The Lambda Limit: The Incompletability of Science

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Hunt, Geoffrey (2012)
  • Publisher: AMSI
  • Subject: 501

The idea that science is nearing completion assumes that science is completable. I argue that it is incompletable in principle. This needs to be recognized if science is to be fully deployed for human welfare, addressing critical global problems of the age. Nonrecognition of incompletability leads not only to the diversion of human, intellectual, material and energy resources away from critical human problems but exacerbates the neglect, misidentification and misconceived prioritization of human problems and the goals of science. The case for incompletability is outlined in terms of three dimensions of scientific development: theoretical, technological and economic. There appear to be insurmountable theoretical barriers (for example, Gödel’s Theorem and the possible inconstancy of “laws of nature”), growing technological uncertainties (for example, in pharmaceuticals and nanotechnology) and an economic trend to diminishing marginal returns on investment (for example, the Large Hadron Collider and the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor). These dimensions may converge at a limit, the Lambda Limit. Dire human problems that are resolvable with current science and technology are neglected, such as water supplies and the eradication of malaria. The author argues that one reason for this is that science is misconceived as the ideology of scientism, a universal project in which “everything” can eventually be explained and predicted.
  • References (33)
    33 references, page 1 of 4

    1. Horgan, J. The End of Science. London: Abacus (1998).

    2. Cited in Horgan, op.cit., p. 19.

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    4. Crick, F. The Astonishing Hypothesis, New York: Charles Scribner Sons (1994). Cited in Horgan, op.cit., p. 164.

    5. Horgan, op.cit., p. 261.

    6. For an overview see Smith, P. An Introduction to Gödel's Theorems. Cambridge: University Press (2007).

    7. The controversies are captured briefly in Franzén, T. Gödel's Theorem: An Incomplete Guide to its Use and Abuse. Massachusetts: A.K. Peters ( 2005).

    8. Barrow, J.D. and Webb, J.K. Inconstant Constants, Scientific American, June, 2005.

    9. Barrow, J. D. Impossibility: The Limits of Science and the Science of Limits, pp. 186-188. London: Vintage (1999).

    10. For a non-technical overview see Barrow, J. D. & Tipler, F. J. The Anthropic Cosmological Principle. Oxford: University Press (1986).

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