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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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14. Recapitulation


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In the past, you have sometimes believed erroneously. Some of your current beliefs—maybe all of them—may be incorrect. You have no criteria for distinguishing between currently correct and erroneous beliefs.

Babies enter the world prepackaged with bits of knowledge, but the knowledge is not necessarily correct.

Religious faith is hope masquerading as knowledge—an insane hope that the ancient past, the present, and the post-death worlds have been accurately portrayed in a book (one of more than 1,000 such books, all with different portrayals) written more than 2,000 years ago by a primitive people and subsequently interpreted by a slew of money- and power-grabbing demagogues.

There are good reasons not to rely on reason to provide useful information about the world:

Our senses may give an accurate picture of the world. They may not. We’ll never know. Scientific exploration represents empiricism at its most hopeful. Many and probably the vast majority of scientists believe that the universe is deterministic (at least for everything but humans) and all events have causes. They accept the principle of locality. (Objects that are apart in space cannot directly influence each other.) They conceive of their job as learning about, understanding, and explaining objective reality; and they probably all agree that we are much closer to that goal than were our forefathers of 1,000 years ago. The results from...

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