I've recently come across several statements to the effect "there are questions science can't answer", mostly from proponents of religion and mysticism, but also from scientists and secular philosophers as well.
However it seemed to me that there was an inherent contradiction in statements of the type "Science doesn't have all the answers" or "Science can't answer all questions". This is hinged on what is meant by "answering a question". It seems to me that to answer any significant question is to provide 2 things:
An accurate and objective explanation of the current state of affairs, in terms of relationships, causes and effects.
Based on that explanation, a method for making decisions if one is faced with future scenarios similar to or related to the current state of affairs, and for predicting future states of affairs with a certain amount probability, i.e the explanation is useful for future purposes.
But then if a field of inquiry is able to provide accurate, objective and useful information regarding a question, doesn't that field simply become part of science?
- If some school of mysticism is demonstrated to truly improve the happiness and well being of it's practitioners, then wouldn't that school's mystical teachings simply be incorporated into mainstream psychology and psychotherapy?
- Similarly, if a political ideology is proven to provide better economic conditions and less crime, less pollution, etc...then this ideology's principles would become an accepted part of social sciences?
To put it more simply: Science has all the answers, because science IS anything that can provide objective and useful answers to a question.
Am I not talking about the demarcation problem per-se (at I least I think I am not), because even disciplines which are agreed upon as failing various demarcation criteria (such as astrology or intelligent design) are still trying (and failing) to be scientific in the sense I mentioned above. If they did start to provide answers, science would have to take them into account. Moreover, various philosophical schools of ethics are trying to be scientific in their explanatory framework, they are just not able to provide verifiable and falsifiable statements to prove their precepts (and probably would do so if possible).
My questions then are:
Per those who claim that science can't answer all questions, what type of question are they talking about? Do they have a demarcation criteria for such questions? (I'm not asking for examples, there are already plenty in the links I posted above).
If a field starts providing objective, accurate answers, doesn't it just become a subfield of science?
- Is there a second demarcation problem between "carckpot" pseudosciences (such as astrology or numerology) which are providing the wrong answers and legitimate fields of inquiry (such as political theory or ethics) which are trying to provide answers but so far have failed to provide verifiable and falsifiable statements or accurate predictions?