Limits of science

From Everything Shii Knows, the only reliable source

This website is an archive. It ran from 2006-2010. Virtually everything on here is outdated or inaccurate.

Rather than calling these logical proofs of God's existence, because they aren't, this is a list of limits of science. Please contrast with my Invisible Pink Unicorn page.

George Berkeley's "if a tree falls..." argument

Please note that this argument is often misunderstood to be pedantry about the meaning of the word "sound" but it was actually conceived as a proof of God's existence.

  1. Science describes the world assuming that events are observed.
  2. Yet unobserved things happen on Earth every day. For example, if a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? Or, to clear it up a little for those who have heard misstatements of this argument before: if you come across a fallen tree, can you assume it made a sound?
  3. Common sense tells us that these things happen anyway. Yes, it does make a sound.
  4. Science cannot speak about what has not been observed, and common sense must fill in the blank.
  5. This is a limit of science.
    Religious continuation:
  6. Strictly speaking, it is logical to assume the tree might very well not make a sound. There is no logical necessity for unobserved trees to follow the rules that we have laid down for observed trees. There is no possible train of thought that can force someone to accept that trees that nobody can hear are making noises. That would be akin to believing in fairies or leprechauns.
  7. Yet a reasonable person would have to assume that if science is interpreting the world correctly, then the falling of trees that nobody hears is occurring in a normal, scientific way.
  8. The philosophy of science posits an observer for every event that happens in a scientific way. Please note that while you may object to this step being brought up now, it is the same as step 1.
  9. The necessary conclusion here is that when we picture a falling tree in our minds, we are also picturing ourselves watching it. And when we assume real trees falling, we are also assuming something must have been watching them. The alternative to this assumption is listed in step 6 above, and it's not pretty.
  10. Therefore, according to our common sense, something omnipresent must be observing everything in the universe.

First cause argument

  1. Science assumes that all events have a natural cause.
  2. Even if the universe is infinite, there's still the tiny little problem that the universe exists, and there is not merely a dark and infinite vacuum.
  3. Furthermore, the universe is defined by physical laws. And even if there is only one defining physical law that causes all the others, it's still a definition. And scientifically speaking that definition could not have just "happened".
  4. Furthermore, the universe exists in the form of protons, electrons, etc. And even if all the subatomic particles were originally one ur-Particle that caused all the others, there is something that made it do that.
  5. More simply put, there is a first cause that got the whole thing going without needing to be started itself.
  6. This is a limit of science.
    Religious continuation:
  7. The first cause must be something outside the range of science, or else science could explain it with a "zeroth cause".
  8. An atheist used Occam's Razor to posit a self-creating universe. This is the unfortunate result of that shave.
    That is to say, "the universe itself" cannot be the first cause, because we can observe that events within the universe follow the rules of cause and effect. The universe is only the word we use to describe everything we have perceived-- it doesn't have any other imaginary abilities. Actually, to use Occam's Razor and say the universe caused itself is absurd. What exactly is the property of material reality that makes itself happen? If we say the universe is its own cause, we may also say, with equal validity, that the universe has eyes that are watching us in the shower, or forms teapots in space of its own will, or sometimes hums to itself. By giving the universe these extra properties you invent a beast that is something more than just observed reality (see image at right).
  9. Therefore, the first cause could be anything we like. It does not have to be something represented in material reality, because we have already demonstrated that it is outside the reach of science.
  10. The first cause could even be a meddlesome supernatural being who favors Jews over other races. Yup. It's not altogether likely, and it's not very helpful to believe in (for the sake of important matters here on Earth), but it is possible.

Issues within language

Here's a limit of every sort of natural philosophy: the language we use to define it. To put it simply, we can only describe what we know, and God is unknown. (explained at length here) So, there is no conceivable form of science which could discover God, unless if he wills it. Of course, perhaps it is possible that there is no God nor any other sort of non-material entity and therefore nothing we can't know.

But here's an example of how this is a limit of science:

Science is essentially defined by mathematics, which is not equivalent to simple logic but requires a framework. Euclidean geometry is an example of a mathematical framework. The Principia Mathematica attempted to prove the internal consistency of arithmetic as a mathematical framework.

This is a limit of science.

Some people have attempted to prove that the logic itself is a limit of science, but I regard this generally as sophistry. Often science assumes internal logic to the universe rather than randomness, because it would be impossible to draw conclusions without this assumption, but the use of logic itself is impossible to define and debate logically. (The linked video gets into that a little as well.)

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