Science

If any philosophy contains the seeds of its own contradiction, it is Scientific Materialism, the philosophical belief that one can know everything about reality by applying the scientific method. In 1931 Kurt Gödel gave a mathematical proof that showed how to construct a statement whose truth is undecidable in principle, given any finite set of non-trivial self-consistent axioms. In other words, even within the narrow confines of mathematics you can prove that you can’t know it all.

As in math, so in physics. The way to understand a physical theory is to axiomatize it, which puts us back at Gödel’s proof. Since all the interactions in the universe are physical, you can use the methods of science to prove that you can’t know everything about the universe by the methods of science. Scientific Materialism is false. It is an unscientific prejudice.

Science itself is a body of knowledge together with the discipline of experimentation and self-skeptical methods of analysis to improve on that knowledge. In its domain of applicability nothing beats it. Science can even lead to profound insights into the universe and our place in it. Consider the remarks of Steven Weinberg (2005,63), who shares the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics with Abdus Salaam and Sheldon Glashow:

It is natural to identify the states of a specific particle type with the components of a representation of the inhomogeneous Lorentz group which is irreducible….

In other words, the abstract mathematical object that represents the core of the theory of Special Relativity is the Platonic Form of all the particles in the universe! It invites one to speculate about a mind powerful enough to take a mathematical thought and make a universe. And Weinberg is an atheist.

It gets better. Every physical interaction accomplishes an exchange of information and every exchange of information requires a physical interaction. The correspondence between entropy in physics and the entropy in information theory is no coincidence. Information is at the basis of reality. Or should I say mind?

To paraphrase Shakespeare’s Hamlet, there may be more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, and you cannot prove otherwise. An honest and informed skeptic must be skeptical even of skepticism.

References

Weinberg, Steven. 2005. The Quantum Theory of Fields, Volume I. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.

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