The Limits of Science

Discussions on the philosophical foundations, assumptions, and implications of science, including the natural sciences.

Re: The Limits of Science

Postby dlorde on October 6th, 2014, 1:21 pm 

owleye » October 6th, 2014, 3:53 pm wrote:Turning to Feynman's principles, whatever they are, and which you apparently think represent the accomplishments of science, well, I think you should tell us about them and pass it along. Shout it from the rooftop.

I don't think Feynman's principles of science represent the accomplishments of science, that would be a category error. They are given in the video I linked, and I summarised them in the same post.
dlorde
Member
 
Posts: 886
Joined: 15 Jul 2009


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby dlorde on October 6th, 2014, 2:06 pm 

Marshall » October 6th, 2014, 5:23 pm wrote:I'd be interested to know what DLorde thinks of Nancy Cartwright as a contemporary philr. of science. DLorde do you have someone better to propose?

I don't know enough of Cartwright's work to give an informed opinion. I've been opining as a scientist, having trained and worked as a scientist and spent many years associating with scientists.
dlorde
Member
 
Posts: 886
Joined: 15 Jul 2009


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby owleye on October 6th, 2014, 7:55 pm 

dlorde » Mon Oct 06, 2014 11:21 am wrote:I don't think Feynman's principles of science represent the accomplishments of science, that would be a category error. They are given in the video I linked, and I summarised them in the same post.


Thank you for responding. I recall your introducing Feynman's observations regarding what science is about, and was generally impressed with it, though I don't remember much of it. Allships is particularly concerned about the integrity of science, respecting what it believes it has achieved. As an institution, when looking at the big picture, science just has to be considered a successful enterprise, as I see it, anyway. And, in particular, its success is probably sufficient to regard science as an authority in matters it attends to. So, what is needed is to determine how and to what that success should be attributed. And, of course, there are lots of reasons for success that are shared among many disciplines, so we are seeking attributes in which there is something special about science that we should be seeking. Traditionally, this is attributed to the scientific method, and however we might think of such a method (and there are detractors), surely there is something within what it is doing that makes it a successful enterprise. Undoubtedly the first thing to consider is what it is that science has achieved. And I believe the usual response to this is knowledge, even if there remain within that concept philosophical issues. Science achieves knowledge (scientific knowledge, to be precise).

Considerable philosophical difficulties arise when knowledge is attributed to the scientific method, if that method depends on theories that can be overturned -- resulting in a change in what's true about the world. For that reason, I think, what's true about the world might be released from its harbor as knowledge (somewhat in accord with how Quine thinks of it) by thinking of knowledge in the sense in which it achieves a pragmatic outcome. Success becomes what works. And we know it works because we've achieved what counts as sufficient knowledge that it does. Alternatively, what is true is thought of as a pragmatic truth, so what is achieved is a pragmatic truth about the world.

This is certainly an important view about the scientific method. It allows theories to be overturned when it becomes clear that they are not working. I sense that Braininvat thinks of it in just this way. Lomax is an adherent. I'm not quite certain that science itself will accept this, say, when it carries on debates with certain religious viewpoints that may see it as a reason to think science has limits and that creationists should get equal time in certain matters. But maybe there's room. One principle I seem to recall goes something like 'inference to the best explanation". It may have the power needed to keep policy makers in science's corner.

Allships has also spoken about other criteria besides evidence that goes into accepted theories, and I believe when this topic was previously addressed someone came up with a laundry list of (aesthetic) principles (one such being Ockham's razor) that are sometimes considered when there are competing theories. (It is already recognized that there are more possible theories that account for the evidence than just the one picked out. Culling them may involve making use of these principles.) And while I think the success of science is made possible by putting its theories through the wringer, respecting their conformity to empirical evidence, one cannot overlook that other things are going on when theories are accepted, not all of which are based on empirical evidence. And this produces a bit of a gap in which the theory and its confirmation might not be on the same terms. I.e., they might only be applicable instrumentally or pragmatically, making it difficult to conclude that the concepts used in the theory are real or just convenient truths.

