View previous topic | View next topic

What don't we know?

Page 1 of 2
Goto page 1, 2  Next

Quaintly Ignorant
64059.  Thu Apr 06, 2006 11:06 am Reply with quote

Inspired by recent talk of Mr. Rumsfelds philosophical musings it is an unfair question but interesting nonetheless.

We live in an age where everything is known, don't we?

"The brain is the greatest mystery" is a commonly held perception yet it is generally thought we understand the mechanisms involved therein. However, what is consciousness? If the brain is a computer random thought should be next to impossible as everything is derived from mathematical constants. Is there a limit to memory?

Answers would be appreciated as would questions about anything to which we have no answers.

Quantum effects
Gravitational phenomena
Animal behaviour
etc

 
Gray
64066.  Thu Apr 06, 2006 11:25 am Reply with quote

All of those words have very many different meanings, so before we can work out what they are, we have to understand what we mean.

'Computer' is a tricky one. The brain is certainly not a computer in the way that the thing you're typing on is. It works in a completely different manner, and cannot 'learn'.

While we more or less understand the micro-mechanisms of neuronal firing in the brain, and we have some good theories of the macrostructures of the brain (where language is based, what the motor cortex is, etc.) there's a heck of a gap in the middle which we will almost certainly never fill.

Even 'random' and 'memory' are tricky. Not to mention 'answers'.

If you'd like to read a couple of fascinating and witty books, I'd very much recommend either Steven Pinker's How The Mind Works or Daniel Dennett's rather ambitiously titled Consciousness Explained.

Pinker's Blank Slate is also really very good, concentrating as it does on the structures in the foetal brain that are up and running a long time before the brain ever encounters culture.

So, what do we know? The more you know, the more you realise you don't know. It's that whole island, coastline thing.

 
Lizbet
64422.  Sat Apr 08, 2006 11:48 am Reply with quote

And of course, you can know what you don't know. You don't know what "it" actually is, but you know that it's there, and that you don't know it.

For example, I don't speak French, but I know it exists. I know that there are French words for most of the words I am using, but I don't know what any of them are.

Which then leads me to think that you can only know something if you are certain it exists. Without wishing to venture too far down the René Descartes train of thought, (although that might be quite interesting,) very abstract concepts and "facts" are subject more to speculation than truth.

Then there's the notion of lies and untruths; if you're told an untruth - ie your Biology teacher tells you there are 5 sences, which acording to QI is not the case - it is still untrue despite the fact you don't know that. Even if everyone in the world thought there were 5 senses, it's still not true.

Therefore, I think something can be actually true, even if no-one knows it.

 
grizzly
64425.  Sat Apr 08, 2006 11:52 am Reply with quote

I forsee some Gettiere (SP?) type examples coming up soon.

 
gerontius grumpus
64433.  Sat Apr 08, 2006 12:53 pm Reply with quote

Mr Rumsfeldt's strange statement reminds me of an old beer advert from the North East that went something like this:

"There's thyurs that Nyur and there's thyurs that dyurn't Nyur and there's thyurs that dyurn't nyur theea dyurn't nyur".

 
Twopints
65250.  Thu Apr 13, 2006 11:53 am Reply with quote

I can only think of two questions that science cannot (begin to) answer given current knowledge.

The first is consciousness (why/how are we self aware)
The second is why the Universe (or anything) exists rather than nothingness.

I suspect that the answers may be connected.

Can anything be said to exist if there is nobody there to observe it, if a tree falls in the woods ....

A few short centuries ago there were many other questions that seemed unanswerable such as why does the sun rise and set, where do humans and animals come from. In the absence of information, people answered these questions with "God". As our knowledge increased there became fewer & fewer places for God to hide. That's why christian fundementalists get so touchy about Darwin.

