty framework for setting and settling questions about the world and maths appears to be a dandy language to model them in. Like uwot said, its empirical so its essentially limited to what we can perceive but as Wittgenstein and Kant pointed-out, can we even talk or think about what we can't perceive? I doubt it.
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Kuznetzova
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Re: The Limits of science: an actual discussion

Post by Kuznetzova »

Felasco wrote: Science exists in the medium of thought. Thought is limited, just as every other aspect of the natural world is limited. Thus, science is intrinsically limited.
Did you mean traditionally?

Very recently, some published proofs in mathematics are so long that humans can't even read them, let alone manually check them line-by-line. These long proofs are created and checked by computers. Our understanding of nuclear weapons has been altered by simulations done in computers, and we have been using hand calculators for over a century now. There are medicines on our shelves which were developed in part by computer simulations of protein folding. Meteorologists on TV predicting weather ahead of time, will almost always mention a computer model.
Felasco
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Re: The Limits of science: an actual discussion

Post by Felasco »

Kuznetzova wrote: What the word "limited" means in this context is that the method of science cannot actually perform up to some satisfactory level of success in which it is normally perceived.
Apologies, I don't understand what you mean here. If could illustrate with examples, or try other wording, perhaps that will help?
Felasco
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Re: The Limits of science: an actual discussion

Post by Felasco »

Kuznetzova wrote:Did you mean traditionally?
No, I don't think so.

I understand you (perhaps incorrectly) to be asking if science is limited in it's ability.

My reply is to point out that science is made of thought, and that thought is a physical process of the human body, and is thus limited just as everything else in nature appears to be.

As example, consider another physical element of the human body, blood. Blood is obviously incredibly important. But you can't use it as an oil replacement to lubricate the engine of your car. Blood is very well designed to perform a particular job, but it is not unlimited in ability.

My argument is that thought, what science is made of, is in this same relationship with reality. Thought is a physical process of the human body which evolved in response to challenges and opportunities in a particular environmental niche. Thought is very effective at certain operations, which has given us a competitive edge over many other species. However.....

The jury is still out on whether thought is a successful adaption. As example, I remind readers that the human race has aimed thousands of nuclear weapons down it's own throat, and exists on the perpetual edge of self destruction, a reality we are not intelligent enough to even remark on very often.

Given these very well documented thought driven problems which arise in both our personal and social lives, it seems reasonable to propose that thought, like all other aspects of the natural world, is limited in ability. Thus science, which is made of thought, would also be limited.

Imho, a key limitation of thought is that it functions by conceptually dividing everything it observes, when reality is actually a single unified thing. This built in bias for division is a key source of distortion which warps our understandings on the personal, social and scientific levels.

As example, it is only recently that science has begun to fully understand that the environment it hopes to study is actually one big interconnected thing, and not a collection of discrete separate elements. Such evolving understandings gave rise to the environmental movement, which began to develop in earnest in just my life time.
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Re: The Limits of science: an actual discussion

Post by uwot »

Felasco wrote:My reply is to point out that science is made of thought, and that thought is a physical process of the human body, and is thus limited just as everything else in nature appears to be.
You're doing it again, Baba Bozo. Probably the most important question in philosophy is 'What do you mean?' It is fundamentally what the Socratic method tries to establish; a side effect is that it sometimes uncovers the fact that people are either not clear, or have no idea what they are talking about. Your basic premise is that 'thought is limited'. So: what do you mean? Two alternatives spring to mind: the first is the trivially true observation that, as a physical apparatus, the human brain can only perform a limited, albeit impressive number of functions at any one time. The second option is that the human brain is limited in what it can think about. For all we know, that is true, but in order to prove it, we would have to demonstrate that there are things we can't think about, but do so without thinking about them. Good luck with that, Baba Bozo.
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