I've tried to stress that the philosophy of science, even if it doesn't yield definitive answers about science, is nevertheless an important concern of science. And this seems especially so in today's political climate where science requires public funding, but are facing policy makers who are swayed by interests that don't like what science is telling them. The footing on which science stands requires a strength adequate or more than adequate to the task.
owleye
 


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby dlorde on October 7th, 2014, 8:02 am 

owleye » October 7th, 2014, 12:55 am wrote:Considerable philosophical difficulties arise when knowledge is attributed to the scientific method, if that method depends on theories that can be overturned -- resulting in a change in what's true about the world.

Strictly speaking, it's a change in our knowledge or understanding of the world, rather than a change in what's true about the world. Because theories are provisional, many scientists would baulk even at the suggestion that it's a change in what we think is true about the world, although they might use similar phrasing casually or colloquially. The 'T' word comes with a lot of baggage that science generally prefers to avoid.
dlorde
Member
 
Posts: 886
Joined: 15 Jul 2009


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby owleye on October 7th, 2014, 12:33 pm 

dlorde » Tue Oct 07, 2014 6:02 am wrote:
owleye » October 7th, 2014, 12:55 am wrote:Considerable philosophical difficulties arise when knowledge is attributed to the scientific method, if that method depends on theories that can be overturned -- resulting in a change in what's true about the world.

Strictly speaking, it's a change in our knowledge or understanding of the world, rather than a change in what's true about the world. Because theories are provisional, many scientists would baulk even at the suggestion that it's a change in what we think is true about the world, although they might use similar phrasing casually or colloquially. The 'T' word comes with a lot of baggage that science generally prefers to avoid.


Ok. You take the view that knowledge is not justified true belief, here the emphasis being on 'true'. If knowledge about x can change, then it can't be that the state it was in before the change was true. And, by extension, what it changed into can't be held up to that standard as well, since it might later change. Thus, knowledge becomes justified belief (I might imagine, anyway).

The problem in having this picture is that the scientist who has to explain to someone that their theories aren't (considered) true is that it opens a door, perhaps a gigantic one, that allows alternative ideas on (potentially) equal footing. Even saying that theories are provisional isn't not going to help.

What's under review here is that when our knowledge about X improves (say when science accepts an improved theory), where we need to have some way of thinking of it as an improvement (and I think there must be a way), that it isn't the case that we necessarily get closer to the truth. When a new theory succeeds an older theory, the accounts associated with the new theory are considerably different than they were in the older theory. It's as if they were incomparable. Now we might argue that, as a practical matter, we can carry on the use of the older theory on the principle that it had worked before, perhaps limiting to a domain in which differences in prediction can be neglected, but this reduces science to the purely instrumental, something that its theorists probably don't wish to have their ideas based on.

So, when truth is at stake, what positive things can be said by the scientist that would help her in debates? Where lies the scientist's credibility on such matters? Belief in and of itself isn't going to work. Educated opinion may sometimes work. There has to be something in what science is telling us that makes it a successful enterprise and one that we should listen to and rely on. As far as I can see it is the scientific method, what with its emphasis on objectively obtained evidence and objectively determined results. It's not just a personal belief, but is an objectively determined belief, one that is backed up by accounts that are faithful to the evidence, and do not depend on supernatural, unexplainable, ineffable powers. And the scientist must have in her arsenal, ready at-hand, just how the method achieves that objectivity. Forensic scientists must emphasize the science. Theories must account for the evidence. Better theories must better explain. And they must be plausible, if only provisional. They must be methodically arrived at and, in the end, comprehensive in their results.
owleye
 


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby Marshall on October 7th, 2014, 5:16 pm 

dlorde » Mon Oct 06, 2014 11:06 am wrote:
Marshall » October 6th, 2014, 5:23 pm wrote:I'd be interested to know what DLorde thinks of Nancy Cartwright as a contemporary philr. of science. DLorde do you have someone better to propose?

I don't know enough of Cartwright's work to give an informed opinion. I've been opining as a scientist, having trained and worked as a scientist and spent many years associating with scientists.


In that case your testimony (about the complex and messy business---the struggle of people to test theories and then to improve on them so that the fit, breadth of applicability, reliability...improves)...In that case your testimony is even better because it is first hand! :^)

One of the favorite things in mathematics is the strategy of "successive approximation".

GR recovers Newtonian in the weak field limit (if Jorrie is around he can correct me). For most solar system application Newtonian gravity is admirably accurate. Gives the same answer out to all the decimals you really want, with LESS WORK.

We know this. typically new theories are REFINEMENTS, and the new theory RECOVERS the previous one in some appropriate limit.

