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How certain is our scientific knowledge? Honestly?

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On 11/10/2020 at 12:28 AM, Omnifarious said:

First off let me say I mean no disrespect. And if I seem brutally honest it's because it's my nature and belief in being forthright.

There are a lot of things said in science documentaries and scientifically mined people that upset me. And they always speak with absolute certainty. Like this thing is perfectly well known and proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, like gravity. 

I wanted to ask you weather or not they were really true but then I thought it would be easier to ask you about science and our certainty of it in general. I've heard that scientists are supposed to be open minded and never to be too certain of any thing. But in my experience, scientists are people who say "This is the way thing are and that's the end of it." That you could not be a scientist unless you took things as absolutes. It's particularly difficult for me to question these people because I can't help but assume they speak from a position of knowledge of which I am ignorant. When people talk like it's already proven, I can't help but assume it has been. When you're sitting in class or studying a book, you don't question what they're saying. If you did, how would you learn anything?


For example this one says that we will NEVER be able to leave our local group of galaxies because the rest of the universe is accelerating away from us faster then the speed of light. 

This one and this one state that traveling faster then the speed of light is impossible. Not just that it's impossible with current technology but it's impossible no matter how advanced we get. I tried to tell myself that we are always discovering new things, things we could not imagine before. I looked in the comments to see if anyone had the same thought and some did. But then someone countered that bay saying if we did learn anything could go faster then light, it would undo the laws of physics going back to Newton, who's work has proven solid to this day.

And something that's always bothered me, the theory that the entire universe will inevitably end. So many time I've heard about how and when it will end. Once I went on one of those question posting websites and I asked "Will the universe end?" Not how will, not when will, just will? Is this something the scientists of the world know and agree on. The very first post I go simply said "Of course it will."


What I want to ask is, not so much about the above stuff but about our scientific knowledge in general. What is the reason for all this certainty and rejection of doubt? Is our grasp of science that good? When we know something do we really know it for sure?

Or is it something else? Are scientists today too sure of themselves? Is everyone taking their word as gospel? Do people talk as if things are facts because they want to sound convincing? Do documentary makers simply assume we will know they are not talking about absolutes even though they never said they were? Even though they implied everything they said was fact over and over again?

I read somewhere that we might be living in a new dark age, because we don't think to investigate what our "higher ups" tell us.

The only things scientists are really certain about is uncertainty. That may distinguish them from faith. 

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Your post is rather long, so I will just pick out this one sentence: "So I would say, you can't be a good scientist if you take things as absolutes" And I go further and say that you cannot be a

I am sooo glad to see you back! This forum has been badly in need of a good dose of sanity.

I am saying they require things that might work out mathematically but the reality of things like negative mass is unknown and there is little reason to think they exist.  In science everything i

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Yes, but assuming your "SR is incomplete" refers to the problem of SR implying static universe, then you must realize that the solution is very simple - there was never any reason to assume ontologically isotropic C... Basically the arguments you gave above get thrown into the bin, as soon as you assume instead that - ontologically - a momentary state of reality actually exists, beyond our ability to probe what it is.

[There is nothing in SR that implies a static universe. Experience is our reality and reveals a dynamic changing universe. It's incomplete without recognizing the role of perception. People are born into a world they can't comprehend, and must make up ideas that provide some degree of understanding, a predictive ability and subsequently a security of future persistence. Will spring follow winter, will a bridge support an expected weight, etc.]

[I have a copy of the paper OTEOMB, A. Einstein, 1905, and refer to it (rather than trust my memory) whenever I quote it for a post. Also have read other papers by Einstein on other topics to see how he thinks.
Einstein saw no justification for an absolute frame in the special or general theory. His example of em induction was a common example that anyone who knew basic science could understand. He had to define 'time' since there was no universal time, once light speed was discovered to be finite.

The elimination of an absolute frame takes us back in time.
Newton's first law 'an object in motion or at rest, remains in that state if no force intervenes', is questionable. There are not two states, only one. Motion is a change of position relative to a reference. Motion has a range of values v, where 0<v<c. Rest has one value, 0. You can move faster but you can't rest slower. Rest can be defined as a special state of motion when two objects have the same velocity. Now those objects can be moving at some random speed and simultaneously be at rest, without contradiction.]

[Understanding perception:
By definition, reality is the behavior of objects according to the laws of physics, i.e. matter reacting to natural influences independently of a human observer. Perception is the apparent behavior of objects as represented by mental images formed from processing and interpreting sensory input. In summary, perception is reality confined to the mind of the observer.]

