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Building off my earlier post about science and the territory map-relation, consider the following:

  1. Humans’ ability to model the physical universe is constrained by a) the limits of human observation, and b) the limits of human imagination.
  2. The physical universe itself is not bound by either of these constraints.
  3. Therefore, there may be phenomena for which humans cannot create an accurate model.

This argument, if accepted, should lead to some form of agnosticism on a wide range of topics, like religion or free will.  But a lot of scientific-minded people seem fairly adamant that God and free will are impossible.  Maybe they ought reconsider.

Is this a remotely new contribution to the dialogue?

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2 Comments

  1. Reminds me of Hayek’s argument that a system of lesser complexity cannot fully understand a system of greater complexity. Hence the human mind, being a system of less complexity, cannot understand the full workings of the economy – or, in your argument, the universe.

  2. I think scientists would disagree with both 1b and 2.

    1b – Many scientific discoveries have not occurred because scientists were looking for the results that they found. They were accidental discoveries, not imagined by the scientist who was going after them. Examples include penicillin, x-rays, and even historical items like the Dead Sea Scrolls. More here: http://www.amazon.com/Serendipity-Accidental-Discoveries-Royston-Roberts/dp/0471602035

    2 – I’m not sure if this is a fact. The history of scientific discovery has included lots of stories of humanity thinking they’d never be able to do something, and then they did it. The discovery of X-rays, for example, led people to think that there weren’t limits to human knowledge. Seeing through people’s skin was pretty unbelievable before x-rays existed. This led to the “Spiritualism” movement, which included Marie Curie’s husband Pierre, who took science to the level of measuring psychic mediums before and after they led a seance. Sure, Curie was wrong about that one, but I think he was overall a pretty smart guy and certainly would have disagreed with the statement “The physical universe itself is not bound by either of these constraints.”

    Some might even go so far as to disagree with 1a and think that humanity can someday biologically engineer their brain to be more effective some day, to equip some sort of post-humans with the ability to observe the universe through radar or enhanced smell or something.

    I do think your outline is interesting, and I think discussion around the three points you bring up is interesting, but I wouldn’t take any of them as facts.


5 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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