Framework of science

Hello everyone. Today you can often hear that science is the only method of knowing the world around us. There is no question that science cannot answer or cannot in the future. This seems quite fair. Is it so? What questions cannot science answer? And what questions can science never answer? thanks!

1 Like

Hi, Alexey - good questions. And you don’t have to peruse too many other threads around here to see that how we approach this and what answers get offered are hotly contested by some, though there is some broad agreement around here too at least among EC or ‘Biologos’ enthusiasts.

I’ll attempt to represent that alleged ‘broad agreement’ in a fair way here, and we can see how others add or argue.

Many of us think that science will never be able to address meaning or purpose behind things. Yes - one can think of this or that biological feature as having a purpose insofar as helping this or that organism or species survive and thrive in their given environment; but it can’t help us to know why ‘survival’ should be the highest possible good - or even just what is ‘good’. The ‘is’ / ‘ought’ question seems philosophically unavailable to science which can only help us see what ‘is’ or ‘has been’.

Another question I think science can’t answer is: “Why should all human individuals be considered as having inherent dignity or equal worth? or rights?” Some might consider those answers to be self-evident now, but one doesn’t have to look very many centuries back in history to see it was patently obvious to not be the case for most humans over most of history. So we’ve just gotten used to the idea recently, and now think that such notions have always been part of the larger culture-scape of humanity. They haven’t. And nor has science contributed one iota of support to why it should be so. Yet these are very important and relevant questions that cause lives and civilizations to rise and fall.

And this is without getting into the even more obvious territory of “God” questions or freewill, sin, responsibility, good/evil, … all manner of religious questions which also have important bearing (some of us claim - eternal bearing) on our lives.

Such tools as are commonly recognized as being scienitifc only get some purchase on these sorts of questions after importing a foundational response from outside of science. Once we’ve decided (on thoroughly non-scientific grounds) that, for example, the lives of the weak ought to be preserved … only then does science become a powerful tool in our thus-motivated hands toward helping us do that. I hope this all makes some sense.

4 Likes

It is wrong. Say rather that science has devised the one reliable means of getting through our subjective perception of the world to the objective truths which we can have a reasonable expectation that others should agree.

What you have quoted comes from a naturalist definition of knowledge which requires such an expectation that other agree before it can be called knowledge. This is actually an improvement over the traditional definition of knowledge as “justified true belief” – which is absurd because nobody believes things they think are not true or not justified. My definition of knowledge are the beliefs that people live by and entrust their lives to.

That requires a kind of willful blindness that simply refuses to acknowledge the meaningfulness of questions which science cannot answer.

Science cannot answer questions whose proposed answers cannot be tested by measurements. This is a simple logical consequence of what science is and how it works.

It is often the case, however, that even if the answers to a question cannot be tested by measurement, this does not mean that the findings of science has no bearing on the question. But I don’t agree with the ideologues that simply dismiss questions that science cannot answer as questions which have no value and should simply not be asked. That is what some of the religious ideologues have done regarding science… simply denied the value of questions science has answered.

It has been pretty solidly established that science cannot hold itself up by its own bootstraps. This was largely settled by Kurt Godel’s incompleteness theorems which showed that even mathematics cannot establish the truth of all of its claims or prove its own consistency. Therefore you cannot define science in such a way that science itself demonstrates even the consistency let alone the reliability of its own methods. We frankly accept its value much the same way that the religious accept the value of their religious beliefs and practices. We judge from our own experiences that they do work.

This is certainly not to say that there is no difference between science and religion. The objectivity of science lies in its ability to demonstrate its results and thus to make it reasonable to expect that other people accept its claims. This is not true of religion whose justifications are highly subjective. But this difference cannot change the basic fact that life requires subjective participation and thus the objective observation of science is utterly inadequate for the living of our lives.

4 Likes

Here’s a question that science can never answer.

Given any arbitrary computer program, is it possible to write another program which can tell me whether it will run to completion, or throw an error, or go into an infinite loop?

This is called the Halting Problem, and it was proven in 1936 by Alan Turing that it is, in fact, impossible to write such a program.

Here’s a video that explains it:

Science has a very limited scope–it only seeks to find natural explanations for natural phenomena. It cannot tell us anything about purpose, meaning, the existence of God etc.

4 Likes

I think science can often not answer or even acknowledge the supernatural events that occur in the lives of those believers willing to see the supernatural events.

Science doesn’t have to explain meaning, purpose, God - which are synonyms - as far as it is concerned they are meaningless, not required, superfluous. There is nothing to explain. We have to find, create meaning, purpose in meaninglessness, in purposelessness. We don’t need God to be ethical and most of those who have Him aren’t. Aren’t as ethical as humanists. Never have been.

Jesus was sublimely ethically humanist of course. Whatever else He was, which is neither here nor there really. Although transcendence where humanism is fully realised would be nice.

2 Likes

Science is capable of answering questions of the form “What will happen if __?” or “How does __ occur?” We may not know enough yet to answer the question (e.g. What weather will we have in exactly one year?), but it is theoretically possible. It cannot answer ethical questions, like “Should I/we do __?”, or things which cannot be measured like “Is something imperceptibly affecting the outcome of events?”.

Ironically,

is not scientific. You cannot prove anything true scientifically, let alone prove philosophical statements.

4 Likes

By theoretical you mean we can guess. We will never have enough information to predict the outcome of a turbulent, chaotic system. God doesn’t even know. Not even where and when a raindrop will fall or whether any given cloud will precipitate it. No one knows why it doesn’t rain.

By theoretical, I mean “this question is within the realm of science, but it is impossible (currently or permanently) to answer for non-logic reasons”.

What’s non-logic about QM?

Long-term quantum mechanical effects are not outside the realm of science due to logically being excluded from it, the way ethics is, but due to the difficulty of prediction. That is what I meant.

I’ve no idea what that could mean.

These are non existant to science so it doesnt have to answer them. Your religion dogmatism has nothing to do with science answering these questions. Science its not obligated too. You can base a lot of these things to evolution as well.

Religion has only one thing that science cant provide. Hope after death. Everything else attributed to it are blatant lies. Religion is uselles in the broader term. Science has anything religion doesnt got ,even more.

Of course it can. Years of evolution has brought forth the morality we now have. There you go. Theres your answer.

In my view science cannot answer questions about the supernatural(if it does exist indeed) Nothing more nothing less. Anything else is perfectly available for science to answer and it has for the most part. Science (although tricky sometimes) has everything someome need im the long term. Religion comes only when the notion of death comes to mind.

We’re converging Nick.

i.e. impossible to answer due to the subject of the question, rather than the formulation of the question.

“My evolution informs me that I should drop a rock on you.” Is probably not going to be well-recieved.

3 Likes

Years of evolution should inform you that this is inapropriate and not civilized. If not go check a doc🙂

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.