I have no doubt that in time, these last two questions will be answered by science too.

 
fido
77725.  Fri Jun 30, 2006 5:42 pm Reply with quote

"Commercial in confidence" is a phrase which springs to mind. It is impossible to find out the extent of human understanding of any subject because we only have access to the information others are willing to share. For every published research paper there must be hundreds of others that will never be published. Nobody can claim to be a "leading expert" in their field because for all they know there might be thousands of people secretly researching the same subject to a greater depth.

 
Tas
77738.  Sat Jul 01, 2006 3:45 am Reply with quote

Quote:
Can anything be said to exist if there is nobody there to observe it, if a tree falls in the woods ....


This question has always annoyed me...

Of course it can be said to exist. The fact that you are asking about the event means it happened, and then the tree must have existed. As there is a wood, in the first place, there must be trees. Does the tree exist? Yes. Does it matter that we cannot see it? No. I cannot observe gravity. However, I am stuck to the planet. Therefore I know it exists.

:-)

Tas

 
djgordy
77740.  Sat Jul 01, 2006 3:57 am Reply with quote

Tas wrote:

Of course it can be said to exist. The fact that you are asking about the event means it happened, and then the tree must have existed. As there is a wood, in the first place, there must be trees. Does the tree exist? Yes. Does it matter that we cannot see it? No. I cannot observe gravity. However, I am stuck to the planet. Therefore I know it exists.

:-)

Tas


There are so many things wrong with this statement I don't even know where to begin.

 
Flash
77936.  Sun Jul 02, 2006 5:33 pm Reply with quote

Let's start here: remember when djgordy punched Tas on the nose? No? But
Quote:
The fact that you are asking about the event means it happened

so he must have done so at some point.

 
Quaintly Ignorant
77964.  Mon Jul 03, 2006 3:37 am Reply with quote

If a stealth bomber crashes in the woods and no one is around to see it, is it still embarassing for the USAF?

 
Cleverina Clogs
78126.  Tue Jul 04, 2006 7:02 am Reply with quote

Yes, because some reporter from Channel 4 News will have got the whole thing on his webcam ... or failing that some pap thinking they have found some minor 'celebrity' lovenest, and consequently the whole world will know about it!

 
simonp
102367.  Thu Oct 12, 2006 6:43 am Reply with quote

Twopints wrote:


Can anything be said to exist if there is nobody there to observe it, if a tree falls in the woods ....
.

(i always thought it ended with)
...does it make a sound?

Far tricker. The tree falling over can be observed at a later stage. i.e the fallen tree on the ground, damage to surrounding trees etc. But the sound thing...

cogito ergo suum

 
simonp
102369.  Thu Oct 12, 2006 6:50 am Reply with quote

You don't know what you don't know you don't know. (read it again, it does make sense)

It was used in the context of on the job training in a call centre, but seems relevant here. After all the classroom training we were sent out to start taking calls and we all encountered problems 'what do i do when...' They tended to be about scenarios that we hadn't even thought about before we'd spoken to Joe Public. I know i don't know chinese but i don't know i don't know about some obscure form of science.

Hope that makes sense :-)

 
Tas
102380.  Thu Oct 12, 2006 7:04 am Reply with quote

Quote:
Let's start here: remember when djgordy punched Tas on the nose? No? But
Quote:
The fact that you are asking about the event means it happened

so he must have done so at some point.


If he had done such a thing, then yes it must have happened.

I did not mean "If you asked about it, it must of happened."
However, if the question is "If a tree falls in the woods, does it exist?" then the answer must be yes. For anything to fall, it must exist.

:-)

Tas

(Oh, and yes, the sound will exist, if a tree falls with no-one to obesrve it. Sound is the vibration of molecules, as far as I know, and so, unless there is a vacuum, there will be sound. Does it matter that you or I are not around to observe it? No.)

 

Page 1 of 2
Goto page 1, 2  Next

All times are GMT - 5 Hours


Display posts from previous:   

Search Search Forums

Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2002 phpBB Group