Can Science Explain Everything?
There are many facts today that are known to be true that science hasn’t been able to account for. Scientists are still very active in their search to prove some of the puzzling questions that remain unanswered. In Elliot Sober’s work, Can Science Explain Everything, he addresses that controversial question. Sober thesis claims to prove that when science attempts to explain events, and does so by describing its causes, it will never find answers to global why-questions.
Sober believes that it is reasonable to accept that at this point in time we don’t have all the answers, but we eventually will have an answer backed by scientific explanation. Elliot Sober addresses to main questions: (1) Are there any facts about the world that science is inherently incapable of explaining? (2) If there are, can we plausibly argue that the best explanation of why those facts are true is that God exists?
To answer the first question, Sober argues that, the questions science has failed to answer aren’t because they haven’t found an explanation yet, it’s the nature of scientific explanation that prevents an answer from ever being found. Science either aims to answer questions about a generalization, or to explain a particular event. True generalizations describe what is true in all places and times, such as a chemist’s question of why hydrogen and oxygen combine to form a water molecule. An event, however, happens at a certain time and place; events either happen or fail to happen. Science aims to explain an event by looking at what preceded it; a habit that creates a chain of events, with an infinite number of links, which extends back into the past.
Sober’s thesis about explanation states that when science attempts to explain a certain event they must look to at what occurred in the neighboring place and time. By looking at what precluded it you can find reasoning that can be cited as an explanation of why the spatiotemporal event occurred. A spatiotemporal event is simply an event that happens at a place and time. These events can be answered by using “local why questions.” Local why questions focus on a partition of what happened in the world’s history; in contrast are global questions, which search for an explanation of what happened in the entire world’s history.
Sober claims that global why-questions are inherently unanswerable by science, he starts his explanation by using an example of a global why-question: why is there something rather than nothing? There is obviously something here now, that is a local why question, but the question Sober has in mind here, why the universe ever contained anything. Our universe corresponds with one total history of everything that was, is, or will be, anywhere. There is nothing impossible about a universe that contains no material objects, or at least ones differing from our own, but obviously, the actual world isn’t this way. Both universes are possible, but only one is actual. Sober claims that science can’t answer the question of why there is something rather than nothing.
Sober defends his argument against the fact that physicists talk about explaining the “origin of the universe.” The way Sober uses the term universe includes everything that there ever was, is, or will be. Physicists explain the origin of the universe by the Big Bang Theory but Sober attacks this, saying, “the Big Bang doesn’t explain why the universe exists; the Big Bang is part of the universe”(Sober, 79). See, according to Sober, since the universe includes everything that happened, the Big Bang question is local, not global. The global question would be, “why this totality, rather than that one?”
In exploring some of the proposed solutions to this question, Sober addresses the seventeenth-century philosopher Gottfried Leibniz. His explanation was that God had considered all possible worlds and decided to make the world He saw best. Leibniz considers...
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