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 28th, 2014, 2:00 pm 

skakos » October 28th, 2014, 6:58 pm wrote:...Put "Many causes" along with the "A cause" and "No cause" option.

Which one sounds more scientific?


Really? that's your criterion? the one that sounds more scientific?
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby skakos on October 28th, 2014, 2:31 pm 

neuro » October 20th, 2014, 11:45 am wrote:
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.


Indeed, the use of axioms is an inherent limitation to science and reasoning.
But not for all thinking as you believe. You can try to think freely without axioms.
You can just wander about the universe, the cosmos, your existence...

And no, the "measurable things" is not the ONLY limitation of science.
(and it is not even "trivial" as you say - it is of great importance even though most do not get it)
There are many more.
They all have to do with the things we take for granted.

The list could be something like...

1. Science deals only with things which can be measured, but most important things are not measurable.

2. Science relies on the belief that you can learn about something by analyzing it.

[to be continued...]
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby Paralith on October 28th, 2014, 2:33 pm 

dlorde wrote:
skakos » October 28th, 2014, 6:58 pm wrote:...Put "Many causes" along with the "A cause" and "No cause" option.

Which one sounds more scientific?


Really? that's your criterion? the one that sounds more scientific?


I don't know what sounds more scientific to you skakos, but none of them are scientific since not one of them says anything about evidence.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby TheVat on October 28th, 2014, 2:33 pm 

What "sounds" scientific to me is that any notion of a first cause is incoherent and weak on logic. The universe, as Owl points out, is everything. To deploy the term "universe" fairly, you can't exclude anything or have some magic kickstart arriving from a "beyond" domain. In any model that preserves causality (and therefore preserves temporality of some sort), you need either infinite cycles or some kind of circularity of time and causality, so that there is no linear zero point. Having any kind of initial push from zero, just leads to an infinite regress of "well, what caused THAT?"

Then there's quantum mechanics, where you can check the "No cause" box. Why did that carbon 14 atom in my index finger, out of the billions around it, undergo decay? There, IMO, is the limit of science. We can only understand radioactive decay stochastically.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby mtbturtle on October 28th, 2014, 2:34 pm 

skakos » Tue Oct 28, 2014 12:58 pm wrote:
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?


ummm all? none?

mu
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby Paralith on October 28th, 2014, 2:36 pm 

skakos= wrote:1. Science deals only with things which can be measured, but most important things are not measurable.


An assumption I would not accept a priori.

2. Science relies on the belief that you can learn about something by analyzing it.


Which is only a particularly heinous limitation if, as you assumed in your point number 1, that most things which are worth learning about cannot be learned about through analysis (which I'm assuming you're using in a way that implies the use of measurement).
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby skakos on November 2nd, 2014, 7:07 pm 

Paralith » October 28th, 2014, 8:33 pm wrote:
dlorde wrote:
skakos » October 28th, 2014, 6:58 pm wrote:...Put "Many causes" along with the "A cause" and "No cause" option.

Which one sounds more scientific?


Really? that's your criterion? the one that sounds more scientific?


I don't know what sounds more scientific to you skakos, but none of them are scientific since not one of them says anything about evidence.


One idea is to look at what is happening around you.
We see many phenomena.
We observe them.
We see them all having a cause.
So it would be logical to assume that the creation of the universe also has one.
Not the only option. But an option which seems logical nontheless.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby dlorde on November 3rd, 2014, 7:06 am 

skakos » November 3rd, 2014, 12:07 am wrote:We see many phenomena.
We observe them.
We see them all having a cause.
So it would be logical to assume that the creation of the universe also has one.
Not the only option. But an option which seems logical nontheless.

Two points - firstly we don't see that all the phenomena we observe have a cause. This has resulted in a lot of superstitious and magical thinking where a cause is invented to explain apparently causeless phenomena. We now reasonably assume that phenomena similar in kind to those for which we have observed a cause, also have a cause.

Secondly, what is intuitive, what seems logical, and what is logical are very often different, yet are often confused. There is a name for things that seem logical but are incorrect: fallacies.

Here, you have managed to combine errors - an invalid premise (that we observe a cause for everything we observe), and a category error leading to an invalid inference (the universe is not like other phenomena we observe, it is where all observable phenomena occur, so it isn't logical to assume it is like other phenomena). It may be reasonable to assume that phenomena similar in kind to those for which we have observed a cause, also have a cause, but the universe isn't such a phenomenon.

