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Killa Klown

Can science explain everything

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Some (Kantians) would argue that it's impossible for science to explain consciousness, because consciousness occurs within the context of a first-person ontology and science explains things within the scope of the realist ontology.

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have any of you ever heard of Tabula Rasa. It explains how humans are born with a "Blank State" or in other words a blank mind. As we grow up we learn and develop along with our minds and bodies. As we develop we become strong and Smart. What we learn from our suroundings is what makes us "us".

after understanding what we are told to understand and knowing we develop our personality along with our consciousness. It could be that our consciousness is just a series of neurochemical conections in our brains that allow us to learn, think, feel, and create.

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It's fairly obvious that we aren't born as blank slates isn't it?

 

But yes, it is very plausible that our consciousness is just what goes on in our brain, I'd even go so far as to say that it is very likely. However, that doesn't mean that it'll ever be possible to explain it.

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Well when i meant blank state i meant we know nothing of our surrounds and i obviously know we are mentaly "programmed" while in the womb to feel fear, anger, happiness, the norm. great response though.

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Probably not but even if it could it would mean....? As a geologist I can't get my head around more than 25% of the published papers in my own field...probably half of that published in math journals and 'skim' the surface of theoretical physics. There are whole 'blocks' of science that are big black boxes to me. i can read about String theory, the quantum and so on and it means....?

 

None of us can cope with understanding more than a minute fraction of the science that is out there now....if some alien came down and give us the answers to everything we' still have glazed over eyes. 'Gee, there are 16 dimemssions and not 22?'....46 distinct subatomic particles. wow..... 10 to the 21st power of stars and not 10 times that? I'm hungry, want to get some fries?'

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Of course science can explain everything. Just ask any research doctor or climatologist. They know everything, and will be happy to explain why it's all your fault! :)

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Probably not but even if it could it would mean....? As a geologist I can't get my head around more than 25% of the published papers in my own field...probably half of that published in math journals and 'skim' the surface of theoretical physics. There are whole 'blocks' of science that are big black boxes to me. i can read about String theory, the quantum and so on and it means....?

 

None of us can cope with understanding more than a minute fraction of the science that is out there now....if some alien came down and give us the answers to everything we' still have glazed over eyes. 'Gee, there are 16 dimemssions and not 22?'....46 distinct subatomic particles. wow..... 10 to the 21st power of stars and not 10 times that? I'm hungry, want to get some fries?'

You missed the question entirely. You're answering "can we [as in individual people] learn everything" which is of course no, nobody can know everything.

 

The question is asking whether or not science can explain everything which doesn't necessarily imply being able to learn everything, via science, yourself, just the ability to look up whatever your heart desires, via science, when curious.

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All the imformation a human learns and knows in a life time is just a drop in the bucket.

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You missed the question entirely. You're answering "can we [as in individual people] learn everything" which is of course no, nobody can know everything.

 

The question is asking whether or not science can explain everything which doesn't necessarily imply being able to learn everything, via science, yourself, just the ability to look up whatever your heart desires, via science, when curious.

 

No, you miss the point that you wouldn't know if could eplain everything or not and it's not just a matter of 'looking up'. You can't begin to look up a fraction of the science that is publised and make any sense out of more than a fraction you might look up. There is no individual or discipline that is the judge of 'explaining everything'.

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Is it possible that there is a scientific explanation for everything.

 

No. Science is a limited form of knowing. As such, there are some things that science can neither investigate nor explain. Ethics is one.

 

Science is trying to explain why we view some choices as ethical thru evolutionary psychology, but this cannot explain all ethics.

 

"First, science is a limited way of knowing, in which practitioners attempt to explain the natural world using natural explanations. By definition, science cannot consider supernatural explanations: if there is an omnipotent deity, there is no way that a scientist can exclude or include it in a research design. This is especially clear in experimental research: an omnipotent deity cannot be "controlled" (as one wag commented, "you can't put God in a test tube, or keep him out of one.") [From personal experience, I agree totally with the wag.] So by definition, if an individual is attempting to explain some aspect of the natural world using science, he or she must act as if there were no supernatural forces operating on it. I think this methodological materialism is well understood by evolutionists. But by excluding the supernatural from our scientific turf, we also are eliminating the possibility of proclaiming, via the epistemology of science, that there is no supernatural. One may come to a philosophical conclusion that there is no God, and even base this philosophical conclusion on one's understanding of science, but it is ultimately a philosophical conclusion, not a scientific one. If science is limited to explaining the natural world using natural causes, and thus cannot admit supernatural explanations , so also is science self-limited in another way: it is unable to reject the possibility of the supernatural. Scientists, like other teachers, must be aware of the difference between methodological and philosophical materialism and not treat them as conjoined twins. They are logically and practically decoupled." Eugenie C Scott, chapter "Creationism, Ideology, and Science" in The Flight from Science and Reason edited by Paul R. Gross, Norman Levitt, and Martin W. Lewis, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, vol 775, 1996. pg 518-519. Dr. Scott is head of the National Science Education Center, which has the primary goal of combating the teaching of creationism in schools.

