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November 16, 2012

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In regard to "Science is the best way of knowing we have."

It really isn't any way of knowing at all as evidenced by the rapid changes in the understanding of physics we have seen in the 20th and 21st centuries.

It seems each hypothesis is replaced by numerous new hypotheses caused by the scientific method itself. The more and deeper you look, the more you see and thus produce ever more possibilites. Instead of finding one immutable truth you increase the multitude of possible immutable truths to choose from.

So, by trying to move toward unchanging truth, scientists actually move away from it. The more you struggle in the thorns the more of them you get hung up on.

The application of the scientific method actually causes truth to perpetually change. Whether it is through the eye of science or a beholder, the eye cannot see itelf. So, in the struggle to see itself it creates perpetual illusion.

tucson, almost always science expands upon scientific truth rather than overturning it.

Quantum physics is a good example. It didn't overturn Newtonian physics; it expanded it. Newton's laws of motion in a deterministic universe still hold true. But quantum laws apply in certain circumstances, such as the world of the very small.

Also, science tends to get truer and truer. Rarely, if ever, in the history of modern science has there been a lengthy period where scientific knowledge in some field got less true, rather than more true.

Nate Silver talks about this stuff in his book. I've only read a few chapters, but get the gist of his message. Science, like betting, basically is about making predictions. Nothing is 100% certain.

However, if you want to make good predictions, you're much better off using a fact-based scientific approach, than an intuition-based religious approach. And that's a fact.

I recall when I moved to Salem in 2006 learning that a Humanist group met monthly at the library. I wonder if this group is a remnant or new. At any rate, this news is encouraging and thanks for blogging about it (not that you need encouragement). Perhaps you could share any plans for future meetings (I'll check out the meet-up link) and whether you plan to attend.

If you want to make good decisions about making a car run properly the scientific approach may be the way to go, but when it comes to the origins of the universe, life and consciousness the scientific method fails.

Science appears to "advance" in the direction of the discovery of ultimate truth but all we have are an expanding body of hypotheses. Via multiplication, reduction, division and multiplication again we have a morass of indeterminate, relative truths.

What if science in contemplating the universe with its acquired body of explanations and "facts" suddenly finds a gap or fissure of pure nothing. And then in attempting to explain that gap science has to admit that all its "facts", which had appeared to be built upon a solid foundation of knowledge, might possibly be no more than a figment of its own imagination.

tucson, your mention of a gap made me think of a book I'm reading where the author speaks of the "between-ness" which is central to right brain perception (in contrast to left brain perception, the main focus of science).

He says, correctly in my opinion, that there is a "between" well, between, the objective world and our subjective understanding of it. It's that relation where meaning occurs. I agree that science doesn't handle that between very well, a point I made at the meeting described in this post.

There's really nothing objective about human knowledge. Our brains encounter the universe. In that encounter between the two, reality is perceived. Scientists often seem to assume that their view of reality is the only possible one, which isn't true. That gap, that between, has lots of room for many viewpoints.

Brian,

Is the between gap, or space, the half second between sensory(nonconceptual) cognition and conceptual mental cognition?

Roger, no, Iain McGilchrist is talking about something else in his book about the brain hemispheres, "The Master and the Emissary." Here's an excerpt about betweenness from p. 94-95:
----------------------
I want to suggest a different way of looking at the role played by the brain in forming our experience of the world. This involves concerning oneself with the nature of knowledge itself.

We use the word "know" in at least two importantly different senses. In one sense knowledge is essentially an encounter with something or someone, therefore with something 'other' (a truth embodied in the phrase 'carnal knowledge').

We say we know someone in the sense that we have experience of him or her, so that we have a 'feel' for who he or she is, as an individual distinct from others. This kind of knowledge permits a sense of the uniqueness of the other. It is also uniquely 'my' knowledge.

...It's also 'my' knowledge not just in the sense that I can't pass it on to you, but in the sense that it's got something of me in it. What I know about her comes from the fact that it was I who encountered her.

...It's not easily captured in words; the whole is not captured by trying to list the parts ('quick tempered', 'lively', etc.); it has at least something to do with the embodied person (the photograph); it resists general terms; it has to be experienced; and the knowledge depends on betweenness (an encounter). These are all, in fact, aspects of the world 'according to' the right hemisphere.

This kind of knowledge derives from a coming together of one being or thing as a whole with another. But there is another kind of knowledge, a knowledge that comes from putting things together from bits. It is the knowledge of what we call facts.

...It is the only kind of knowledge permitted by science (though some of the very best scientists use subterfuge to get away with the other kind). It concerns knowledge in the public domain -- the local train timetable, the date of the Battle of Trafalgar, and so on. Its virtue is its certainty -- it's fixed.

It doesn't change from person to person or from moment to moment. Context is therefore irrelevant. But it doesn't give a good idea of the whole, just of a partial reconstruction of aspects of the whole.

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