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chaloobi
SFN Regular

1620 Posts

Posted - 03/16/2009 :  12:53:46  Show Profile  Send chaloobi a Yahoo! Message Send chaloobi a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The first thought I had reading this article title was "Yet." Here's the link:

http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2009/316/1?rss=1

and a piece of the article iteself:

Science Cannot Fully Describe Reality, Says Templeton Prize Winner

By David Lindley
ScienceNOW Daily News
16 March 2009

What is reality? French physicist Bernard d'Espagnat, 87, has spent a lifetime grappling with this question. Over the years, he has developed the idea that the reality revealed by science offers only a "veiled" view of an underlying reality that science cannot access, and that the scientific view must take its place alongside the reality revealed by art, spirituality, and other forms of human inquiry. In recognition of these efforts, d'Espagnat has won this year's Templeton Prize, a 1 million ($1.4 million) award sponsored by the Templeton Foundation, which supports research at the intersection of science, philosophy, and religion.

<snip>

...he has concluded that physicists must abandon nave realism and embrace a more sophisticated philosophy of reality. Quantum mechanics allows what d'Espagnat calls "weak objectivity," in that it predicts probabilities of observable phenomena in an indisputable way. But the inherent uncertainty of quantum measurements means that it is impossible to infer an unambiguous description of "reality as it really is," he says. He has proposed that behind measured phenomena exists what he calls a "veiled reality" that genuinely exists, independently of us, even though we lack the ability to fully describe it.

Asked whether that entails a kind of mysticism, d'Espagnat responds that "science isn't everything" and that we are already accustomed to the idea that "when we hear beautiful music, or see paintings, or read poetry, [we get] a faint glimpse of a reality that underlies empirical reality." In the possibility of a veiled reality that is perceived in different and fragmentary ways through science, art, and spirituality, d'Espagnat also sees, perhaps, a way to reconcile the apparently conflicting visions of reality that science and religion provide.

I've tried to write a few responses to this that disagrees with what this guy is saying but I keep accidentally saying the same thing he says, only differently.

I believe our brains are our minds. I believe the way our brains operate, the state they are in and the way they 'think', is affected by external stimuli. For example, music can affect mood. Smells can trigger memories that can affect mood. Exposure to differnt colors make some people more creative and other colors more efficient (blue vs. red). People who think hard about professors before they play, do better at trivial pursuit than those who think hard about sports figures or musicians. Our minds are fickle in ways we have no conscious knowledge of.

So, that said, it's no surprise that we have a sense that our perceptions change with exposure to art or religous ritual. Our minds are tweaked around to varying degrees by exposure to these things, depending on past experience and probably genetic make-up. So he's wrong, damn it! Because we arn't percieving a different aspect of reality.

Or are we? Reality hasn't changed at all, just the way our brains work, ie process the sensory input, has changed. And isn't that more or less what he's saying? Is some religous experience any less a legitimate experience of reality than your day to day routine? It's all in the conclusions you draw from the experience, isn't it?

For example, when I hear certain music from my past that triggers some nostalgic feelings for a long lost love that broke my heart and I find myself feeling inexplicably blue, I might say 'bollocks' and turn that song off, then go about my business. On the other hand, a different song in a different setting with a different person may lead to them speaking in tongues at the front of the church and getting a real 'spiritual' charge out of being center stage. It's arguable these are both changes in perception of reality at least in so far as understanding the human condition. The reality illustrated is that of our own minds and what it is that pushes our mental buttons (in this case, music) and perhaps, with careful study, how those buttons work.

But all in all you get a different understanding of mind and reality by experiencing music than you would without it. Even if it's just revealing that music - sound structured in a certain way - affects you emotionally and (maybe) the root of that is in exposure to mom's heart beat as a fetus and an infant. Ok, then now you know a little more about life, the universe and everything than you would have if you never heard music. Or something like that.

-Chaloobi

dglas
Skeptic Friend

Canada
397 Posts

Posted - 03/16/2009 :  13:28:40   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send dglas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
It is possible "...that behind measured phenomena exists what he calls a "veiled reality" that genuinely exists, independently of us, even though we lack the ability to fully describe it."

Or maybe it's just realty that we cannot know because we are imperfect perception machines.

Or maybe the "underlying reality" we get faint glimpses of is not an underlying reality, but an overlapping social realm of constructs.

Class case of jumping to unwarranted conclusions.

