The Limits of Science

Discussions on the philosophical foundations, assumptions, and implications of science, including the natural sciences.

The Limits of Science

Postby skakos on November 17th, 2012, 2:23 pm 

Some people believe that science (I refer to "Exact science") can (at least some day) explain everything. I however believe that science has inherent limitations which cannot be ignored. Science deals with measurable things which can be replicated in a lab while most important things in life are things which cannot be measured and cannot be replicated in a lab. Other limitations exists as well (e.g. every theory is based on axioms, which are set based on... nothing?) which I would like to discuss here.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby skakos on November 18th, 2012, 7:38 am 

Axioms in science are everywhere. Every sector has its own set of "self evident" truths.

Some of these:

1. The axiom that Logic works. Mathematical Logic on its own has also many more axioms (more than 10 to start with).

2. The axiom (they call it "Principle", another great word to imply an unproven "truth") of Mediocrity in astronomy.

3. The whole set of Eucledian axioms in Geometry.

4. The axiom that our senses work "correctly" and lead us towards the "truth".

5. The axiom that "truth" is something universal and does not depend on subjective factors (something which Relativity and Quantum mechanics has questioned)

6. The axiom that a proposition is either "true" or "false". Yes, even that is an axiom!

7. Every phenomenon can be replicated by experiment. In reality NOT EVEN ONE phenomenon is exactly the same as the others.

I could go on for ever... And I have not even started mentioning the inherent limitations of tools science uses, like for example the limitations of induction for reaching to safe conclusions.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby skakos on November 24th, 2012, 7:59 pm 

As the Interacademy Panel (IAP - Global network of Science Academies) stated on an announcement it made for the theory of evolution on 21 June 2006:

"Human understanding of value and purpose are outside of natural science’s scope. However, a number of components – scientific, social, philosophical, religious, cultural and political – contribute to it. These different fields owe each other mutual consideration, while being fully aware of their own areas of action and their limitations. While acknowledging current limitations, science is open ended, and subject to correction and expansion as new theoretical and empirical understanding emerges"

[The Limits of Science: http://harmoniaphilosophica.wordpress.com/2011/04/18/the-limits-of-science-2jszrulazj6wq-5/].
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby skakos on December 2nd, 2012, 3:24 pm 

How can science explain Love?
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby DragonFly on December 2nd, 2012, 5:57 pm 

skakos wrote:How can science explain Love?


Bonding hormones. You can read up on it.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby skakos on December 2nd, 2012, 6:28 pm 

DragonFly wrote:
skakos wrote:How can science explain Love?


Bonding hormones. You can read up on it.


You can explain it here.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby ALF on December 2nd, 2012, 6:52 pm 

The limits of science is your own cowardice and your own stupidity.

The limits of religion is, hopefully, the same.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby DragonFly on December 2nd, 2012, 7:10 pm 

skakos wrote:
DragonFly wrote:
skakos wrote:How can science explain Love?


Bonding hormones. You can read up on it.


You can explain it here.


I am not a research assistant, but the internet will be happy to be.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby neuro on December 7th, 2012, 9:59 am 

skakos wrote:How can science explain Love?

Are you kidding?

Do you know that when you perform an ethical act, the same neural pathway gets activated as when you manage to find a glass of water, being thirsty, or you eat chocolate, or you have sex?

If your question is how can science explain that neural circuits in the brain are so organized that pleasure is associated with being generous, caring, loving, doing something valuable, then it takes some more words, but it is not particularly difficult.

If your question is how can science explain why love is around, I believe there is no need for anything but natural selection and evolution to produce such a result.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby Ursa Minimus on December 7th, 2012, 11:54 am 

neuro wrote:
skakos wrote:How can science explain Love?

Are you kidding?

Do you know that when you perform an ethical act, the same neural pathway gets activated as when you manage to find a glass of water, being thirsty, or you eat chocolate, or you have sex?

If your question is how can science explain that neural circuits in the brain are so organized that pleasure is associated with being generous, caring, loving, doing something valuable, then it takes some more words, but it is not particularly difficult.

If your question is how can science explain why love is around, I believe there is no need for anything but natural selection and evolution to produce such a result.


If science explains love, we ought to be able to engineer it at will, right? So, how about sharing the algorithm with us, I am sure some would like the science based procedures to lead them to relationships where they love and are loved in return.

Now, removing my tongue from my cheek, it does seem that non-scientific methods are far more useful on the pragmatic level of seeking, finding, and holding on to love than science. They are better at making sense of the "experience" of love as lived. To this end, poetry is going to get you further than discussing neural circuitry most of the time. :)
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby Serpent on December 7th, 2012, 12:10 pm 

If science explains love, we ought to be able to engineer it at will, right?


