Aesthetics, art, beauty and mind Darwinism Intelligent Design Philosophy

Massimo Pigliucci: Feynman was wrong about truth and beauty in science

Spread the love
How to Live a Good Life by Massimo Pigliucci, Skye Cleary and Daniel Kaufman

Aligning himself with Sabine Hossenfelder and Peter Woit, he observes,

To begin with, the history of physics (alas, seldom studied by physicists) clearly shows that many simple theories have had to be abandoned in favour of more complex and ‘ugly’ ones. The notion that the Universe is in a steady state is simpler than one requiring an ongoing expansion; and yet scientists do now think that the Universe has been expanding for almost 14 billion years. In the 17th century Johannes Kepler realised that Copernicus’ theory was too beautiful to be true, since, as it turns out, planets don’t go around the Sun in perfect (according to human aesthetics!) circles, but rather following somewhat uglier ellipses.

And of course, beauty is, notoriously, in the eye of the beholder. What struck Feynman as beautiful might not be beautiful to other physicists or mathematicians. Beauty is a human value, not something out there in the cosmos. Biologists here know better. The capacity for aesthetic appreciation in our species is the result of a process of biological evolution, possibly involving natural selection. And there is absolutely no reason to think that we evolved an aesthetic sense that somehow happens to be tailored for the discovery of the ultimate theory of everything.

Massimo Pigliucci, “Richard Feynman was wrong about beauty and truth in science” at Aeon

An interesting juxtaposition of two paragraphs there. The first paragraph makes perfect sense: A correct theory might not be more simple and elegant. Correct theories must do a number of jobs.

But notice how Darwinism, flung into the works like an old shoe, undermines the topic completely. If beauty is really “in the eye of the beholder” full stop, there is really no such thing as beauty. If the “capacity for aesthetic appreciation” evolved “possibly involving natural selection,” then it is unrelated to the object and best understood in terms of how many children artists have. Actually, as philosopher David Stove noted some years ago, artists don’t even have many children, so Pigliucci is quite right to insert the word “possibly” in a place where we rarely otherwise encounter it.

His argument would gaoin rather than lose if he just chucked the Darwinism—whether Feynman is right or wrong.

Massimo Pigliucci is one of the authors of How to Live a Good Life: a Guide to Choosing Your Personal Philosophy (2020), of which you can read an excerpt free.

See also: Consciousness philosopher skates around the main problems

Follow UD News at Twitter!

4 Replies to “Massimo Pigliucci: Feynman was wrong about truth and beauty in science

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    There’s one slippery point in the argument. Artists MAKE art, and the rest of us can APPRECIATE beauty. Not the same characteristic.

    Some of the best artists were poor appreciators. I’m thinking of FL Wright, who spent money on custom-built cars that didn’t harmonize at all with the beauty he produced.

    http://polistrasmill.blogspot......wrong.html

    Appreciating beauty is a skill that humans don’t share with any mammal I can think of, but we do share it with birds, along with music and bipedality. Male birds seek out beautiful objects to impress the ladies.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Massimo Pigliucci apparently rates himself quite highly as a ‘philosopher of science’ and has little time for physicists who actually do science,,, from the article,,,

    Feynman was unquestionably one of the outstanding physicists of the 20th century.,,,
    In the area of philosophy of science, though, like many physicists of his and the subsequent generation (and unlike those belonging to the previous one, including Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr), Feynman didn’t really shine – to put it mildly.

    Funny how such a prominent philosopher of science, as Massimo Pigliucci fancies himself to be, has not noticed that the reductive materialism of Darwinian evolution, (which he champions as being unquestionably true), undermines philosophy itself. The definition of philosophy is as such,,

    Definition:
    philosophy – the rational investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge, or conduct.

    And yet, as C.S. Lewis pointed out, if the reductive materialism of Darwinian evolution were actually true, then there could not be ‘rational investigation’ of truths since thought, (and therefore reason itself), would be undermined,

    “Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God”
    — C.S. Lewis (from, The Case for Christianity)
    https://www.thepoachedegg.net/2018/03/cs-lewis-upsetting-a-milk-jug.html

    In what should be needless to say, for Massimo Pigliucci to wholeheartedly embrace a philosophy, i.e. Darwinian Materialism, that completely undermines the reliability of Massimo Pigliucci’s very own thoughts, and more specifically the reliability of his own ability to reason, is for Massimo Pigliucci to reveal himself to be a rather poor philosopher. IMHO, he certainly should not be teaching a course on philosophy at college much less lecturing prominent physicists on their supposedly poor grasp of philosophy.

    As to ‘philosophy of science’ in particular, which Massimo Pigliucci apparently rates himself on most highly as being a quote-unquote ‘pro’.

