Is Science Futile? | Unlocking Nature's Mysteries

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In summary, I do not think that scientists know anything definitive about the universe. Everything is a theory, and as such, could be false. Scientists spend their entire lives trying to understand something that is probably impossible to understand because it's beyond our realm of understanding, and even if we did learn what makes the universe tick, what are we going to do with that knowledge? We can never leave Earth to avoid extinction and we'll eventually die out, and all of our knowledge will be gone.
  • #1
Vexa
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Sciences of the universe seem like a colossal waste of time to me. Do scientists actually know anything (outside of the few laws we've established) to learn anything definitive about the universe? Everything is a theory, meaning it's fabricated and could be absolutely false. Yes, we may have some proof-like ideas to support theories, but in the end you cannot know for sure. How could you spend your entire life trying to understand something that is probably impossible to understand because it's completely beyond your realm of understanding?

Even if we did learn what makes the universe tick, what are we going to do with that knowledge? We can never leave Earth to avoid extinction and we'll eventually die out and the Earth will cease to exist and all that knowledge will be gone.
 
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  • #2
We might build cars, televisions, computers, air conditioners, global positioning systems, ...
 
  • #3
Vexa said:
How could you spend your entire life trying to understand something that is probably impossible to understand because it's completely beyond your realm of understanding?

And how could you spend your entire life writing about futility of science and similar things?
 
  • #4
Vexa said:
Sciences of the universe seem like a colossal waste of time to me. Do scientists actually know anything (outside of the few laws we've established) to learn anything definitive about the universe? Everything is a theory, meaning it's fabricated and could be absolutely false. Yes, we may have some proof-like ideas to support theories, but in the end you cannot know for sure. How could you spend your entire life trying to understand something that is probably impossible to understand because it's completely beyond your realm of understanding?

Even if we did learn what makes the universe tick, what are we going to do with that knowledge? We can never leave Earth to avoid extinction and we'll eventually die out and the Earth will cease to exist and all that knowledge will be gone.

Ahhhh, but to discover something. Something no one has ever done before. To be the first human to conceive of such a thing, when all before you, the wisest of the wise, have not. :)
 
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  • #5
I'd rather go down in history as someone who at least tried to discover something, anything, about the universe than someone who sat around telling everyone not to bother and any effort is a waste of time.
 
  • #6
Even if we did learn what makes the universe tick, what are we going to do with that knowledge?

We already know what makes the universe tick, its called time. :wink:
 
  • #7
OP, what would you consider not a waste of time?
 
  • #8
Hi there,

Vexa said:
Even if we did learn what makes the universe tick, what are we going to do with that knowledge? We can never leave Earth to avoid extinction and we'll eventually die out and the Earth will cease to exist and all that knowledge will be gone.

The usefulness of scientific discovery will be a fundamental question, and that probably forever. What good are the discoveries scientists make?

I say that it's a forever question, because an old lady asked precisely this question to Faraday, in the 19th century. Into one of Faraday's conference on electricity, an old lady stood up and said that it's all good theories, but what good does it bring to the everyday life. I dare anyone today to live without it.

cheers
 
  • #9
Pythagorean said:
OP, what would you consider not a waste of time?

Pursuit of senseless pleasure and orgies.


fatra2 said:
Hi there,

The usefulness of scientific discovery will be a fundamental question, and that probably forever. What good are the discoveries scientists make?

I say that it's a forever question, because an old lady asked precisely this question to Faraday, in the 19th century. Into one of Faraday's conference on electricity, an old lady stood up and said that it's all good theories, but what good does it bring to the everyday life. I dare anyone today to live without it.

cheers

Electricity and astrophysics are unrelated. If only we did focus on discovering things that could benefit mankind instead of chasing stardust and aliens.
 
  • #10
Hi there,

Vexa said:
Electricity and astrophysics are unrelated. If only we did focus on discovering things that could benefit mankind instead of chasing stardust and aliens.

The question was not if astrophysics is futile, but general science. The world is there to be understood. We don't know if a discovery made today will not become the next "electricity" of tomorrow.

Science is there to help understand what surrounds us. Whether we find it useful today or not, we never know when it will become intrinsically part of every lives.

Cheers
 
  • #11
you know what.. the computer/mobile internet you use,or almost anything you use, is a product of this science..

just as fatra2 said,Science is mainly is about understanding what surrounds you.

and, if we don't achieve something in a particular field now(which is not the real case) that doesn't mean it is totally futile...
 
