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Author Topic: Is the search for our beginning pointless ?  (Read 2955 times)

Offline neilep

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Is the search for our beginning pointless ?
« on: 21/02/2006 14:01:38 »
Isn't the search for the origins of the Universe futile ?...now I don't mean to imply that we should desist looking...no no no...but once we discover our origins won't we then want to know what came before that ?....and then before that ?..and before that ?.....etc etc etc ad infinutm !!!..in other words could there be no end to our beginning ?  

(Woooo...I said a big thing !!...YAYYYY )






(note to self:stop ending profound questions with banal quips, it really diminishishes the stature of the question)



Men are the same as women.... just inside out !!


 

another_someone

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Re: Is the search for our beginning pointless ?
« Reply #1 on: 21/02/2006 14:26:28 »
quote:
Originally posted by neilep

Isn't the search for the origins of the Universe futile ?...now I don't mean to imply that we should desist looking...no no no...but once we discover our origins won't we then want to know what came before that ?....and then before that ?..and before that ?.....etc etc etc ad infinutm !!!..in other words could there be no end to our beginning ?  




This overlaps the evolution/creation debate, or more importantly, if the answer to your question is YES, then it follows that it is immaterial whether we teach one version of our origin or another.

In the narrowest sense, I would respond to your question in the affirmative.  What actually happened billions of years ago is both unprovable, and irrelevant.

But, in a broader sense, insofar as we can we presume a past that will tell us something about our future, then in that respect creating an image of the past that can help predict a future is pertinent.  Whether this past is a reality or a fiction is unknowable.

Science is the art of creating models, using those models to make predictions, and then through experiment or observation, proving the correctness of those predictions.

Science cannot make predictions about the past, and therefore a statement that only pertains to the past is unprovable, and hence unscientific.

A statement that says something about the past, and then says that based upon that past we can make a prediction into the future, is something one can prove (or disprove), and is thus a valid scientific statement.



George
« Last Edit: 21/02/2006 14:30:02 by another_someone »
 

Offline neilep

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Re: Is the search for our beginning pointless ?
« Reply #2 on: 21/02/2006 16:29:16 »
Thank you very much George.

Is it possible to prove the accuracy of predictictions by using the principles on things that we already understand but applying the rules to the earlier data to see if the results predict what we do in fact know ?


...could not the same rules that we apply to predict the future be used to create rules that determine the creation of such a thing ?


I think it's crucial that we continue to search else we become stagnant and arrested.

Men are the same as women.... just inside out !!
 

another_someone

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Re: Is the search for our beginning pointless ?
« Reply #3 on: 21/02/2006 17:24:15 »
quote:
Originally posted by neilep

Is it possible to prove the accuracy of predictictions by using the principles on things that we already understand but applying the rules to the earlier data to see if the results predict what we do in fact know ?




To some extent, this is what we do today.

There are two issues with this.

Firstly, it assumes that the past was substantially like the present, at least insofar as assuming that the environment in which we undertake the experiment may be considered equivalent to the environment of the past.  This is not an unreasonable assumption, but it is an unprovable assumption.

Secondly, even if we implicitly accept the above assumption, the experiment merely shows that the past could have happened in a particular way, not that it did happen so.

In some ways, you might argue that all scientific experiment is only about demonstrating how something could happen, not how it does happen; but the point about prediction of the future is that one is predicting an unknown and proving it right.

A very simple example of what I am trying to say is, if you were to give me a piece of graph paper, with 3 dots drawn on it, I could draw any number of lines joining those dots, and claiming that line was the correct line to draw between those dot.  If, after giving you back the paper with my line drawn on it, you then place 5 more dots on the paper, you can tell me whether the new dots agree with my proposed line, or disagree with that line.  If you had originally given me the piece of paper with 8 dots drawn on it, it may have slightly constrained the number of lines I could have drawn to connect those dots, but there would still have been an infinite number of lines that would have been possible, because I was only dealing with known quantities, and did not have to predict the unknown.

When we look back at history, we know where all the dots are, and so simply drawing a line that will join up the dots will mean nothing.

Ofcourse, there is a grey area, and that grey area is important.  For instance, if we look at evolution, it is meaningless simply to say that species X evolved from species Y, but if one then makes a prediction that one should at some time in the future discover a missing link between species X and species Y, then that prediction becomes provable, but only if you do not yet know of that missing link (i.e. it is a true prediction of the future, not merely explaining the past).





George
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: Is the search for our beginning pointless ?
« Reply #4 on: 21/02/2006 21:18:38 »
George - Saying we can't predict anything that happened in the past is a matter of semantics. Predictions, by definition, can only deal with future occurrences. You can take a series of knowns & predict that something may happen as a result. However, the same process can be used in reverse. Unknown past events can be deduced from present knowledge in the same way that future events can. The only difference is that rather than sitting back & waiting to see if the event occurs, we have to go looking for evidence that it did occur. By building more and more powerful telescopes, we are able to look further and further back in time to see if our deductions about the early universe are correct. The only predictions we can make about that situation is that evidence of a past event will come to light.
 

another_someone

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Re: Is the search for our beginning pointless ?
« Reply #5 on: 21/02/2006 21:43:16 »
quote:
Originally posted by DoctorBeaver

George - Saying we can't predict anything that happened in the past is a matter of semantics. Predictions, by definition, can only deal with future occurrences. You can take a series of knowns & predict that something may happen as a result. However, the same process can be used in reverse. Unknown past events can be deduced from present knowledge in the same way that future events can. The only difference is that rather than sitting back & waiting to see if the event occurs, we have to go looking for evidence that it did occur. By building more and more powerful telescopes, we are able to look further and further back in time to see if our deductions about the early universe are correct. The only predictions we can make about that situation is that evidence of a past event will come to light.



I think you have misunderstood what I have said.

When I was talking about predicting the future, I had hoped that I had indicated that this included any future discoveries, even discoveries of evidence of the past.  The important issue is that a scientific theory should be able to predict knowledge that is not yet ascertained by other means.

Your example of building a telescope to discover evidence of the past is directly analogous to my suggestion one may look for a missing link between two supposedly related species of animals.



George
« Last Edit: 21/02/2006 22:06:15 by another_someone »
 

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Re: Is the search for our beginning pointless ?
« Reply #5 on: 21/02/2006 21:43:16 »

 

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