Science in a Box Commentary
By Iain Davies
This is a response to the paper titled "Science in a Box", by James Sharman.
Sharman begins his paper by posing the question, "Does science have boundaries beyond which there is knowledge?" He first addresses the smaller question, "Does science have boundaries?" His answer to this seems unclear. He calls the apparent limitlessness of science an illusion, but also says that he doesn't think this limits the expansion of science.
Whatever this may mean, I think the question is entirely answerable. The current state of science suggests to us that the nature of the universe is physically infinite. That is, that the three dimensions we are familiar with extend on without limit. It follows that there is no limit to the things, or at least places, we can know about. Science also suggests to us that the universe is physically infinite in another way. That is, there is no smallest unit of measure. So, within any given finite volume, there is no limit to the things, or at least places, we can know about.
Since science is the art or practice of knowing, it follows that there are no boundaries beyond which it cannot potentially reach and yet there will always be 'potential knowledge' which it has not yet reached. All this is just based on the real-estate of the universe.
Incase the above was tough to follow, let me try saying it another way. The universe is infinite in nature. Science, our knowledge of the universe, is finite. Science can continue to expand for any amount of time and will never become infinite. Therefore science will never reach a limit, and it will never be complete.
Now, on to the more interesting question. Can science be used to prove or disprove the supernatural? Sharman says that the supernatural cannot be disproved by science because it is, by definition, beyond science. He goes on to say that the supernatural cannot be proved at this point because it is indistinguishable from the paranormal, but that it may someday be provable when science is much more complete.
I disagree with his opinions on two points. If, as I argue above, science can never approach 'completeness', it follows that there will always be paranormal that science can't distinguish from supernatural.
My second point of disagreement is the notion that incomplete science can't help us see beyond the natural universe. While I will not attempt to prove the supernatural here, let me demonstrate a way in which science could do just that.
The second law of thermodynamics states that the universe as a whole always moves from a more ordered state to a less ordered state. That is, it continuously, irreversibly moves from order to chaos. This is a thoroughly tested irrefutable law of nature. Its existence carries with it some interesting implications. If an infinite amount of time has passed in the universe, then the universe should be 'perfectly chaotic'. That is, there should be no order whatsoever in it. Yet we observe it always moving from order to disorder. What conclusion must we draw? The universe has existed for a finite amount of time. It had a beginning and is moving towards chaos from an initial state of order.
The universe came into being at a certain point in time. For every effect there is a cause. Something caused the natural universe to exist. That something is, by definition, supernatural.
Why can reasoning like this work? Because, ultimately, the supernatural and the natural are inseparable. If the supernatural exists, it can necessarily be discerned via the natural. An effect can be studied to learn about its cause. This is, in fact, the main activity of science. The virtual life in Sharman's virtual world could learn the nature of their finite world and deduce the existence of Sharman. Once they've done that maybe they'll help us understand the nature of our universe!