--------------------------------------------------
- dglas (In the hell of 1000 unresolved subplots...)
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The Presupposition of Intrinsic Evil
+ A Self-Justificatory Framework
= The "Heart of Darkness"
--------------------------------------------------
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26000 Posts

Posted - 03/16/2009 :  14:08:36   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Joe kills Ken, and throws Ken's body into a deep ravine, but Joe's fingers get caught by Ken's belt, and Joe winds up dying from the fall. This much is what forensics can tell us about the crime.

What Joe and Ken said to each other (or didn't say) in their final moments is something that genuinely happened, but we will never know it. Ever.

The fact that there are questions which science will never be able to answer shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Abusing that limitation to suggest that other "ways of knowing" should be given serious consideration isn't surprising, either. Everyone engages in wishful thinking to some extent or other.

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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 03/16/2009 :  19:10:52   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dave W.

Joe kills Ken, and throws Ken's body into a deep ravine, but Joe's fingers get caught by Ken's belt, and Joe winds up dying from the fall. This much is what forensics can tell us about the crime.

What Joe and Ken said to each other (or didn't say) in their final moments is something that genuinely happened, but we will never know it. Ever.

The fact that there are questions which science will never be able to answer shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Abusing that limitation to suggest that other "ways of knowing" should be given serious consideration isn't surprising, either. Everyone engages in wishful thinking to some extent or other.
Of couse science isn't about to understand everything. Science is a process, not an omniscient goal right around the corner.

Nor does d'Espagnat have any practical substitute for science. The old man simply gives up on the quest for knowledge. He joins giants like Isaac Newton in being a quitter. But at least Newton accomplished a great deal before he quit and lapsed into pure religious mysticism.


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
Edited by - HalfMooner on 03/16/2009 19:17:00
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26000 Posts

Posted - 03/16/2009 :  20:46:23   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by HalfMooner

Of couse science isn't about to understand everything. Science is a process, not an omniscient goal right around the corner.
Okay, Mr. Pedant. Scientists will never understand everything.

chaloobi's "yet" is a hint of an attitude called "scientism." People who hold to scientism (and I don't mean chaloobi) really do think that it's just a matter of time and resources before the process of science allows us to answer every single question about the natural world. However, "what did Joe and Ken say to each other" is a perfectly valid question about the natural world which will never be answered, because after a few seconds, whatever effect their voices had on the air molecules will be below the thermal noise, and thus impossible to discern. Scientism is, therefore, wrong. But it's an attitude that some otherwise skeptical people have, and an attitude that creationists and other nutjobs ascribe (in a derogatory fashion) to all people who favor science, because they so enjoy flogging strawmen.

D'Espagnat is not only suggesting that scientism is wrong, but that because it is wrong, we should perhaps look to mysticism (for example) to answer the questions that science presently cannot. But mysticism has never held any objective epistemological value, and so he's basically saying that where science fails us, we should feel free to make crap up.

The rational response to a failure of science is, of course, "we don't know." Some people have a hard time saying that, though.

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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 03/16/2009 :  21:31:23   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dave W.
D'Espagnat is not only suggesting that scientism is wrong, but that because it is wrong, we should perhaps look to mysticism (for example) to answer the questions that science presently cannot. But mysticism has never held any objective epistemological value, and so he's basically saying that where science fails us, we should feel free to make crap up.

The rational response to a failure of science is, of course, "we don't know." Some people have a hard time saying that, though.
Exactly! I get so angry when I hear people like D'Espagnat basically say that science (empiricism) shouldn't try to be so domineering of an epistemology because, hey, everybody already admits that it can never answer anything, so why not show a little humility and let other "ways of knowing" have a voice? Share the stage, so to speak. And time and again I have to point out that, like creationism, faith and mysticism have not been overlooked because they haven't been properly considered and tested, but discarded because they have. So a lack of humility would not be demonstrated by refusing to recognize "other ways of knowing," but by refusing to accept that some things can't be known. What is god if not the ultimate denial mechanism? I bet He knows what Joe and Ken said to each other right before they fell over the cliff. He knows everything. Faith means never having to say it can't be known, because that's just too unsettling.

So any arrogance present in the discussion doesn't stem from the people who suggest that science is the only valid way of knowing (however admittedly limited it may be), but from those who baselessly seek to elevate failed epistemologies to the level of prestige that science has earned. Dying people might turn to snake oil if conventional treatments fail, but that will never make snake oil medicine.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
Edited by - H. Humbert on 03/16/2009 21:44:42
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 03/17/2009 :  01:09:50   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Dave_W said:
However, "what did Joe and Ken say to each other" is a perfectly valid question about the natural world which will never be answered, because after a few seconds, whatever effect their voices had on the air molecules will be below the thermal noise, and thus impossible to discern. Scientism is, therefore, wrong. But it's an attitude that some otherwise skeptical people have, and an attitude that creationists and other nutjobs ascribe (in a derogatory fashion) to all people who favor science, because they so enjoy flogging strawmen.