To simplify - that everything in the universe seems to have a cause, doesn't imply the universe itself has a cause - that's a fallacy of composition.

This is not to say the universe doesn't have a cause; just that the argument you describe is fallacious.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby owleye on November 3rd, 2014, 9:57 am 

I'd add that skakos, in looking for an "option", is merely trying to justify his belief that something is the case. Apparently s/he thinks that having a limit placed on science gives him one. Something like the god-of-the-gaps idea that is often thought to be of value by those having strong beliefs that seem to conflict with science. Perhaps it would be better for him or her to read up on what philosophers themselves who are believers have to say on this topic. It might better help him or her put a bit more substance to his or her beliefs. A good starting point might be to read Mortimer Adler. Catholics, generally, are often introduced to some intellectuals on this list. At any rate, I think that trying your hand out on this forum without such backing is not going to get very far.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby skakos on November 9th, 2014, 5:40 pm 

dlorde » November 3rd, 2014, 1:06 pm wrote:
skakos » November 3rd, 2014, 12:07 am wrote:We see many phenomena.
We observe them.
We see them all having a cause.
So it would be logical to assume that the creation of the universe also has one.
Not the only option. But an option which seems logical nontheless.

Two points - firstly we don't see that all the phenomena we observe have a cause. This has resulted in a lot of superstitious and magical thinking where a cause is invented to explain apparently causeless phenomena. We now reasonably assume that phenomena similar in kind to those for which we have observed a cause, also have a cause.

Secondly, what is intuitive, what seems logical, and what is logical are very often different, yet are often confused. There is a name for things that seem logical but are incorrect: fallacies.

Here, you have managed to combine errors - an invalid premise (that we observe a cause for everything we observe), and a category error leading to an invalid inference (the universe is not like other phenomena we observe, it is where all observable phenomena occur, so it isn't logical to assume it is like other phenomena). It may be reasonable to assume that phenomena similar in kind to those for which we have observed a cause, also have a cause, but the universe isn't such a phenomenon.

To simplify - that everything in the universe seems to have a cause, doesn't imply the universe itself has a cause - that's a fallacy of composition.

This is not to say the universe doesn't have a cause; just that the argument you describe is fallacious.


I believe you are (unsuccesfully) trying to distort a very clear thing here.

First of all, which are the phenomena which DO NOT have a cause?
You are very eager to find this "mistake" in my reasoning but you fail in delivering your argument.

Secondly, it is logical that when you see something happening over and over again you will deduce that this thing will also happen for other things. You may call "fallacy" whatever you like but this does not negate the fact that when we observe all phenomena having a cause then another phenomenon we have not observed (i.e. the creation) must also have one. I did not say that this is necessarily true. I just say which option seems logical based on the EVIDENCE and the OBSERVATIONS we have made so far. Listing fallacies and categorical mistakes does not again offer any specific clues to the discussion regarding the "mistake" here either.

Cheers.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby TheVat on November 9th, 2014, 6:31 pm 

Calling a hypothesized beginning to the universe a "creation" sort of assumes that which has yet to be demonstrated, no?

Also, scientists have observed events which have no apparent cause (quantum mechanics?), so leaning on the evidence won't help you there.

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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby dlorde on November 9th, 2014, 6:52 pm 

I don't see the need to add anything to my last post, except to point out that I didn't say the phenomena we observe don't have a cause, but that we don't always observe their cause.
Last edited by dlorde on November 9th, 2014, 8:14 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby Forest_Dump on November 9th, 2014, 7:13 pm 

skakos wrote:I just say which option seems logical based on the EVIDENCE and the OBSERVATIONS we have made so far. Listing fallacies and categorical mistakes does not again offer any specific clues to the discussion regarding the "mistake" here either.


The bottom line here for me is that there are indeed two logical mistakes. First, you have not demonstrated in any way that if a cause is necessary, it would be the kind of cause that is best categorized as some kind of god or deity. I see no reason why the cause couldn't be something else that is not sentient or thinking, etc. By simply assuming it is a god or deity you may not have the kind of open mind that would lead to the correct answer. Second, even if you were ultimately correct that it is some kind of god, you haven't moved any further in figuring out which one. I suppose in Greece it might make sense to assume it is one of the Judeo-Christian variations but around where I live they assume it is some variation of Gitchi Manitou compatible with the Midiwin religion (although on that one I increasingly lean towards the older more traditionalist and animist versions - I think an anthropomorphic deity is increasingly depressing).
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby neuro on November 10th, 2014, 10:09 am 

... and, by the way, when asked "so, if everything must have a cause, what is the cause of such god?", you would probably answer "there's no need for such a cause, because god is categorically different from the universe so he(she) needn't comply with the rules of the universe"; but this is exactly what has been suggested above: "there's no need for a cause for the universe, because the universe as a whole is categorically different from the set of processes that occur in it, so it needn't comply with the rules of such phenomena".

