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The Limits of Science:

The boundaries of science & human knowledge

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  • The Debate

    The Limits of Science

    No one can doubt that science is our most powerful means to intervene in the world. But does science uncover the ultimate nature of the world? Do we hide from the limitations of science or are we attracted by the inexplicable because it makes us feel more human? Are the boundaries of knowledge, physics or philosophy comforting us and allowing us to wonder at the mysteries of the universe?

    The Panel

    Controversial biologist and author of The Science Delusion, Rupert Sheldrake, and physician James Le Fanu debate the limits of knowledge with Think editor and philosopher Stephen Law.

  • Find out more about speakers

Jump to what you want to see in the debate
  • Rupert Sheldrake
    The Pitch
    Materialism has become an ideology hindering understanding
  • Stephen Law
    The Pitch
    People exploit the limits of science to protect their beliefs
  • James Le Fanu
    The Pitch
    Limits of science highlight unsolvable problems such as infinite diversity
  • The Debate
    Theme One
    The unknowable
  • The Debate
    Theme Two
    Is the knowable universe hypothesis necessary?
  • The Debate
    Theme Three
    The unscientific method
Want to learn more about our speakers?
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Adam Goodwin on 27/04/2015 1:40am

The two establishmentarians conspicuously sitting in the posh, high-back chairs were quite good at interrupting the two figuratively and literally fringe thinkers. Complete with mic-cut-offs, underhanded jabs by the moderator, and mocking tones, this was a sham of a debate.

One key element of science that was ignored was the social aspect of it: namely, that scientists clump together in social paradigms that tend to receive more funding, which is important in our economic conditions. And such funding is contingent on arbitrary factors, like whether or not your peers agree with the thrust of your theory.

mebigguy on 04/01/2015 1:13pm

Science isn't concerned with an abstract "nature of reality." That's metaphysics and outside of experience so it's all nonsense (quite literally). Science models observable results. That can be visualized.

RobertDF on 31/12/2014 6:56pm

"at heart our reality is something we must be able to visualize"

Why must it be so? (What evidence is there?)

Ultimate reality could be beyond visualisation, could it not?

Tachikoma on 12/03/2013 2:29pm

Science is a useful tool for modelling the world and its phenomena, but it can never provide an 'understanding' the world. Unless we mistake models of ever increasing complexity for a world more completely understood? The dominion of science is not the same as that of philosophy....

Macrocompassion on 12/03/2013 1:39pm

The philosopher who thinks that the limitations of science are not suitable for modelling has not applied himself to solving scientific problems of the physical kind. Indeed all of science is expressed in terms of physics not phylosophy and as such it can only be understood by our limited way of thought in terms of a model. To claim that this is untrue is to loose touch with what science is which involves very seriously what we regard as reality. This may be difficult to grasp since it does require some philosophical thought too, but at heart our reality is something we must be able to visualize and that means models. When did you last envisage the big-bang without the need for thinking of a small hot mass? The end of science is similar.

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