Sorry to be so slow but I needed to think about the reactions my post engendered. When I started this thread, I commented that the subject had been close to my heart for over fifty years and I tried to bring a little attention to some of the important aspects. I think I have fundamentally failed as all the posts really dealt with fluff issues: semantics and such, completely ignoring the serious issues related to the idea of a "Final Theory".
No one seemed at all aware of the fact that many in the forefront of modern physics are of the opinion that mankind is very close to a fundamental explanation of everything physical; what was essentially being referred to as the "Final Theory". The length of that thread should have made it clear that an important issue was buried there. I quoted "orbsycli" on the flaw in the name because a lot of people seem to miss that fact ("if the final theory is the final knowledge and explanation of everything, wouldn't it not be a theory?"
) and the reaction was to dismiss the subject as if that error meant there was no subject to discuss: i.e., it was ("the final resolution of the question"
). Perhaps we should call it something else (but, so long as we don't have it, we have to call our ideas "theories").
I think infamous has missed the central issue by thinking in terms of "Theories". Fundamentally, his failure to understand orbsycli's comment closes the door to thought about "understanding the universe". His position is that all understanding is theoretical and that theoretical things cannot be proved therefore the problem of "understanding the universe" can not be solved. I don't believe this is a well thought out position but rather a simple refusal to consider the possibility of a solution.
No one (except myself) has taken the trouble to look at the true problem. It is not difficult to show that the problem is one of constructing a rational model of a totally unknown universe given nothing but a totally undefined stream of data which has been transcribed by a totally undefined process. The scientific community regards such a problem as obviously insolvable. No one but a complete idiot would look there.
The real issue here is the role played by induction. Most all thoughtful people have concluded that there exists no way of proving anything achieved by induction is valid.
Inductive reasoning is deductively invalid. (An argument in formal logic is valid if and only if it is not possible for the premises of the argument to be true whilst the conclusion is false.)
At the same time, without induction, no connection between logic and reality can be achieved; this is the fundamental reason for the position "mathematics has nothing to do with reality": as Feynman said, "mathematics is the distilled essence of logic" (but, he is referring to deductive logic and not inductive logic).
The intellectual community holds that there are two very different categories of logic: deduction and induction. In reality, induction is not actually logic; it is in fact, the logical deductions which may be made from the assumption that some specific thing which has happened in the past will happen again. Now all logical deduction begins with axioms so why would they want to set this off as a separate category of logic and not just another possible axiom? As I see it, the answer is very simple but difficult to live with and "the intellectual powers which be" don't like to bring that fact out into the open. The fact is that the assumption "what has happened in the past will happen again" is very difficult to accept as an "axiom" and must be couched in very careful terms in order to be seen as reasonable. In fact, most (if not all) errors in our explanations of our experiences which have turned out to be wrong can be traced to exactly that assumption so it behooves us all to be very careful when it comes to induction.
Fundamentally, it is the fact that all theories must be based on induction which guarantees that no theory will ever be proved correct. Since all "realistic" (having to do with reality) axioms are based on induction, there exists no starting point for that "understanding of the universe". This is taken as proof that a valid "understanding the universe" will never be achieved (it should be noticed that this itself is an inductive conclusion). It has been assumed that no path around the inductive dilemma exists. What people are failing to take into account is that there also exists no proof that any "reliable" theory is wrong as disproof itself removes that "reliability" (see Karl Popper's definition of "reliable"). It follows that any "reliable" theory might be valid or, which amounts to the same thing, if understanding is possible, a valid theory exists within the set of "all possible reliable theories".
Taking that into account, if one can create an abstract construct which can be shown to be deductively valid (an internally consistent analytic statement
and also show that every possible "reliable" theory can be mapped into that construct, then that construct itself embodies an "understanding of the universe". Against this very definite possibility is the well known fact "that analytic statements "express no thoughts", that is, that they tell us nothing new; although analytic statements do not require justification, they are singularly uninformative" (see any definition of an "analytic statement").
It is exactly that last statement with which I find great fault. "Uninformative" is a rather extreme condemnation to place upon a construct prior to understanding that construct. One could just as well point out that all of mathematics is an "analytic" construct and is thus "uninformative". A tautology is defined to be "a needless repetition of the same idea in a different word, phrase or sentence" (a tautology is little more than a complex analytic statement). It would indeed be needless repetition were everyone brilliant enough to intuitively see those consequences; however, any decent education in mathematics will assure anyone that the consequences of definition can easily far outstrip the capabilities of common intuition.
And so it is with that construct I have created. It may very well be "uninformative", but it certainly explains one hell of a lot!
Have fun -- Dick
"The simplest and most necessary truths are the very last to be believed."
by Anonymous -- (He wrote a lot of stuff.)