Explanation does not automatically translate into manufacture; there are several steps in between. However, some facsimile of love, joy, awe, et.c can already be induced in the human brain by chemical and/or electrical stimulation. That doesn't mean it's desirable or advisable to do so - any more than producing a supernova is a good idea, no matter how well explained the phenomenon.

Anyway, so what? We have a number of exploratory methods besides exact science: the soft sciences, art, direct physical sensation, contemplation, interpersonal communication. Each in its time, place and purpose. You can skip right over religion, as its returns diminish so very quickly.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby neuro on December 7th, 2012, 1:57 pm 

Ursa Minimus wrote:Now, removing my tongue from my cheek, it does seem that non-scientific methods are far more useful on the pragmatic level of seeking, finding, and holding on to love than science.


I thought the question was whether science can explain love!

Doing it is quite harder.

On the other hand I imagine in the States on Mondays the same thing happens with baseball or football that here in Italy happens with soccer: lots and lots of sport scientists acutely argue about yesterday's matches - and they know a lot and say a lot of sensible things, they can explain almost everything, but if you were to put them in the middle of the field, I do not believe they would achieve memorable performances.

For me, it is the same: I may talk and talk about love, I'm even quite skilled and successful at saying and writing love phrases and letters, but when it comes to building and maintaining a love relation, be it with a partner or my sons, things become much more difficult.
But that has to do with psychological traps (great theory, poor performance), I would say, rather than with the origin and explanation of love in our brain.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby skakos on December 7th, 2012, 8:36 pm 

ALF wrote:The limits of science is your own cowardice and your own stupidity.

The limits of religion is, hopefully, the same.


But you must surely use specific tools in order to be a scientist, right?
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby skakos on December 7th, 2012, 8:38 pm 

DragonFly wrote:
skakos wrote:How can science explain Love?


Bonding hormones. You can read up on it.

I am not a research assistant, but the internet will be happy to be.


The "search the Internet" is not an answer.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby skakos on December 7th, 2012, 8:41 pm 

neuro wrote:
skakos wrote:How can science explain Love?

Are you kidding?

Do you know that when you perform an ethical act, the same neural pathway gets activated as when you manage to find a glass of water, being thirsty, or you eat chocolate, or you have sex?

If your question is how can science explain that neural circuits in the brain are so organized that pleasure is associated with being generous, caring, loving, doing something valuable, then it takes some more words, but it is not particularly difficult.

If your question is how can science explain why love is around, I believe there is no need for anything but natural selection and evolution to produce such a result.


A single sentence answer to the question of Love is all "too easy" don't you think? :)
How and why do we love, is the question.
And how can science understand that by means of its own tools and methodologies.
And I am not talking about the "mother loves her baby to save it from predators" kind of "love". I am talking about the pure genuine love humans feel.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby skakos on December 7th, 2012, 8:42 pm 

Serpent wrote:
If science explains love, we ought to be able to engineer it at will, right?


Explanation does not automatically translate into manufacture; there are several steps in between. However, some facsimile of love, joy, awe, et.c can already be induced in the human brain by chemical and/or electrical stimulation. That doesn't mean it's desirable or advisable to do so - any more than producing a supernova is a good idea, no matter how well explained the phenomenon.

Anyway, so what? We have a number of exploratory methods besides exact science: the soft sciences, art, direct physical sensation, contemplation, interpersonal communication. Each in its time, place and purpose. You can skip right over religion, as its returns diminish so very quickly.


I didn't see any explanation anywhere so that we can go to the "manufacture" questions... I do not see anywhere what you seem to be taking for granted. Please show me.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby DragonFly on December 8th, 2012, 12:28 am 

skakos wrote:The "search the Internet" is not an answer.


Yet, it was. So I guess I won't ask you how your research went online. To each their own.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby Serpent on December 8th, 2012, 1:25 am 

skakos wrote: Please show me.


Show you what? I replied to Ursa Minimus
If science explains love, we ought to be able to engineer it at will, right?
, my contention being that the ability to explain something is not the ability to reprduce that something. There was no manufacture question. Anywhere. Ever. Problem?
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby skakos on December 8th, 2012, 3:19 pm 

Serpent wrote:
skakos wrote: Please show me.


Show you what? I replied to Ursa Minimus

If science explains love, we ought to be able to engineer it at will, right?


,my contention being that the ability to explain something is not the ability to reprduce that something. There was no manufacture question. Anywhere. Ever. Problem?


Yes. Problem.

