What are the questions science cannot answer?

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by Mind Over Matter, Aug 27, 2010.

  1. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Just more sarcasm. This website is dripping with it. Science has answered many of our most important questions and will continue to do so. If you're one of those people who always asks, "Why?" well, not everything has a reason.
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  3. Carcano Valued Senior Member

    This is also applicable to the principle of 'meaning'.

    What is the meaning of a sunset?

    There is none.
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  5. AlexG Like nailing Jello to a tree Valued Senior Member

    He was being kind.

    Your post is empty of content.
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  7. Dr Mabuse Percipient Thaumaturgist Registered Senior Member

    Well you are at least amusing in your surety Alex. Ironic considering your pithy rejoinder above aimed at another poster.

    "The greatest ignorance is to reject something you know nothing about."

    Fraggle I was not in any way being sarcastic I assure you, nor was my reply before that in any way trolling. I was honestly surprised at the lack of thought. Seems to be a lot of projecting going on, well... and more of the same lack of any real consideration that is unfortunately all too common on this forum - since we are mentioning commonalities on this forum and from its posters. Poseurs who fancy themselves intellectual, yet skirt on the surface of a matter like a Water Strider on a pond.
  8. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Remembering that this is an international community and English is a second or third language for many of our members, direct communication is the best way to avoid misunderstanding. As always! You should have said, ". . . the important ones, such as:" and given at least one example of what you're talking about. Your list of important questions isn't going to match anyone else's. As I noted, science has answered many of the questions I personally consider "important," even "most important."
    • "Is there a chance that we're not alone in the universe?" The astronomical discovery of exoplanets, particularly Goldilocks.
    • "Why do so many people believe in gods?" Jung's psychological model of archetypes coupled with the discovery of DNA.
    • "Why do we kill animals for food?" Biological evidence that we're predators by nature and archeological evidence that the transition to a grain-based diet is too recent to be adapted to and for many centuries was nutritionally incomplete.
    • "Is language a recent development, so we made most of our progress without it?" LInguistic evidence that Yeniseian and Na-Dene, separated by 15,000 years of migration, are related.
    So it was a knee-jerk to dismiss your too-short statement as sarcasm. For others it was simply wise-ass trolling and I won't fault them for jumping to that conclusion.
  9. M00se1989 Banned Banned

    I'm pretty sure its safe to assume that anyone with the knowledge enough to click on a topic as "broad spectrum" as "questions science can't answer" is just as sure to find many slight hints at sarcasm, but thats not the point of the thread.

    Sure it is an ethical decision that science can not truly answer. At what point is it acceptable to take such a gift as a baby away. And honestly it is not anyones call other than what society is willing and able to accept. You have to accept some tragedies in hopes that what comes best for the child is the "right" preparations and certainly not some of the inevitable wrong ones of the past. The question is can you live with your choice and still feel you have done the right thing for both yourself and the world around you.

    I hear your accurate and simple answer to the OP. Dr. Mabus
  10. krazedkat IQ of "Highly Gifted"-"Genius" Registered Senior Member

    How can we know what we can't know?
  11. AlexG Like nailing Jello to a tree Valued Senior Member

    We can't know what we can't know, but we can know what we don't know.
  12. Mind Over Matter Registered Senior Member

    How can the Universe be computable?

    I await enlightenment.
  13. stratos Banned Banned

    Whenever you get the feeling that humans are at the top of the evolutionary tree, observe them changing a double duvet cover.

    Warning signs that you are becoming a scientist are when you have an unshakeable belief that mankind is making progress. The central article of faith amongst scientists is that a better world is to come. Of course, we won't know whether that's true. But what's the alternative?

    Another sign is not being able to see the wood for the trees, which is why experts often have the bitterest arguments, sometimes robbing them of their sense of humour.
  14. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Sure, but it is a rational faith based on evidence, not the irrational faith of the religionist based only on a hunch, a hope, or a fairytale somebody invented in the Stone Age.

    Mankind has been making progress since before our own species even came into existence. The evidence is all around us. Our ancestral species invented the technology of stone tools, and used flint blades to scavenge the meat off of bones left by predators. The transition from grazer to scavenger gave us more protein in our diet, allowing our brains to grow larger, and eventually we used that increased intelligence to invent even more powerful tools and became full-time predators eating a meat-intensive diet. More protein, more intelligence, more tools, better organization, language, we became the apex predators on the whole planet, eating both bears and sharks.

    But that was only the beginning. The real progress began with the first Paradigm Shift, the Agricultural Revolution. We began changing our environment to suit ourselves, raising plants and animals for food in our own villages instead of chasing them across the landscape. Living in permanent villages allowed us to build larger and more complicated artifacts that nomads can't carry on their treks, a quantum boost to progress. Then the second Paradigm Shift, the Dawn of Civilization. We began transcending our pack-social nature and learning to live in harmony and cooperation with strangers. Then the Bronze Age, then the Iron Age, and with each Shift there was another quantum increase in progress. (Although the Iron Age caused a temporary setback because of the ease with which weapons could now be made, but we overcame that.) By now we had writing, intricate division of labor, multi-level government, full-time teachers, explorers, managers, artists and inventors. Then the fifth Paradigm Shift, the Industrial Revolution, and at last 99% of the human race were not doomed to boring, exhausting lifelong "careers" in the food production and distribution "industry." Leisure time, discretionary income and literacy began to proliferate. Democracy was blooming. Then finally the latest Paradigm Shift: the Electronic Revolution. Global communication is so cheap that national boundaries no longer separate us from each other, and information is so accessible that it's hard for government and religious leaders to keep their people ignorant. We're finally merging our individual little countries into larger trans-national communities.