Why would your argument hold and the latter wouldn't?
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby skakos on November 16th, 2014, 1:21 pm 

Braininvat » November 10th, 2014, 12:31 am wrote:Calling a hypothesized beginning to the universe a "creation" sort of assumes that which has yet to be demonstrated, no?

Also, scientists have observed events which have no apparent cause (quantum mechanics?), so leaning on the evidence won't help you there.

Skoal.


Where exactly do scientists observe phenomena which do not have a cause in quantum mechanics?
Do not confuse statistics and probability with a lack of cause.

And what the evidence and logic tells us is that there is a cause for the existence of the universe. It does not matter at all how you call it. Call it a "chair" or "GodDoesNotExist" if you so wish. The result is the same.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby skakos on November 16th, 2014, 2:00 pm 

Forest_Dump » November 10th, 2014, 1:13 am wrote:
skakos wrote:I just say which option seems logical based on the EVIDENCE and the OBSERVATIONS we have made so far. Listing fallacies and categorical mistakes does not again offer any specific clues to the discussion regarding the "mistake" here either.


The bottom line here for me is that there are indeed two logical mistakes. First, you have not demonstrated in any way that if a cause is necessary, it would be the kind of cause that is best categorized as some kind of god or deity. I see no reason why the cause couldn't be something else that is not sentient or thinking, etc. By simply assuming it is a god or deity you may not have the kind of open mind that would lead to the correct answer. Second, even if you were ultimately correct that it is some kind of god, you haven't moved any further in figuring out which one. I suppose in Greece it might make sense to assume it is one of the Judeo-Christian variations but around where I live they assume it is some variation of Gitchi Manitou compatible with the Midiwin religion (although on that one I increasingly lean towards the older more traditionalist and animist versions - I think an anthropomorphic deity is increasingly depressing).


If we agree that a Cause COULD exist, then the path is open in order to start analyzing the characteristics of this cause. Are we at this point?
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby skakos on November 16th, 2014, 2:10 pm 

neuro » November 10th, 2014, 4:09 pm wrote:... and, by the way, when asked "so, if everything must have a cause, what is the cause of such god?", you would probably answer "there's no need for such a cause, because god is categorically different from the universe so he(she) needn't comply with the rules of the universe"; but this is exactly what has been suggested above: "there's no need for a cause for the universe, because the universe as a whole is categorically different from the set of processes that occur in it, so it needn't comply with the rules of such phenomena".

Why would your argument hold and the latter wouldn't?


Agreeing that there is a "cause without cause" seems to be the solution here indeed.
We seem to agree on that.
But what kind of "cause" would that be if the "universe" is that cause? In what sense could that be true?
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby Forest_Dump on November 16th, 2014, 4:43 pm 

skakos wrote:If we agree that a Cause COULD exist, then the path is open in order to start analyzing the characteristics of this cause. Are we at this point?


I would say we have been for quite some time. For example it has been proposed that comets might have been the cause of there being a lot of water on this planet. To begin to investigate this possibility/hypothesis, a probe was sent to land on a comet and conduct scientific data gathering. From what I hear, the results of this have been terrific. And, of course, this is only one very recent example. Many many others could be cited. Thus are the limits of science expanded. But, of course, even though the limits of science are and will continue to expand, there will always be limits. The point is to keep on expanding these limits.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby skakos on January 2nd, 2015, 3:09 pm 

Forest_Dump » November 16th, 2014, 10:43 pm wrote:
skakos wrote:If we agree that a Cause COULD exist, then the path is open in order to start analyzing the characteristics of this cause. Are we at this point?


I would say we have been for quite some time. For example it has been proposed that comets might have been the cause of there being a lot of water on this planet. To begin to investigate this possibility/hypothesis, a probe was sent to land on a comet and conduct scientific data gathering. From what I hear, the results of this have been terrific. And, of course, this is only one very recent example. Many many others could be cited. Thus are the limits of science expanded. But, of course, even though the limits of science are and will continue to expand, there will always be limits. The point is to keep on expanding these limits.


OK.

