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Are there boundaries in modern science?

  1. Sep 13, 2003 #1


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    Quantumcarl and I have a discussion going in the Mystics forum that I think brings up a point not yet discussed. In human civilization, science has drastically improved and changed our way of life. It would seem to me however today, that because science has paved a road to the reality of the universe that maybe some of us forget to take the detours and explore possibilities, otherwise known as metaphysics. We don't want to get off the main "path", and forgo looking for other avenues that may lead us to the same place but with perhaps a different (or more beautiful) perspective. Here is a quote Carl made that I find simple, honest, and truthful:

    Are there some perspectives that are so locked into science that they place boundaries on their scientific discovery?
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  3. Sep 13, 2003 #2
    Here's what Dictionary.Com says about the word "metaphysics" ...

    So in this respect it would seem metaphyiscs is not all that bad of a word. :smile:
  4. Sep 13, 2003 #3
    Well, I'm not sure that I completely understand the question, but I can tell you that Science cannot deal with anything metaphysical. When I say "metaphysical", I mean something that is not physical. If it is not physical then it doesn't interact with the physical world, and can thus not be studied by empirical means. However, it is up to belief (and belief alone) of the individual person whether there is or is not a metaphysical reality (since such a reality would never be able to interact with the physical realm, and would thus be unprovable and unfalsifiable).
  5. Sep 14, 2003 #4
    Boundaries exist as agents of balance. We have a boundary between space and our atmosphere. This is a natural occurance that is neutral in nature yet has facilitated the fostering of life, which has been to our advantage in observing the universe.

    There are many types of natural boundaries that tend to facitlitate great numbers of conditions and occurances that would not happen with out boundaries.

    In fact it is those very boundaries I'm talking about that have made it possible for humans to transend many boundaries.

    The process is a long one... evidently... the collective human consciousness appears to evolve at a rate of change equal to that of fading paint or a crippled slug. But, evolutionary and revolutionary change has enabled us to go to the moon (beyond earthly boundaries) and to transend many social, cultural, religious or spiritual and scientific boundaries. As history has recorded and noted for us, boundaries will always be bypassed, in one form or another.

    It may be a universal law or two.

    One: there needs to be boundaries.

    Two: Boundaries were made to be breached.

    On the topic of Metaphysics: to me this term simply means "beyond physics"... which presents another boundary... the "beyond" boundary... or "out of reach". When you were 5 the light switch was "out of reach".

    It wasn't until you were older or "more change had occured" that you were able to "turn on the lights".

    It may be only a matter of more evolution and more revolution and more change before we can begin to incorporate some "metaphysical" laws into and in conjunction with physical ones.

    Its up to the brave and the free to pursue these goals... outside the perceived boundaries of the majority of the masses.
  6. Sep 14, 2003 #5


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    Right Quantumcarl, I agree. The nature of science is indeed to transcend any boundaries, and to push forward the light. What we see as out of reach today may well be reached one day. The only real boundary is that of time, and this one shifts away from us.

    But it is possible I guess to construct by tautology things that cannot by definition be reached by knowledge, and the best we can ever say of them is that they are indeterminate. But the question then arises - are those things, that do not act and cannot be felt, really meaningful in our reality? If we cannot feel them or their effects, are they even "real"?
  7. Sep 14, 2003 #6
    Well, it may be the scientific objective, to transcend most boundaries, however it can never - by it's very nature - transcend certain boundaries, and one of those boundaries is the physical realm (if, in fact, anything else exists, it cannot be discovered by science).
  8. Sep 14, 2003 #7
    Mentat, FZ+ ;

    I think that, of course, ethics present the boundaries that can be best utilized by science. Particularly since using ethics facilitates a successful exploration and the most productive and least-infringing transendance of a boundary(ies).

    As I've said in the Ethics thread, the success of an individual's (or corporation's) endeavor depends on how much of a success it will be for everyone and everything else concerned. That's ethics. And ethics is full of boundaries. Insulation so to speak. Yet, ethics facilitate the crossing of boundaries as well.
  9. Sep 14, 2003 #8

    Ivan Seeking

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    What qualifies as [Cosmological] Metaphysics today may be physics tomorrow. Of course this is only true if we bother to consider all possible truths; including the ones that can't presently be subjected to the whole of proper scientific inquiry.

