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Limits of Science

Our Brains evolved for survival on
Earth and not for understanding the
nature of the universe.

Assumptions of Science
• The world is real.
• The real world is knowable and comprehensible.
• There are laws that govern the real world.
• Those laws are knowable and comprehensible.
• Those laws don't [radically] change according to
place or time, since the early stages of the big

Basic Assumptions of Science
• Assumptions are accepted without proof

• Form the basis of all scientific thinking

there's the more obvious example. Limitations of Science • Science can't answer questions about value. . a very soft metal. one ounce of gold or one ounce of steel?" Our culture places value on the element gold. is pretty useless. a skunk or a skunk cabbage?" And of course. "Which is more valuable. For example. gold. there is no scientific answer to the questions. So there's no way to scientifically determine value. "Which of these flowers is prettier?" or "which smells worse. but if what you need is something to build a skyscraper with.

right and wrong. This is why expert scientific witnesses can never help us solve the dispute over abortion: all a scientist can tell you is what is going on as a fetus develops. the question of whether it is right or wrong to terminate those events is determined by cultural and social rules--in other words. • . The problem of deciding good and bad. morality. is outside the determination of science. Limitations of Science • Science can't answer questions of morality. The science can't help here.

." So supernatural means "above (or beyond) the natural. The prefix "super" means "above. Limitations of Science • Science can't help us with questions about the supernatural." The toolbox of a scientist contains only the natural laws of the universe. supernatural questions are outside their reach.

which is a relatively recent historical phenomenon. the blind man who employs Scientific method would probably learn much more detail concerning the part of the elephant he touched then the others would about the parts they touched. is one of the most potent means of understanding its particular aspect of reality. The Limitations of Science Scientific Method. . In the metaphor of the Blind Men and the Elephant.

• The First approached the Elephant. • That each by observation • Might satisfy his mind. • At once began to bawl: • "God bless me! but the Elephant • Is very like a wall!" . • And happening to fall • Against his broad and sturdy side. • It was six men of Indostan • To learning much inclined. • Who went to see the Elephant • (Though all of them were blind).The Blind Men and the Elephant • John Godfrey Saxe's ( 1816-1887) version of the famous Indian legend.

The Blind Men and the Elephant • The Second. feeling of the tusk • Cried. • And felt about the knee: • "What most this wondrous beast is like • Is mighty plain. • Thus boldly up he spake: • "I see. "Ho! what have we here." quoth he. • So very round and smooth and sharp? • To me `tis mighty clear • This wonder of an Elephant • Is very like a spear!" • The Third approached the animal. "the Elephant • Is very like a snake!" • The Fourth reached out an eager hand. • "'Tis clear enough the Elephant • Is very like a tree!" ." quoth he. • And happening to take • The squirming trunk within his hands.

"the Elephant • Is very like a rope!" • And so these men of Indostan • Disputed loud and long. • "I see. • And all were in the wrong! • Moral: • So oft in theologic wars. • Deny the fact who can." quoth he. I ween. • Said: "E'en the blindest man • Can tell what this resembles most. • Each in his own opinion • Exceeding stiff and strong. • Rail on in utter ignorance • Of what each other mean. seizing on the swinging tail • That fell within his scope.The Blind Men and the Elephant • The Fifth. • Though each was partly in the right. who chanced to touch the ear. • The disputants. • Than. • And prate about an Elephant • Not one of them has seen! . • This marvel of an Elephant • Is very like a fan!" • The Sixth no sooner had begun • About the beast to grope.

The 19th century free scientist is long since gone. The Limitations of Science Another problem in modern science is institutionalization. . The way science gets caught up in bureaucracy and large organizations.

. The Limitations of Science Scientism forms the basis for many modern materialistic and rationalistic philosophies.

and religion . ethics. Scientism • Scientism is the acceptance of scientific theory and scientific methods as applicable in all fields of inquiry about the world. including morality. art.

. 1997 New York Review of Books." In a word. the public needs to accept materialism. all of whose phenomena are the consequences of material relations among material entities. Materialism • “We exist as material beings in a material world. which means that they must put God in the trash can of history where such myths belong.” Richard Lewontin Retrospective essay on Carl Sagan in the January 9.

• Goedel’s Theory In 1931. it is a kind of cosmic speed limit against which all other velocities may be measured. Some Limiting Theories • Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle In the Quantum Mechanical world. or how widely spread out it becomes – as a function of temperature. . there would always be some propositions that couldn't be proven either true or false using the rules and axioms • Speed of Light According to the Einstein's Theory of Relativity. the idea that we can measure things exactly breaks down. • Quantum mechanics Constrains our predictive ability. • Entropy of closed system Entropy just measures the spontaneous dispersal of energy: how much energy is spread out in a process. thus. the Czech-born mathematician Kurt Gödel demonstrated that within any given branch of mathematics. nothing in our universe can exceed the velocity of light.

and phenomena such as Mind and Consciousness are considered nothing but epiphenomena . Everything that is not physical. is considered unreal. Life is explained in purely mechanical terms. composed as it is of matter and energy. of certain complex physical processes (such as brain metabolism) . Scientific Materialism • Scientific Materialism accepts only one reality: the physical universe. or deducible from scientific observations.curious by-products. measurable.

