Tuesday, 1 October 2019

The Limits of Science

Why can't science tell us why the Universe exists and why physical laws take on the form they do?

Here's an analogy.

Consider the game of chess. Let's suppose one knows nothing about how to play the game. By playing against a chess computer one can gradually discover the rules of chess by trying various moves and seeing which moves the computer will permit you to make. But, discovering the rules of chess tells us nothing about why the pieces are allowed to move the way they do, least of all of who invented the game of chess and why. Nor do we know how the computer works. Why and how does it register certain moves as illegal?

Likewise, discovering the physical laws that describe or govern our physical reality tells us nothing about why physical laws are as they are. Nor can it tell us why there is a Universe at all. Such questions simply do not reside within the scope of science.

(The above is a slightly simpler version of my What philosophical questions does science answer?)


  1. Nor do they fall into the scope of metaphysics, philosophy, or religion. Saying science or generally any epistemological investigation of the world is doomed to fail at getting to the fundamentals is a movement towards a sort metaphysical agnosticism to any "why" questions rather than a push towards some "mystical" more foundational investigation (I'm assuming this was where you are going with this). The same epistemological challenges that scientific investigation meets in trying to "explain" or describe the world is equally met with in metaphilosohical investigation. Can your limited experience stuck within the universe some how rip facts out of it that are not descriptive?

  2. It falls under the scope of metaphysics, although it may be that answering such questions -- why is there a Universe etc -- may forever elude us. We live in the midst of mystery. Why is there a Universe, why do we exist, what does it all mean etc. My only purpose in this post was to say these questions can't be answered by science. I didn't mean to imply they're answerable by philosophy or religion. Maybe they are, or maybe they're not.


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