    This is tremendous progress. It has not been monotonic progress of course. There have been plenty of setbacks. But the trend has been consistent. For twelve thousand years, since the end of the Paleolithic Era, mankind has been progressing. There's no reason to assume that we'll stop now.

    The only major impediment to progress that still remains is religion. Christianity, Judaism and Islam inspire their followers to look down on outsiders, even members of competing sects within the same religion. Although their holy books are said to promote peace, the history of each of the Abrahamic faiths is a non-stop legacy of war and genocide. The Christians have obliterated two entire civilizations (Inca and Aztec) and the Jews and Muslims seem determined to destroy the ones that are left.

    If we can find a way to dig ourselves out from under the iron fist of religion, progress will continue. But we've managed to make progress before, in spite of religion, so there's no reason to think that we won't find a way this time.

    This is a rational faith in progress, based on evidence.
  15. krazedkat IQ of "Highly Gifted"-"Genius" Registered Senior Member

    Indeed young padawan, I forsee a great future for you (I don't actually, as I don't know what your future shall bring but it is more like I want a good future for you :shrug

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

  16. Dredd Dredd Registered Senior Member

    Some of the comments on this thread are addressed to the question What are the questions science has not answered? instead of the original question.

    I suppose the original question was addressed to the ultimate potential of science, that is, its limits.

    Limits not based on defects, but rather limits based on the nature of science.
  17. dhcracker Registered Senior Member

    Now the rational argument I have to pick at fraggle just a little.

    What is rational for you with your high education will not be rational for the guy flipping burgers. Do you think the universe makes perfect sense to that person with science? If they really sit and think bout things without long hourse of study they are going to stumble, and frankly we don't want everyone in the world to be highly educated. If we were all sitting around writing equations and doing experiments and such then we would starve to death.

    Religion evolved as a means for man to cope with his life and death and his place in the cosmos. To you your way is the rational one, to the relgious person a 7 day creation is perfectly rational. And any experiment and evidence is good for any perspective you want to use it for, so I have a problem with people who think religious people are irrational. From their eyes you would be irrational and just as untolerant as you probably think they are.

    This is the problem with our society still yet, we still have this "us vs them" engrained in our genetics that make us look for enemy groups of humans. This comes from back when another clan would steal our bannannas I think and has evolved from clans, to nations, and to ethnic and social groups and now even philisophical groups. Whatever group you identify with you will have an opposite, and you will view that group as bad regardless.

    We have to stop that kind of behaviour we don't need to steal anyones resources anymore.
  18. Skeptical Registered Senior Member


    The problem with your argument is that you use a different definition of the word 'rational' to that which fraggle uses.

    There are many human intellectual abilities. IQ is one. EQ is another. Artistic creativity is a third. Rationality is a fourth. etc. To discuss any or all of these, we must define them.

    My definition of rationality is the ability to recognise that which is real. We all know the GIGO principle. (garbage in = garbage out). The brain of a highly intelligent person who is not rational is the perfect example. He or she can carry out the most amazing and erudite logical processes based on stuff that is not real. The resulting conclusions are bulldust. GIGO!

    For example : I have read that, in medieval times, there really were people who tried to work out how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. That is a very irrational thing to do, but the people doing it were highly intelligent - theological scholars.

    To be rational, you first have to work out what is real. The best way to do this is to use objectively derived and empirical evidence, that is of high quality. The best place to find such evidence is in scientific journals that are peer reviewed and of high reputation. Such journals as 'Science', 'Nature', 'The Lancet' etc.

    Religious faith is irrational by definition. It is based either on believing an ancient text-book with no convincing independent evidence that it is more than fiction. Or it is based upon choosing to believe what parents, clergy, or teachers tell you, again with no independent evidence. Or it is based on subjective experience. (Ah felt Goood moovin in ma heart.)

    None of those sources meet the test of rational and convincing evidence. This means that religious belief is irrational.
  19. stratos Banned Banned

    There are wider issues, eg financial, ethical, government interest, agendas. A key question is responsibility and control. The very nature of homo sapiens is that it is an inquisitive species. Some modern developments were bruited as being extraordinary achievements but have actually achieved very little because scientists don't have the power to implement them nor can be trusted to see the wider picture. Scientists may need to communicate much better with society at large, a process some have visibly recognised. Whilst not every citizen needs to be an egghead, the importance of the non-scientific being better informed may come increasingly to the fore.

