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I want to find out the fundamental truths in this world

  1. Sep 1, 2015 #1
    After having some quite philosophical debates about the nature of truth and the limits of what we can truly understand, i've been trying to find out what is 100% scientifically provable to be an absolute truth. I know that this is quite wishy-washy question but i'm hoping to find answers on here as i cannot accept that we cant really know anything.
     
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  3. Sep 1, 2015 #2

    berkeman

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    Welcome to the PF.

    You came to the right place to ask scientific questions! But keep in mind that the PF rules (see Info at the top of the page) do not permit philosophical discussions any more. We have just found them too hard to Moderate well. :smile:
     
  4. Sep 1, 2015 #3

    Borg

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    Beat me to it. :smile:

    To the OP, be sure to check out the Physics Forums Global Guidelines (Terms and Rules in the INFO tab).
     
  5. Sep 1, 2015 #4

    micromass

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    There is no 100% provable absolute truth in science. All scientific knowledge is conditional. One of the big requirements for a scientific theory is that it is falsifiable. Thus in theory, and scientific theory can be proven wrong. We are of course reasonably certain that stuff like the theory of gravity works, but we can never be 100% certain of this.
    If you are looking for absolute truths, science is not the place to look.
     
  6. Sep 1, 2015 #5

    russ_watters

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    I think there's a typo in there, but I'd still like to reword:

    Thus, any scientific theory can only be proven wrong.

    In other words, you can prove a theory wrong, but you can't prove it right - the best that can be said is a particular experiment or group of experiments agrees with the theory to within a certain error margin.
     
  7. Sep 2, 2015 #6
    This is even true in the realm of mathematics - many truths may exist which you can never prove. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gödel's_incompleteness_theorems

    If you don't like that or want to accept it, as Feynman might say then go live in some other Universe where the laws of nature and logic are more convenient for you.
     
  8. Sep 3, 2015 #7
    Physics deals in principles not truths and those principles give birth to ideas that, the deeper you go, lead only to more questions ultimately. For me it's easier to believe that truth only exists in human psychology. On this Earth, a true story can be told in a thousand different ways depending on who's telling it. I don't know if the principles of physics are true, but they work until they don't.
     
  9. Sep 4, 2015 #8
    Many thanks for your responses, they have been very helpful. I suspected that i would get those sorts of answers.

    Graciously,

    Sam.
     
  10. Sep 4, 2015 #9
    The earth is more massive than the moon
    The sun is more massive than the earth
    Humans and gorillas share a common ancestor, and that common anscestor shared a common ancestor with all apes.
    And since I was in the John Snow last weekend - cholera was transmitted in water
     
  11. Sep 4, 2015 #10

    micromass

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    Sure, those are very likely. And I am certain of all them for 99.999%. But not absolutely certain.
     
  12. Sep 4, 2015 #11

    micromass

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    As a defense for that position, I say that it is always possible that my brain is plugged into a machine which provides it with certain stimuli which makes my entire world appear the way it is. Very unlikely, but it would be dishonest of me to rule it out as completely and utterly impossible.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain_in_a_vat
     
  13. Sep 4, 2015 #12
    This is why physicists need to get a grip on reality,,,

    these things are as certain as your own existence ...now if you cannot be certain of your own existence, then you are certain of nothing...AND you are no longer talkng science.

    I'm quite happy to say that the statement "gorillias and humans share a common ancestor" is a FACT. It is as factual a statement that it is possible to state.

    Its as true as "Australia is bigger in area than the United Kingdom".

    It is not dishonest to rule out the possibility that the United Kingdom is larger in area than Australia.
     
  14. Sep 4, 2015 #13

    micromass

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    I am indeed absolutely certain of nothing.

    Science does not deal with absolute certainties and nobody every claimed it did.
     
  15. Sep 4, 2015 #14

    russ_watters

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    I think all of you are a computer simulation, created for my amusement.
     
  16. Sep 4, 2015 #15

    micromass

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    Twisted kind of amusement you have then.
     
  17. Sep 4, 2015 #16
    so, if you measure the area of Australia, you are not absolutely certain that it is larger in area than Belgium?


    maybe its better to stop twisiting this into philosophical twaddle and just stick to the word FACTS (and not go into one redefining the word fact, when everybody knows what it means)

    There are many things that we know to be FACTS.
     
  18. Sep 4, 2015 #17

    russ_watters

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    Agreed: Certainty of one's own existence is not possible in science.
    Agreed.
    Disagree.
    The thing you are missing in all of this is that all facts have error bars. The probability of error might be vanishingly small for something like the mass of the earth and moon and still pretty small for the origin of species, but it is not zero. Indeed, due to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, it cannot be zero.

    [edit] Perhaps then the only certain thing about knowledge is the lack of certainty!
     
  19. Sep 4, 2015 #18
    twaddle - using that wrong-headed logic you can say that there is a probability that the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is wrong (and therefore there is no uncertainty - and go round in circles!).

    I'd much rather lay my last tenner on the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle being wrong than the theory of evolution (which IS a FACT) being wrong.
     
  20. Sep 4, 2015 #19

    micromass

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    No, I am not absolutely certain of it, because I could be a brain-in-a-jar in which case Australia and Belgium don't exist at all in reality.

    I'm happy to call "Australia bigger than Belgium" a fact. But then I would have to say that I cannot absolutely be certain of facts. I'm fine with that.
     
  21. Sep 4, 2015 #20

    russ_watters

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    The problem with your logic is that while you feel comfortable applying it to really really sure facts, you will have to define a line across which you cease to be 100% certain. Is it when the difference between the masses you are measuring is 10:1? 5:1? 2:1? Does it depend on the measurement method? Because the jump from "somewhat uncertain" to "absolutely certain" cannot have a clearly defined line, you cannot be absolutely certain of where that line is.
    So I indeed added the bit about the HUP, but regardless, due to the problem I outlined above, the logical flaw lies with you.
     
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