Reality and Other Likely Stories
In fact, Stanley Jaki wrote a book on just this subject, called The Limits of a Limitless Science. Science "ceases to to be competent," for example, "whenever a proposition is such as to have no quantitative bearing." This is a key reason why "artificial intelligence" of the human type is an oxymoron.
Besides, so long as Gödel is in charge and his theorems remain the law of the land, no scientific theory contains proof of its own completeness and consistency.
And Life? "[L]ife itself still cannot be measured. Therefore, scientifically speaking, life does not exist" (Jaki). Nor can brain research answer the simple question: "What is that experience, called 'now,' which is at the very center of consciousness?" (ibid.). For that matter, how does the reality of free will get into the cosmos?
These are all examples of "limit questions," and in order for science to be a valid enterprise, it is important that it not pretend to answer them (or to simply make them go away by, for example, denying the reality of consciousness and free will).
I've mentioned in the past my intuition or suspicion or hunch that these Limit Questions are somehow related to one another. It's like the old gag about the blind men and the elephant, only this is the nonlocal object which we can only perceive by blinding our two local eyes and opening the third.
Do you get the idea? This one object, depending upon your angle of vision or which part of it you grab, is responsible for life, for consciousness, and for free will, not to mention little things like love, truth, creativity, and virtue. It comes into view at the limits of science; but really -- really now -- science must come into view at the limits of O, right? Scientism is just the blind man grabbing the tail or whatever and forgetting about the elephant in the womb.
Science certainly doesn't study "the universe," for "the universe as such" can never be "an object for science. Scientists cannot go outside the universe in order to observe the whole of it and thereby give to their knowledge of the universe that supreme scientific seal, which is observation with measurement" (Jaki).
Even so, we all intuitively believe 1) that there is this thing called the cosmos, i.e., the strict totality of interacting objects and events; and 2) that we can know it from the outside, i.e., that we can somehow transcend it.
For example, to the extent that the mathematical physicist believes his equations describe reality, those equations obviously transcend the reality they describe, so what explains them?
The old myths are still the best myths, in this case Plato's Cave, more on which below, if not today then tomorrow.
Okay, today. Science studies the walls of the cave, but the philosopher is interested in what lies beyond it. For starters, the cave clearly isn't enclosed on all sides; there is an opening. What is the nature of this opening?
Well, it seems to me that it is related to what was said above about limit questions: in human terms, this opening involves consciousness and freedom converging upon the good, true, and beautiful.
Or just say: I AM, the door.
In his little book on The Platonic Myths, Pieper asks whether it mightn't "be the case that the reality most relevant to man is not a 'set of facts' but is rather an 'event,' and that it accordingly cannot be grasped adequately in a thesis but only... in the representation of an action -- in other words, in a story?"
To be continued...
Nothing makes clearer the limits of science than the scientist's opinions about any topic that is not strictly related to his profession. --Don Colacho