Like quantum theories recovering pre-quantum ones in the "classical limit" where hbar --> 0 and quantum effects go to zero, or in the large scale limit.

So maybe there is a kind of belief that one might confess to. A faith in the blind stumbling and groping of one's own community.
That the formulas ARE somehow getting more precise and reliable at least as regards pratical application.

And that the new theories tend to REPRODUCE THE FORMULAS of the previous, but give additional information making them more reliable in special circumstances where the old ones didn't properly apply.

So provisional yes. But does one admit to a faith in "progressive approximation" ? :^)

EDIT: I just reviewed Owleye's post of about 5 hours ago, immediately preceding this. I see that what I've said here parallels what he was saying rather closely in places. So I'm reiterating in part.
====================

Owleye raised a POLITICAL issue. Doesn't it undermine public's respect for the scientific community and its findings to be told that one does not believe in scientific theories (one is always trying to improve them)?

It is not a philosophical question so much as a public relations issue, as I see it, or a science education issue. Maybe children should learn more HISTORY of science and be introduced to the hopeful idea of "progressive approximation" earlier in life. :^)

Its certainly a serious issue. Why do so many people require absolute Truth? Could it be caused by fluoride in the water?
Marshall
 


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby dlorde on October 7th, 2014, 6:13 pm 

Marshall » October 7th, 2014, 10:16 pm wrote:...In that case your testimony is even better because it is first hand! :^)

On the other hand, it's a single subjective anecdotal report ;)

So maybe there is a kind of belief that one might confess to. A faith in the blind stumbling and groping of one's own community.
That the formulas ARE somehow getting more precise and reliable at least as regards pratical application.

And that the new theories tend to REPRODUCE THE FORMULAS of the previous, but give additional information making them more reliable in special circumstances where the old ones didn't properly apply.

So provisional yes. But does one admit to a faith in "progressive approximation" ? :^)

Yes, I'd go along with that; faith in the principles of the scientific method as the best means of knowledge acquisition, and faith progressive approximation, meaning better correspondence with observation, but not approximation to any fundamental underlying 'truth'. I don't see how we can ever know the truth of reality, or how close we are to it. We shouldn't confuse the map for the territory, nor the model for the reality.

Owleye raised a POLITICAL issue. Doesn't it undermine public's respect for the scientific community and its findings to be told that one does not believe in scientific theories (one is always trying to improve them)?

It's a tricky problem - the public want certainty from science, but often only get confidence levels and probabilities. It often leads to public announcements of certainty (based on some level of confidence that might colloquially be considered 'pretty certain'). This can backfire when there are expensive or emotional implications, in that the figures may be wrong, or the 5% chance may actually occur (it will do once in 20 times), or objectors may get the figures and claim they're being lied to, etc. People were annoyed when weather forecasters got it wrong, so now they give probabilities - 'slight chance of rain', etc., and people are annoyed because they're 'hedging their bets'. Two years ago, six Italian scientists were jailed for 6 years when a lethal earthquake occurred following severe tremors, when they'd acknowledged uncertainty over it, calling a large earthquake "unlikely," but saying that the possibility could not be excluded. And then, of course, there's global warming...

It is not a philosophical question so much as a public relations issue, as I see it, or a science education issue. Maybe children should learn more HISTORY of science and be introduced to the hopeful idea of "progressive approximation" earlier in life. :^)

Yes, it's an educational and communications issue for those involved in the public understanding of science - represented in the UK by the Simonyi Professorship Chair for the Public Understanding of Science. I think it should come with basic science education in schools.
dlorde
Member
 
Posts: 886
Joined: 15 Jul 2009


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby dlorde on October 7th, 2014, 6:18 pm 

owleye » October 7th, 2014, 5:33 pm wrote:The problem in having this picture is that the scientist who has to explain to someone that their theories aren't (considered) true is that it opens a door, perhaps a gigantic one, that allows alternative ideas on (potentially) equal footing. Even saying that theories are provisional isn't not going to help.