Do you mean that the "some facsimile of love, joy, awe, et.c can already be induced in the human brain by chemical and/or electrical stimulation" is the "explanation" ?
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby DragonFly on December 8th, 2012, 10:38 pm 

When it is said that there can be chemistry between people this is true. That's the clue; your research awaits.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby Ursa Minimus on December 9th, 2012, 8:37 am 

neuro wrote:
Ursa Minimus wrote:Now, removing my tongue from my cheek, it does seem that non-scientific methods are far more useful on the pragmatic level of seeking, finding, and holding on to love than science.


I thought the question was whether science can explain love!

Doing it is quite harder.

On the other hand I imagine in the States on Mondays the same thing happens with baseball or football that here in Italy happens with soccer: lots and lots of sport scientists acutely argue about yesterday's matches - and they know a lot and say a lot of sensible things, they can explain almost everything, but if you were to put them in the middle of the field, I do not believe they would achieve memorable performances.

For me, it is the same: I may talk and talk about love, I'm even quite skilled and successful at saying and writing love phrases and letters, but when it comes to building and maintaining a love relation, be it with a partner or my sons, things become much more difficult.
But that has to do with psychological traps (great theory, poor performance), I would say, rather than with the origin and explanation of love in our brain.


Ah, there it is. "... in our brain". Is love totally a function of our brain? In one way, of course it is, we experience the universe through our brains.

But does love start, originate, in our brains? Always and every time? Or is there something more to it? Don't interpersonal interactions play a part? Don't cultural expectations about what love "really" is and how it is and should be expressed play a part? Attractiveness is explained by the brain in the same way as love, but fat or thin bodies as attractive or unattractive have been seen within cultures in relatively short time frames (100 years) and we still have the same brains, so there seems to be more to it than just "brain stuff".

"Brain stuff" can explain the feeling of love, in that brain activity correlates with the state of being people describe as love. No complaints here. But explaining "love" as it exists for human beings seems to take more to get to a satisfying explanation of all parts of love, all aspects of love, all instances of love.

And if we want to "engineer" love, if we want to live loving lives, if we want to strengthen love between us and our loved ones, non-scientific reasoning seems to be superior in many ways. At least that would be the position of most who would say "science can't explain love" would take. Not that science can't explain anything about love, but rather it fails to explain love better than non-scientific approaches for many given purposes at hand. Often the very purposes that are most important to us in terms of "love".

---

Oh, and I think many sports scientists could put on fine performances to match those of players in Serie A. Rolling around holding their ankle's with great pain on their faces for the slightest of contact isn't that difficult after all. :)
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby neuro on December 9th, 2012, 8:12 pm 

skakos wrote:And I am not talking about the "mother loves her baby to save it from predators" kind of "love". I am talking about the pure genuine love humans feel.


Do you mean "mother loves her baby" is not the pure genuine love humans feel?

Is the problem in love not having a scope, but rather the feeling having its explanation and scope in itself?
Is this (non-utilitarian) aspect you cannot conciliate with it originating in the brain?
'Cause I'd be glad to talk about that. It would be a more specific and clear topic.

Ursa Minimus wrote:But does love start, originate, in our brains? Always and every time? Or is there something more to it? Don't interpersonal interactions play a part? Don't cultural expectations about what love "really" is and how it is and should be expressed play a part? Attractiveness is explained by the brain in the same way as love, but fat or thin bodies as attractive or unattractive have been seen within cultures in relatively short time frames (100 years) and we still have the same brains, so there seems to be more to it than just "brain stuff".

You are right under all respects.
My point simply is you do not need all you mention to explain how love springs in us as an emotion.
You need all that to understand it, to describe it, to explain why we love or do not.
But do you mean that interpersonal interactions, cultural expectations, fashions and all that act independently of our brain, that their influence on our feeling love is not mediated by the brain?
If so, I cannot follow you.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby Ursa Minimus on December 10th, 2012, 10:07 am 

neuro wrote:
Ursa Minimus wrote:But does love start, originate, in our brains? Always and every time? Or is there something more to it? Don't interpersonal interactions play a part? Don't cultural expectations about what love "really" is and how it is and should be expressed play a part? Attractiveness is explained by the brain in the same way as love, but fat or thin bodies as attractive or unattractive have been seen within cultures in relatively short time frames (100 years) and we still have the same brains, so there seems to be more to it than just "brain stuff".

You are right under all respects.
My point simply is you do not need all you mention to explain how love springs in us as an emotion.
You need all that to understand it, to describe it, to explain why we love or do not.
But do you mean that interpersonal interactions, cultural expectations, fashions and all that act independently of our brain, that their influence on our feeling love is not mediated by the brain?
If so, I cannot follow you.


