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At Mind Matters News: Why do some famous materialist scientists hate philosophy?

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Massimo Pigliucci

Philosopher of biology Massimo Pigliucci takes Richard Dawkins to task for that but he might have said the same of Stephen Hawking:

I have never seen eye-to-eye with Dawkins. I think his famous “selfish genes” view of evolution is too narrow. I maintain that his influential concept of memes is nothing but a misleading metaphor.

But over the years the most annoying attitude that Dawkins has displayed, as far as I’m concerned, is his relentless criticism of philosophy, coupled with a hopelessly naive view of science. And this past weekend he’s done it again.

Massimo Pigliucci, “Richard Dawkins writes really silly things about science and philosophy” at Figs in Winter (March 8, 2021)

But wait.

… quantum mechanics shows that the basic particles that make up our universe only have a specific position when we measure them. Yes, the particles really exist. But what we understand about their existence is what we choose to measure. And once we are dealing with choices, we must account for them. That’s when we should start to hear from philosophy.

Philosophy isn’t just butting in. It’s more like this: We won’t make any sense of what we are seeing if we don’t start with some premises. To engage in clear thinking, we must examine them.

News, “Why do some famous materialist scientists hate philosophy?” at Mind Matters News

Takehome: Perhaps some scientists disparage philosophy because they do not like to admit that science starts with choices and choices entail philosophy.

You may also wish to read: In quantum physics, “reality” really is what we choose to observe. Physicist Bruce Gordon argues that idealist philosophy is the best way to make sense of the puzzling world of quantum physics. The quantum eraser experiment shows that there is no reality independent of measurement at the microphysical level. It is created by the measurement itself.

5 Replies to “At Mind Matters News: Why do some famous materialist scientists hate philosophy?

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    When Richard Dawkins comments about biology, it’s reasonable to assume that he has a better idea of what he’s talking about than when he talks about philosophy.

    When Massimo Pigliucci comments about philosophy, it’s reasonable to assume that he has a better idea of what he’s talking about than when he talks about biology.

    If no one here is a professional philosopher or biologist, then our opinions carry less weight in those fields than either of them,

    Isn’t that the way it should be?

  2. 2
    EDTA says:

    >Isn’t that the way it should be?

    Unless the philosopher or biologist is 1) stuck in a paradigm and can’t see outside of it, or 2) stuck in their career and have to continue defending what the current dogma is, or 3) making a boneheaded argument or sticking to an indefensible philosophical premise. In those cases, someone not suffering those problems has the right to straighten them out.

  3. 3
    Viola Lee says:

    Although we also can be subject to 1) or 3), and then who will straighten us out?

    And who will straighten out the straighten-outers, if necessary? 🙂

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    Dawkins tweeted,

    “Science is not a social construct. Science’s truths were true before there were societies; will still be true after all philosophers are dead; were true before any philosophers were born; were true before there were any minds, even trilobite or dinosaur minds, to notice them.”
    – Dawkins

    To which Pigliucci responded thusly,

    “Science’s truths were true before there were societies.” This is very sloppy language.,,,
    “Truth,” whatever one means by that word, is at best approximated by science as a human activity. It is not immutable and perennial. Because truth too is a human construct.
    – Massimo Pigliucci – naturalist philosopher

    If Pigliucci wants to refute Dawkins, I suggest that he not start off with the blatantly self-refuting philosophical premise of truth being merely a ‘human construct’. He literally just sawed off the very branch that he himself was sitting on.

    If, as Pigliucci holds, truth is just a subjective ‘human construct’, and is not objectively real, then why in blue blazes should anyone consider anything that Pigliucci has to say on the subject of truth to be any more objectively truthful than anything Dawkins may have to say on the subject?

    Again, he literally just sawed off the very branch that he himself was sitting on.

    Moreover, if truth does not objectively exist in some real and meaningful sense, but is merely a subjective human construct, then science would be dead.

    To state the obvious, science is a search for truth and science progresses by making closer and closer approximations to the truth (whatever that ‘truth’ may ultimately turn out to be).

    Of personal note, I have my own personal opinion as to what that ultimate truth, (that science is supposedly searching for), is actually turning out to be.

    Jesus Christ as the correct “Theory of Everything” – video
    https://youtu.be/Vpn2Vu8–eE

    But anyways, to continue on, we cast away old scientific models in favor of new scientific models that more accurately reflect reality all the time.

    In other words we always favor new scientific models that more accurately tell us the ‘truth’ about reality than the old models did.

    Yet if truth does not objectively exist in some real and meaningful sense, apart from any subjective human opinion about truth, then we would have no ‘straight line’ objective standard to judge by to ascertain whether our old scientific models were even crooked or not.

    Again, if truth does not objectively exist in some real and meaningful sense then science would be dead.