 

"Science is a discipline, and disciplines are exacting. All maintain rules of conduct and self-policing. All gain strength, respect, and acceptance by working honorably within their bounds and knowing when transgression upon other realms counts as hubris or folly. Science, as a discipline, tries to understand the factual state of nature and to explain and coordinate these data into general theories. Science teaches us many wonderful and disturbing things - facts that need weighing when we try to develop standards of conduct and ponder the great questions of morals and aesthetics. But science cannot answer these questions alone and cannot dictate social policy.

Scientists have power by virtue of the respect commanded by the discipline. We may therefore be sorely tempted to misuse that power in furthering a personal prejudice or social goal-why not provide that extra oomph by extending the umbrella of science over a personal preference in ethics or politics? But we cannot, lest we lose the very respect hat tempted us in the first place.

If this plea sounds like the conservative and pessimistic retrenching of a man on the verge of middle age, I reply that I advocate this care and restraint in order to demonstrate the enormous power of science. We live with poets and politicians, preachers and philosophers. All have their ways of knowing, and all are valid in their proper domains. The world is too complex and interesting for one way to hold all the answers. Besides, high falutin morality aside, if we continue to overextend the boundaries of science, folks like Bryan will nail us properly for their own insidious ends.

We should give the last word to Vernon Kellogg, the great teacher who understood the principle of strength in limits, and who listened with horror to the ugliest misuses of Darwinism. Kellogg properly taught in his textbook (with David Starr Jordan) that Darwinism cannot provide moral answers:

"Some men who call themselves pessimists because they cannot read good into the operations of nature forget that they cannot read evil. In morals the law of competition no more justifies personal, official, or national selfishness or brutality than the law of gravitation justifies the shooting of a bird."

Stephen Jay Gould in the essay "William Jennings Bryan's last campaign" in Bully for Brontosaurus, 1991, pp. 429-430.

 

There is evidence to suggest that we cannot, depending on how you interpret the incompletness theorems.

 

Goedel's Incompleteness Theorem led to one of my favorite lines:

 

"If a 'religion' is defined to be a system of ideas that contains unprovable statements, then Gödel has taught us that, not only is mathematics a religion, it is the only religion that can prove itself to be one." J.D. Barrow in Between Inner Space and Outer Space, Oxford University Press, 1999, p 88.

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Is it possible that there is a scientific explanation for everything.

 

My bet is on 'yes'.

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All the imformation a human learns and knows in a life time is just a drop in the bucket.

 

Of course, for some the drop is larger than for others. :D

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have any of you ever heard of Tabula Rasa. It explains how humans are born with a "Blank State" or in other words a blank mind. As we grow up we learn and develop along with our minds and bodies. As we develop we become strong and Smart. What we learn from our suroundings is what makes us "us".

after understanding what we are told to understand and knowing we develop our personality along with our consciousness. It could be that our consciousness is just a series of neurochemical conections in our brains that allow us to learn, think, feel, and create.

 

I'm an emergent materialist, so you're preaching to the choir. I've been trying to play devil's advocate to the Kantians, in hopes I can actually understand their position.

 

Is it possible that there is a scientific explanation for everything.

 

To try this again: It appears we're already hitting the limits of scientific knowability in the quantum realm. It seems like the only way modern physics can proceed is to create a model which predicts both the standard model and is able to make predictions which either confirm present cosmology or are testable in a high-power particle accelerator. However at present both of these seem like fleeting possibilities.

