What are Science's Limits?

There are clear unknowables in science—reasonable questions that, unless currently accepted laws of nature are violated, we cannot find answers to.

Other examples of unknowables can be conflated into three questions about origins: of the universe, of life and of the mind.

Also, there is @jongarvey’s recent blog post:


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In the context of the other thread on science in the “natural v supernatural” sense, it’s maybe significant that these three origins questions - in fact, any origins matters - weren’t on the radar of the early modern philosophers like Bacon who laid out the parameters. To them, science begins only after creation is given.

It’s interesting also interesting how these three “origins”, in particular, remain so intractable scientifically, and I wonder if that might suggest they denote “real” origins, contingencies that are intrinsically beyond science, rather than simply that they’re complicated.

The “origin” of an individual organism, though unique, is scientifically tractable because it’s a recombination of what exists already: generation is in fact the outworking of some past origin. It’s describable as “more of the same.”

Scientific attacks on the origins of mind are attempts to reduce it to emergent neurology - though many, including myself, regard mind as truly new. Likewise the attempts to explain biogenesis by chemistry, and the indications both from failed theories and other considerations (such as Yockey’s denial of the evolvability of the DNA code) that life too is unique. Likewise, too, the universe and the attempts to redefine “nothing”, or the eternal mutiverse, which seek to make the big bang only an apparent origin, bit an actual continuum, but which at the very least are speculative and mutually contradictory.

In between these high order origins and the easily explicable are lower level “origins” which still present scientific problems. Genetics and “microevolution” are increasingly complicated, but increasingly understood. Much in macroeveolution - from phylogenesis to the DNA code’s origin - remains murky and controversial. How would one decide whether they are in the category of “not yet known” or that of “unknowable,” apart from expensive research programs either succeeding or failing?

And theologically, is there a correspondence between"unknowable origins" and “creation”?

“There is nothing wrong with me Agent Starling. I simply am. I am what I choose to be. You can’t reduce me to a set of first causes.” - Dr. Hannibal Lector. You know why a lot of normal people empathize with Hannibal Lector? It’s that right there. The character is an educated man pushing back against the idea that he is not a “real” being making real choices- that his personhood is in essence an illusion. We may choose not to express our reality in such a ghastly manner, but we recoil at the thought that we are merely a bio-mechanical set of first causes more than we recoil at cannibalism.

So far the party line seems to be that those terms are also describing illusions, and that the processes which cause a rare color variant in a local moth population to increase in frequency explains how bacteria became us and therefore should all be lumped under “evolution” without distinction between “micro” and “macro”. I don’t buy it either Jon, and it is very odd coming from people who are professionally attuned to making fine distinctions in terminology.

It’s remarkable to me that an attempt to delimits and explain exactly what science does and does not show us degrades immediately into throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

That is just a caricature of the situation. A better approach would be to ask why we think such things. You’ve been around enough to know that I work hard not to overstate evidence.

No you don’t. Does this shoe even fit you? Are you in that group that does not like to use the terms “macro-evolution” and “micro-evolution” because you see them as a false distinction? If so, why do you think such a thing?

3 posts were split to a new topic: Macro- vs. Micro-Evolution