    Moreover, when Dawkins said that “Science’s truths were true before there were societies, will still be true after all philosophers are dead,, etc.. etc..”, what Dawkins is really appealing to in his statement are the universal laws of nature.

    Dawkins could just as well have said “The universal laws of nature were true before there were societies, will still be true after all philosophers are dead, etc.. etc..”

    Simply put, our scientific theories change but the universal laws and/or universal constants that undergird those improved scientific theories remain the same.

    For primary example of this, although the mathematical description of Gravity was completely reworked when Einstein formulated General Relativity, the one thing that transferred over from Newtonian’s mathematics description of gravity to Einstein’s new formulation of gravity was the gravitational constant itself. i.e. The universal law and/or constant of gravity is the same in both theories.

    Moreover, all scientific theories, (save for Darwinian evolution itself,) are based on universal laws of nature that do not change. And in fact, the primary reason that Darwinian evolution fails to qualify as a rigid and testable scientific theory is that it is not based on any known universal law as all other theories of science are based on universal laws.

    As Ernst Mayr himself conceded, “In biology, as several other people have shown, and I totally agree with them, there are no natural laws in biology corresponding to the natural laws of the physical sciences.”

    The Evolution of Ernst: Interview with Ernst Mayr – 2004 (page 2 of 14)
    Excerpt: biology (Darwinian Evolution) differs from the physical sciences in that in the physical sciences, all theories, I don’t know exceptions so I think it’s probably a safe statement, all theories are based somehow or other on natural laws. In biology, as several other people have shown, and I totally agree with them, there are no natural laws in biology corresponding to the natural laws of the physical sciences.
    ,,, And so that’s what I do in this book. I show that the theoretical basis, you might call it, or I prefer to call it the philosophy of biology, has a totally different basis than the theories of physics.
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/media/pdf/0004D8E1-178C-10EB-978C83414B7F012C.pdf

    In the following article, Roger Highfield makes much the same observation as Ernst Mayr and states, ,,, Whatever the case, those universal truths—’laws’—that physicists and chemists all rely upon appear relatively absent from biology.

    WHAT SCIENTIFIC IDEA IS READY FOR RETIREMENT? Evolution is True – Roger Highfield – January 2014
    Excerpt: If evolutionary biologists are really Seekers of the Truth, they need to focus more on finding the mathematical regularities of biology, following in the giant footsteps of Sewall Wright, JBS Haldane, Ronald Fisher and so on.
    ,,, Whatever the case, those universal truths—’laws’—that physicists and chemists all rely upon appear relatively absent from biology.
    Little seems to have changed from a decade ago when the late and great John Maynard Smith wrote a chapter on evolutionary game theory for a book on the most powerful equations of science: his contribution did not include a single equation.
    http://www.edge.org/response-detail/25468

    Professor Murray Eden of MIT, in a paper entitled “Inadequacies of Neo-Darwinian Evolution as a Scientific Theory” stated that “the randomness postulate is highly implausible and that an adequate scientific theory of evolution must await the discovery and elucidation of new natural laws—physical, physico-chemical, and biological.”

    “It is our contention that if ‘random’ is given a serious and crucial interpretation from a probabilistic point of view, the randomness postulate is highly implausible and that an adequate scientific theory of evolution must await the discovery and elucidation of new natural laws—physical, physico-chemical, and biological.”
    Murray Eden, “Inadequacies of Neo-Darwinian Evolution as a Scientific Theory,” Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution, editors Paul S. Moorhead and Martin M. Kaplan, June 1967, p. 109.
    https://people.eecs.berkeley.edu/~christos/evol/compevol_files/Wistar-Eden-1.pdf

    Thus in conclusion, in so far as Dawkins was appealing to scientific truths that have always been true and will always be true, he was appealing to the universal constants of nature. And in so far as Dawkins appeals to the universal constants of nature to establish whether something is even scientifically truthful in the first place, Dawkins undermines any claim that Darwinian evolution itself is a scientific truth since Darwin’s theory itself has no universal constant that it can appeal to so as to establish its truthfulness.

    Psalm 119:89-90
    Forever, O Lord, your word
    is firmly fixed in the heavens.
    Your faithfulness endures to all generations;
    you have established the earth, and it stands fast.

    Of supplemental note:

    Twenty Arguments God’s Existence – Peter Kreeft
    Excerpt: 11. The Argument from Truth
    This argument is closely related to the argument from consciousness. It comes mainly from Augustine.
    1. Our limited minds can discover eternal truths about being.
    2. Truth properly resides in a mind.
    3. But the human mind is not eternal.
    4. Therefore there must exist an eternal mind in which these truths reside.
    https://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#11

  5. 5
    EDTA says:

    >And who will straighten out the straighten-outers, if necessary?

    Hopefully not a self-appointed person or committee. And hopefully not the most arrogant person in the room. As others have pointed out, logic and sound reason are available to everyone who humbly puts their mind to it. But ultimately, God will straighten us all out.

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