 

I suggest you read Lee Smolin's book The Trouble With Physics. Smolin is desperately concerned about the testability of modern physics, specifically string theory. He argues we're enterting a "post-modern" age in regard to physics, and modern physical theory has grown so speculative as to become fundamentally untestable. He says this having worked both on string theory and various other theories of quantum gravity, most notably loop quantum gravity.

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OK, thanks to the incompleteness theorem there are at least some things for which there is no answer.

There are quite a lot of things for which, at least in principle, science can give the answer.

 

Is there anything that can give an answer to (at least some) questions that fall outside the first 2 groups?

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I remember reading Hawkings book A Universe in a Nutshell and he spent an entire chapter talking about lost data. According to the book we can in fact get data back from black holes so determinism is left in tact (eg if we got the state of every atom in the universe we could predict the future exactly, or something like that.)

 

This may or may not be true, it's been a while sense I read all this. But on the other hand we don't necessarily need determinism in order for science to "explain everything." Being able to explain everything just means there's a model that can explain every known natural phenomenon from the big bang to evolution to sociology. Of course as bascule posted above (good book btw) we may be running into some brick walls in physics.

 

I sill don't think geoguy is exactly following the topic at hand though (just bolded so you'll see it and be able to respond geoguy :), nothing personal). By being able to "explain everything" we're talking about theories here, not absolute knowledge. Eg why do animals evolve? Because of natural selection. Why do stars burn? Because of nuclear fusion. Etc. There are just a couple levels of "explaining" here. We have general concepts that can in theory explain anything (ie if you have a question about something you can "run to science" and get an answer), we have reductionism which imo is utter nonsense, and then we have the sort of deterministic level where you can feed in the state of the universe and accurately predict the past and future. By science we just mean the cumulative body of knowledge that is science, not necessarily one guy being able to read, understand, and memorize every fact that science knows -- it's impossible to know everything (I would assume at least).

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Providing an explanation for everything is one thing, proving the explanation is correct something entirely different, and believing either or both different again.

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My bet is on 'yes'.

 

You need to read my post. The answer is definitely "no".

 

OK, thanks to the incompleteness theorem there are at least some things for which there is no answer.

There are quite a lot of things for which, at least in principle, science can give the answer.

 

Is there anything that can give an answer to (at least some) questions that fall outside the first 2 groups?

 

Yes. As Gould noted there are disciplines that explore areas that science cannot. There is a study of ethics, for instance. There is also philosophy and religion, all 3 of these explore areas where science cannot give an answer.

 

Providing an explanation for everything is one thing, proving the explanation is correct something entirely different, and believing either or both different again.

 

The second of those were inherent in the question in the OP. It is implied that the explanation will be found and that it can be shown that the explanation is accurate.

 

Now, whether everyone accepts (what you call "believing") that the explanation is accurate is, quite frankly, irrelevant. Ideas (and "explanations" here are ideas) are accurate or inaccurate independent of the personal acceptance of any individual or individuals.

 

For instance, oxygen as an explanation for combustion is accurate independent of the phlogiston chemists who refused to "believe" it. Uncertainty in quantum mechanics is accurate independent of Albert Einstein's refusal to "believe" it.

 

It's VERY important that you separate the idea and the accuracy of the idea from the acceptance of the idea.

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Why are ethics and philosophy not open to scientific explanation?

In the limit they both happen in human brains; they are the results of a very complicated set of chemical reactions.

 

As far as I know religion doesn't really answer anything anyway- saying "because God said so" isn't an answer unless you explain God.

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Why are ethics and philosophy not open to scientific explanation?
Because you can't make predictions about ethics and philosophy.

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The second of those were inherent in the question in the OP. It is implied that the explanation will be found and that it can be shown that the explanation is accurate.

 

Now, whether everyone accepts (what you call "believing") that the explanation is accurate is, quite frankly, irrelevant. Ideas (and "explanations" here are ideas) are accurate or inaccurate independent of the personal acceptance of any individual or individuals.

 

For instance, oxygen as an explanation for combustion is accurate independent of the phlogiston chemists who refused to "believe" it. Uncertainty in quantum mechanics is accurate independent of Albert Einstein's refusal to "believe" it.

 

It's VERY important that you separate the idea and the accuracy of the idea from the acceptance of the idea.

 

Agreed. Reality exists independent of human awareness of it.

 

Ethics, morality, etc. are products of human interaction as social beings...products of evolution of life forms. They don't arise out of 'nothingness' but natural selection.

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