8 thoughts on “Discussion: The Limits of Science”

  1. 1.  I would like to think that science, as a subject, is without barriers or limitations.  So, in principle, I would have to say statement is false.  Science may be limited to what can be tested.  This is not the same as “science will always be limited to what can be tested.”  While there may be things science currently cannot test, future generations inherit this burden, just as past generations have, and will be expected to rise to the challenge.

    2.  Well…I’m assuming this is not a trick question…if a thing “exists” you are stating that it is, if it is then it can be experienced somehow or perceived on some plane of reality.  If that is the case, then I believe some type of test can be constructed.  This, of course, is dependent upon the objective of the test itself.

    A question for you – can something that cannot be perceived by normal senses be tested?

  2. Statement #1: I think the first statement, is partially true. It is actually a “workable truth”, but if one adopts it as a “full truth”, one has adopted a self-limiting “thought-stopper”.

    I’ve seen versions of this statement uttered by smug people. They’ve reduced it all to a neat little thought package with known boundaries.

    The reason it is not fully true is that science, properly done, should be always looking for ways to test the untestable.

    Here’s an example. Until Galileo, the tools to test theories of the planets were unavailable. Yet science, correctly, did not throw up its hands and say, “We can’t test that.” And we have telescopes today that enable science to test theories that would be inconceivable to the scientists of 300 years ago.

    Statement #2: I think this is demonstrably true. The example of “love” is a good one.

    Another factor that ties into this is that some things that actually DO exist aren’t even known about, let alone testable, because the tools or technology don’t yet exist to even become aware of them. For example, this was the case for bacteria and sub-atomic particles.

    Which poses the interesting question: what kinds of things are all around us now that we aren’t aware of, yet are impacting us daily?

    • As always, an excellent comment, John Doe.

      In your comment to #1 above, you correctly show how “science” did not “throw up its hands” (I love anthropomorphic metaphors) and say “we can’t test that!”.

      I do agree that this is what gives people hope who have placed science in their souls where religion and philosophy should be. This is their faith that science (their religion) if it does not yet know, soon WILL know! And when science does triumphantly thrust that test tube high in the air, science can tell them what to think and feel about that.

      You hear the faithful say it all the time, “We don’t know what that is now, but some scientist somewhere is working on that, and some day we will!”

      The problem lies in not knowing the difference between what is a belief, and what is a fact, the tendency to discount beliefs and to elevate facts, and the inability to distinguish what science can study, and what it can not.

      I spotted this first in Scientologists, because Hubbard had so thoroughly screwed up their ability to identify these things. But I soon recognized it everywhere, especially in scientists themselves.

      Neil Degrasse Tyson, for instance, in his “Cosmos” series, takes us into the middle of a black hole, and never once prints “THIS IS WHAT SCIENTISTS ACTUALLY BELIEVE” along the bottom of the screen. No. He presented this XENU-type black hole sequence to his eager flock as fact, and his faithful ate it up like a Sunday communion wafer.

      I really can’t blame anyone for this. It’s hard. And most people just don’t have the time or the inclination to figure this stuff out for themselves. The word “epistemology” itself is utterly forbidding. If you would read a text book on it, it would drive you quite mad trying to figure it out. (Little Hubbard inside joke there)

      Every civilization has a hierarchy of who to look at to tell them what is true. In the earliest days of western civilization, it was The Oracle at Delphi, and a few playwrights such as Plato. Then it became Rome and guys like Marcus Aurelius. Then it became the Catholic Church.

      Now it is science.

      I shouldn’t complain really. It could be much worse.

      Your question in number 2 is a great one. And I have a really good answer for it:


      Consciousness is something that no one in science yet understands how to define or even categorize, let alone test and study.

      I don’t know whether consciousness is even testable. But it is something that impacts us every second of every day.

      This is where the scientific faithful fall in and say, “We don’t know about it yet, but I am sure that some scientist somewhere is on the verge of cracking this one wide open!”

      Here’s a great Ted Talk on the subject:


      • Thanks for posting this TED talk, Alanzo.  What a great presentation of a new way to look at this subject!  Now if I only had about 16 hours to sit down and watch all the related TEDs on this subject!

        I don’t know if you’ve read any of Ken Wilber’s books (A Brief History of Everything, Integral Life Practice) but he has a lot of interesting things to say about Consciousness, and integrating it into the whole fabric of life, science, etc.

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