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Science philosopher attempts to repair split between science and philosophy

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Good luck with that, but anyway… Nicholas Maxwell, author of The Metaphysics of Science and Aim-Oriented Empiricism: A Revolution for Science and Philosophy, blames Newton and the focus on evidence as self-justifying when scientists don’t really behave that way. He offers physics as an example:

If physics, in particular, persistently accepts unified theories only, even though endlessly many disunified rivals are available that fit the available facts just as well, or even better, this must mean, whether it is acknowledged or not, that physics makes a big, highly problematic assumption about the nature of the Universe. It means that physics makes the big assumption: the Universe is such that all disunified theories are false. There is some kind of underlying unity in nature. This assumption is implicitly accepted as a part of scientific knowledge since theories that conflict with it – those that are disunified – are rejected (or not even considered) whatever their empirical success might be. This assumption of underlying unity is, however, accepted independently of evidence, even in a sense in violation of evidence (in that it clashes with endlessly many disunified theories even more empirically successful than the theories we accept). That contradicts what I have called ‘the Newtonian conception of science’, standard empiricism.

The conclusion is inescapable: science cannot proceed without making, implicitly or explicitly, a persistent metaphysical assumption of unity – ‘metaphysical’ because it is too imprecise to be verified or falsified by evidence. The current orthodox conception of science, inherited from Newton, and still taken for granted by scientists today, that science must appeal only to evidence, and must not make metaphysical assumptions about the nature of the universe independently of evidence, is untenable, and must be rejected.Nicholas Maxwell, “Natural Philosophy Redux” at Aeon

He offers further analysis and some alternatives but he is certainly right about one thing. Cosmologists do not like the universe the evidence suggests and they often don’t want to admit that the infinity of the multiverse is philosophically preferred to, say, fine-tuning and the Big Bang as a unique event.

Beyond that, though, many have complained about the stupid attacks on philosophy sponsored by, for example, the late Stephen Hawking. You’d think smart people would realize that everyone always proceeds from a philosophy, whether they acknowledge it or not.

The main disadvantage of not acknowledging the philosophy from which we proceed is that we assume it to be “the correct view of all right-thinking people.” That’s almost a definition of narrow-mindedness. It’s worth considering that the many Darwinians who can’t get with the times about problems in evolution may in fact have precisely that problem: They have never asked themselves why they are attached to a picture of the world of life that does not appear to be correct or complete.

See also: Stephen Hawking’s views outside science were more noted than notable

and

Cosmos Host Tyson Announces That Philosophy Can Mess You Up

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6 Replies to “Science philosopher attempts to repair split between science and philosophy

  1. 1

    Well we have to commend Nicholas that he noticed the obvious. I have a suspicion that he only notices things he wants to change. But let’s explore his deep insight.

    The difference between alchemy and chemistry, as every history of science textbook will tell you, is that alchemy is a book of recipes, but chemistry is a deep understanding of a unified reality as espoused by Priestly and Lavoisier and others. The danger of non-unified views of the world, is that recipes make no predictions. There’s no telling what will happen if one ingredient is changed. “My grandmother always fried it in an iron skillet, and I don’t know if it will work in an aluminum pan.”

    As a consequence, as the number of steps or ingredients get to be above 5 or 8, the number of permutations reaches 8!=40,320 and one doesn’t have a long enough lifespan to try out all the variations, so there’s very little progress. In contrast, unified theories don’t have to try all the permutations, and thus they make progress.

    But it wasn’t Newton who figured all this out–Newton was simply reporting on the whole reason the Enlightenment began, which was the Medieval worldview combined with the Reformation focus on information. It was Christianity that said the world had a Designer, and the mind of the Designer was comprehensible. This just wasn’t true for the abortive science of the Caliphate, or Greece, or of Babylon. Only in the Christian West did science develop, as sociologist Rodney Stark documents thoroughly.

    Why?

