“Science hasn’t discovered everything, it doesn’t know everything, so you just can’t be sure!”

I often get this answer when confronting theists in an argument.

They tend to attack the various gaps in scientific knowledge and highlight them out of the context in order to justify that the atheistic world-views are invalid simply because of these gaps not being fulfilled. They automatically assume, then try and validate theology on such grounds.

But… These gaps do not necessarily prove that the world view is invalid.

It is true that science can never test nor prove a negative or something unfalsifiable like the concept of a creator. Much like it cannot prove whether or not goblins or tooth fairies exist in real life. Since we know with reason that goblins and tooth fairies are imaginary, we deduce that their existence is highly unlikely. Similarly, we can apply the same logic to the concept of the supernatural. Then, just like we are all atheists when it comes to believing in goblins, some of us are the same for god as well. Simple as that.

Yes… It is also true that science still has lot of gaps in knowledge, can’t deny that. But in just a couple of decades if not in centuries, humans, with the help of the scientific method, have come to learn a LOT MORE about nature and reality than ever with metaphysics, religion and faith combined; all of which were there for thousands of years before enlightenment.

So one simple question can be asked. Why, while observing or explaining nature, should we even consider those system that have had their chance already and have failed (i.e faith system); when we have already devised a more self-correcting one which happens to work with great efficiency (i.e science)?

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18 thoughts on “Science doesn’t know everything

  1. You list a few unfalsifiable claims and acknowledge that science cannot deal with them on scientific terms. So you’re saying we should simply write those claims off as being delusional because of that? If not, how do we deal with those claims?

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      1. Except that science is about pro-active investigation, not selective perception. Selectively ignoring something that is pervasive and “in your face”, as religion is, is actually anti-scientific. And it is a circular argument to claim that science is the only arbiter of reality, and that we can “prove” that by applying the scientific method. Your perception of reality and the world seems very narrow, since it is founded on a clearly fallible premise: call what you believe science and ignore everything else.

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      2. So you think metaphysics and philosophy are a better way of assessing the reality? I doubt that.

        Science is the best system that we have in order to understand nature. Pure science, as in physics, biology and chemistry is surely not enough by themselves to explain human values such as economics, ethics and psychology and the like. But using the scientific ‘method’ or critical thinking, is the best way to go about while studying them.

        It. seems that you are wholly confused (may I say ignorant) about what the scientific method actually is.

        It is a method by which we derive the ‘most logical’ position about anything. It can be applied from pure sciences to life sciences to study of history to economics to clinical trials to government and legislative policy making. It involves questioning your assumptions, finding evidence/fact/calculations that help examine your assumption and in the end to derive the best conclusion, that is, while being exempt of your biases. The unbiased knowledge born out of this is known as science.

        If you still don’t think there’s a better system, then you ought to suggest, instead of commenting on my outlook (ad hominem) what else is? Spirituality? Superstition? Imagination? Wishful thinking?

        And obviously science is not about ‘selective perception’ as I’ve said earlier that the scientific method demands no biases. And whatever ‘pro-active investigation’ means in your dictionary, regardless, science is a system which thrives on consensus after rigorous logical scrutiny rather than on appeasement and blind consensus.

        It’s not that I said Science should completely ignore religion and scrap it; also its also inconsistent to say that science simply shuns religion. The interesting thing is, we can use the scientific method to even ‘study’ religion itself. Through evolutionary psychology, anthropometry, social and behavioral sciences. It’s just the irrational claims made in scriptures or religion and faith system, which are unfalsifiable, and can be dismissed after logical examination without needing any empirical testing. That is my point.

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      3. Your most recent post is pretty childish, but that’s your problem, not mine. The false Either/Or nature of your thinking and your repetition of your circular argument regarding the dispositive efficacy of the Scientific Method (which I understand well enough) comes across as defensive.

        Per:

        “It’s just the irrational claims made in scriptures or religion and faith system, which are unfalsifiable, and can be dismissed after logical examination without needing any empirical testing. That is my point.”

        Again, you are trapped in circular thinking, which reduces the world to viable and non-viable iterations of “logic”. And yet you don’t seem to understand that logic — and the scientific method, actually, and when properly understood — transcends the binary premises that you limit your thinking to. e.g. The question does God exist or not is not falsifiable. And you seem to acknowledge that, but your acknowledgement doesn’t prevent you from applying standards of falsifiability to it, anyway.