Yes; naive honesty can be taken advantage of, and public ignorance of the subtleties can result in movements like ID (Intelligent Design) campaigning to "Teach the Controversy", as if ID was on an equal scientific footing to evolutionary theory just by claiming to have a scientific basis.
dlorde
Member
 
Posts: 886
Joined: 15 Jul 2009


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby neuro on October 8th, 2014, 7:35 am 

owleye » October 7th, 2014, 5:33 pm wrote:So, when truth is at stake, what positive things can be said by the scientist that would help her in debates? Where lies the scientist's credibility on such matters? Belief in and of itself isn't going to work....
As far as I can see it is the scientific method, what with its emphasis on objectively obtained evidence and objectively determined results. It's not just a personal belief, but is an objectively determined belief, one that is backed up by accounts that are faithful to the evidence, and do not depend on supernatural, unexplainable, ineffable powers.

My impression is you point to the right direction, and possibly something can be added:
I'd say that the crucial arguments are 2:
1. "objectively obtained evidence" in support of the current scientific view
2. all alternative hypotheses one could think of have been carefully scrutinized according to the same criterion and have failed as compared to the explanation currently held by "Science"

I believe this second point is often overlooked in debating.
It is true that scientific views evolve, but a crucial step in any such evolution comes from three main possible origins: (1) some new datum conflicts with the current view, or (3) a new hypothesis comes about that accounts for known data equally well as the current one and can also explain something else (as yet unexplained) or (3) is "simpler" in that it requires less assumptions (or, possibly more often, highlights that some assumptions were implicit in previous interpretations and are not needed by the new one).

The three instances correspond (1-2) to an extension of the domain of the theory (to new or unexplained data) or (2) to an increased "robustness" of the theory: "robustness" is a key concept in statistics, modeling and similar disciplines, and can essentially be thought of as the capability of a test / theory / model of holding true even if some of the underlying assumptions (whether explicit or implicit) do not properly hold. [Notice that this can be seen, in a sense, as a paraphrase of Ockham's razor]

This "evolution paradigm" - the new theory must either extend the domain of applicability or be more robust - constitutes in my opinion a strong argument in defence of current scientific views, because no "non-scientific" opponents will generally be able to propose alternative views that:
-- equally well account for objective observations
-- have a wider domain of applicability and
-- are less dependent on explicit/implicit assumptions and more robust
User avatar
neuro
Forum Moderator
 
Posts: 2617
Joined: 25 Jun 2010
Location: italy
Paralithdlorde liked this post


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby owleye on October 8th, 2014, 11:20 am 

neuro...

As I write, more things come to mind. Even from this post by Marshall truth is probably still a goal of scientific knowledge. The notion that the sun is much farther away from the earth is common knowledge today, but not so at the time of Aristarchus. Hail science! I've been thinking about this example overnight and will probably write a comment about it. (And, by the way, phenomenologists, beginning with Husserl, have adopted a significant portion of their investigations into a state of consciousness that is ruled by this and similar common knowledge about the world into our understanding. I believe they refer to it as some sort of default state, established by the long history that science is considered in a cultural setting. Note, however, that I don't believe this state of consciousness picks out western science so much as that western science has managed to gain a greater and longer lasting foothold on our consciousness by the sort of truths that it has uncovered.)
owleye
 


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby skakos on October 11th, 2014, 1:40 pm 

neuro » October 1st, 2014, 11:28 am wrote:
skakos » September 30th, 2014, 9:54 pm wrote:Science starts from the very basic assumption that we can understand the world.


I have the unpleasant sensation that somebody here is a little obsessed by the idea that everybody is dogmatic and lives based on "assumptions".

Why don't you try to see things in a slightly different way, with some optimism in your fellow humans?

I'd rather say "science starts from the very basic NEED / DESIRE / PLEASURE of understanding".
It might be true that the implicit assumption - that one be able to understand - lies below any attempt to >satisfy< such desire.
But are you proposing we should simply try and extinguish such desire of knowing (since we cannot)?
Some kind of exasperated stoicism? total ataxia / ataraxia? just wonder and don't ask?


I just want to pinpoint the obvious.

Science's theories must be based on something. This "something" is always a set of axioms on which we then build our theories/ scientific models. This is nothing to be ashamed of. It is just what it is.

Scientists do not think based on "nothing". Newton saw planets move and apples falling and he assumed there is a "field" somewhere which dictates their movement.

Religion is based just on observation. (e.g. I see things having a cause, so the Universe must have a Cause as well).

