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Yaron Tokayer

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Will humankind ever achieve an end to science history?

My bioelectricity class is half science and half history. When we bring up a new topic, we often first pause to set its historical backdrop from a political and experimental perspective. This is particularly interesting, given that in bioelectricity, experiments date back several hundred years, but are also unfolding every day (quite literally, if we consider that ion channels are proteins whose foling structures are a topic of this field -- see http://fold.it/portal/ for a link to the fold it protein folding game taking the world by storm). But when I try to consider new research, I find myself feeling viscerally skeptical of our own time's limited perspective on our own accomplishments to date.

Phillip von Jolly, Planck's professor at Munich, is pretty much solely known for falsely predicting of physics that, "in this field, almost everything is already discovered, and all that remains is to fill a few unimportant holes." Similarly, Lord Kelvin is said to have proclaimed that "there is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement." Both of these quotes were said at the dawn of the quantum era. I think we humans tend to assume that we are at the end of history, that all scientific and social progress has culminated to the present.

The question I would like to pose is whether or not science is at least honing in on an absolute reality--what philosophers call "scientific realism." Are we getting closer--converging--to the end of scientific discovery with each paradigm shift, or do we just recast how we understand the world in a different vocabulary? From one perspective, the miasma theory of disease, which preceded today's germ theory, was thought to be approximately accurate experimentally, just like today's germ theory is "approximately accurate" as far as it's clinical effectiveness. Is there a truth of nature behind a curtain for us to discover? If there is, are humans capable of acieving it?

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    Feb 14 2013: You asked, " Is there a truth of nature behind a curtain for us to discover? If there is, are humans capable of acieving it?"

    I believe YES and YES, but that does not mean that there will be an end to science history. Quantum Mechanics has made some ASTOUNDING discoveries that force a paradigm shift on all who are well-versed in it. It is the basis for new fields of exploration (centered around study of "mind" as a power).

    There are a growing number of people who have "awakened" into a greater reality. The paradigm shift is already occurring. It's just not yet popular.

    There will always be new fields of exploration. That is pretty much at the core of what QM is suggesting.
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      Feb 14 2013: Thanks, TED Lover. You seem pretty passionate about this topic.

      I'm not sure I understand (and I apologize if I'm misinterpreting your comment)--which is it? Do you believe yes and yes, that we will eventiually have a comprehensive "true" science, or that there will always be new fields of exploration? In my mind, it has to be one or the other.

      Do you mean that just because our theory may be complete one day, that will not halt our curiosity to further explore our universe with that theory? This would imply that discoveries don't always have to force a revision of theory.
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        Feb 14 2013: I understand your confusion. My worldview is different from most. I believe in the many worlds theory of reality. All realities exist in their potential right now. Obviously, some are more probable than others relative to my location and trajectory.

        Using specific techniques, I use the potential energy that exists as the dissonance between what I have and what I want to propel me toward my desired location (the now-potential dimension - where what I want is manifest physically. (Most who do this say simply that they create their own reality).

        Once this, that works extremely well for me, is the proven explanation for WHAT a human is and what reality looks like (and there is already abundant evidence supporting a multiverse of some sort), then the core of science is already laid out. The only thing left will be questions (that are always answered, by the way).

        Some will ponder questions about interstellar travel. Others - how to create a perfect food source that does not involve slaughter. Still others will probe the depths of self. And others will seek to apply mind-power to controlling weather. (Etc.)

        Therefore, How reality works is a question that will have been answered. The rest is simply using that knowledge to explore the wonders of reality. That part is continual.
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          Feb 14 2013: Interesting. I've never met such a strong supporter of Everett.

          I like what you pointed out about knowledge not necessarily stopping human exploration. I've been thinking a lot about it since this conversation started (cf. my last response to you). Do discoveries always demand a revision of theory? Otherwise they don't really sound like discoveries, but rather observing things we already know to be true. I don't know. I would like to believe though, as I mentioned in my response to Bob Stiglitz, that human curiosity and drive to understand and probe the world is endless, even if we get to a point when we have a comprehensive science.

          Back to the many worlds--I think your theory makes sense to me, but I wonder if it's a useful one. What good are solutions to problems if they were solved in some other offshoot of a universe I once belonged to? The many-worlds interpretation of QM is nice, but it just doesn't satisfy a pragmatist like me.

          Thanks for your valuable input.

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