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The title is worded a bit vaguely so let me expand a bit on it.

Say there is some sort of law of physics that's quite obvious if you had more than our basic 5 senses and lived in more dimensions, since it can be experimentally proven in such a case, and we (being so imperfect as we are) cannot in any way experimentally prove such a law, can we live our entire lives (or on a larger scale, advance as a species) without ever even conceiving the thought of such a law? Or in a different case, we conceive such a law but just disregard it as being false because we can't possibly falsify it?

Note- I'm not in any way saying that absurd theories like "a purple velociraptor follows you everywhere but because he's in a different dimension, you can't observe him" are true. I'm talking about more sensible ideas such as the Many Worlds Interpretation and stuff like there being more colors than just those few in the visible spectrum- you can't possibly falsify such radical theories but it's not because they aren't true but just because we can't observe them because of our limitations.

Of course, due to our advancements in technology, these limitations are beginning to fade but it seems, in my opinion, that some things will always be beyond our reach.

  • I'm reminded of the following quote when reading this. "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." – Neil Meyer Jun 8 '16 at 8:42
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What you are looking for is the difference between scientific realism and scientific anti-realism.

  • Scientific realism is the position that scientific entities (such as electrons, atoms, genes, etc...) have an objective real existence independent of (human) observers and that scientific theories are at least approximately true.
  • Scientific anti-realism is the opposing view, that the only true statements about the world are direct observation. Entities such as electrons, atoms and genes, as well scientific theories have no truth value independent of observations. They are only useful tools for predict what we observe with our senses.

A scientific realist would agree that it is possible that there are laws of physics that are true but that we can't prove because of the limitations of our senses, since she holds that the truth of physical laws is independent of observers.

On the other hand, a scientific anti-realist will state that a law of physics that cannot be confirmed by our senses doesn't have any meaning at all, since the only purpose of physical laws is to predict observations. For an anti-realist, it isn't that such a statement is false, but that it doesn't have any meaning at all.

Consider the following example: There is a planet, identical to earth in all respects, except for the fact that everyone on that planet is color blind. A scientific realist will consider the law "If you mix blue and yellow, you get green" to have meaning independent of whether the inhabitants of that planet can understand that statement or not. A scientific anti-realist will say that the inhabitants of that planet have no way of tying the law "If you mix blue and yellow, you get green" to anything they can observe, and from their point of view is scientifically meaningless.

There are arguments both for and against scientific realism, it is still a ongoing debate.

  • Interesting. So it's similar to the schools of thought in mathematics- mathematical platonism being like scientific realism and mathematica fictionalism being like scientific anti-realism. I assume experimental scientists usually adopt anti-realism since all they care about are the practical applications and theoretical scientists the former. – Zerseus Jun 8 '16 at 13:29
  • But I think my question is more about the limits of empiricism. Sure, it works extremely well and has advanced us quite a lot as a civilization, but is there an upper limit to what we can do before our imperfection of observation hinders us? Like in terms of your colorblind example, would anyone ever conceive a visible spectrum theory or are they doomed to never find out about color and not ever advance in color-related areas? – Zerseus Jun 8 '16 at 14:06
  • @Zerseus I've taken so long to respond because I think they way you framed it as "limits of empiricism" is very interesting. In terms of such a limit on empiricism, you might want to study Quine's "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" and his later work, he finds a limit on empiricism not from our senses, but from our language -- ultimately we can only describe facts based on our language. Presumably beings who are color blind would never have words for red, blue, green, etc, and so would not be able to formulate any laws about color at all - but tying language to sense is my speculation, not Quine's. – Alexander S King Jun 10 '16 at 18:47
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To be able to answer the question, it needs to be rephrase as follows: If there is (exists) a fundamental law of physics that we can't experimentally prove (its existence?) due to our human limitations, does that make it (the law) false?
It should now be clear that there are two questions being made. a) existence?, b) validity?
1. If the law does not exist, then we can not determine its validity.
2. If the law exists, we still can not determine its validity because of our human limitations.
In either case, the only thing we can conclude is that we can not determine whether the law is true or false!

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I interpret this as a question about the demarcation of what is science. It is of current controversy in relation to string theory, where the limit on distance scales that can be probed without an accelerated particle creating a blackhole, may put direct phenomena forever beyond our reach. For this reason string theory is dismissed by many experimental physicists as metaphysics. There is even a kind of schism with the main alternative, loop quantum gravity: "Loopy people go to loopy conferences. Stringy people go to stringy conferences. They don't even go to 'physics' conferences anymore." - Jorge Pullin

But there are avenues. Early universe phenomena and their impact on cosmology, blackhole collisions, super high energy cosmic ray collisions, which could provide insight and tests.

What about, areas of our universe which have passed beyond an event horizon? Hubbles law is speed is proportional to distance, so some we will never be able to see.

What do we mean by before the big bang, if space-time was created then?

