The ratio of what we know about the universe to what we have yet to discover
Here, a person who is arguing for the insignificance of the totality of human knowledge is presuming to know the quantity of the total gross sum of knowable knowledge, and then calculate from that... a ratio. He does this, presumably, to point out the limitations of other people's knowledge. But he seems to over-estimate his own knowledge right from the outset. And here is why:
how can we be sure about any proposition concerning our universe which is based on the limited and insignifiant observations of mankind.
Here, he attempts to link knowledge to some presumed total knowledge of the total universe. The argument, as I have heard it stated, is that since all things are related, how can we know the facts of one part of the universe without knowing how it is being affected by other parts. I am trying to express the argument in it's most general form but here are a couple of examples:
- How can we know the specific conditions of a solid object when
fluctuations are eminating from supernova we don't yet know about
which may affect our measurements?
- Why should we believe some theorem today when it will be refined or overturned in ten or 100 years?
The problem with both of these scenarios is that they presume the existence of some grand total sum of universal knowledge. Item 1 presumes that a measurement we take today will be so trusted as not to require error checking. Item 2 makes a common, but only slightly more complicated error. It makes the mistake of believing that theorems like those of Newtonian physics were meant to apply to all future ranges of experience which were to be discovered. They were not. Newton formed his theorems on the scale of physical properties of which he was aware at the time he wrote his theorems. His theorems still work and are used within that range today. They were not overturned and eliminated by the discovery of a new range of physical properties. Furthermore, all those theorems that are found to be false are only found to be false by discovering that which is true. Each time we invalidate some theorem we are saying we know this is false because of these other facts of which we are certain.
concerning our universe which is based on the limited and insignifiant observations of mankind.
Insignificant to whom? There is no universal significance. It is quite presumptuous for the asker of this question to estimate the significance of the set of human knowledge on some universal scale. How has the asker positioned himself to be the evaluator of this universal significance? He is only aware, and can only be aware, of the significance to himself and to a lesser extent, other humans, of any knowledge set. The asker looks down and sneers from his perch upon the infinite knowledge set at how small and insignificant human knowledge is.
But there is no infinite knowledge set. It would require a computer the size of the universe moving at the speed of light and containing all the human minds and their memories in order to know their thoughts. It is a ridiculously comprehensive set of data.
And this is what the asker wants to use as a yard-stick to measure human knowledge against.
I don't know if this question or argument has a name yet, but I think it derives from neo-Platonism. The neo-Platonists believe in infinite knowledge which can be achieved through divine insight. It derives from Plato. This is only a rough estimate as to the source of this question.