Science is a tool to construct theories. And it is based on assumptions. (e.g. I see things falling so I start imagining of invisible fields)
User avatar
skakos
Member
 
Posts: 599
Joined: 17 Nov 2012
Location: Athens, Greece
Blog: View Blog (4)


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby Don Juan on October 11th, 2014, 10:02 pm 

skakos » November 17th, 2012, 8:23 pm wrote:Some people believe that science (I refer to "Exact science") can (at least some day) explain everything. I however believe that science has inherent limitations which cannot be ignored. Science deals with measurable things which can be replicated in a lab while most important things in life are things which cannot be measured and cannot be replicated in a lab. Other limitations exists as well (e.g. every theory is based on axioms, which are set based on... nothing?) which I would like to discuss here.


Well we can say that Science of 2014 cannot explain everything, but Science at this stage does not end at this stage. Compare for example Science of 1800s to the Science of 2014 regarding its explanatory power. We can say there are progress at the majority of fields. Science is gaining grounds on explaining more and more phenomena, like a snowball getting bigger and bigger.

Theory are not solely based on axioms.
Don Juan
Active Member
 
Posts: 1158
Joined: 17 Jun 2010


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby Marshall on October 12th, 2014, 5:15 pm 

skakos » Sat Oct 11, 2014 10:40 am wrote:... Newton saw planets move and apples falling and he assumed there is a "field" somewhere which dictates their movement.

Religion is based just on observation. (e.g. I see things having a cause, so the Universe must have a Cause as well)...

Non sequitur. You see things falling so you imagine a force pulling them. That's OK.

But you do not see the Universe having a cause.

There is no logical reason that it cannot have always existed so we are not required to make up a "cause" for it in our minds. :^)
Marshall
 


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby neuro on October 13th, 2014, 4:47 pm 

edy420 » October 13th, 2014, 9:22 pm wrote:If we did crack the code of DNA, then we would have roughly shaped and posed the "scientific monument" of biology.


I miss your point here.
We did crack the code of DNA.
We have sequenced (not me, I didn't do anything) all the genes in our chromosomes.
The "Human Genome" project has led to a complete knowledge of the whole sequence of human genome.

The point is having a good (and readable) cooking book doesn't make you a cook.

And each protein (or micro-RNA or else) which is coded by DNA may be expressed to a variable extent, and modified by post-translational changes (acylation, glycosylation, phosphorylation, etc), and even the DNA itself can be modified (by methylation and changes in the histones that define its spatial conformation) in such a way that the full knowledge of DNA only is the beginning in understanding the full complexity of cellular regulation and cross regulation.

Just to get an idea about what I'm talking about, find somebody with a good microscope and look at a leukocyte, a fibroblast, a hepatocyte and a neuron from the same animal. They all have exactly the same DNA (nuclear and mitochondrial), but they are hugely different from one another. Actually a neuron from a mouse is much more similar to one of mine than my own fibroblasts are.
User avatar
neuro
Forum Moderator
 
Posts: 2617
Joined: 25 Jun 2010
Location: italy
dlorde liked this post


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby dlorde on October 13th, 2014, 8:22 pm 

neuro » October 13th, 2014, 9:47 pm wrote:The point is having a good (and readable) cooking book doesn't make you a cook.

Sean Carroll's chess analogy comes to mind - knowing the rules of chess doesn't make you a chess player.
dlorde
Member
 
Posts: 886
Joined: 15 Jul 2009


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby Marshall on October 14th, 2014, 2:58 pm 

Found this about the myelination that goes on after birth.
http://books.google.com/books?id=zFl7y5 ... 8&lpg=PA58

Delaying the full development of neurons until after birth makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint! Unmyelinated neurons don't work as well but they take up much less room. The myelin sheath (I guess a kind of fatty insulation) makes the neuron more bulky.

So postponing myelination until after birth, when the cranium gets larger, means that you can have a lot more neurons in the cranium! They just don't work very well until later.

DLorde mentioned 2 months. by the time the baby is 2 months old there are "hallmarks of waking consciousness" but there is still a lot of myelinating that has to get done.
Dehaene has shown that at two months infants have all the hallmarks of waking consciousness, but their unmyelinated neurons operate around four times slower, so it's a restricted form of consciousness.
Marshall
 


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby skakos on October 16th, 2014, 6:08 pm 

Don Juan » October 12th, 2014, 4:02 am wrote:
skakos » November 17th, 2012, 8:23 pm wrote:Some people believe that science (I refer to "Exact science") can (at least some day) explain everything. I however believe that science has inherent limitations which cannot be ignored. Science deals with measurable things which can be replicated in a lab while most important things in life are things which cannot be measured and cannot be replicated in a lab. Other limitations exists as well (e.g. every theory is based on axioms, which are set based on... nothing?) which I would like to discuss here.