Predicting the future is risky business Dave. While I mostly agree with your point about scientism, I don't think it is safe to say what we will and will not be capable of in 50 or 100 years time.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 03/17/2009 :  01:22:48   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dude

Dave_W said:
However, "what did Joe and Ken say to each other" is a perfectly valid question about the natural world which will never be answered, because after a few seconds, whatever effect their voices had on the air molecules will be below the thermal noise, and thus impossible to discern. Scientism is, therefore, wrong. But it's an attitude that some otherwise skeptical people have, and an attitude that creationists and other nutjobs ascribe (in a derogatory fashion) to all people who favor science, because they so enjoy flogging strawmen.


Predicting the future is risky business Dave. While I mostly agree with your point about scientism, I don't think it is safe to say what we will and will not be capable of in 50 or 100 years time.


I agree, Dude, about the inadvisability of predicting that almost any particular feat might be forever impossible. But it seems likely there will always be some things that will remain impossible. (Skiing on the event horizon of a black hole?) As part of our present ignorance, we just don't know what those impossible things are.


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
Edited by - HalfMooner on 03/17/2009 01:23:25
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chaloobi
SFN Regular

1620 Posts

Posted - 03/17/2009 :  04:42:15   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send chaloobi a Yahoo! Message Send chaloobi a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dave W.

Originally posted by HalfMooner

Of couse science isn't about to understand everything. Science is a process, not an omniscient goal right around the corner.
Okay, Mr. Pedant. Scientists will never understand everything.

chaloobi's "yet" is a hint of an attitude called "scientism." People who hold to scientism (and I don't mean chaloobi) really do think that it's just a matter of time and resources before the process of science allows us to answer every single question about the natural world. However, "what did Joe and Ken say to each other" is a perfectly valid question about the natural world which will never be answered,
It would not have occurred to me to lump scientific knowledge of the nature of reality with trying to figure out what two dead guys - or live guys for that matter - said to each other at some point in the past. It appears that one characteristic of the nature of reality is that such things can't be known.

So if scientism includes the ability to know everything that ever happened, past and future, then I'd never subscribe to that. However, I do believe that a Theory of Everything is likely at some point in the near to medium future which would unveil the nature of reality at least to the ability that our brains can understand.

-Chaloobi

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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26000 Posts

Posted - 03/17/2009 :  05:02:32   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dude

Predicting the future is risky business Dave. While I mostly agree with your point about scientism, I don't think it is safe to say what we will and will not be capable of in 50 or 100 years time.
I think it's quite safe to say that science will never answer the questions required to develop a technology to enable Ricky to poop out a full-size, fully functional SUV.

On a more serious note, over the centuries science has continued to answer our questions about how to make more and more precise measurements, but after 400 years or so, we still only get 10 or 11 significant figures in our most-precise measurements. And the improvement of signal-to-noise ratios (required to pull conversations out of the air) might continue to some extent, but the "noise floor" is intrinsic, and so cannot be eliminated entirely.

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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 03/17/2009 :  11:43:20   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dave W.

Originally posted by Dude

Predicting the future is risky business Dave. While I mostly agree with your point about scientism, I don't think it is safe to say what we will and will not be capable of in 50 or 100 years time.
I think it's quite safe to say that science will never answer the questions required to develop a technology to enable Ricky to poop out a full-size, fully functional SUV.

On a more serious note, over the centuries science has continued to answer our questions about how to make more and more precise measurements, but after 400 years or so, we still only get 10 or 11 significant figures in our most-precise measurements. And the improvement of signal-to-noise ratios (required to pull conversations out of the air) might continue to some extent, but the "noise floor" is intrinsic, and so cannot be eliminated entirely.

Its a kind of certainty that I'm not comfortable with. Even in the absurd example of Ricky's SUV, which was my example in the impossible/possible argument(where Ricky was insisting that nothing is impossible), I'm not entirely sure that it will never be possible for a human to excrete a functioning SUV. It is clearly impossible for Ricky to poop one out right now, but who knows what the state of nanotechnology will be in 100 or 200 or 500 years?

