Re: Science, Knowledge, Understanding, Art and Wonder

Subject: Re: Science, Knowledge, Understanding, Art and Wonder
From: Michael Gogins (
Date: Sun Sep 11 2005 - 10:26:09 EDT

Your remarks are interesting, but I think your interpretation of the meaning
of Dawkins and Goedel is not quite correct.

There are two kinds of 'inexplicability' at issue. The first one is, the
items I can't explain are of an entirely different category, and my
intellectual tools, or even my very mind, is simply not equipped to grasp
them. This is the kind of inexplicability that religionists and humanists
posit against the scientific worldview -- that God, love, truth, beauty,
honor, immortaliy, etc., etc., are as real or more real than physical
phenomena but cannot be grasped with scientific categories. The second one
is, the items I can't explain are not of an entirely different category, but
they nevertheless escape explanation because, well, there are just literally
too many of them. This is what Godel's incompleteness theorem, technically
speaking, really boils down to: there is a countable infinity of proofs, but
there are an uncountable infinity of propositions, and therefore there are
true propositions that cannot be proved. "Explanation" in science is like
proof in logic, so therefore it is reasonable to think that there are more
physical possibilities, especially if the cosmos is infinite in extent or
continuous in structure, than any physical theory can encompass. I don't
think Dawkins is, in his own remarks, technically referring to Godel's
incompleteness, but I do think that he was talking about something similar:
that there are just too many THINGS.

The number of things that physically exist, or could exist, and the logical
impossibility of encompassing all of that in a scientific explanation, is of
course a completely different issue from the kind of metaphysical
incommensurability that I originally mentioned. Logical or physical
incompleteness is the case whether, or not, there is any metaphysical
incompleteness to the scientific worldview, and whether, or not, the cosmos
is simply a machine.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Kenneth Newby" <>
To: <>
Sent: Sunday, September 11, 2005 6:39 AM
Subject: Re: Science, Knowledge, Understanding, Art and Wonder

> Along the same lines as Dawkins... I read somewhere that our knowledge,
> gained through rational exploration (science?), can be likened to a
> continent, bounded by what we do not know... the more we add to our
> knowledge the greater the continent grows and the greater the expanse of
> those boundaries between what we know and what we don't. Unless it's
> possible to finish the project of scientific explication of the
> "mysteries" of the world we inhabit (didn't Godel dispatch with that
> one?), we're doomed, or perhaps blessed, with a precious and perhaps
> growing amount of unknown "stuff" at its boundaries.
> Kenneth.
> On 9-Sep-05, at 7:45 PM, Kevin Austin wrote:
>> Why do poets and artists so often disparage science in their work?
>> At a meeting of romantic poets in 1817, Keats suggested that Newton had
>> destroyed the wonder of the rainbow by explaining how it came about.
>> In "Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for
>> Wonder", Richard Dawkins provides an elegant defense of his contention
>> that knowing how something works in no way diminishes its wonder. He
>> shows how the scientific "unweaving of rainbows" has always lead to other
>> amazing and wonderful mysteries.
>> Considerations?
>> Best
>> Kevin

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