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Author Topic:   Looking beyond the horizons of our knowledge: does it make sense?
Annafan
Member (Idle past 2746 days)
Posts: 418
From: Belgium
Joined: 08-08-2005


Message 1 of 6 (234635)
08-18-2005 6:58 PM


A complaint that returns often in discussions about supernatural phenomenons, but probably also in ID etc., is that certain controversial assumptions do not get enough attention from the scientific community, because science is so "closed-minded". Didn't the past show that anything is possible? That there have been changes in paradigm, sometimes turning our understanding of reality totally upside down? Why then are scientists always so arrogant to dismiss any example of thinking outside the box? Shouldn't we open our minds a bit further? :)

People who point this out, have some impressive examples available to illustrate that they are "right". One that I always remember (but which will not be used by them, probably ;-) )is how Lord Kelvin completely dismissed the possibility that the sun was millions of years old, because he thought it got its energy from gravitational contraction. As a result, he actually dismissed Evolution because his calculations, based on that pre-nuclear science "knowledge", showed that there would not be enough time before the sun burnt out.

What this example does illustrate, is that it is a delicate issue. I've often asked myself the question: who would I have supported if I had been around at the time? And who SHOULD I have supported? What approach makes most sense, and does it STILL make most sense in retrospect? Does science stagnate because of being too conservative, or does it remain inherently non-sensical to take the "Unknown" into account?

Edit: I actually found a nice article concerning the age of the sun (and the "Kelvin-incident") after writing this mail

http://nobelprize.org/physics/articles/fusion/sun_1.html

This message has been edited by Annafan, 08-18-2005 07:04 PM


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 Message 4 by nwr, posted 08-22-2005 9:29 PM Annafan has responded

    
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Message 2 of 6 (235428)
08-22-2005 9:40 AM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.
    
Brad McFall
Member (Idle past 3199 days)
Posts: 3428
From: Ithaca,NY, USA
Joined: 12-20-2001


Message 3 of 6 (235485)
08-22-2005 11:48 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Annafan
08-18-2005 6:58 PM


private vs public
quote:
In reference to the subject, the horizon is either universal and absolute, or particular andconditioned (personal horizon).

By the former is to be understood the congruence of the limits of human knowledge with the limits of all human perfections in general. Here then the question is: What can man, as man, know?

The determination of the personal horizon depends on manifold empirical conditions, and special circumstances – as , for example age, sex, position, way of life, and the like. Thus, every particular class of men has its own particular horizon relative to its special powers of knowledge, its ends, and points of view; every person, also has his own horizon depending on the measure of his own individual powers, and his own point of view. Lastly, we can also conceive a horizon of sound sense, and a horizon of science, (208) which latter requires principles in order to determine according to them what we can know, and what we cannot know.

What we cannot know is above our horizon. What we dare not or need not know is outside our horizon. This latter, however, can only hold good relatively in reference to this or that particular private end, to the attainment of which certain cognitions not only contribute nothing but might even be a hindrance.


p32 Introduction to Logic by Immanuel Kant 1800

I have no problem with Kelvin’s “private” end provided that I am actively moved by the subject subsequently made public else it might go on as a hindrance in my mind unaware unconsciously etc.


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nwr
Member
Posts: 5585
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005


Message 4 of 6 (235747)
08-22-2005 9:29 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Annafan
08-18-2005 6:58 PM


It's not that simple
Didn't the past show that anything is possible?

No.

That there have been changes in paradigm, sometimes turning our understanding of reality totally upside down?

That certainly happens.

Why then are scientists always so arrogant to dismiss any example of thinking outside the box? Shouldn't we open our minds a bit further?

It isn't that simple. A paradigm shift is cognitively very difficult. It isn't just a matter of changing a few assumptions. It can involved changing the whole conceptual structure on which the science is build.
This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Annafan, posted 08-18-2005 6:58 PM Annafan has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 5 by Annafan, posted 08-26-2005 9:28 AM nwr has not yet responded
 Message 6 by Brad McFall, posted 08-26-2005 9:41 AM nwr has not yet responded

  
Annafan
Member (Idle past 2746 days)
Posts: 418
From: Belgium
Joined: 08-08-2005


Message 5 of 6 (237233)
08-26-2005 9:28 AM
Reply to: Message 4 by nwr
08-22-2005 9:29 PM


Re: It's not that simple
It isn't that simple. A paradigm shift is cognitively very difficult. It isn't just a matter of changing a few assumptions. It can involved changing the whole conceptual structure on which the science is build.

I know, I know... What I was looking for with this post is, I guess, an elegant reply to people who come up with this "argument". It's one of those arguments which you KNOW are somehow beside the point, but are always hard to address in less than a 25-part encyclopedia :)


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 Message 4 by nwr, posted 08-22-2005 9:29 PM nwr has not yet responded

    
Brad McFall
Member (Idle past 3199 days)
Posts: 3428
From: Ithaca,NY, USA
Joined: 12-20-2001


Message 6 of 6 (237235)
08-26-2005 9:41 AM
Reply to: Message 4 by nwr
08-22-2005 9:29 PM


Re: It's not that simple
Ok, but rather than "thinking outside the box" substitute "thought outside a minimization of a weighted graph". Scientists do not give enough thought to the differences mentally between what nonEuclidean shape the box remands in the difference of optimizations from a given graph weighted subjectively or more or less objectively matched to givens (minimal spanning trees in biogeography, macroeconomic models, causal patterns any way sugessted etc).

It is a hard thought. That is all. Kelvin was doing the best anyone could at his time.


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