    The moral of the story is that physicists should leave philosophy of science to the pros, and stick to what they know best.

    Might I be so bold as to suggest that the ‘pro’ philosopher Massimo Pigliucci has deluded himself into thinking he has a firm grasp on the ‘philosophy of science’ when the reality of the situation is that he has no real clue what a coherent philosophy of science would actually look like.

    Although the Darwinian atheist firmly believes he is on the terra firma of science, (in his appeal, even demand, for methodological naturalism), the fact of the matter is that Darwinists are adrift in an ocean of fantasy and imagination with no discernible anchor for reality to grab on to:

    Basically, because of reductive materialism (and/or methodological naturalism), the atheistic materialist is forced to claim that he is merely a ‘neuronal illusion’ (Coyne, Dennett, etc..), who has the illusion of free will (Harris), who has unreliable, (i.e. illusory), beliefs about reality (Plantinga), who has illusory perceptions of reality (Hoffman), who, since he has no real time empirical evidence substantiating his grandiose claims, must make up illusory “just so stories” with the illusory, and impotent, ‘designer substitute’ of natural selection (Behe, Gould, Sternberg), so as to ‘explain away’ the appearance (i.e. illusion) of design (Crick, Dawkins), and who must make up illusory meanings and purposes for his life since the reality of the nihilism inherent in his atheistic worldview is too much for him to bear (Weikart), and who must also hold morality to be subjective and illusory since he has rejected God (Craig, Kreeft). Who, since beauty cannot be grounded within his materialistic worldview, must hold beauty itself to be illusory.
    Bottom line, nothing is truly real in the atheist’s worldview, least of all, beauty, morality, meaning and purposes for life.,,,
    Darwinian Materialism and/or Methodological Naturalism vs. Reality – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CaksmYceRXM

    Thus, although the Darwinian Atheist firmly believes he is on the terra firma of science (in his appeal, even demand, for methodological naturalism), the fact of the matter is that, when examining the details of his materialistic/naturalistic worldview, it is found that Darwinists/Atheists are adrift in an ocean of fantasy and imagination with no discernible anchor for reality to grab on to.

    It would be hard to fathom a worldview more antagonistic to modern science than Atheistic materialism and/or methodological naturalism have turned out to be.

    2 Corinthians 10:5
    Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

    Moreover, contrary to what many people have been falsely led to believe by Darwinian atheists, about Intelligent Design supposedly being a pseudo-science, the fact of the matter is that all of science, every nook and cranny of it, is based on the presupposition of intelligent design and is certainly not based on the presupposition of methodological naturalism.

    From the essential Christian presuppositions that undergird the founding of modern science itself, (namely that the universe is rational and that the minds of men, being made in the ‘image of God’, can dare understand that rationality), to the intelligent design of the scientific instruments and experiments themselves, to the logical and mathematical analysis of experimental results themselves, from top to bottom, science itself is certainly not to be considered a ‘natural’ endeavor of man.
    Not one scientific instrument would ever exist if men did not first intelligently design that scientific instrument. Not one test tube, microscope, telescope, spectroscope, or etc.. etc.., was ever found just laying around on a beach somewhere which was ‘naturally’ constructed by nature. Not one experimental result would ever be rationally analyzed since there would be no immaterial minds to rationally analyze the immaterial logic and immaterial mathematics that lay behind the intelligently designed experiments in the first place.

    Again, all of science, every nook and cranny of it, is based on the presupposition of intelligent design and is certainly not based on the presupposition of methodological naturalism.

    Thus in conclusion, if Massimo Pigliucci truly wants to be a ‘pro’ in the philosophy of science, he should become a Theist, even a Christian Theist, and wholeheartedly reject the the philosophical insanity that is inherent in his Darwinian materialism.

    Verse:

    John 1:1-4
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

    What is the Logos?
    Logos is a Greek word literally translated as “word, speech, or utterance.” However, in Greek philosophy, Logos refers to divine reason or the power that puts sense into the world making order instead of chaos.,,,
    In the Gospel of John, John writes “In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). John appealed to his readers by saying in essence, “You’ve been thinking, talking, and writing about the Word (divine reason) for centuries and now I will tell you who He is.”
    https://www.compellingtruth.org/what-is-the-Logos.html

    “Atheists can give no reason why they should value reason, and Christians can show how anyone who believes in reason must also believe in God.”
    Cogito; Ergo Deus Est by Charles Edward White
    Philosophy Still Lives Because God Isn’t Dead

  3. 3
    Seversky says:

    Is There In Truth No Beauty?

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    Massimo Pigliucci in his claim that “Feynman Was Wrong About Truth And Beauty In Science” uses this example of ‘uglier ellipses’ for planets going around the sun to supposedly show us that there is no correspondence between truth and beauty in science,

    “In the 17th century Johannes Kepler realised that Copernicus’ theory was too beautiful to be true, since, as it turns out, planets don’t go around the Sun in perfect (according to human aesthetics!) circles, but rather following somewhat uglier ellipses.”

