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Science and Limitations
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A short blog entry, since I'm pretty well caught up on my comps, and I've been thinking about this topic.

Someone said to me recently that the reason they felt the need to believe in the supernatural, or things beyond science, was that scientific explanations put limitations on reality. Basically, once you've explained something, that's all there is. And this person apparently wanted to live in a universe where literally anything could happen, and anything was possible.

Okay, I can understand that urge, somewhat. As an aside, it sort of reminds me of the distinction usually made between science fiction (in which extrapolations are made based on the possible) and fantasy (in which anything goes).

I'd respond to this kind of thinking in two ways. First, if literally anything is possible, and beyond explanation, doesn't that make things awfully arbitrary? I'm all well and prepared to find explanations that are incredibly complex (or possibly incredibly simple). But I'm not prepared to not find them at all. Rather than placing limitations on the universe, that would then mean either that we ourselves are severely limited (i.e. that we're too stupid to get it) or that there are no explanations because there is no structure or regularity (i.e. anything really can happen, and there are no rules). I don't really find either one of those satisfying.

My second response to this line of thinking is more visceral. What the hell do you mean "Is this all there is?" In case you haven't noticed, there's an awful lot. The notion that the universe is somehow too small to be interesting is ludicrous. I'm reminded of the famous quotation from Isaac Newton:

I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

And this guy was no slouch. There are so many things we don't understand about the universe, and so many surprises it has in store for us. There are enough naturalistic lines of inquiry to keep you busy for a hundred lifetimes...and this isn't enough mystery for you?

That is all...back to comps.

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