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The Profound Limitations of Knowledge


Fred Leavitt

The Profound Limitations of Knowledge explores the limitations of knowledge and argues that neither reasoning nor direct or indirect observations can be trusted. We cannot even assign probabilities to claims of what we can know. Furthermore, for any set of data, there are an infinite number of possible interpretations. Evidence suggests that we live in a participatory universe—that is, our observations shape reality.
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13. Inferences Part II


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Inferences: Part II


A more immediate concern than any of the preceding applies to virtually all of science as well as to everyday life. The conclusions drawn from many types of data can be reduced to syllogisms of the following form:

Theory T predicts that, under carefully specified conditions, outcome O will occur. A researcher arranges for the conditions, and the predicted outcome O does occur. Therefore, theory T is correct.

Such syllogisms are invalid. That is, even if they have true premises, their conclusions may be false. That means that the most basic scientific process, developing and then testing hypotheses, can never lead to certainty.

Mathematics, Science, and Everyday Life

Try solving the problems of Box 13.1. See footnote for the answers.1 ← 175 | 176 →

Box 13.1: Ridiculous Problems

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