    And yet Ptolemy’s geocentric model has a a very elegant symmetrical beauty to it that is missing from the Copernicus’ ‘uglier’ Heliocentric model

    Ptolemy’s (Earth Centered) model of the universe (of the Solar System) – video
    https://youtu.be/EpSy0Lkm3zM?t=207

    Geocentric Perspective with Sun and Planets over 165 Years – video playlist (video for each planet)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhA4bl7B-1M&index=1&list=PLEBA7CD7FD2564042

    Moreover, the sun itself reveals a beautiful ‘infinity’ pattern when you take pictures at the same place and time every week for a year

    How the sun looks in the sky when you take pictures at the same place and time every week for a year – picture
    http://imgur.com/gallery/61YTxQ2

    Massimo Pigliucci has a favorable view of “Ockham’s razor” in judging whether a theory may be truthful or not

    “Ockham’s razor is a prudent heuristic, providing us with an intuitive guide to the comparisons of different hypotheses. Other things being equal, we should prefer simpler ones.”

    And yet, although Massimo Pigliucci himself may claim that the heliocentric model is preferred over the earth centered model because of simplicity, i.e. aka Occam’s razor, the following article takes issue with Pigliucci’s claim:

    The Tyranny of Simple Explanations – Philip Ball – AUG 11, 2016
    Excerpt: Occam’s razor is often stated as an injunction not to make more assumptions than you absolutely need.,,,
    In layman’s terms, the simplest explanation is usually the best one.,,,
    But Occam’s razor is often fetishized and misapplied as a guiding beacon for scientific enquiry.,,
    The worst misuses, however, fixate on the idea that the razor can adjudicate between rival theories. I have found no single instance where it has served this purpose to settle a scientific debate. Worse still, the history of science is often distorted in attempts to argue that it has.
    Take the debate between the ancient geocentric view of the universe—in which the sun and planets move around a central Earth—and Nicolaus Copernicus’s heliocentric theory, with the Sun at the center and the Earth and other planets moving around it.,,,
    It is often claimed that, by the 16th century, this Ptolemaic model of the universe had become so laden with these epicycles that it was on the point of falling apart. Then along came the Polish astronomer with his heliocentric universe, and no more epicycles were needed. The two theories explained the same astronomical observations, but Copernicus’s was simpler, and so Occam’s razor tells us to prefer it.
    This is wrong for many reasons. First, Copernicus didn’t do away with epicycles.,,,
    In an introductory tract called the Commentariolus, published around 1514, he said he could explain the motions of the heavens with “just” 34 epicycles. Many later commentators took this to mean that the geocentric model must have needed many more than 34, but there’s no actual evidence for that. And the historian of astronomy Owen Gingerich has dismissed the common assumption that the Ptolemaic model was so epicycle-heavy that it was close to collapse. He argues that a relatively simple design was probably still in use in Copernicus’s time.,,,
    Occam’s razor was never meant for paring nature down to some beautiful, parsimonious core of truth. Because science is so difficult and messy, the allure of a philosophical tool for clearing a path or pruning the thickets is obvious. In their readiness to find spurious applications of Occam’s razor in the history of science, or to enlist, dismiss, or reshape the razor at will to shore up their preferences, scientists reveal their seduction by this vision.
    http://www.theatlantic.com/sci.....or/495332/

    There simply is no empirical warrant for why Copernicus’ model should be preferred over the Ptolemaic model. As Stephen Hawking himself explained, ‘our observations of the heavens can be explained by assuming either the earth or the sun to be at rest.,,, the real advantage of the Copernican system is simply that the equations of motion are much simpler in the frame of reference in which the sun is at rest.’

    “So which is real, the Ptolemaic or Copernican system? Although it is not uncommon for people to say that Copernicus proved Ptolemy wrong, that is not true. As in the case of our normal view versus that of the goldfish, one can use either picture as a model of the universe, for our observations of the heavens can be explained by assuming either the earth or the sun to be at rest.
    Despite its role in philosophical debates over the nature of our universe, the real advantage of the Copernican system is simply that the equations of motion are much simpler in the frame of reference in which the sun is at rest.”
    Stephen Hawking – The Grand Design – pages 39 – 2010

    Thus, apparently the ‘beauty’ of the Ptolemaic model was sacrificed for the utter simplicity of the ‘uglier’ Copernican model.

    Yet the claim, at least how Einstein saw it, was that truth and beauty have a fairly direct correspondence.