    Some questions can only be answered if you have two things: perfect information and perfect judgement.
  20. dhcracker Registered Senior Member

    No I have no problem with the definition of rational, the problem you people have is that someone else can perceive things real that you perceive unreal. And science explaining the origins of us all really isn't that much more rational than religion.. our equations break down at singularities and we have much we can't cope with under our current understanding. So do you throw out GR because black holes exist?? Of course not we can still navigate the stars perfectly with GR... however does that mean there isn't any faith involved. And if you have any faith you may as well have lots.

    For instance the scientific thing to do 300 years ago was burn witches... do we do that anymore? no we don't Science evolves and changes and our current system of physics WILL CHANGE.. so we can bet with good odds our current cosmology is flawed and that in the future a more perfect cosmology will come. And maybe the need for religion will be less and less however until you start tolerating differing points of view it will definately never happen.

    FAlling for this "well my faith is more rational".. how do you know that? Did you personally verify all the knowledge you learned of the cosmos or do you take faith in the collective information of others? That is not helpful behavior in my belief to ridding the world of unecessary beliefs and superstitions. As soon as someone thinks you believe your smarter or better or more righteous then they are going to dismiss you as biased rightly so.
  21. Skeptical Registered Senior Member


    You are still using a definition of rational that is different. That is not necessarily wrong, but you should make your definition clear so that the rest of us can understand your point of view.

    No. Burning witches was not scientific. It was never scientific, and will never be unless you radically change the definition of the word 'scientific'.

    Rationality is about reality. To understand reality requires an understanding of evidence. It also requires a clear understanding of what is not evidence. This is often difficult.

    For example : it is still commonplace in some jurisdictions for a suspect to a crime to be lined up with other people for a witness to identify. An identity parade. This process has been researched by scientists and found to be massively wanting. The problem is that the witness will nearly always pick someone, even when the actual criminal is not in that line up. The witness will pick the individual who most closely resembles the person in that witness's memory. That process has put a lot of innocent people behind bars, and even resulted in some innocent people being wrongly executed.

    Religious people often choose to use evidence that would never be accepted as valid by rational people who actually understand something about the reality of good evidence.

    In science, we try to keep the distinction clear. People can slip up. For example : a lot of people believe that superstring theory is valid. It is not. It may become valid if proper empirical testing is carried out. At the moment it is just someone's bright idea.

    However, most of the time, in science, we get it right. We nail down good evidence, and this reveals the strongest models of the universe. If something lacks evidence, good scientists will state clearly that we do not know.

    In religion the opposite holds. Religious people not only believe in a deity, but actually describe said deity in some detail. The evidence for this description is non existent in terms of the definitions of valid evidence. Hence, holding such a belief is irrational.
  22. Saquist Banned Banned

    It depends who is science.
    If you're talking the Scientific community then they "answer" anything you want with a theory, but will it be the truth? that's the question.

    Real Science, observation and testing is limited to what we can explore, test and understand so there are many things that science cannot answer for now but progress brings new information and new discoveries.
  23. dhcracker Registered Senior Member

    So who decides what is the evidence? Who interpets the evidence? Who gets to say what reality is? Are you positive the problem lies with "my definition of rationality" or simply the fact that different people living different lives and doing different things have DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES.

    This is the most sound of the philosophical sciences, and it relates to how we as human beings treat each other. You can change a persons perspective you know but how do you do that? Can you do that if you tell them they don't live in reality? No you cannot, its not helpful and its not even accurate because you can preach your reality to people and they will take and pick what relates to them and throw away the rest as gibberish if it doesn't line up with their experience and their own understanding of what the evidence is and means thus reality is. Plus what someone else counts as evidence you may not.

    What if I sat down and subtracted all the energy and mass from the universe and found that as of modern mans appearance on earth minus time dilation the universe was 7 days old... or progressed at a speed to factor up to that from our frame of reference. There is a guy that claimed to do that, however I think he just invented the mass and energy needed to do that and hit the magic number lol. But for that guy that is solid evidence, no doubt his perspective lead him to view the evidence a certain way didn't it... who gets to say who's perspective is real and whos isn't? When you do that you simply disregard another human beings entire existance.. don't do that.

    Why not tolerate their view even if you find it obtuse, give them the respect you want them to give your argument and be patient. If you don't do that then you are not helping science advance and religion go away you are entrenching people and making them hate you.

    I think thats a fair evaluation and its a noble way to treat people. Unless you are afraid you will be infected by unrealism lol. I don't think you should fear religious people I think you need to try to understand them and respect them if you want to help them see things your way or if you want them to not elect people that won't fund you.

    I get so tired of people bickering and cursing each other then wondering why they don't get funded or wonder why the scientist on the forum is insulting them. Especially here in the USA if you are into science you need kid gloves when dealing with plain everyday joes, if you don't then you will make another person vote far too conservatively when it comes time to invest in science. They won't care about the higgs boson or want to pay the power bill anymore like what happened at fermi.

    And you can insult one person on a public forum and in doing so alienate dozens who read it and identify with the simple religious guy or theist or agnost or whatever.

    BTW I'm agnostic if you guys are wondering, I'm not religious maybe a tad spiritual however I wouldn't see any conflict with a God I only see conflict with supernatural. I also don't see a problem if there isn't a God, I don't know and don't pretend to and I think maybe its something a little silly to fight over.

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