        If falsifiability isn’t an appropriate metric for the focus of your investigation, then, rather than apply it anyway, shouldn’t you be trying to figure out what metric is appropriate? What else do you have in your intellectual locker that might enable you to develop a more coherent, real-world and non-binary global narrative?

        You seem to have taken this exchange off into ad hominem and personal feelings, which isn’t really where I want to go with it, but I am going, mainly because I don’t enjoy being bullied. I don’t know you personally, but I’m sure you’re a perfectly decent person, who I would have no problem chatting with, particularly regarding issues that need not be personal. If that’s what you’d like, then please feel free to dial back the defensiveness and personal investment you seem to have developed in this exchange, and I’ll be happy to follow suit.

        Cheers.

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      4. I welcome your critique, feel free to disagree. And looking back, it is very well obvious to any neutral observer as to who has used ad hominem and who hasn’t. But let’s not go into that. Forgive me if I have made any personal remarks. But for the sake of an intellectual debate, regardless of you or my decency or nature (both of which are pretty much irrelevant to the point of this discussion), let’s both start again.

        //Your most recent post is pretty childish, but that’s your problem, not mine.// does reflect a potential for embarking on the nature of my tone rather on the issues that I am pointing out. So evidently this is ad hominem. And I am being called a bully. Hard to grasp.

        And the main point or your comment //And yet you don’t seem to understand that logic — and the scientific method, actually, and when properly understood — transcends the binary premises that you limit your thinking to.// simply has been put here without the urge to explain whatever ‘transcend’ is actually meant in this premise of yours. Are you implying a dualist non-material transcendence or an emotional one? Or is it an abstract one? The burden of explanation lies on you I guess? It seems vague. I’d like this to be clarified further and this very remark also shows that you actually mis-read my previous comment, I’ll talk about it below.

        I agree with you to some extent though. Not to scrap your side of the argument, let’s consider it for a while. To sum up your main point, science should never leave out any hypothesis whatsoever. Partly true. But let me come up with one analogy where I form a hypothesis where I could make a claim that “2+2 equals 5 and that you need to believe in it to see it”. Now try and test this abstract claim if mine.

        As for you having misread my comment, I never said science should reject ‘falsifiable’ claims. Falsifiable claims can be tested indeed. It’s actually the ‘un-falsifiable’ ones, like that “2+2 is 5” one I made above, which cannot be tested via the scientific method. If you READ my previous comment properly, I have mentioned the irrational claims of religious scriptures and faith to be ‘un-falsifiable’, not ‘falsifiable’. It’s the very nature of the scientific method for not being able to test ‘un-falsifiable’ claims. I’m pretty sure you didn’t read my comment properly or simply mis-read it.

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      5. I’ll let you have the last word on the personal stuff.

        Falsifiable/unfalsifiable = typo, not a misreading or your comment. Should read “unfalsifiable.”

        Are you implying a dualist non-material transcendence or an emotional one? Or is it an abstract one? The burden of explanation lies on you I guess?

        Actually, the burden of “proof” falls to you, since you are the one premising your claims regarding science on the assumption that science is the ultimate arbiter of, and answer to, all questions. Again, this is a circular argument, since there is no empirical or other evidence to support this claim. This is the narrowness of perspective that I am referring to.

        Can you, just for a moment, suppose that science can not provide all the answers to all the questions we have, be it through falsifiability, consensus, logic or whatever? Don’t panic. This will not be a permanent state of mind. You can always revert to your current “logical” thinking after you’ve imagined a world in which science does not provide al the answers to the all the questions in the know Universe. Aren’t you even curious to discover what that kind of intellectual and perceptual liberation feels like?

        2+2 = 5? Could be. If two bags, each containing 1 apple, and another 2 bags, one containing one apple and another containing 2 apples, are consolidated, then, indeed, 2 bags of apples plus 2 bags of apples = 5 apples.

        What makes an apple different from a bag, when 99.9999% of what we perceive as matter is actually empty space? What makes 2 different than 5? Aren’t they both just numbers?

        I’m not implying any dualistic model at all. I am challenging that model as being unsupportable in the “real” world, mainly because I see no account taken of the fact that, in the basic binary something or nothing/is or isn’t claim, the “nothing” or “isn’t” states do not actually exist in the real world. There is no such thing as nothing, because, were there such, then that’s all there could (not) be; the tiniest speck of nothing would obliterate existence. Nothing isn’t an absence of something. It’s the prohibition of anything.