    ‘the only physical theories that we are willing to accept are the beautiful ones’
    Albert Einstein – Quoted in Graham Farmelo, It Must be Beautiful: Great Equations of Modern Science (Granta Books, 2002), p. xii. Farmelo provides an extensive discussion of this topic and gives numerous examples from the history of science.

    The claim, again as Einstein saw it, was not that beauty and simplicity have a fairly direct correspondence. In fact, Einstein held that a theory should be as simple as possible “without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.”

    “It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.”
    Albert Einstein – “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein”

    Thus Einstein himself held that there was indeed a limit to how much simplicity one could fit into one’s scientific explanation. As someone else surmised Einstein’s view on scientific explanations, “Simple as possible, but no simpler.”

    “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”
    Albert Einstein – via Roger Sessions – New York times – 1950.

    And indeed the more beautiful something is then the more complex it usually is in its geometric pattern. For example, take the beauty revealed in this cross section of DNA when compared to the Rose window at York Minster:

    Cross section of DNA compared to Rose window at York Minster
    https://wp.biologos.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Francis-Window-PIC.jpg

    Thus, since that geometric pattern by itself is far more beautiful than a ‘simple circle’ is, (which Pigliucci himself held to be ‘beautiful), then clearly there is not a direct correspondence between beauty and simplicity.

    But is there any other criteria, aside from beauty, that we use so as to prefer Ptolemy’s beautiful geocentric model over Copernicus’ ‘uglier’ Heliocentric model?

    Well, as a matter of scientific fact, there certainly is a VERY GOOD reason why we should prefer Ptolemy’s beautiful geocentric model over Copernicus’ ‘uglier’ Heliocentric model.

    Despite the fact that virtually everyone, including the vast majority of Christians, hold that the Copernican Principle is unquestionably true, the fact of the matter is that the Copernican Principal is now shown, by both General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, (our two most powerful and accurately verified theories ever in the history of science),, to be a false assumption.

    November 2019 – despite the fact that virtually everyone, including the vast majority of Christians, hold that the Copernican Principle is unquestionably true, the fact of the matter is that the Copernican Principle is now empirically shown, (via quantum mechanics and general relativity, etc..), to be a false assumption.
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/so-then-maybe-we-are-privileged-observers/#comment-688855

    Thus in conclusion, if the criteria of beauty had been used in preference in choosing Ptolemy’s ‘beautiful’ geocentric model over the ‘simpler’, (even simplistic), and ‘uglier’ Heliocentric model of Copernicus (as Pigliucci himself held the ‘ugly’ Copernican model to be), then the correct, (i.e. beautiful and true), Ptolemy model would have been chosen from the outset instead of the false Copernican model.

    Simply put, using Pigliucci’s own example of ascertaining the beauty of planetary orbits to see if beauty corresponds to the truth of planetary orbits, we find that there is indeed a correspondence between beauty and truth when the planetary orbits are judged by Ptolemy’s correct model instead of being judged by Copernicus’ simplistic and false model.

    Of related interest. It is worth pointing out that beauty and truth themselves are both abstract immaterial proprieties of the immaterial mind and can therefore find no grounding within the reductive materialism of Pigliucci’s Darwinian worldview:

    Aesthetic Arguments for the Existence of God:
    Excerpt: Beauty,,, can be appreciated only by the mind. This would be impossible, if this `idea’ of beauty were not found in the mind in a more perfect form.
    http://www.quodlibet.net/artic.....etic.shtml

    Twenty Arguments For The Existence Of God – Peter Kreeft
    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

    Thus, since ‘truth’ itself, (as well as beauty), is an abstract immaterial property of the mind, an immaterial property which cannot possibly be reduced to some purely material/natural explanation, then presupposing Materialism and/or Methodological Naturalism as the supposed “ground rule for science”, (as Pigliucci does whether he is even aware of his presupposition or not), actually precludes ‘The Truth’ from ever being reached by science!

    Again, if Pigliucci wants to truly hold himself to be a ‘pro’ philosopher of science, it might very well behoove him to first adopt a philosophical worldview that can ground science in the first place. Might I suggest the worldview that gave us modern science in the first place? i.e. Christianity?

    Science and Theism: Concord, not Conflict* – Robert C. Koons
    IV. The Dependency of Science Upon Theism (Page 21)
    Excerpt: Far from undermining the credibility of theism, the remarkable success of science in modern times is a remarkable confirmation of the truth of theism. It was from the perspective of Judeo-Christian theism—and from the perspective alone—that it was predictable that science would have succeeded as it has. Without the faith in the rational intelligibility of the world and the divine vocation of human beings to master it, modern science would never have been possible, and, even today, the continued rationality of the enterprise of science depends on convictions that can be reasonably grounded only in theistic metaphysics.
    http://www.robkoons.net/media/.....ffd524.pdf

Leave a Reply