LimitsOfScience

to do. See also WhatIsScience.

Discussion

… (copied from FreeWillAndDeterminism ) …

Personally, I very much doubt that our knowledge of science is by any means complete. Hence, models of the universe that are based on assumptions such as “the speed of light is a constant” are likely to change as our tools continue to improve and we discover new micro and macro forces that we currently cannot discern.

… (copied from FreeWillAndDeterminism ) …

I might be pouring oil into the fire, but I really like this:

  • Hence, models of the universe that are based on assumptions such as “the speed of light is a constant” are likely to change as our tools continue to improve and we discover new micro and macro forces that we currently cannot discern.

The laws of physics might be changing. They may be changing according to some overarching meta-laws or they might do it randomly, or adapting to us, or even in ways completely beyond our understanding. That’s not it. The thing is, if we allow the assumption that they might be changing, we suddenly find ourselves much less knowledgeable than we were before.

For example, we have various estimations of the life of the universe, or the life of our sun, of the life of our planet. These estimates are based on observing what happens now (or appropriate amount of time before now, if light-years distances are involved) and assuming it was always like that. This might be untrue: in particular, the singularity called Big Bang might be just an artifact of how the laws of physics changed. And there is no way to tell, because it affects our perception. It’s like Heron’s paradox – from his point of view the arrow never hits the turtle, simple because the way he reasons creates a singularity at this point, that prevents him to see anything that happens after it.

… (copied from FreeWillAndDeterminism) …

Hans is right: If we find reason to believe c is different elsewhere, then we’ll adjust our models. I share Hans’ skepticism that science is complete. In fact, I may go further: I suspect that we know little more than nothing. My picture of the universe is that the known universe we live in is an itty bitty island of stability. People who study the universe note that the ObservableUniverse? is almost certainly a tiny fraction of the whole of space, and many speculate that even all the connected space may well just be one of many, and there is no way of knowing.

I think there are different kinds of “limits” regarding the current state of science.

We probably agree that “we know that we know very little” and that science is not at the end … of its way to generate knowledge the way it does. So this is about the frontier of science. What we do not know today, but what scientists may know tomorrow or in a few years. That would be a kind of temporary, moving limit of science.

There may be other limits that have to do with the method that science is using. The method may use certain main ideas that have the effect of blinkers, which focus the scientist on certain aspects or phenomena and lets him ignore others. This is a systematic limit within the single method, it won’t go away when science progresses along its path. That would be a methodical limit of a flavour of science.

But Hans also talks about various definitions of the scientific methods (WhatIsScience). E. g. natural science uses a rather clearly defined method, while the social sciences use many different methods, which are not as clearly defined. So one scientific method may see what the other scientific method doesn’t see. Results may compete or may complement each other. If a definition for science could be found to enclose all scientific methods, then it might still be that the overlapping methods are somehow limited. For example by their deterministic approach (e. g. if determinism turns out to be a constituting part of all scientific methods). That would be a general limit of science. (such limits might also come from “limits of language that limit our world” or from some “request for objectivity” which might restrict the examination of subjective phenomena)

I believe (based on prior conversations) that I understand and agree with what HelmutLeitner wants to talk about here.

I differ with the choice of name, though: I like AlexandrianMethod, for example. I think that the science that gets around the “limits” of science is still a science, rooted in empiricism and repeatable experiments, it just has a different domain and set of working assumptions.

“Science” communicates “legit,” and I think what we’re talking about also deserves legitimacy.

Perhaps: LivingScience?

Define external redirect: LivingScience ObservableUniverse

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