        As for “religious claims”, atheism and agnosticism must fall into the category, scientifically speaking, of a religious claim, bearing in mind that science is a process, and it does not adjust itself according to the content of an investigation– be it affirming or rejecting a claim. So any affirmative or negative claim made regarding religion is, objectively and categorically, a religious claim.

        I understand your resistance to my statements that you view science as the ultimate arbiter of reality. My claim in this regard is not a misreading of your posts. Rather, it is due to a careful analysis of them, which suggests to me that you aren’t admitting something to yourself, mainly because of the circular nature of your argument(s).

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      6. Ok. Now I’ve started to grasp a little bit of your argument. But I’d like to clarify on some of my stances.

        1) Maybe I sound like such in my short ‘aside’ blog as if I think ‘science is the arbiter of reality’ and that to you in a way might be in a way religious. My actual stance is that ‘scientific method is the closest possible arbiter of accuracy’.

        2) When I proposed the “2+2=5” hypothesis, I actually meant “consolidating 2 apples with 2 apples equals 5 apples if you truly believe in it”. Mathematically, you answer actually deals with two different variables (sorry for not bring clear before though) when I only intend one. Say, X represents the apple and B represents the bag, 2X + 2X can never be 5X. Your answer is like saying, X + B + X + B + 2X + B + X + B = 5X. When it should be 5X + 4B. You brought the B variable out of thin air.

        3) I have asserted that “the scientific method is the closest arbiter of accuracy” through my blog. You disagree but do not provide a valid counter argument to prove your point even when I have curiously asked you what you propose a better system to be than the scientific method…

        4) A Circular argument is something like this “Science is a good system for observing nature, because it is a good system for observing nature”. My argument, I believe sounds rather like this “Science is a good system to observe nature, because it objectively examines natures, draws unbiased conclusions and postulates the best possible explanation for some effect or phenomena”. I don’t think this kind of gist passes as a ‘circular argument’.

        I kind of enjoy debates like this personally. So no offense intended and none taken. I’m a flexible personality, so you were right nonetheless, about me being decent. As I’m turning off my ‘defense’ mode for a while, I’d like to hear your side of the argument.
        A) So what do you propose is a better way of assessing, analyzing and observing nature?
        B) Why according to you should science consider “un-falsifiable” claims as like the concept of a deity in a religious scripture or say, unicorns?
        (I’m opening my mind without being defensive. Now is your chance to convince me by trying to reasonably satisfy my genuine curiosity with your explanations)

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      7. I’m not totally discounting your statements here now. Read this article since you are so keen on me having to present you with evidence. Of course this is not evidence I am providing you because my argument was on a philosophical level. And I agree at one point there seems to have been a circular argument as I have failed to provide evidence as to why I think science is so close to reality. This was because I was merely explaining in ‘very brief’ that the scientific method is the ‘closest estimate of reality’, and obviously, in so few words I would not have been able to provide the whole picture would I? A journal article or an opinion poll of scientists or a survey on the ‘accuracy’ of the scientific method world-wide or region-wide would be a better way instead. Of which I think both of us agree.

        Coming to our point. There’s an ongoing debate in the scientific sector on ‘falsifiability’. Whether to keep the standard, or to simply reject it. Many argue ‘falsifiability’ is a good standard up to now. At least to form a distinction between science and pseudoscience, a standard which is more than able to prevent ideas from going haywire and to prevent anyone’s random claims from being accepted into mainstream science without being tested. Falsifiability allows for hypotheses to be accepted into theories ‘after’ experimentation. So that’s the standard.

        But there are also dissenters such as you who argue that falsifiability is an outdated concept which makes a scientist’s outlook ‘too narrow’ and ‘less open-minded’. Some also argue that falsifiability doesn’t allow room for logical hypotheses such as the string theory or the multiverse theory. Both very useful hypotheses and postulates, many of whose components are untestable for them to be accepted into mainstream physics and mathematics for them to be able to be put along-side the testable relativity and quantum mechanics and to be able to unify them. Only falsifiability remaining the barrier.