Well we can say that Science of 2014 cannot explain everything, but Science at this stage does not end at this stage. Compare for example Science of 1800s to the Science of 2014 regarding its explanatory power. We can say there are progress at the majority of fields. Science is gaining grounds on explaining more and more phenomena, like a snowball getting bigger and bigger.

Theory are not solely based on axioms.


Theories are based on axioms.

And I am not talking just about science of 2014. I am talking about science in general.
For example how can science of... 240,000 deal with things that cannot be measured?
This is an inherent limitation. Not something we deal with because we are living in 2014.
User avatar
skakos
Member
 
Posts: 599
Joined: 17 Nov 2012
Location: Athens, Greece
Blog: View Blog (4)


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby skakos on October 16th, 2014, 6:33 pm 

Marshall » October 12th, 2014, 11:15 pm wrote:
skakos » Sat Oct 11, 2014 10:40 am wrote:... Newton saw planets move and apples falling and he assumed there is a "field" somewhere which dictates their movement.

Religion is based just on observation. (e.g. I see things having a cause, so the Universe must have a Cause as well)...

Non sequitur. You see things falling so you imagine a force pulling them. That's OK.

But you do not see the Universe having a cause.

There is no logical reason that it cannot have always existed so we are not required to make up a "cause" for it in our minds. :^)


In the same way atheists do not "see" anything NOT having a cause.
I really do not get your point here.
The universe may have or may not have a cause. These are the two possibilities.
Of course we cannot "see" it's creation, so we must make an educated guess.
For me, the option of a cause is much more logical and scientific than the other option.
User avatar
skakos
Member
 
Posts: 599
Joined: 17 Nov 2012
Location: Athens, Greece
Blog: View Blog (4)


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby mtbturtle on October 16th, 2014, 6:43 pm 

Why is it always "A Cause"? couldn't it be the causes? are those all our options?
User avatar
mtbturtle
Banned User
 
Posts: 9554
Joined: 16 Dec 2005


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby dlorde on October 16th, 2014, 7:36 pm 

skakos » October 16th, 2014, 11:33 pm wrote:The universe may have or may not have a cause. These are the two possibilities.
Of course we cannot "see" it's creation, so we must make an educated guess.
For me, the option of a cause is much more logical and scientific than the other option.

It's neither logical nor scientific. If you insist that things must always have a cause, then you must accept infinite causal regression. If you accept that some things don't have a cause, then the universe itself is the best candidate (parsimony, Ockham's Razor, etc) - we have no other data. If you make up stuff for which we have no evidence or plausible basis in what we currently know, that's unscientific.
dlorde
Member
 
Posts: 886
Joined: 15 Jul 2009


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby skyteacher on October 16th, 2014, 8:44 pm 

Without a cause, things have no meaning.
We are here, and this site exists because we are looking for meaning.
Whenever we say something or express a viewpoint, it is to justify what we say, giving meaning.
Is it too much to say that without a cause, things have no meaning?
Do you live in a meaningless world? Science and ALL its tenets will conform to this. Even science is causal.
Thus, there is a cause.
skyteacher
 


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby owleye on October 17th, 2014, 9:28 am 

skyteacher » Thu Oct 16, 2014 6:44 pm wrote:Without a cause, things have no meaning.
We are here, and this site exists because we are looking for meaning.
Whenever we say something or express a viewpoint, it is to justify what we say, giving meaning.
Is it too much to say that without a cause, things have no meaning?
Do you live in a meaningless world? Science and ALL its tenets will conform to this. Even science is causal.
Thus, there is a cause.


The use of the term 'cause' needs some defining characteristic, else it is just another word that means the same thing as 'meaning' in the way you use it. What sort of cause are you thinking about? And how is it related to 'meaning' in the sense in which it gives meaning to an otherwise meaningless world? Recall this is a philosophy board, not a place for preaching. Bottom line? I have no idea what you are talking about.
owleye
 


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby skyteacher on October 17th, 2014, 11:47 am 

Sorry I always can’t seem to see or perceive whether I am preaching. I thought preaching is best for religion, this is not a religious thing I am saying. I guess I am still learning. Or is it you taking me as preaching due to 'relevant past experience'?