  • #12
I specifically said "sciences of the universe (cosmology, astrology, astrophysics)." Maybe I should have excluded Earth. I'm not arguing science isn't an invaluable tool, I'm saying that we use it to try to understand something far beyond our reach. We have so many problems on Earth, that I don't believe we can afford to stare at galaxies all day.
 
  • #13
Hi there,

OK, then let's talk about astro... something. Let's take an example again. The materials that has been developed for the space suits of the astronauts are now used on Earth. There are many more examples where looking up to the sky leads to a discovery that can be used here on Earth.

I don't believe that there are any useless fields of science. And just because it does not bring something tomorrow, it might bring something one day. I believe the fireman that wear non-flamable clothing are probably very happy about this development of the 70's.

Cheers
 
  • #14
Vexa said:
I specifically said "sciences of the universe (cosmology, astrology, astrophysics)." Maybe I should have excluded Earth. I'm not arguing science isn't an invaluable tool, I'm saying that we use it to try to understand something far beyond our reach. We have so many problems on Earth, that I don't believe we can afford to stare at galaxies all day.

ASTROLOGY ISN'T A SCIENCE.

Why didn't you add in "cosmetology" while you're at it?
 
  • #15
Vexa said:
Pursuit of senseless pleasure and orgies.




Electricity and astrophysics are unrelated. If only we did focus on discovering things that could benefit mankind instead of chasing stardust and aliens.


These two excerpts are contradictory. In the one hand, you seem to be a hedonist (which I essentially am, myself) by saying that people should do fun stuff (senseless pleasure, orgies, etc) that they enjoy. So then why would you criticize cosmologists without knowing their motivation? It could be erotic, interesting, addictive, and fun to them.

But then on the other hand you talk about benefiting mankind (which again, if you're a hedonist, it does benefit mankind by satisfying their curiosities).
 
  • #16
Haha, come on, consistency is key. First, look at what Pythagorean said, then look at yourself. Please analyze your own beliefs, what about art? What is the point of art? It doesn't do anything. What about music? It doesn't do anything. Are they all pointless because they're not utilitarian? "Theory: meaning it's isn't definitive and could be false" Go study epistemology and tell me your whole life doesn't fit that criterion. Proof? What is proof? A definitive illustration that occurs in formal systems by means of explication of a tautology? Where would everyday Newtonian Mechanics be without Kepler's Laws and study of space? We have learned a lot about the universe, yes the realm of the transcendental is not accessible to us, but does that mean all pursuit of knowledge is ill-fated? What is knowledge? So let's all be nihilists and hedonists and relativists. I do not know who said it, but skepticism and complete belief are the easiest ways to go through life, because it absolves you of having to think and reason. If you doubt absolutley everything and say "we'll never understand" you aren't reasoning, your "leveling".
 
  • #17
Vexa said:
Pythagorean said:
OP, what would you consider not a waste of time?

Pursuit of senseless pleasure and orgies.

... If only we did focus on discovering things that could benefit mankind instead of ...

How would mankind benefit from you fulfilling your exotic fantasies?
 
  • #18
It could be reasonably argued that existence is pointless... I mean, there's a 50/50 chance this is all a simulation, but even arguing pointlessness (imo) is a spiritual pursuit. I'm a fan of the idea that we can't know enough, and when that big chill or whatever comes we look around with our big old knowledge, for another big bang or brane or whatever we finally understand to be the answer to the question of existence.
gif.gif
 
  • #19
If you swear that there's no truth, how come you say it like you're right?
 
  • #20
JAlderman_FL said:
It could be reasonably argued that existence is pointless... I mean, there's a 50/50 chance this is all a simulation, but even arguing pointlessness (imo) is a spiritual pursuit. I'm a fan of the idea that we can't know enough, and when that big chill or whatever comes we look around with our big old knowledge, for another big bang or brane or whatever we finally understand to be the answer to the question of existence.
gif.gif
50/50 chance this (assuming all we know) is a simulation? Where did you get that?
 
  • #21
Vexa said:
Even if we did learn what makes the universe tick, what are we going to do with that knowledge? We can never leave Earth to avoid extinction and we'll eventually die out and the Earth will cease to exist and all that knowledge will be gone.

