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Has “philosophical superficiality” harmed physics?

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Quantum gravity expert Carlo Rovelli of Aix-Marseille University and the Intitut Universitaire de France. thinks so, as he tells John Horgan at Scientific American:

Horgan:What’s your opinion of the recent philosophy-bashing by Stephen Hawking, Lawrence Krauss and Neil deGrasse Tyson?

Rovelli:Seriously: I think they are stupid in this. I have admiration for them in other things, but here they have gone really wrong. Look: Einstein, Heisenberg, Newton, Bohr…. and many many others of the greatest scientists of all times, much greater than the names you mention, of course, read philosophy, learned from philosophy, and could have never done the great science they did without the input they got from philosophy, as they claimed repeatedly. You see: the scientists that talk philosophy down are simply superficial: they have a philosophy (usually some ill-digested mixture of Popper and Kuhn) and think that this is the “true” philosophy, and do not realize that this has limitations.

Here is an example: theoretical physics has not done great in the last decades. Why? Well, one of the reasons, I think, is that it got trapped in a wrong philosophy: the idea that you can make progress by guessing new theory and disregarding the qualitative content of previous theories. This is the physics of the “why not?” Why not studying this theory, or the other? Why not another dimension, another field, another universe? Science has never advanced in this manner in the past. Science does not advance by guessing. … More.

See also: The multiverse: Where everything turns out to be true, except philosophy and religion

As if the multiverse wasn’t bizarre enough …meet Many Worlds

But who needs reality-based thinking anyway? Not the new cosmologists

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5 Replies to “Has “philosophical superficiality” harmed physics?

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    as to:

    “they have a philosophy (usually some ill-digested mixture of Popper and Kuhn) and think that this is the “true” philosophy,”

    Actually, Stephen Hawking, Lawrence Krauss and Neil deGrasse Tyson, have a philosophical commitment to Naturalism first and foremost. Having a rigid falsification criteria, (as I believe Popper held), for a theory and having epistemological failure inherent within naturalism be damned! Naturalism is THE philosophy of science for these guys, no other philosophies need apply for the job!

    Even subtle distinctions of philosophy towards Popper and Kuhn are ignored if it interferes with their commitment, NAY devotion!, to Naturalism!

    A few Notes:

    But Who Needs Reality-Based Thinking Anyway? Not the New Cosmologists – Denyse O’Leary January 2, 2014
    Excerpt: Logic and reason are likewise irrelevant. Consider the multiverse claim that there are “infinite copies of you and your loved ones leading lives, up until this moment, that are absolutely identical to yours.” Mathematician George F. R. Ellis notes that, if so, the deep mysteries of nature are too absurd to be explicable and that the proposed nine types of multiverse in one scheme are “mutually exclusive.” True, but in a multiverse, “inexplicable” is okay. “Absurd” and “mutually exclusive” are meaningless concepts. It is equally meaningless to assert that one event is more probable than another. As David Berlinski puts it, “Why is Newton’s universal law of gravitation true? No need to ask. In another universe, it is not”(Devil’s Delusion, p. 124).,,,
    Science writer John Horgan pointedly asks, “Is theorizing about parallel universes immoral?”
    “These multiverse theories all share the same fundamental defect: They can be neither confirmed nor falsified. Hence, they don’t deserve to be called scientific, according to the well-known criterion proposed by the philosopher Karl Popper. Some defenders of multiverses and strings mock skeptics who raise the issue of falsification as “Popperazi” — which is cute but not a counterargument. Multiverse theories aren’t theories — they’re science fictions, theologies, works of the imagination unconstrained by evidence.”

    BRUCE GORDON: Hawking’s irrational arguments – October 2010
    Excerpt: What is worse, multiplying without limit the opportunities for any event to happen in the context of a multiverse – where it is alleged that anything can spontaneously jump into existence without cause – produces a situation in which no absurdity is beyond the pale. For instance, we find multiverse cosmologists debating the “Boltzmann Brain” problem: In the most “reasonable” models for a multiverse, it is immeasurably more likely that our consciousness is associated with a brain that has spontaneously fluctuated into existence in the quantum vacuum than it is that we have parents and exist in an orderly universe with a 13.7 billion-year history. This is absurd. The multiverse hypothesis is therefore falsified because it renders false what we know to be true about ourselves. Clearly, embracing the multiverse idea entails a nihilistic irrationality that destroys the very possibility of science.

    Why No One (Can) Believe Atheism/Naturalism to be True – video
    Excerpt: “Since we are creatures of natural selection, we cannot totally trust our senses. Evolution only passes on traits that help a species survive, and not concerned with preserving traits that tell a species what is actually true about life.”
    Richard Dawkins – quoted from “The God Delusion”

    Not Understanding Nothing – A review of A Universe from Nothing – Edward Feser – June 2012
    Excerpt: So when physicist Lawrence Krauss begins his new book by suggesting that to ask “Who created the creator?” suffices to dispatch traditional philosophical theology, we know it isn’t going to end well. ,,,
    ,,, But Krauss simply can’t see the “difference between arguing in favor of an eternally existing creator versus an eternally existing universe without one.” The difference, as the reader of Aristotle or Aquinas knows, is that the universe changes while the unmoved mover does not, or, as the Neoplatonist can tell you, that the universe is made up of parts while its source is absolutely one; or, as Leibniz could tell you, that the universe is contingent and God absolutely necessary. There is thus a principled reason for regarding God rather than the universe as the terminus of explanation.

    “The ‘First Mover’ is necessary for change occurring at each moment.”
    Michael Egnor – Aquinas’ First Way

    Verse and Music:

    Acts 17:28
    For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

    Hurricane – Natalie Grant

  2. 2
    Mung says:

    “…the scientists that talk philosophy down are simply superficial: they have a philosophy (usually some ill-digested mixture of Popper and Kuhn) and think that this is the “true” philosophy, and do not realize that this has limitations.”


  3. 3
    Axel says:

    I suppose rather more consonant with atheism than not, but I was disappointed in his dismissal of the concept of mystery in science, contradicted as it was by the words that followed; but more especially, seemingly, despite the imponderable nature of the paradoxes that increasingly crop up in quantum mechanics.

    Would he not consider non-locality a mystery? Or the absolute nature of the proper reference-frame of light quanta? Or the mysterious, decidedly non-classical perspective to be taken on the double-slit experiment?

  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:

    Mung, you spotted it too. rotflol. KF

  5. 5
    Axel says:

    It’s very sad. Their curiously nonsensical religion demands that they close their minds to the one dimension of human experience and thought that can help them out of the impasse they have, themselves, created: theism.

    On the other hand, they read Einstein’s comments on intuition (and the inferior status of the analytical intelligence), beauty/elegance, simplicity, awe, etc, and try to co-opt them into their own methodology.

    However, perhaps, fittingly, with their atheist world-view, they evoke Evelyn Waugh’s metaphor of a chimpanzee investigating a precious Sevres vase, and have as much chance of stumbling upon a new, major physical paradigm as that acknowledged cousin.

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