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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Limits of Science

My view is that there are no theoretical limits on what science can discover. To put it another way, there are no inherently undiscoverable facts. This is naturalism as I understand it.

I think this is an a priori truth. It doesn't make sense to say that there are things that exist but which science cannot study. I know it seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to say; but when analyzed, it doesn't stands to reason. What it would mean is that there are facts which cannot be described by any process of describing facts. It would mean there were inherently indescribable facts. But facts are describable by definition. So it's a contradiction in terms. You can believe in the indescribable--you can believe in the supernatural--but not rationally. That's why people call it "faith."

Wittgenstein wrote, "A nothing would do just as well as a something about which nothing could be said." The relevance is thus: When discussing what is possible, there is no difference between postulating the indescribable and postulating nothing at all. So there is no sense in supposing that the indescribable is even possible. It's just a meaningless assertion. It can have emotive power, for sure; it can inspire faith. But it cannot be the subject of rational belief.