    However the definition of the physical realm can change. You assume that unknowable truths exist. This could be true of course, but clearly this is an assumption having little basis for a defense.

    Edit: This provides a closer definition to the subject at hand:
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2003
  10. Sep 15, 2003 #9
    There are no boundries. Boundries only exist in our minds and are in reality only the limitations that we set, the limit of our present knowledge and the limit of our imagination.

    Quantumcarl's example of the boundry between our atmoshere and space is a perfect example of what I'm saying. The boundry exists as a convient definition in our minds but in physical reality does not exist as a boundry. The atmoshere becomes thinner and thinner until the difference between atmoshere and space is no longer detectable. Where is the boundry?

    When Mentat mentions that by definition Metaphysics is beyound Physics and thus beyound Science, he forgets to use the words "present day." I can imagine a physics or science dealing with mental perceptions, beliefs, ideas and imagination itself. I can imagine a science someday proving the existence of spirit, soul, faith even God.
    Present day science cannot and will not because it now lays outside the boundry of science. That does not mean that it will always be so.

    Like Laws, boundaries and man made. Nature, reality, wherever you want to call it knows no laws or boundaries. It just is.
  11. Sep 15, 2003 #10
    I understand the illusion of boundaries. Many boundaries are dependant upon subjective and anthropomorphic concepts (however, these concepts are based on an education in the physical world.

    Where wind cannot pass through the boundary of a windsheild, the sun can pass light through it. Where most physical entities cannot pass directly through this planet... neutrinos can and do every second of the day.

    So we begin to see that boundaries are specific to certain elements... and give way to other elements.

    This doesn't mean they are non-existant. It means they exist under certain conditions and do not under other conditions... depending on the elements involved. Very quantum, I might add.

    The specifications of a boundary resemble ethics, in a way.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2003
  12. Sep 15, 2003 #11
    What immediately comes to mind is that every single theory starts with postulates - something that cannot be explained or reduced further, concepts that are circular. This is principal boundary. It can be shifted, but it can never be removed. There is always something that escapes explanation and has to be taken on faith.

    Another boundary that comes to mind is causal logic. Its so deep and so well justified by empirical evidence that there is no room left for something that turns out to be internally inconsistent by today's logical standards. This sets sorts of boundary.
  13. Sep 15, 2003 #12
    In a sense, as I maintain that all boundries are produces of the mind, the specifications of a boundry resemble ethics in every way.

    What we call physical boundries are physical properties that determine physical behavior under given circumstances. We define such behavior as a boundry because it is more convient that explaning the behavior every time.

    These comments are more in line with the term "limit" which I agree is another meaning of the term boundry; but, not in the sense of Kerrie's original intent IMHO. In any case these too are mental limits or boundries in that within the boundries is principal and logic, outside the boundry is non-principal and illogic. Boundries that we here take particular delight in crossing all of the time.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2003
  14. Sep 15, 2003 #13
    But Science (according to the Scientific Method) is supposed to deal only with replicable experimentation. As I've shown in other threads, you cannot experiment with something that is not physical (as you would have to have an intermediary that was neither physical nor non-physical between you (a physical being) and whatever non-physical thing you are studying).
  15. Sep 15, 2003 #14
    Not true, there are boundaries on Science, and they are clearly set out in the Scientific Method (which is the cornerstone of the Philosophy of Science itself).

    No, I didn't forget, I chose to omit that term, since it doesn't apply. Perhaps there are many things that we think of as metaphysical, which will (in the future) be shown to be physical, and thus scientifically testable (such as consciousness (AFAIC), and God (though I am not at liberty to purue a discussion of why God may be physical, or really anything to do with God), but if something is actually non-physical, it cannot be scientifically tested.

    I agree entirely with what you say above, provided these things (imagination, God, spirit, faith, etc...) are shown to be physical.