        But the string theory and the multiverse one are both rather logical or mathematical or expert hypotheses when compared to claims of a 10-armed deity existing, or tooth fairies, or unicorns or santa claus or Zeus or Abrahamic god or Shiva or Shinto gods or Thor and the like. All of which are born out of primitive attempts of less-enlightened humans to understand the world around them. So the distinction remains though, and falsifiability comes in effect to both the situations, but instead it’s definitions should be broadened so as to be open-minded to the logical ones but not to give room to the illogical and obvious ones such as the pre-conceived dualist notion of the existence of a creator…..

        I’ll be remaining agnostic for now (because no matter how millitant an atheist you are you cannot help but be agnostic about the origin of the universe) and will adopt falsifiability as a standard for rejecting illogical claims.

        An excerpt from the article is as follows….

        ” if physicists abandon falsifiability, they could damage the public’s trust in science and scientists at a time when that trust is critical to policymaking. “This battle for the heart and soul of physics is opening up at a time when scientific results—in topics from climate change to the theory of evolution—are being questioned by some politicians and religious fundamentalists,” Ellis and Silk wrote in Nature.

        “The fear is that it would become difficult to separate such ‘science’ from New Age thinking, or science fiction,” says Ellis. If scientists backpedal on falsifiability, Ellis fears, intellectual disputes that were once resolved by experiment will devolve into never-ending philosophical feuds, and both the progress and the reputation of science will suffer.”

        http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/blogs/physics/2015/02/falsifiability/

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      8. I will certainly watch and respond to the PBS link you have provided. Thanks for doing so.

        I do want to address this,

        But the string theory and the multiverse one are both rather logical or mathematical or expert hypotheses

        and the final excerpt/quote you have in your post.

        String theory: I’m not a big fan. It seems to me to be a tortured and loose way of addressing question, and, for me, it’s on a par with unicorns etc.

        The quote you offer appears to betray a normal tentativeness of an institution being asked to shift its moorings before it’s really believes that it won’t simply float off into oblivion as soon as the moorings are untied. Maybe teething pains would be a better way to describe it.

        Are you familiar with Nassim Haramein’s work?

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      9. Not exactly. Haven’t heard about this fellow. I’m not a fan of the string theory as well. I was using it to make a point. Obviously I’m not denying that regardless of being an expert/mathematical hypothesis it’s still unfalsifiable.

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      10. You might find this interesting. Your first reaction might not be your last, so hang in there. There are other Haramein presentations/lectures on YouTube that you might also want to check out.

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      11. Haramein does ask some very challenging questions of “science”, and, as is typical historically, he is vilified and isolated by the “scientific” community. I like him because he’s willing to put up or shut up, and, consistently, he puts up. I appreciate you taking the time to review the video.

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      12. I read your link, and I enjoyed it. Thanks for offering such a balanced perspective on this topic. Falsifiability, for me, is a tool like ay other, and as limited as any other. Problems seem to occur with “scientists” who, having only one tool — say, a hammer — seeing everything question as a nail. We really need a wider selection of tools to investigate our natural world.

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      13. Thank you for commenting first of all. As a practicing critical thinker, I always welcome creative arguments from outside the box. That is why I led ourselves away from playing the blame game into a better insightful debate. I considered your side as well. And to some extent, it has helped me reconsider some of my inflexibilities.

        Regarding Haranheim, he is considered wrong by most of the scientific community for most of his explanations as they are untestable. So unless his postulates are one day fulfilled by evidence, just like that about Gravitational waves recently, then only would I have no other option as to accept his hypothesis. But for now I’d rather consider ‘unified field theory’ as well as ‘string theory’ as both being unfalsifiable. Today’s scientific community is a wee bit more different and progressive I think than that during Einstein or Say Darwin’s time. So testable, reproducible experiments or discoveries are the only hurdles remaining in any falsifiable claim.

        Though I have considered your side of the argument, I, for a while, will stick to the falsifiability standard as we still haven’t found another better system. It may be a slippery slope argument as well, for me to say that making changes into falsifiability itself would give rise to junk science being accepted into mainstream science. Partly logical, but now I do feel it should be defined properly or indeed broadened to a certain extent. So that’s my stance now.

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  2. An important characteristic of the scientific method is that cannot test a hypothesis which is unfalsifiable. So we can dismiss them until they can be tested. But obviously there are better research or experiment to do, instead of dedicating one’s time and effort in trying to prove or disprove a negative. So we can simply shun them to the realms of imagination or literature or arts. Not science.

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