Limits of Science1

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  • 7/29/2019 Limits of Science1


    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 thebigbang.

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    Assumptions of Science

    Nature is understandable

    The rules of logic are valid

    Language is adequate to describe the natural realm

    Human senses are reliable. Mathematical rules are descriptive for the physical world

    Unexplained things can be used to explain other

    phenomenon (e.g. gravity is thus far unexplained but it is

    used to explain the movement of planets and the bendingof light)

    Observable phenomenon provide knowledge about

    unobservable phenomenon

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    Assumptions of science

    True, physical universe exists

    Universe is primarily orderly

    The principles that define the functioning of theuniverse can be discovered

    All ideas are tentative, potentially changed by newinformation

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    Basic Assumptions of ScienceNature is orderly, i.e., regularity, pattern, and structure.Laws of nature describe order.

    We can know nature. Individuals are part of nature.Individuals and social exhibit order; may be studied sameas nature.

    All phenomena have natural causes. Scientific explanationof human behavior opposes religious, spiritualistic, andmagical explanations.

    Nothing is self evident. Truth claims must be demonstrated

    objectively.Knowledge is derived from acquisition of experience.Empirically. Thru senses directly or indirectly.

    Knowledge is superior to ignorance.

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    Basic Assumptions of Science

    Assumptions are accepted without proof

    Form the basis of all scientific thinking

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    Limitations of Science

    Science can't answer questions about value. For example,

    there is no scientific answer to the questions, "Which of

    these flowers is prettier?" or "which smells worse, a skunk

    or a skunk cabbage?" And of course, there's the more

    obvious example, "Which is more valuable, one ounce of

    gold or one ounce of steel?" Our culture places value on

    the element gold, but if what you need is something to

    build a skyscraper with, gold, a very soft metal, is prettyuseless. So there's no way to scientifically determine value.

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    Limitations of Science

    Science can't answer questions of morality. The problem of

    deciding good and bad, right and wrong, is outside the

    determination of science. 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, morality. The science can'thelp here.

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    Limitations of Science

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

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    The Limitations of Science

    Scientismforms the basis for many

    modern materialistic and rationalistic


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    Scientism is the acceptance of scientific

    theory and scientific methods as applicable

    in all fields of inquiry about the world,including morality, ethics, art, and religion

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    We exist as material beings in a material world,

    all of whose phenomena are the consequences of

    material relations among material entities." In aword, the public needs to accept materialism,

    which means that they must put God in the trash

    can of history where such myths belong.

    Richard LewontinRetrospective essay on Carl Sagan in the January 9, 1997New York Review of Books,

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    Scientific Materialism

    Scientific Materialism accepts only one reality: thephysical universe, composed as it is of matter andenergy. Everything that is not physical,measurable, or deducible from scientific

    observations, is considered unreal. Life isexplained in purely mechanical terms, and

    phenomena such as Mind and Consciousness areconsidered nothing but epiphenomena - curious

    by-products, of certain complex physicalprocesses (such as brain metabolism)

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    Scientific Materialism There is no God,

    No angels

    No Devil

    No good No evil

    No survival of physical death,

    No non-physical realities, and

    No ultimate meaning or purpose to life

    No Heaven

    No afterlife

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    Scientific Materialism

    Only that which can be observed and

    measured through the technique of

    Scientific Method is real, and everythingelse is unreal.

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    John Horgans

    The End of Science

    But science itself tells us that there are limits toour knowledge. Relativity theory prohibits travelor communication faster than light. Quantummechanics and chaos theory constrain our

    predictive ability. Evolutionary biology keepsreminding us that we are animals, designed bynatural selection not for discovering deep truths of

    nature but for breeding. Perhaps the mostimportant barrier to future progress in scienceespecially pure scienceis its past success.

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    Hogan continuedUnsolvedProblems after many years and dollars spent.


    Weather Prediction Earthquake Prediction



    Artificial Intelligence Origins of life and synthesized life

    Higgs Bosons and other basic particles

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    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.

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    Knowledge is a relationship between ideas aboutobservations.

    Are there other ways of knowing in addition to the ways ofScience?

    Are painting, dance, music, religion other ways of


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    Are there question asked by art or religion?

    Are those question understood by Science?

    Can science answer the questions asked bypainting or religion?

    Can science decide which painting or which

    musical score is great and which is dross?

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    Transitions to Complexity

    Does quantum physics subsume chemistry?

    Does chemistry subsume life?

    Does biology subsume consciousness?


    Are there unanticipated, non-deducible transitions

    to new organizations of matter?

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    Organizations of Matter

    Prigogine showed spontaneous organization was

    described by higher order thermodynamics.

    Chaotic, entropy dissipating systems snap into

    order as the Belousov-Zhabotinsky Reaction,

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    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


    Are there isolated islands of knowledge?

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    Omega Point

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    But Still I Take the Side of

    ScienceI take the side of science in spite ofthe patent absurdity of some of itsconstructs, in spite ofits failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises ofhealth and life, in spite ofthe tolerance of the scientific community forunsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, acommitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of

    science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of thephenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a prioriadherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a setof concepts that produce material explanations, no matter howcounterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, thatmaterialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. Theeminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believein God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allowthat at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miraclesmay happen.

    Harvard Genetics Professor Richard Lewontin

    January 9, 1997New York Review of Books,