Why can we never leave the Earth? This statement assumes that we know the limits of technology, which we can't without first knowing what makes the universe tick. This is what ultimately determines the limits of technology. A complete understanding of physics is almost certainly dependent on our understanding of the cosmos. So the future of humanity could depend in part on the work of Cosmologists, Astrophysicists, and Astronomers. Beyond that, the money spent on this sort of science is very small compared to what we spend on things like, weapons, for example. Now if you want to talk about something that is futile and wasteful, how about war? Going way back, I have often wondered about the significance of the burning of the Library at Alexandria. How long did this set back all of humanity, and how far? We can never know.

I thought this was interesting. Someone once noted that as a nation, we spend many times [probably orders of magnitude, not sure] more on video games, than we do to detect earth-crossing asteroids that could wipe out life on earth. Of course, were it not for Astronomers like Eugene Shoemaker, we wouldn't even know the threat exists.
 
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  • #22
Ivan Seeking said:
Why can we never leave the Earth? This statement assumes that we know the limits of technology, which we can't without first knowing what makes the universe tick.
Maybe we will leave Earth and maybe not. It is not possible to know that for sure. But in either case what is the point to leave Earth anyway?

Ivan Seeking said:
I thought this was interesting. Someone once noted that as a nation, we spend many times [probably orders of magnitude, not sure] more on video games, than we do to detect earth-crossing asteroids that could wipe out life on earth. Of course, were it not for Astronomers like Eugene Shoemaker, we wouldn't even know the threat exists.
And what is the point to spend money on something that we can't avoid? It is like spending money on fortune-teller to tell you when you are going to die. And when we develop the technology to avoid such collision there will be reason to spend more money on knowing the danger.
 
  • #23
Upisoft said:
Maybe we will leave Earth and maybe not. It is not possible to know that for sure. But in either case what is the point to leave Earth anyway?
Limited resources : if nothing else, even the Sun eventually runs out of steam.

One can not justify fundamental research by its potentially unknown benefits. Plank would worry about the heat spectrum of an oven. Now we communicate with computers thanks to his discoveries. To question fundamental science is not just a lack of perspective, it is also denying one fundamental trait of humanity : curiosity.

By the way, without a few nerds worrying about sending stuff in orbit, there is no artificial satellite for the observation of our precious Globe.

Upisoft said:
And what is the point to spend money on something that we can't avoid?
Just trying to survive by all means, including knowledge, is another fundamental traits of humanity. Without knowledge there is no freedom.
 
  • #24
Evo said:
50/50 chance this (assuming all we know) is a simulation? Where did you get that?

It either is, or it isn't. 50/50.

Did I do that right... ;)
 
  • #25
Upisoft said:
Maybe we will leave Earth and maybe not. It is not possible to know that for sure. But in either case what is the point to leave Earth anyway?

Did you read the first post?

And what is the point to spend money on something that we can't avoid? It is like spending money on fortune-teller to tell you when you are going to die. And when we develop the technology to avoid such collision there will be reason to spend more money on knowing the danger.

There are many models considered for technology that might be used to deflect asteroids. Why do you assume a negative position when you have no information? In any event, doesn't your unsupported assumption here answer your first question?
 
  • #26
The legend said:
you know what.. the computer/mobile internet you use,or almost anything you use, is a product of this science..

just as fatra2 said,Science is mainly is about understanding what surrounds you.

and, if we don't achieve something in a particular field now(which is not the real case) that doesn't mean it is totally futile...

Is building gadgets, the "use" of science? Its an unimportant by-product.
 
  • #27
humanino said:
One can not justify fundamental research by its potentially unknown benefits. Plank would worry about the heat spectrum of an oven. Now we communicate with computers thanks to his discoveries.

I think you contradict yourself here with the following qualifier: Fundamental research is justified by the history of its success. This in turn justifies the bet on future discoveries. In 500 years, science has transformed the human race.
 
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  • #28
sganesh88 said:
Is building gadgets, the "use" of science? Its an unimportant by-product.
You consider building gadgets to be "unimportant"? Really?
 
