Despite the great advances in science over the last century, our understanding of nature is still far from complete. Not only have scientists failed to find the Holy Grail of physics – combining the very large (general relativity) with the very small (quantum mechanics) – they still do not know what the vast majority of the universe is made of. The sought-after theory of everything still escapes us. There are other extraordinary puzzles, such as how consciousness arises from ordinary matter.
Will he ever learn to give all the answers? Human brains are the product of blind and uneducated evolution. They are designed to solve practical problems affecting our survival and reproduction, not to unravel the fabric of the universe. This awareness has led some philosophers to adopt a curious form of pessimism, claiming that they are bound to be things we will never understand. Therefore, human science will one day hit a hard line ̵
Some questions may be doomed to remain what the American linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky called "mysteries." If you think that humans themselves have unlimited cognitive powers – separating us from all other animals – you have not fully mastered Darwin's insight that Homo Sapiens is very much a part of the natural world.
But does that make the argument really hold up? Consider that human brains have also not evolved to find their origin. And yet we somehow managed to do just that. Maybe the pessimists are missing something.
Mysterious thinkers play a prominent role in biological arguments and analogies. In his remarkable 1983 book The Modularity of Mind, the late philosopher Jerry Fodor argued that there must be "thoughts we are not equipped to think."
Likewise, the philosopher Colin McGinn has argued in a series of books and articles that all minds suffer from "cognitive closure" regarding certain problems. Just as dogs or cats will never understand basic numbers, human brains must be shut down by some of the wonders of the world. McGinn suspects that the reason why philosophical puzzles such as the mind / body problem – how the physical processes in our brain generate consciousness – turn out to be insoluble is that their true solutions are simply inaccessible to the human mind.
If McGinn is right that our brains are simply not equipped to solve certain problems, it makes no sense to even try, as they will continue to annoy and perplex us. McGinn himself is convinced that there is, in fact, a perfectly natural solution to the problem of mind and body, but that human brains will never find it.
Even the psychologist Stephen Pinker, a man often accused of scientific hassle, i.e. is sympathetic to the mystery dispute. If our ancestors did not need to understand the wider universe in order to spread their genes, he argues, why natural selection gave us the brain power to do this?
Theoretical mind-blowing theories
Mysteries usually raise the question of cognitive limits in strict, black and white terms: we can either solve the problem, or it will forever refute us. Either we have cognitive access, or we suffer from closure. At one point, human exploration will suddenly hit a metaphorical brick wall, after which we will be forever condemned to stare at a misunderstanding.
Another possibility that is often overlooked by the mysteries is one of the slowly decreasing returns. Reaching the boundaries of an investigation may feel less like hitting a wall than getting stuck in a mound. We continue to slow down, even as we make more efforts, and yet there is no discrete point beyond which further progress is not possible at all.
There is another ambiguity in the mystery thesis that my colleague Michael Vlerik and I have mentioned in an academic paper. The mysteries claim that we will never find a true scientific theory for some aspect of reality, or alternatively that we can find that theory, but will never truly understand it?
In the science-fiction series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, an Extraterrestrial Civilization builds a massive supercomputer to calculate the answer to the supreme question of life, the universe, and everything. When the computer finally announces that the answer is "42," no one has any idea what that means (in fact, they continue to build an even larger supercomputer to figure out just that).
It's still a question of "mystery" if you've come up with the right answer, but have no idea what it means or can't wrap your head around? The mysteries often link the two. the problem of mind and body is inaccessible to human science, it is assumed that we will never find a true scientific theory describing the mind-body relationship, but at other times he writes that the problem will always remain "painfully difficult to understand" for humans and that “the head is spinning in theory
This suggests that we may come to a true scientific theory, but it will have a 42nd quality. But again, some people will argue that this is already true of the theory Even quantum physicist Richard Feynman acknowledged, "I think I can safely say that no one understands quantum mechanics."