A word when it is used, whenever it is used, should bear the same meaning, at least in the first (or most obvious/common/ubiquitous sense), even when it is uttered, written down, signed language, or symbolized, even from the philosophy room to the bathroom.

skakos » October 16th, 2014, 11:33 pm wrote:The universe may have or may not have a cause. These are the two possibilities.
Of course we cannot "see" it's creation, so we must make an educated guess.
For me, the option of a cause is much more logical and scientific than the other option.


dlorde on October 17th, 2014,
If you insist that things must always have a cause, then you must accept infinite causal regression…

Marshall » October 12th, 2014
But you do not see the Universe having a cause.

There is no logical reason that it cannot have always existed so we are not required to make up a "cause" for it in our minds. :^)


The above uses of ‘cause’ are talking about different aspects, but about the same word, the same meaning of ‘cause’. We can agree that philosophical language sometimes goes round, twist and turns, in order to reach the most precise meaning, and gets heavier.

‘Cause’ I am talking about is…reason, purpose, objective, direction (in order to be or exist), a position or state of being that produces a need to change to another position or status, for ANY reason.. a hypothetical state of becoming or result, affect, change that may take place after an event, in due response to the ‘cause’..

Still no idea? Shall I continue..?
skyteacher
 


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby TheVat on October 17th, 2014, 11:48 am 

I need to ask, Sky....if a gopher hole in your yard was the cause of your getting a sprained ankle, would that hole be giving your life meaning?
User avatar
TheVat
Forum Administrator
 
Posts: 7571
Joined: 21 Jan 2014
Location: Black Hills


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby skyteacher on October 17th, 2014, 11:54 am 

Thus I will be able to explain how I got my ankle sprained. It is not a punishment from heaven, the hole did not mystically appear, so i can understand it. The event is meaningful. It does not need to make me happy..
skyteacher
 


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby Marshall on October 17th, 2014, 4:05 pm 

It sounds to me like we would all, including SkyT. be willing to carefully distinguish between things like:
physical explanation of why U is the way it is
making sense of one's life, choosing a purpose
finding beauty and order in the U and in life
trying to have a society and planet that others would respect if intelligent life elsewhere ever exchanges information with us.

I see no reason to imagine that the U had a BEGINNING
but we keep finding out more and more about why it is as it is, we invent explanatory physical laws and then we invent deeper underlying laws. Anaximander (550 BCE) explained the rain through sunlight evaporating water. Then around 1900 CE we understood the molecular explanation for how it evaporates.

My personal judgement is that knowing why the U is the way it is does not give MEANING. Physical cause is irrelevant to meaning or purpose. (SkyT seems to link the two.) I think we have to MAKE purpose INVENT or "find" meaning individually and collectively, in life.

As it happens, my experience has been that understanding physical explanations increases my sense of BEAUTY AND JOY about the universe, which I express either by singing in our community chorus or by going for a walk up the hill in natural surroundings. That is an aesthetic reaction. Enjoying the view of the sky, the bay, the mountain etc. is invigorating doesn't translate in any simple direct way into purpose or "meaning"

I cannot respect tautologous one-word answers to why the universe is the way it is: tautologies that wrap understanding and values up in one convenient package. At best such packages are useful for shutting up children.

There are a lot of different things here we shouldn't confuse---different kinds of meaning, curiosity, explanation, purpose, value, beauty, ordered law-like regularity, proportion, music.

SkyT mentioned "preaching". If I were to preach, about these issues, I would want us to try to see ourselves, our society and planet "Sub Specie EeTeeorum" (a variant of "sub specie aeternitatis")
What is respectable about us? If we fail to respect ourselves and our planet would an hypothetical intelligent Other value and respect what we've become and accomplished?
Of course there may be no intelligent Other anywhere in Milkyway galaxy : ^)
but to have that viewpoint we can hypothesize comparing notes sometime with a distant correspondent---one or indeed several, perhaps many, are chemically and neurologically more than likely. Another point of view is like a fulcrum.
Marshall
 
dandelion liked this post


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby owleye on October 17th, 2014, 4:48 pm 

skyteacher » Fri Oct 17, 2014 9:47 am wrote:Sorry I always can’t seem to see or perceive whether I am preaching. I thought preaching is best for religion, this is not a religious thing I am saying. I guess I am still learning. Or is it you taking me as preaching due to 'relevant past experience'?