  • #29
I’ll admit, my spontaneous response to the assertions in the original post was that it wasn’t worth wasting time on. You don’t even have to look at the high technology of recent years. Right from our first domestication of corn and wheat that enabled us to give up our nomadic existence and begin to build civilisations, the utility of our fundamental innate curiosity and ingenuity has proven itself. The notion that science is futile is just so dumb that it didn’t seem to me that there could be anything worth discussing. But there is, admittedly a purely philosophical point that arises from the more recent posts that I, at least, find interesting. Is it the case that science is purely utilitarian? Is the justification of any scientific endeavour to be purely a matter of increasing the comfort and convenience or helping to ensure the long-term survival of humanity? Or is there any value in knowing for no other reason than that? Just knowing. Even among the knowledgeable contributors to these forums, how many have a genuine utilitarian need to know and understand relativity? It is clear, the overwhelming majority of the human population of the Earth lead perfectly useful, perfectly worthwhile lives knowing nothing whatever about it. The number of people who really need to know about it is really very tiny. But as soon as you know that your sense of the reality in which you live is flawed, isn’t there a basic drive, an itch that needs to be scratched, to have at least some insight into what that flaw is, and how things really are?
 
  • #30
Ivan Seeking said:
I think you contradict yourself here with the following qualifier: Fundamental research is justified by the history of its success. This in turn justifies the bet on future discoveries. In 500 years, science has transformed the human race.
If the pursuit of fundamental research had to be justified, it would historically justify itself from the benefits. I meant to say that we can not justify today's research by arguing about it's potential future discoveries. Maybe that was not clear. There is no way anyone would have guessed at the dawn of the XXiest century how Planck's quantum mechanics would transform our societies on the long term. The list goes on : all medical imaging devices come from fundamental physics. The CERN gave us HTML protocols. Now with the LHC they contributed again to Computing Grids, which was originally largely from SETI (to search for Aliens !).

It may be worth repeating what you also said earlier : that the future of physics goes through cosmology. Various "cosmic rays" (in their most general sense) save us from building insanely large accelerators. We have hints for explanations to dark matter from cosmic rays. We can now design new experiments to try to test various hypothesis in the lab, and possibly unravel a form of matter at least four times more abundant in the Universe than our form of matter. Ours are very exciting times for astrophysics.
 
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  • #31
Evo said:
50/50 chance this (assuming all we know) is a simulation? Where did you get that?

http://www.simulation-argument.com/" Because of it's foreign feel, though, I can see judging the idea harshly as a reaction. This is not the original source for my thoughts, but it explains the idea well enough.
 
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  • #32
Hepth said:
It either is, or it isn't. 50/50.

Did I do that right... ;)

:) exactly
 
  • #33
I hate to respond to trollers, but can't resist this one.

Vexa said:
Pursuit of senseless pleasure and orgies.

The pursuit of pleasure and orgies and the pursuit of science are not mutually exclusive. Maybe you just need to learn to multitask.

Also, some of us find as much pleasure in the pursuit of science as you do in the pursuit of orgies. So, at the very least you should understand and approve of scientific activity on the grounds that pleasure can be found in it.

In some ways, science is like an intellectual orgy.
 
  • #34
humanino said:
Limited resources : if nothing else, even the Sun eventually runs out of steam.
And then what.. repeat the process all over again, because the new place would be exactly the same. The resources will be limited and the local star/s will eventually follow our Sun bright example. That process has an end too. Then we run where?

humanino said:
One can not justify fundamental research by its potentially unknown benefits. Plank would worry about the heat spectrum of an oven. Now we communicate with computers thanks to his discoveries. To question fundamental science is not just a lack of perspective, it is also denying one fundamental trait of humanity : curiosity.
Curiosity is a trait of many species. My cat has it too. Unfortunately he is a fat tomcat that has never done any genuine research. And at this point his curiosity is limited to what is next available for eating. Also I know people that do what they call science without any curiosity, just being very pedantic. Anyway the point is that curiosity does not necessary mean science nor science necessary mean curiosity.

humanino said:
Just trying to survive by all means, including knowledge, is another fundamental traits of humanity. Without knowledge there is no freedom.

Survival is fundamental trait of life. But only humans(from all species I know) are able to understand the futility of it. And only few of them do understand that. The rest choose to rely on the instinct of survival they share with the rest of the lifeforms.

The rest of the life on Earth possesses no notable knowledge and they build no prisons, they make no world wars, nor they hunt its own kind. They don't bomb-suicide nor kill for cause. They do not do experiments with other species nor they kill for pleasure. That list can go on... a lot. Maybe knowledge gives us freedom, but freedom to do what?
 
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  • #35
Hepth said:
It either is, or it isn't. 50/50.

Did I do that right... ;)

JAlderman_FL said:
http://www.simulation-argument.com/" Because of it's foreign feel, though, I can see judging the idea harshly as a reaction. This is not the original source for my thoughts, but it explains the idea well enough.
If I'm a simulation, I want to be upgraded.

Ok, back to the topic.
 
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