• Question: Can science answer all questions ?

    Asked by emmaandizzy to Gioia, Iain, Jo, Leo, Mariam on 23 Jun 2010 in Categories: . This question was also asked by nigeorge.
    • Photo: Iain Moal

      Iain Moal answered on 17 Jun 2010:

      No, some questions don’t have answers, like ‘what is the biggest prime number?’. Science and reason can only answer valid questions.

      So, the natural extention of your question is ‘can science/reason answer all valid questions?’. Thats a very deep question. It very much depends on what your definition of reality is. Some people say that reality is only that which we can observe and measure in one way or another. In that case, science may be able to answer all question, and maybe not. However, I suspect (but cannot prove) that there are some thing which we do not know about, and some questions which will forever remained unsolved under the microscope of scientific inquiry.

    • Photo: Gioia Cherubini

      Gioia Cherubini answered on 17 Jun 2010:

      I don’t think so but I don’t think that we shouldn’t try to answer with science to everything, like when you hear that a new research has found scientific formula to fall in love.
      Having said that, I wouldn’t mind having more questions answered at work…

    • Photo: Joanna Watson

      Joanna Watson answered on 17 Jun 2010:

      Nope – science can’t answer all questions – that’s why there are other ways of thinking about the world like philosophy. Science and philosophy often have a lot in common though!

    • Photo: Mariam Orme

      Mariam Orme answered on 22 Jun 2010:

      Not yet, but I think that in theory at least, one day we will be able to explain everything scientifically.

    • Photo: Leo Garcia

      Leo Garcia answered on 23 Jun 2010:

      That is a hugely profound question, and one which is highly controversial. For me, it depends on the nature of the question.

      For instance, science cannot answer the question ‘is jam tastier than peanut butter?’, because there is no absolute scale of ‘tastiness’ that we could refer to. We could answer ‘do people generally prefer jam or peanut butter’, though. Another example: science could not tell you whether slavery is wrong. This is because opinions on morality are relative, and not absolute. However, you could use science to answer the question ‘why do people think slavery is wrong’, or ‘do people think that slavery is wrong’?

      Have a look at the fascinating article about the question:


      In general, people say that religion takes over where science ends, answering the ‘why’ questions about, say, morality, or the meaning of life.

      I disagree with this, because I see no reason why religions have any right to claim this – particularly when they often say very different things based on evidence of the same strength (and not scientific evidence, either). Religion has no claims to state that it can address questions of morality; that system of thought comes from authority, indoctrination and supernatural claims – hardly the basis of a scientific study on the origin of morality in humans. Once we realise that morals are relative , we can start to address the questions of how they arose, and why they vary so dramatically between different people.

      If any system of thought will ever tell us why there is something rather than nothing, it will be science – because science works! Science has told us so much about the origin of life on earth, it would be odd to claim what it could never tell you (aside from the examples above) simply because we don’t have the tools at the moment. Instead, ask, what can’t science answer YET!

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