But water is one thing, the beginning of existence of the cosmos is another.

Do you agree that something caused the universe to Be?
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby Forest_Dump on January 2nd, 2015, 6:58 pm 

skakos wrote:But water is one thing, the beginning of existence of the cosmos is another.

Do you agree that something caused the universe to Be?


No, not necessarily. The universe might have always been there.

You see you seem to be arguing that there must be something first. On that we can probably agree but the question is what? We can agree that the universe exists. You want to posit that something must have created it but of course you then want to posit something we don't agree necessarily exists - a deity. If something has to have come first, I would bet that it most likely was something that we know exists, not something that we have no evidence of.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby dlorde on January 3rd, 2015, 10:40 am 

Forest_Dump » January 2nd, 2015, 10:58 pm wrote:...If something has to have come first, I would bet that it most likely was something that we know exists, not something that we have no evidence of.

Yes; it's plausible that the universe we know is a development of some earlier state. There's no good reason to introduce some entirely new causal entity for which we have no evidence, of which we know nothing, which has no explanatory or predictive power, and which simply raises a whole bunch more unanswerable questions. Ockham would be spinning in his grave. You might as well say it is magic.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby Forest_Dump on January 3rd, 2015, 11:06 am 

dlorde wrote:You might as well say it is magic.


Indeed. I can't see much difference in the myth and magic Skakos seems to like invoking and that of Tolkien or Homer. Except the latter made for better movies.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby wolfhnd on January 5th, 2015, 5:13 am 

I have been down this road before and it lead to Forest asking me if his dog was doing science when he sniffed his excrement. My answer is yes :-). The process of acquiring data and testing hypotheses is fundamental to intelligent life. Maybe even life itself in some abstract sense. The key is that all information is acquired through experience. The limits of science are directly linked to the limits of experience innate or extended by technology.

There are many discussions in these forums about the continued relevance of philosophy and the limits of science. It is certainly true that the most important things in life are abstractions such as love, honor, morality, that are not subject to quantification or are not directly experienced. That said it is science that sets boundaries for philosophy not philosophy that set boundaries for science. Philosophers must conform to scientific "truth" or risk becoming irrelevant. If philosophers want to discuss God then that discussion should take into account what is known about the universe. One of those things now seems to be that not all effects have a cause as was pointed out by earlier posts in this thread. The fact that this can only be confirmed by extending the senses with technology should be no more difficult to accept than that germs didn't existed before the microscope was invented.

The problem I have always had with the God explanation is that you have to be a God to confirm it. Most religions that have philosophers at their disposal get around it by making humans "mini" Gods but I find that unsatisfying. All I can say is that I have no direct experience of God and I cannot imagine a technology that will allow me to experience god. I just don't know and that is ok.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby doogles on January 5th, 2015, 7:16 am 

Forest_Dump » Sun Nov 16, 2014 4:43 pm wrote:
skakos wrote:If we agree that a Cause COULD exist, then the path is open in order to start analyzing the characteristics of this cause. Are we at this point?


I would say we have been for quite some time. For example it has been proposed that comets might have been the cause of there being a lot of water on this planet. To begin to investigate this possibility/hypothesis, a probe was sent to land on a comet and conduct scientific data gathering. From what I hear, the results of this have been terrific. And, of course, this is only one very recent example. Many many others could be cited. Thus are the limits of science expanded. But, of course, even though the limits of science are and will continue to expand, there will always be limits. The point is to keep on expanding these limits.


Forest, this notion of water on planet Earth has intrigued me for some time. Do you know what the evidence is for suspecting that Earth's water is not endogenous and that it has to have come from somewhere else. It just seems to me that if it is endogenous in comets, that it could be just as endogenous on our planet.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby dlorde on January 5th, 2015, 7:46 am 

doogles » January 5th, 2015, 11:16 am wrote:Forest, this notion of water on planet Earth has intrigued me for some time. Do you know what the evidence is for suspecting that Earth's water is not endogenous and that it has to have come from somewhere else. It just seems to me that if it is endogenous in comets, that it could be just as endogenous on our planet.

There would have been water present in the rubble that formed the Earth in the early days of the solar system, but, as I understand it, it's thought that most of this would have been driven off after the planet had formed, by the volcanism resulting from the continual bombardment - not to mention the likely collision with a Mars-sized planetoid that formed the moon. It's hard to see much water remaining on a completely molten planet.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby owleye on January 5th, 2015, 8:13 am 

skakos wrote:If we agree that a Cause COULD exist, then the path is open in order to start analyzing the characteristics of this cause. Are we at this point?


skakos...