Well, I was speaking of it rather loosely to mean painting a picture to those who already have experience with what you are talking about, seeing as how there was little in the way of clues to it for me. (Something like "preaching to the choir.")

skyteacher wrote:The above uses of ‘cause’ are talking about different aspects, but about the same word, the same meaning of ‘cause’. We can agree that philosophical language sometimes goes round, twist and turns, in order to reach the most precise meaning, and gets heavier.


I'm not sure I follow this, but in the usual way causation is understood, it temporally precedes its effect. Thus, for skakos to say the universe may have a cause, this implies the universe and its cause are two different things, with the latter temporally preceding the former. There's something other than the universe that is its cause. The trouble with this, of course, is that the universe, by definition, is all there is. Well, it's all there is, respecting what science takes for its target. Perhaps your view of what constitutes the universe is different.

Aristotle, as you may know, argued for four different kinds of causes: efficient, material, formal, and final (telos or purpose). Efficient causes are those that we seek when we wish to explain how certain events came about. "What were the causes of the civil war?" Or "What caused this disease?" The others are more related to what we think of as emergent properties, those that depend on some underlying constituency, shaped or otherwise tending toward some sort of equilibrium, typically dynamic.

sky teacher wrote:'Cause’ I am talking about is…reason, purpose, objective, direction (in order to be or exist), a position or state of being that produces a need to change to another position or status, for ANY reason.. a hypothetical state of becoming or result, affect, change that may take place after an event, in due response to the ‘cause’..


Hmm...

I can only assume 'reason', 'purpose', 'direction' represent a list of kinds of causes, each applicable to certain sorts of entities. Do rocks have a purpose, for example? Do they have a reason for their existence? Do they have a direction? With respect to 'direction', this as well is a bit obscure. I'm thinking you intend something like a treasure map.

And the use of 'need' seems as well to be confined to certain objects that operate on that basis. Do rocks have needs? Why even have that requirement in your usage of 'cause'?

But more significantly, the ordinary use of 'cause', the one used in ordinary conversation, where we might ask "what caused X?" seems to be completely absent.

But, I suppose, you need to have meaning in your life, and this being paramount, you chose to offer up your own view of causation so that it would satisfy you, rather than have anything to do with the topic.
owleye
 


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby TheVat on October 17th, 2014, 6:55 pm 

I resist the "caused" universe, not only on the logical grounds so ably addressed by Owl and Marsh, but from a distrust of the beginning concept as being verrry anthropic. Our little lives begin, but it doesn't follow that the universe must also. Cycles make far more intrinsic sense, when you consider the totality of existence.
User avatar
TheVat
Forum Administrator
 
Posts: 7571
Joined: 21 Jan 2014
Location: Black Hills


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby neuro on October 20th, 2014, 5:45 am 

skakos » October 16th, 2014, 11:08 pm wrote:Theories are based on axioms.

This does not seem to address the question of "the Limits of Science", but rather the limits of any theory, of logic itself, of our reasoning itself.
I am talking about science in general.
For example how can science of... 240,000 deal with things that cannot be measured?
This is an inherent limitation.

So the whole story reduces to this?
"Science deals with what can be observed and measured"?
"what cannot be observed or measured cannot be accessed by science"?
Sad to think that we needed 7 pages of posts to realize this...

You should consider as a sign of great respect the fact that the forum members have tried to discuss the question assuming you were not merely claiming such a triviality.
User avatar
neuro
Forum Moderator
 
Posts: 2617
Joined: 25 Jun 2010
Location: italy
Paralithdlorde liked this post


Re: The Limits of Science

Postby skakos on October 28th, 2014, 1:58 pm 

mtbturtle » October 17th, 2014, 12:43 am wrote:Why is it always "A Cause"? couldn't it be the causes? are those all our options?


OK.

Put "Many causes" along with the "A cause" and "No cause" option.

Which one sounds more scientific?
User avatar
skakos
Member
 
Posts: 599
Joined: 17 Nov 2012
Location: Athens, Greece
Blog: View Blog (4)


PreviousNext

Return to Philosophy of Science

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 25 guests