    Yes, but if there is no set pattern as to how it behaves (not set, as in "the Universe obeys this pattern/law", but set as in "the Universe always does that in that particular way") then Science is useless.
  16. Sep 15, 2003 #15
    Mentat go back and read my previous post. We are replying to this thread at the same time and are therefore getting out of sync.
    I agree with everything that you say about present day science but who can say what the science or the scietific method of tomorrow will be. It may well have to expand its scope and begin looking into "that which cannot be shown to exist" in order to show that it can be shown to exist. IOW I can't see what I won't or can't look at. To see what I can't see I will have to look in another direction, in another way. It really is as simple as that.
  17. Sep 15, 2003 #16
    I did. That's how I got part of it quoted in my response.

    I beg to differ, dear friend. It gets slightly more complicated when you realize that Science cannot "look in another direction". It is not for a sub-system of Philosophy to look in any direction other than that which it was intended for. That is left to those who stay in the broader realm of Philosophy itself.
  18. Sep 15, 2003 #17
    Boundaries don't exist? Sure they do. Try driving your car over the edge of a precipice or, smack dab into a brick wall. Of course by then it would be a little late to realize that there are "real" limitations when it comes to driving a car. :wink:
  19. Sep 15, 2003 #18
    Don't you see what a constricting and unrealistic limit that places on science? I realize that we have a way to go yet;but, when science has discovered the theory of everything and the grand unification theory where is it going to look then. Things change. Ideas and paradigms change. Even limits change. Vertually every limit mankind has run into has only slowed him down for a moment until he can figure out a way to go beyond that limit or push the limit beyound it's boundry. Is it going to die because there is no where else to look, nothing left to discover? I don't think so. I think that we will discover that "there is more under the stars, Horatio, than drempt of by our philosophers."
  20. Sep 15, 2003 #19
    Actually, so far it has been quite the opposite: scientists keep telling philosophers that there's far less under the stars than they used to dream. So much so that philosophers no longer dream.
  21. Sep 15, 2003 #20


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    my topic is trying to address the issue of attempting to explore what we cannot currently prove with our known science...sounds as if this literally defies the current definiton of science itself...
  22. Sep 15, 2003 #21
    So be it, but remember that I am placing this limit on Science, not on learning itself (=philosophy). That is what is wrong with your interpretation of what I'm saying. I'm not saying that mankind can't discover the metaphysical, merely that they can't use science to do it (though I, personally (currently), don't think they can at all, that has nothing to do with whether they could (even in principle) use science to accomplish it). Science is not our only medium for discovering truth (you, of all people, should be aware of this).
  23. Sep 15, 2003 #22
    Pretty much. Philosophy begot Science, and thus Science is much more limited than Philosophy. Philosophy as a whole (and many subsets of it) is/are capable of discussing the metaphysical, but at least one of it's subsets is incapable of this: Science.
  24. Sep 15, 2003 #23


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    Er... no. The prime assumption of inquistive science is that there is an infinity of knowledge out there, here and any where. So much that our finite dreams cannot only be insufficient. Why dream, when you can see?
  25. Sep 15, 2003 #24
    Well, that's the second time today that it has been proven to me that I am no philosopher. I still dream! BTW the partial quote was from Shakespear's Hamlet back when scientists were still concidered philosphers. The point is still well taken.

    Mentat, you write as if science were a done deal. If science is only what can be proven and what can be measured then science is already done. It has passed into the realm of knowledge and not exploration, speculation or discovery. How can science explore new areas if it limits itself to only that area where it knows it can be proven? If it already knows why explore? This is not one of the problems with the scientific method. First we speculate, FIRST WE SPECULATE, then we hypothesize then we think up experiements and make predictions and then test and retest but rarely disprove something only say that no evidence has been found to support. If support is found and no contradictions then it may become a theory. But. first we speculate. How can we speculate or why would we if we don't go outside the box, the know, the proven,
    The scientific method is not carved in granite nor was it passed down carved in stone tablets from the mount.
    There are no natural boundries to science only man made boundries that are artificial. You seem intent in putting up more or higher fences. "This far and no farther"
  26. Sep 15, 2003 #25


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    royce, bravo to you, you have succeeded in communicating my exact point...first we must speculate...
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