I can certainly say that cultural artifacts exist separate from our brains (architecture for one example), and that cultural beliefs can affect us without our being aware or them or even experiencing them directly (as when some other person acts towards us based on those beliefs of which we individually have no knowledge). But I would never claim our experience is not mediated by our brain activity. It's just that I think the "software" of the brain is not chained so tightly to the "hardware" as many think it is.

For example, I can see someone saying they are in love even though their brain activity does not match up with the scientific mechanism of "love" in the brain. Would you deny they experience love in that situation? Would your theory and research deny the lived experience of such a person, to the point of denying they love when they say they love?

Further, I can see how the same experience in the external world might lead to "brain love" for one person, but not another. Don't we need some understanding of the external social world to explain that difference in how "love springs in us as an emotion"? Or is just scanning brains going to give us all the answers we need?

Let's consider pain. One might feel intense pain in the abdomen from appendicitis, or from a stab wound. The pain would (for purposes of discussion) be the "same" level in the brain. Would it be the same experience? Not even close. The external world does affect how we interpret our experience of the world as mediated by our brains. Not all pain is the same, not all "butterflies in the stomach" are good or bad, the interpretation of the "feeling" is what makes for the "emotion".

I feel like I should be using "neurological" more, and "brain" less, in this post. But that would be less evocative of zombies. I find zombies a source of amusement, so brains it is.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby skakos on December 15th, 2012, 4:15 pm 

DragonFly wrote:When it is said that there can be chemistry between people this is true. That's the clue; your research awaits.


So you claim that there is evidence that chemistry creates love? (instead of love affecting chemistry)
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby skakos on December 15th, 2012, 4:49 pm 

neuro wrote:
skakos wrote:And I am not talking about the "mother loves her baby to save it from predators" kind of "love". I am talking about the pure genuine love humans feel.


Do you mean "mother loves her baby" is not the pure genuine love humans feel?

Is the problem in love not having a scope, but rather the feeling having its explanation and scope in itself?
Is this (non-utilitarian) aspect you cannot conciliate with it originating in the brain?
'Cause I'd be glad to talk about that. It would be a more specific and clear topic.


The love of a mother for its child can be explained on an evolutionary basis.
However there are cases where love is more... "unexplained" and mysterious.
I believe that our love for other may affect the chemistry of our bodies and not the other way around.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby neuro on December 16th, 2012, 2:51 pm 

skakos wrote:However there are cases where love is more... "unexplained" and mysterious.
I believe that our love for other may affect the chemistry of our bodies and not the other way around.

Since you put this thread in "philosophy of science" I should feel obliged to ask you to please share with us what kind of evidence or philosophical argument is supposed to support this belief of yours, rather than just expressing such belief.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby Lomax on December 16th, 2012, 7:38 pm 

Skakos,

Otto Neurath said that science is like a ship which must rebuild itself on the open sea. The "axioms" you list may be methodological starting points, but they are not axioms. The difference is that an axiom cannot be discarded (or, to follow the analogy, "rebuilt").

Either way, your claims are false at best and incoherent at worst. There is no one formal system called "Mathematical Logic"; the Peano arithmetic, for one, uses less axioms than you numbered. Euclidean geometry is by no means an axiom, and we already know that space-time is Non-Euclidean where there's energy. Most logics these days are not bivalent, and you will find that without "Fuzzy Logic" we couldn't have Google. The point here is that science is basically instrumental and confirmation-holistic, not axiomatic, and has no need to be axiomatic.

I've noticed a self-destructive tendency for you to make throwaway claims about things which others know more about. In the presence of a neuroscientist you ask in a rhetorical manner "how does science explain love?" Elsewhere you tell us that Godel proved dialetheism; what Godel showed us is that no logic capable of Peano arithmetic can be both complete and consistent. It doesn't follow from this that there are unsolvable paradoxes. Now you list what you perceive to be "axioms" of science without backing up such dubious claims. I don't care if you want to do it, but it does thin out the credibility of your arguments.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby skakos on December 23rd, 2012, 12:40 pm 

neuro wrote:
skakos wrote:However there are cases where love is more... "unexplained" and mysterious.
I believe that our love for other may affect the chemistry of our bodies and not the other way around.

Since you put this thread in "philosophy of science" I should feel obliged to ask you to please share with us what kind of evidence or philosophical argument is supposed to support this belief of yours, rather than just expressing such belief.