This is the brand of scientism I tentatively subscribe to, the "maybe" brand. Maybe we'll be able to make Ricky poop out that SUV when he's 90. Maybe not. The kind of scientism that is certian of our future ability to do anything should, as you have done, be branded as wrong, but so should the certianty that some bit of knowledge is forever impossible to obtain.

Some things, obviously, are impossible for you or I to know right now, and there are probably limits on what it is possible to eventually know. But those limits are, right now, unknown.

Hell, maybe some Einstein of the 21st century will provide mathematical proof and physical evidence of the hologram universe hypothesis and derive from that some way to bend space/time to our will, and then 'mooner be surfing those event horizons while on vacation instead of scuba diving in Mexico.

Doesn't seem likely, but 1500 years ago the thought of microorganisms being a cause of disease, reattaching severed limbs, spaceflight, cellphones, plastic, MRImachines, 2000ft tall buildings, and nuclear weapons would have seemed pretty unlikely.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 03/17/2009 :  12:41:03   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Certain events are likely lost to time and can never be known, but I suppose it is possible that one day a time machine will be invented which can be used to go back and learn what Joe and Ken said to each other right before they fell over the cliff, to continue with that example. So even "lost" knowledge may be recoverable one day. So perhaps at the very minimum we can state that we can't ever know what we can't ever know, which means there is at least one thing we can't ever know. 'Tis a paradox.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
Edited by - H. Humbert on 03/17/2009 13:13:32
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26000 Posts

Posted - 03/17/2009 :  13:55:58   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dude

Doesn't seem likely, but 1500 years ago the thought of microorganisms being a cause of disease, reattaching severed limbs, spaceflight, cellphones, plastic, MRImachines, 2000ft tall buildings, and nuclear weapons would have seemed pretty unlikely.
They would have all seemed like magic. Of course, other forms of magic haven't panned out so well. I'm of the opinion that the fact that we have some pretty amazing technologies that would have seemed like magic centuries ago is not predictive of any particular technology we wish for now being just a matter of time and resources.

I mean, there isn't a hint of any new theory coming along which will overthrow the limitations on time travel that Relativity presents right now for us macroscopic beings. Sure, there also wasn't a hint of a universal "speed limit" in Newton's day, but Relativity actually shrank our possible actions, rather than expanded them, in that one regard. Just like the Uncertainty Principle has put the dampers on the dream of dumping all particle states into a computer simulation and then running "the tape" backwards and forwards through time as far as we want.

Yes, we can all get a chuckle out of Popular Mechanics' prediction that computers in the year 2000 will weigh no more than a ton (and there might be a dozen of them in the U.S.), or Bill Gates' saying that 640 KB ought to be enough for anyone. But the limitations I'm taking about are based on much more fundamental knowledge than those people were working with.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 03/17/2009 :  15:52:06   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dave W.

Okay, Mr. Pedant. Scientists will never understand everything.
Thanks, Dave! Being recognized as a pedant is really a step up for me.


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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Ricky
SFN Die Hard

USA
4907 Posts

Posted - 03/17/2009 :  21:33:22   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Ricky an AOL message Send Ricky a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Sure, there also wasn't a hint of a universal "speed limit" in Newton's day, but Relativity actually shrank our possible actions, rather than expanded them, in that one regard. Just like the Uncertainty Principle has put the dampers on the dream of dumping all particle states into a computer simulation and then running "the tape" backwards and forwards through time as far as we want.


Yet at least one of them is wrong. Probably wrong in the way Netwon's theory was wrong with objects traveling at high velocity, but wrong none the less. They are at ends with each other when it comes to things of high density (like a black hole).


Why continue? Because we must. Because we have the call. Because it is nobler to fight for rationality without winning than to give up in the face of continued defeats. Because whatever true progress humanity makes is through the rationality of the occasional individual and because any one individual we may win for the cause may do more for humanity than a hundred thousand who hug their superstitions to their breast.
- Isaac Asimov
Edited by - Ricky on 03/17/2009 21:34:30
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26000 Posts

Posted - 03/17/2009 :  21:47:22   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Ricky

Yet at least one of them is wrong. Probably wrong in the way Netwon's theory was wrong with objects traveling at high velocity, but wrong none the less. They are at ends with each other when it comes to things of high density (like a black hole).
Sure, but as you said, probably wrong in the way Netwon's mechanics were wrong. They required a "tweak." Right now, Relativity gives basically an "overflow" condition inside a black hole. It's useless there, but successful everywhere else we've tested it. Is a QM solution to black holes suddenly going to tell us that we would need less than a whole galaxy's worth of energy to propel a human being to 0.99999c?

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
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