[A classic example was the heliocentric vs geocentric form of the solar system.
The first involved a dominant mass (sun) and gravity. The second required additional theoretical explanations for the retrograde motions as perceived by observers.]

[Relative to the inertial observer who has assumed a pseudo rest frame, he is only coincident with the emission and reception of a 2-way signal, and perceives equal times out and back, in accord to the SR clock synch convention. He has no way to verify when the reflection occurred. The round trip time is the same whether using c or c±v.]

[Some thoughts about Lorentz's local time:

'The Measure of Time', Poincare, 1898.
"We do not have a direct intuition for simultaneity, just as little as for the equality of two  periods. If we believe to have this intuition, it is an illusion. We helped ourselves with certain rules, which we usually use without giving us account over it [...] We choose these rules therefore, not because they are true, but because they are the most convenient, and we could summarize them while saying: The simultaneity of two events, or the order of their succession, the equality of two durations, are to be so defined that the enunciation of the natural laws may be as simple as possible. In other words, all these rules, all these definitions are only the fruit of an unconscious opportunism.“]

[Throughout history, scientists have known the utility and necessity of conventions.]

[Feynman analyzes light phenomena in terms of fundamental interactions, reducing them to a few common rules, and calculating probabilities as done in other areas of quantum physics. It's not easy to explain but he gets the correct answers. It's another case of naive ideas not working due to ignorance of a complex world.]


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Hi Sluggo.

Sorry it took me a while to respond - I was occupied with bunch of other things. But what's the hurry here, right? 😄


On 1/11/2021 at 6:16 PM, sluggo said:

There is nothing in SR that implies a static universe.

The way I would put it is, there is nothing in SR that requires a static universe. There's a lot in there that "implies" static universe (rather famously so), but is dependent on ones particular interpretation of the theory.

The point that is relevant to this thread and that I would like everyone to have clear understanding of, is that if we assume that relativistic simultaneity is ontologically real, we are also assuming there is never any single objective state to reality (and thus no objective dynamic evolution). You can't have one without the other. But most people ignore this connection and live happily with a bit of cognitive dissonance in their minds.

"But most people don't take SR that literally", right? Well, the other side of this topic is that if we assume relativistic simultaneity merely represents a handy logical relationship for modeling reality, then we have removed the only difference between Special Relativity, and Lorentz (last) aether theory. No big surprise, we already knew the difference was merely philosophical to begin with.

So even if they don't take SR "that literally", they still tend to argue that SR is somehow better than Lorentz theory, despite being literally the same math. Another bit of cognitive dissonance right there.

But why am I talking about the philosophical aspects of Special Relativity in this thread? Because almost everyone, I will say 99.9% of the presentations of SR, will always put forward the idea that these purely philosophical aspects of SR are the bread and butter of the theory, and the experiments about SR prove their "reality" (which is different than to prove their "validity" as part of a world model).

When generations of people are taught this simplified "story" version of SR, you get a cult-like following that doesn't really have an understanding of where the next revolutionary idea can come from, but are still willing to spend enormous amount of their energy defending completely undefendable ideas, under the presumption that "someone out there can prove this". That is detrimental to scientific progress.

For example, I am fairly confident that the only real obstacle in unifying quantum mechanics and gravity is the popular idea of modeling time as a spacetime metric. It leads into conceptually difficult regression in your description of the time evolution of the system. There's no reason to model time this way, other than the fact that GR just so happens to model time that way, and most everyone are conditioned to think it's the only way. It just is not, it's just one logically valid naive mental model (out of many) of a complex reality.


On 1/11/2021 at 6:16 PM, sluggo said:

It's another case of naive ideas not working due to ignorance of a complex world.

Indeed. Unfortunately naive ideas still live strong in our best models of reality, and we ought to be careful to not get too attached to them. (I can see people making this mistake all the time)


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On 11/29/2020 at 8:59 AM, Omnifarious said:

But, putting it simply, how solid is our scientific knowledge?

What is it like these days? Like how one might ask what Russia is like.

It depends on the scientific discipline you are addressing.  Is there a country named Russia?

The answer to that is "we know and can demonstrate that Russia exists" .  What it is like is completely subjective.

It is like all large societies. It has the best of humanity, it has the worst of humanity.

Those questions do not belong to the physical sciences, those are of the social sciences, which use entirely different criteria than the physical sciences.

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