There are lots of cases like this. Calling them metaphysics is only for comedy effect though. They are informed speculations. And it is a matter of taste among physicists, how far beyond the data they think we should go (and where the funding should be). Popper would call all this part of the process of hypothesis generation, which cannot be driven only by evidence, it has to be creative. It can certainly be part of science.

Because string theory, or m-theory, is going so far beyond experiment, it relies largely on the aesthetic appeal of ideas and rules, like the conservation of information, and symmetry considerations. An example is the octionion-based mathematical structure E8, which seems to have a relation to the number and properties of fundamental particles. But, exists in 8 dimensions, with the set innour universe being a lower dimensional projection like a.slice through. We might also consider various formulations of parallel universes. These kind of explorations seem to blur the boundaries between mathematical discovery, and science. There are patterns and regularities, exploration, and integration like the fairly settled number of dimensions expected now by string theory.

Higher dimensions, parallel universes, the insides of black holes, before the big bang, and outside tge visible universe. These may be firever beyobd experiments. But they can, are, cobtributing to hypotgesis geberation which may givecrise to future laws. All laws and theories are to some extent tentative. So I would say there is room for what is outside of experiment to be held in high esteem based on other considerations. That as I see it, is about the consensus view of scientists, rather than about any law or regularity itself.

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If something is unobservable, it's inconsequential. It doesn't really matter. If something is observable, it might never be discovered, but it is still true (if you presume realism).

I'd break your question up into two, since I feel there are some misconceptions.

First, we have scientific evidence of something, not proof. Proof is beyond doubt, which we use loosely to mean strong evidence, but this often breaks down when we're trying to be precise about science.
We can only prove things based on axioms (which are presumed to be true a priori), the kind of systems on which math and logic is built on.

So then the question is more like:
"Can something be true of which we can never (practically) gather evidence for?"

If there's no way, practical or otherwise, to gather evidence for this truth, it's like your purple velociraptor. If it cannot be observed in any way, then it cannot interact with our universe in any way, so it may as well not exist, even if it does. It is inconsequential!
So, if it's not falsifiable, it does not fall in the realm of science.

Suppose instead that it does interact somehow with us, so it must at least be observable in theory. Sometimes, even if an idea is difficult to observe, everything it could predict would have to be coherent with what we do know. Copernicus used this to dismiss geocentrism. Sometimes a theory predicts something difficult to observe, and we don't for a long time. Which is what happened with neutrinos and heavy water.

Everything true should be observable, although it might be negligible.

I don't think neutrinos were false because we couldn't observe them for thousands of years for example.

So to answer your question as best I can, if a law is unobservable, it's not false, its probably meaningless (or mu). If something is observable, it might never be discovered, but that doesn't make it false!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_evidence http://theconversation.com/wheres-the-proof-in-science-there-is-none-30570

0

Say there is some sort of law of physics that's quite obvious if you had more than our basic 5 senses and lived in more dimensions, since it can be experimentally proven in such a case, and we (being so imperfect as we are) cannot in any way experimentally prove such a law, can we live our entire lives (or on a larger scale, advance as a species) without ever even conceiving the thought of such a law? Or in a different case, we conceive such a law but just disregard it as being false because we can't possibly falsify it?

Note- I'm not in any way saying that absurd theories like "a purple velociraptor follows you everywhere but because he's in a different dimension, you can't observe him" are true. I'm talking about more sensible ideas such as the Many Worlds Interpretation and stuff like there being more colors than just those few in the visible spectrum- you can't possibly falsify such radical theories but it's not because they aren't true but just because we can't observe them because of our limitations.

This question is quite badly confused.

First, you mention proving theories and falsifying them. Proving a theory and falsifying it are two completely different activities. It is possible to falsify a theory without proving anything. If the falsifying observation and the theory you're considering are incompatible in your judgement then you have a problem and this is true regardless of whether you have proven anything. Also, proving either theories or observations is impossible. An argument's conclusion is only true if its rule and premises are correct, and there is no way to show they are correct. Trying to guarantee the truth of the assumptions and rules would involve making another argument with more assumptions that would have to be proved. For more details, see

Can a universal law be disproved?

Since neither theories nor observations can be proven true, whether an idea has allegedly been proven is completely irrelevant to judging its truth. Also, making observations involves understanding processes that can't be observed. For example, if you're using a telescope you typically don't trace the paths the rays take through the telescope while you're using it but the operation depends crucially on those paths being correct. Also adjusting the telescope involves understanding where the rays are going for different ways the telescope could in or out of adjustment. So if you want to do observations at all you are in practice using ideas that involve things you won't observe. You might say that if you poke around in the telescope you could see where the rays are going but a lot of the time you don't have to do that to adjust the telescope correctly and you can't do it while you're doing the observations or you'll block the light you're trying to observe. The way to judge whether a particular unobservable entity is real is to test the explanation that implies its existence and if that explanation survives the test then you should judge it is real. See "The Fabric of Reality" by David Deutsch, Chapter 4 for more explanation of this position.

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