What you say is implying that science (chemistry) has found the full explanation of Love, which is wrong. When I refer to love (or any other so fundamental human emotion) I understand that this somethign I feel and which is inherently connected to my conscious. I do not see how an emotion could be something "material". But I am open to suggestions.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby skakos on December 23rd, 2012, 12:45 pm 

Lomax wrote:Skakos,

Otto Neurath said that science is like a ship which must rebuild itself on the open sea. The "axioms" you list may be methodological starting points, but they are not axioms. The difference is that an axiom cannot be discarded (or, to follow the analogy, "rebuilt").

Either way, your claims are false at best and incoherent at worst. There is no one formal system called "Mathematical Logic"; the Peano arithmetic, for one, uses less axioms than you numbered. Euclidean geometry is by no means an axiom, and we already know that space-time is Non-Euclidean where there's energy. Most logics these days are not bivalent, and you will find that without "Fuzzy Logic" we couldn't have Google. The point here is that science is basically instrumental and confirmation-holistic, not axiomatic, and has no need to be axiomatic.

I've noticed a self-destructive tendency for you to make throwaway claims about things which others know more about. In the presence of a neuroscientist you ask in a rhetorical manner "how does science explain love?" Elsewhere you tell us that Godel proved dialetheism; what Godel showed us is that no logic capable of Peano arithmetic can be both complete and consistent. It doesn't follow from this that there are unsolvable paradoxes. Now you list what you perceive to be "axioms" of science without backing up such dubious claims. I don't care if you want to do it, but it does thin out the credibility of your arguments.


I do not like the authenticity arguments, so I do expect from the "neuroscientist" to answer my questions.

The axioms used by science are indeed a starting point. And yes, I understand that we must have a starting point. But these axioms can always change, as we have seen many times. The problem arises when we tend to forget that we use those axioms as a starting point. This is when they trurn from "starting points" into "dogmas".

For example the axiom that "everything is matter", which helped us so much in explaining physical phenomena, is now hindering us from finding the truth regarding consciousness. We are stuck into a deadend and if we do not change this axiom we will soon face problems we will not be able to cope with. This is what I am saying.
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Re: The Limits of Science

Postby neuro on December 25th, 2012, 2:12 pm 

skakos wrote:
neuro wrote:Since you put this thread in "philosophy of science" I should feel obliged to ask you to please share with us what kind of evidence or philosophical argument is supposed to support this belief of yours, rather than just expressing such belief.


What you say is implying that science (chemistry) has found the full explanation of Love, which is wrong. When I refer to love (or any other so fundamental human emotion) I understand that this somethign I feel and which is inherently connected to my conscious. I do not see how an emotion could be something "material". But I am open to suggestions.


Dear skakos, I am really puzzled by your argument.

1) I appreciate the nice move of trying to say that the antagonist always has the burden of proof, but I feel it is a bit naive: if you say
skakos wrote:However there are cases where love is more... "unexplained" and mysterious.
I believe that our love for other may affect the chemistry of our bodies and not the other way around.

this just states a belief of yours, so I don't quite see what I would be supposed to prove.

As for the explanation of love:

1) a drive to consider the well-being of other subjects as important as (or even more important than) one's own almost is a MUST for successful evolution.

2) emotions have a neat and precise correspondence with the activity of specific neuronal circuits (they can be evoked, damped or modified by electrical or pharmacological manipulations).

3) the interplay of emotions clearly dominates the motivational control of behavior (and even heavily interferes with “rational” thinking thereby influencing judgment and strategical planning) – rational thinking and planning are heavily interefered and modified by drugs, organic pathologies, trans-cranic magnetic stimulation etc. [by the way this suggests that chemistry comes rather before than after transcendent activity]

4) matter only is a dimension of reality.
Simple neuronal processing gives rise to geometrical representation of reality (spatial relations), ordinal and cardinal elaboration of reality and mathematical abstraction, logical elaboration in deriving consistency/inconsistency, consequentiality etc.
All this is not “matter”, but rather metaphysical (strictly speaking metà tà physicà) stuff.
The corresponding domain (when talking about emotions rather than rational thinking) is that of feelings and sentiments, the metaphysical counterpart of heartbeat, tears, shivers and visceral sensations.

5) In order to understand even a single bit of all this (the metaphysical part, i.e. from mathematics to love) neurology does not give the least help: rather, what's needed is phenomenology, psychology, sociology, and common sense.

6) although science and neurology do not say anything about the phenomenological, psychological, sociological aspects of love - how would they be supposed to do it? - they fully explain (justify, clarify how and why it arises) it.

I hope you realize what incredible puzzles you get jammed in if, in order to negate a physiological origin for love, you try and make a clear-cut distinction between maternal love and the other (more transcendental?) kinds of love, as you tried above.
Honestly, I can not think of a more complete, total and absolute love than maternal love (in the absence of psychopathology).
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