Would the mysteries say that we humans are "cognitively imprisoned" in the quantum world? According to quantum mechanics, particles can be in two places at one time or accidentally pop out of empty space. Although this is extremely difficult to comprehend, quantum theory makes incredibly accurate predictions. The phenomena of "quantum strangeness" have been confirmed by several experimental tests, and scientists are now creating theory-based applications.
The Mysterians also tend to forget how some earlier scientific theories and concepts were originally overlooked when they were originally proposed. Nothing in our cognitive composition has prepared us for the theory of relativity, evolutionary biology, or heliocentrism.
As the philosopher Robert McCauley writes, "When first developed, the suggestion that the Earth moves, that microscopic organisms can kill humans, and that solid objects are mostly empty space, are no less Contradicting intuition, common sense than the most counterintuitive consequences of quantum mechanics proved to us in the twentieth century. "Macauley's astute observation gives rise to optimism, not pessimism.
But can our brainwashed minds really answer all the possible questions and understand all the problems? It depends on whether we are talking about naked, brainless or not. There are many things you cannot do with your brain. But Homo Sapiens is a tool for creating tools and it includes a number of cognitive tools.
For example, our unrecognized sensory organs cannot detect UV light, ultrasonic waves, X-rays, or gravity waves, but if you are equipped with some fancy technology, you can discover all of these things. To overcome our perceptions of limitations, scientists have developed a set of tools and techniques: microscopes, X-ray film, Geiger counters, radio satellite detectors, etc.
All these devices extend the reach of our minds by "translating" physically processing it in some format that our sensory organs can absorb. So we perceive 'closed' to UV light? In one sense, yes. But not if you consider all our technological equipment and measuring instruments.
Similarly, we use physical objects (such as paper and pencil) to significantly increase the memory capacity of our bare brains. According to British philosopher Andy Clark, our minds literally extend beyond our skins and skulls, in the form of notebooks, computer screens, cards and file drawers.
Mathematics is another fantastic mind-expanding technology that allows us to come up with concepts we couldn't think with our bare brains. For example, no scientist can hope to form a mental representation of all the complex interconnected processes that make up our climate system. That is why we have created mathematical models and computers to do the heavy lifting for us.
Accumulation of knowledge
The most important thing is that we can expand our own minds to those of our fellow human beings. What makes our species unique is that we are capable of culture, in particular cumulative cultural knowledge. The human brain population is far more intelligent than any individual brain in isolation.
And the par excellence joint venture is science. Of course, no scientist could solve the mysteries of the cosmos alone. But collectively, they do. As Isaac Newton wrote, he could see further, "standing on the shoulders of giants." Through collaboration with their peers, scientists can broaden their understanding, reaching far more than each would be able to do individually.
Today, fewer and fewer people understand what is happening at the top of theoretical physics – even physicists. The unification of quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity would undoubtedly be extremely discouraging, or else scientists would have nailed it for a long time.
The same is true of our understanding of how the human brain engenders consciousness, meaning and intent. But is there any good reason to suppose that these problems will remain out of reach forever? Or that our sense of turmoil, when we think of them, will never diminish?
In a public debate I moderated several years ago, the philosopher Daniel Dennett pointed out a very simple objection to the analogies of mysteries with the minds of other animals: other animals cannot even understand the issues. Not only will a dog never know if there is a prime minister, but he will never even understand the question. In contrast, human beings can ask questions of one another and themselves, reflect on these questions, and thus devise better and more sophisticated versions.
The Mysteries invite us to imagine the existence of a class of questions that are themselves completely understandable to humans, but the answers to which will forever remain inaccessible. Is this concept plausible (or even coherent)?
To see how these arguments come together, let's do a thought experiment. Imagine that some alien "anthropologists" visited our planet about 40,000 years ago to prepare a scientific report on the cognitive potential of our species. Will this weird, naked monkey know about the structure of his solar system, the curvature of space-time, or even his own evolutionary origin?