Ask all the questions you like. That seems to be your strength. However, one can say the same thing about children who ask questions, they having no idea what sort of response would satisfy them but know that they can continue to repeat the same question on whatever response is given to them gives them a sense of power over the responder. It is not evidence of actual curiosity, but rather of obstinance in the face of rationality. I believe your questions have a similar ring to them.

Consider the above. What makes what you ask contingent on some agreement you've reached? You've apparently reached a conclusion that "a Cause COULD exist". That alone should be enough to respond to your assertion that there is a path open to begin analysis of the characteristics of this cause? Thus, presumably you are in a position to respond to your conclusion and not in need of asking someone else.

This is particularly significant because you've decided this cause is so important as to require the first letter of its spelling to be capitalized. Moreover, you've emphasized that it only took the possibility of its existence to trigger the start of your analysis (this being the case on the basis that you've capitalized every letter in the spelling of this possible cause). So where is your analysis? Why lean on others to provide it?

The answer is obvious, I think. You are asking the question of others because you are in no position to respond to it yourself. Your question is based on complete ignorance of any actual cause and are only raising it in the same way a child would ask one of her never-ending questions. You would be like an attention seeking, petulant, child who is just playing a game with your interlocutors. Alternatively, and more likely, you already have decided that no response would satisfy you except the one you would give assent to, one that needs to be capitalized and is based on some belief of yours, one that you know your respondents wouldn't consider. So you play this little game with them.

Of course I can be wrong in my assessment. You might be a mature adult who happens to be a novice in science and wishes to grow by asking questions of those who are experts, and what I'm reading of your response represents a genuine interest in how science goes about determining causes. I confess it's difficult to draw that conclusion, what with your need to capitalize it. Instead, I'm thinking you have no real interest in the science itself. Perhaps at some point I'll actually read something of yours that indicates you've shown a real interest and at the same time show that I'm completely wrong about you. That day has yet to arrive, but it might. In the meantime, my sense of you is that you are a real time-waster.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby Eclogite on January 5th, 2015, 8:14 am 

More relevant is the temperature in that part of the accretion disc where the Earth assembled. This was too high for ice and probably water to form. Gases were not accreted in quantity. Consequently the initial water content of the primeval Earth was likely low.

Post intervened while I was typing - my response is to dlorde and doogles.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby Forest_Dump on January 5th, 2015, 9:05 am 

doogles wrote:Forest, this notion of water on planet Earth has intrigued me for some time. Do you know what the evidence is for suspecting that Earth's water is not endogenous and that it has to have come from somewhere else. It just seems to me that if it is endogenous in comets, that it could be just as endogenous on our planet.


Truth be told, this was not a question I had much interest in and certainly no expertise. But it is a great example of science for several reasons. First, it is addressable from at least two angles - looking at comets and looking at rocks of the appropriate age to see if and when water appears (based on chemical reactions). Second, it opens a lot of new interesting questions such as whether the appearance of the building blocks of life could have been correlated such as due to low water levels and the concentration, etc., and whatever other chemical processes might have been going on. And third, there is nothing in this that requires invoking some kind of force or mechanism that is outside our ability to explore (i.e., some kind of supernatural thing). Its all doable.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby wolfhnd on January 5th, 2015, 6:06 pm 

owleye captured the spirit of this discussion well. There is nothing new here.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby Eclogite on January 5th, 2015, 8:15 pm 

Forest_Dump » Mon Jan 05, 2015 8:05 am wrote: First, it is addressable from at least two angles - looking at comets and looking at rocks of the appropriate age to see if and when water appears (based on chemical reactions).
I am not sure how you are suggesting we could determine the first appearance of water from chemical reactions. Could you expand on this please.

Also keep in mind that the water almost certainly arrived a couple of hundred million years - at least - before the oldest surviving rocks, which would make the exercise impossible from the outset.

What we appear to be left with is the current isotopic composition of terrestrial water; any evidence for changes in this composition over time; and a far greater sampling of potential asteroidal and cometary sources.

Forest_Dump » Mon Jan 05, 2015 8:05 am wrote: Second, it opens a lot of new interesting questions such as whether the appearance of the building blocks of life could have been correlated such as due to low water levels and the concentration, etc., and whatever other chemical processes might have been going on.
There is no obvious evidence to suggest higher relative concentrations of organics prior to the major influx of water.
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