Continued from post #13:
To state my position perhaps over-simply; there is no guarantee that the realm of nature inaccessible to our direct observation (either at great distances or at microscopic scale) represents anything more than another aspect of nature to be considered (or not) in the continuum of things. At all scales and all degrees of complexity there are aspects of nature equally, if not more, important to the understanding of the whole picture of physical reality as there are likely at inaccessible scales. Science should not be hindered by 'missing links' in this regard, just as science is not hindered greatly by the missing links in the fossil record in drawing an accurate picture of the evolution of life on earth. And just like cosmology is not greatly hindered by the visual horizon in the formulation of a standard model that describes the evolution of the physical universe.
In sum, the stance here is that nature at all levels (or all scales) is fundamentally important to our understanding of the physical world. No parcel of this continuum is more or less important than the other. The question is what to do with the gaps (especially down on the subatomic scale). They should not be ignored. That is for sure.
Secondly, the idea that gaps in our understanding (due to the impossibility of exploring certain parts of nature) leave open the possibility that there exists either other dimensions, another realm of nature that will remain incomprehensible, an aspect of nature not available to our senses, experience, or empirical observation (mirco- and/or macroscopically) that prevents us from gaining knowledge of "nature at it’s most fundamental level" and thereby preventing us from drawing a picture that would be a close approximation of how nature works is not an argument based on a sound rationale. This is what creationist and ID proponents have jumped on, as a kind of scientific bandwagon: where the gap is filled with a supernatural/metaphysical entity/force.
An analogy, not unrelated: Even with species missing from the fossil record we are still able to draw a consistent and accurate picture of the evolution of life on earth. This is not a complete picture, by any means, but the incompleteness has not lead to the overall failure of evolution theory. Fortunately, what we do know has resulted in quite the contrary.
Finally, the idea that science is limited in this sense and no longer the domain of purview within which investigations should be carried out conceptually or qualitatively (since a quantitative or empirical bases of investigation seems beyond reach or ruled out), and that therefor philosophy and/or theology should take over where science⎯looking back at the incoming runner and holding out a baton to an open Hand⎯leaves off, in not justified by our actual knowledge of physics. There is no reason to assume knowledge cannot be gained (now or at some time in the future) through inference determined by results based on direct or indirect evidence that issues from calculated experiments consistent withe the scientific method. The knowledge should constitute a coherent all-inclusive representation of the world not accessible through observation, or a way of dealing with it directly or indirectly.
In Einstein’s words, “Pure logical thinking cannot yield us any knowledge of the empirical world; all knowledge of reality starts from experience and ends in it.”
I disagree, as Einstein had for decades, with statements made by Niels Bohr that “an analysis of the very concept of explanation would, naturally, begin and end with a renunciation as to explain our own conscious activity.” Bohr’s views on the limitations of knowledge and explanation have dominated physics for more than a generation—without them though, perhaps, the whole of physics would have been boring (Not ).
The bulk of my argument and its culmination here, I suppose, aims at bridging the divide between the knowable and the unknowable, between what is observed and not observed, between two continents that began diverging exponentially from the late 1920s onward: In order to mend the rift a limitation must be acknowledged (and is), not a radical limitation on the scope of human knowledge, but a conservative one that is both mutually relevant and inclusive to all aspects of existence, one that all things share communally, present everywhere, and that unites the large and the small, the local and the global, relativity and quantum mechanics, and yes, even physics and consciousness.
Relevant to some extent with the topic of this thread are the following words, dated 1936, (the year of the Olympic games in Berlin, where two American sprinters, the only two Jews on the U.S. Olympic team, were pulled from the 4 × 100 relay team on the day of the competition: no baton for them: ), entitled Quantum Theory and the Fundamentals of Physics:
Only Einstein was able to direct cosmic religious means to ends that were both his and attuned to both religious and scientific conviction; and he, as everyone knows, stood apart. Perhaps the most telling indication was Einstein’s inclination to look upon science and religion as irreconcilable antagonists and for very obvious reasons. “The man who is thoroughly convinced of the universal operation of the law of causation cannot for a moment entertain the idea of a being who interferes in the course of events.” In a 1939 address at Princeton Einstein advocated; “science can only ascertain what is, not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgments of all kind remain necessary. Religion on the other hand, deals only with evaluations of human thought and action: it cannot justifiably speak of facts and relationships between facts” (see Einstein, 1954, 1982, pp. 41-49).
“Probably never before has a theory been evolved which has given a key to the interpretation and calculation of such a heterogeneous group of phenomena of experience as has quantum mechanics. In spite of this, I believe that the theory is apt to beguile us into error in our search for a uniform basis for physics, because, in my belief, it is an incomplete representation of real things, although it is the only one which can be built out of the fundamental concepts of force and material points (quantum corrections to classical mechanics). The incompleteness of the representation leads necessarily to the statistical nature (incompleteness) of the laws. It is conceivable that human ingenuity will some day find methods which will make it possible to proceed along such a path. At the present time, however, such a program looks like an attempt to breathe in empty space.” (Einstein, see 1954, 1982 Ideas and Opinions, pp. 315, 316, 319).
Okay, enough appealing to authority already!
Well actually, Herr Albert did have something else to say, that I wholly agree with, first about GR, then about QM. Einstein’s stance was straightforward:
The abandonment of certain notions connected with space, time, and motion hitherto treated as fundamentals must not be regarded as arbitrary, but only as conditioned by observed facts.” (Einstein 1921, see 1954). [GR is a class of “principle-theories” as its inventor called them] “These employ the analytic, not the synthetic, method. The elements which form their basis and starting-point are not hypothetically constructed but empirically discovered ones, general characteristics of natural processes, principles that give rise to mathematically formulated criteria…” (1919, see 1954). “If the basis of theoretical physics cannot be an inference from experience, but must be a free invention, have we any right to hope that we shall find the correct way? Still more—does this correct approach exist at all, save in our imaginations? To this I answer with complete assurance, that in my opinion there is a correct path. Moreover, that it is in our power to find it.” (Einstein 1919, Ideas and Opinions 1954).
As mentioned above, we homosapiens are far-from-equilibrium dynamical systems ourselves (with both marco- and microscopic characteristics). We likely possess in our very being (in our consciousness even) many (if not all) the attributes and properties inherent in QM interactions. That doesn't necessarily imply that we should be able to understand every aspect of QM, or eliminate the unknown from QM, any more than we should be able understand or remove the transcendental nature of Pi or π, but it probably helps.
"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe"
(Carl Sagan, Cosmos)
As a final note, related more to arguments made in the "design" thread about filling in the gaps related to science (and particularly QM), I would like to introduce a post written in a similar context, in a similar forum, by a friend of mine. It fits in perfectly with that issue [though this is not Len Moran's stated position]. With his permission, I post it here in slightly modified-form:
Originally Posted by ~modest
So, when the question arises: Is there design in the universe? The answer is NO.
And to the question: Can science build an accurate representation of the physical world? The answer is YES.
Barcelona, Spain, October 30, and 8 November 2009