At this point in time, when our ancestors lived in small groups of hunter-gatherers, such a result might seem quite incredible. Although people had extensive knowledge of animals and plants in their immediate environment and knew enough about the physics of everyday objects to know their way around and devise some clever tools, there was nothing like scientific activity.
no writing, no mathematics, no artificial devices to extend the reach of our sensory organs. As a result, almost all beliefs held by these people about the wider structure of the world were completely wrong. Human beings had no idea of the true causes of natural disasters, diseases, celestial bodies, changing seasons, or just about any other natural phenomenon.
Our extraterrestrial anthropologist can report the following:
Evolution has equipped this upright walking monkey with primitive sensory organs to retrieve any locally relevant information such as airborne vibrations (caused by loved ones) objects and humans) and electromagnetic waves in the range of 400-700 nanometers, as well as some larger molecules have scattered into their atmosphere.
However, these beings are completely forgotten about anything that falls outside their narrow range. Moreover, they cannot even see most forms of unicellular life in their own environment because they are simply too small to be detected by the eyes. Similarly, their brains have evolved to think about the behavior of medium-sized objects (mostly solid ones) under low gravity conditions.
None of these earthlings have ever escaped the gravitational field of their planet to experience weightlessness or have been artificially accelerated so that we can experience stronger gravitational forces. They cannot even imagine the curvature of space and time, since evolution has conductive geometries of space with zero curvature in their mind-numbing brains.
In conclusion, we regret to report that most of the Universe is simply outside theirs
But these aliens would be dead wrong. Biologically, we are no different than we were 40,000 years ago, but now we know about bacteria and viruses, DNA and molecules, supernovae and black holes, the full range of the electromagnetic spectrum, and a wide range of other strange things.
We also know about non-Euclidean geometry and curvature of space and time, courtesy of Einstein's general theory of relativity. Our minds have "reached out" to objects millions of light years from our planet and also to extremely small objects far below the perceptions of our sensory organs. Using various tricks and tools, people have largely understood their world.
Sentence: biology is not fate
The thought experiment above should be a tip against pessimism about human knowledge. Who knows what other mind-blowing devices we will hit to overcome our biological limitations? Biology is not fate. If you look at what we have already achieved in a few centuries, any unjustified cognitive closure seems extremely premature.
Mysteries often pay their lips for the values of "humility" and "modesty", but closer to the exam, their position is far less restrained than it seems. Take McGinn's confident sentence that the mind and body problem is a "supreme mystery" that we "will never unravel". In making this claim, McGinn accepts knowledge of three things: the nature of the mind and body problem itself, the structure of the human mind, and the reason why the two never meet. But McGinn offers only a cursory overview of the science of human knowledge and pays little or no attention to the various mind-expanding devices.
I think it's time to turn the tables to the mysteries. If you claim that a problem will forever elude human understanding, you must show in detail why no possible combination of mind-expanding devices will bring us to a solution. This is a higher order than most mysteries have acknowledged.
In addition, by saying exactly why certain problems will remain mysterious, the Mysterians run the risk of being raised by their own firecracker. As Denet writes in his last book, "As soon as you ask a question that you say we can never answer, you are embarking on the very process that may turn out to be wrong: you raise a topic of inquiry."  In one of his infamous memorandum notes on Iraq, former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld distinguishes between two forms of ignorance: the "known unknowns" and "the unknown unknowns". The first category includes things we know we don't know. We can ask the right questions, but we have not yet found the answers. And then there are things that "we don't know we don't know." For these unknown unknowns we can't even frame the questions.
It is quite true that we can never exclude the possibility of such unknown unknowns and that some of them will remain unknown forever, because for some (unknown) reason the human mind is not in the task.
But the important thing to note about these unknown unknowns is that nothing can be said about them. Да предположим от самото начало, че някои неизвестни неизвестни винаги ще останат неизвестни, както правят мистерианите, не е скромност – това е арогантност.
Тази статия е преиздадена от Разговора от Maarten Boudry, докторантура, изследовател на философията на науката, университет в Гент под лиценз Creative Commons. Прочетете оригиналната статия.