Scientific Materialism • There is no God. and • No ultimate meaning or purpose to life • No Heaven • No afterlife . • No non-physical realities. • No angels • No Devil • No good • No evil • No survival of physical death.

. Scientific Materialism • Only that which can be observed and measured through the technique of Scientific Method is real. and everything else is unreal.

Relativity theory prohibits travel or communication faster than light. Perhaps the most important barrier to future progress in science—especially pure science—is its past success. designed by natural selection not for discovering deep truths of nature but for breeding. Quantum mechanics and chaos theory constrain our predictive ability. . John Horgan’s “The End of Science” • But science itself tells us that there are limits to our knowledge. Evolutionary biology keeps reminding us that we are animals.

Hogan continued Unsolved Problems after many years and dollars spent. • Fusion • Weather Prediction • Earthquake Prediction • Gravity • Consciousness • Artificial Intelligence • Origins of life and synthesized life • Higgs Bosons and other basic particles .

Unsolved Problem.Life • For nearly 50 years since the Miller and Urey experiment which synthesized amino acids and nucleoside in vitro the hope for the artificial creation of life appears ever more distant than. .

Unsolved Problem . • No luck so far even though a computer once beat the world chess champion. . There are in the interdisciplinary laboratory of over 200 people that spans several academic departments and has active projects ongoing with members of every academic school at MIT. The goal is to understand the nature of intelligence and to engineer systems that exhibit intelligence.AI • The Artificial Intelligence Laboratory has been an active entity at MIT in one form or another since at least 1959.

Unsolved Problem-String Theory Or the End of Science Only indirect evidence: searching for super symmetry. Direct evidence not possible. The partner particles are called super-partners. beyond energy and experiment size available to mankind • . This symmetry between forces and matter is called • super-symmetry.

Has not or Cannot • Make an observation • Form an hypothesis • Test an hypothesis .

dark matter. Higgs boson. dark energy • Occurred in the past or no longer extent . Has not or Cannot Make an Observation • No measuring instrument exist or is of poor quality • Not observable or at limits of detection such as neutrinos.

dominating paradigm . Has not or Cannot Make an Hypothesis • Not thought of or impossible to conjure as an hypothesis All Sentences in this box are false • History of Science • Not included in the current.

bosons. quarks. fermions etc .Has not or Cannot Find Evidence • String theory requires energies beyond human capacity to provide • Expositions in terms of non-observables electrons. neutrinos. protons. neutrons positrons.

Knowledge • Knowledge is a relationship between ideas about observations. music. religion other ways of knowing? . dance. • Are there other ways of knowing in addition to the ways of Science? • Are painting.

Knowledge • Are there question asked by art or religion? • Are those question understood by Science? • Can science answer the questions asked by painting or religion? • Can science decide which painting or which musical score is great and which is dross? .

non-deducible transitions to new organizations of matter? . Transitions to Complexity • Does quantum physics subsume chemistry? • Does chemistry subsume life? • Does biology subsume consciousness? OR Are there unanticipated.

. Organizations of Matter • Prigogine showed spontaneous organization was described by higher order thermodynamics. entropy dissipating systems “snap” into order as the Belousov-Zhabotinsky Reaction. • Chaotic.


Transitions • Is life or consciousness impossible to understand in terms of physics or chemistry? • The enzymes studied since 1860 is not understood. • Is the ancient Greek goal of unifying knowledge impossible? • Are there isolated islands of knowledge? .

Transitions Omega Point Psychology Biology Chemistry Physics .

no matter how counterintuitive. no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. because we have a prior commitment. 1997 New York Review of Books. Moreover. a commitment to materialism. in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life. on the contrary. But Still I Take the Side of Science “I take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs. that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations. that materialism is absolute. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world.” Harvard Genetics Professor Richard Lewontin January 9. that miracles may happen. in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured. but. .


gravity is thus far unexplained but it is used to explain the movement of planets and the bending of light) • Observable phenomenon provide knowledge about unobservable phenomenon . • Mathematical rules are descriptive for the physical world • Unexplained things can be used to explain other phenomenon (e.g. Assumptions of Science • Nature is understandable • The rules of logic are valid • Language is adequate to describe the natural realm • Human senses are reliable.

potentially changed by new information . Assumptions of science • True. physical universe exists • Universe is primarily orderly • The principles that define the functioning of the universe can be discovered • All ideas are tentative.

We can know nature. Thru senses directly or indirectly. All phenomena have natural causes. Truth claims must be demonstrated objectively.. regularity. may be studied same as nature. and structure. Individuals are part of nature. Scientific explanation of human behavior opposes religious. and magical explanations. Laws of nature describe order. i. Basic Assumptions of Science Nature is orderly. pattern. . Individuals and social exhibit order. Nothing is self evident.e. Empirically. spiritualistic. Knowledge is derived from acquisition of experience. Knowledge is superior to ignorance.