    Because Science existed between the two poles of a Designer and Design, between Transcendence and Immanence, between Law and Chance. The late Stanley Jaki explains this tension that brought about the Enlightenment in his books “The Savior of Science”, “God and the Cosmologists” among others. The point he makes is that if the Designer is purely transcendent, doing as he wills, then the Laws are arbitrary and reflect no underlying unity. On the other hand, if the Design is purely chance, then the Laws are mutable, and reflect no underlying unity. Only the weird situation where the Designer submits to his Design, where the Designer makes rules that he then keeps, where the Transcendent is also Immanent, permits the development of Science.

    Yes, Nicholas, it is weird. But it is glorious and beautiful and mathematical and unified all at the same time.

  2. 2
    Nonlin.org says:

    “Everyone always proceeds from [RELIGION, not just] a philosophy, whether they acknowledge it or not”.

    Robert Sheldon, this:

    “the Designer submits to his Design, where the Designer makes rules that he then keeps”

    …is not compatible with belief in miracles. Let alone the fact that we do not know “the Laws”.

  3. 3
    ScuzzaMan says:

    This …is not compatible with belief in miracles.

    I don’t understand how it can be so” is not synonymous with “wrong“.

    Making ourselves the measure of all things is the first error, the misapprehension of the child.

  4. 4
    AaronS1978 says:

    It’s really nice to see a post like this lens credence to a little bit of hope and maybe Fixing a lot of the crazy when it comes to the neuroscience and free will

    By the way it’s also nice to see Scuzzaman and marfin back on, With a few others

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:

    News, this seems to be (again) a manifestation of the problem of the one and the many, here, we take as a first plausible that we have a coherent cosmos with ordering principles rather than an incoherent chaos that is utterly ad hoc. That is, we see the world as at some level a unified identifiable entity with stable characteristics including stable patterns for change and even for chance. In that context, we somehow expect that said principles are at least partly intelligible so that we can develop Mathematics, Logic and Science; historically the Christian worldview and cultures shaped by it had a lot to do with such, as RS aptly commented. It is appropriate to ask, why is such a view fruitful, as opposed to alternatives. For example why are we confident that a square circle cannot exist? (Injecting equivocations in definitions does not count here.) KF

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    Robert Sheldon at 1, excellent summation of Jaki’s work.

    I would also earnestly contend that not only was Christianity necessary for the rise of modern science, but that Christianity, specifically the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, also provides us with the correct solution for the “persistent metaphysical assumption of unity” that lays behind science. In other words, I hold that the universe was ‘set up’ by God for the resurrection of Christ from the dead. And moreover, that the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, in and of itself, provides the only coherent solution for the much sought after ‘theory of everything’. As Jesus said himself after his resurrection,

    Matthew 28:18
    And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

    Of course I don’t expect people to just take my word for the claim that Christ’s resurrection for the dead provides the correct solution for the much sought after ‘theory of everything’ so I will briefly lay out some of the evidence for that claim, (a claim which I covered many times before here on UD).

    First off, the main goal today of theoretical physicists trying to find a coherent ‘theory of everything’ is to mathematically unify general relativity and quantum mechanics into a single ‘unified’ theory.

    Yet, general relativity and quantum mechanics refuse to be mathematically unified. And with Godel’s incompleteness theorem (among other things), there was and is no reason to presuppose that a mathematical unification between those two theories into a ‘theory of everything’ will ever be forthcoming. No reason whatsoever. Moreover, even if they ever were able to hypothetically ‘renormalize’ the infinities between the two theories, Godel’s theorem would still dictate that it was an ‘incomplete’ theory. i.e. According to Godel, an ‘outside’ assumption would still be required.

    Secondly, both general relativity and quantum mechanics, our two most powerful theories in science, have overturned the Copernican principle and have thus restored humanity back to centrality in the universe.

    Thirdly, with the closing of the free will loophole in quantum mechanics, the Agent Causality of God and agent causality of man are found to be integral to our most fundamental theory of the universe, i.e. quantum mechanics.

    Fourthly, the Shroud of Turin, despite claims to the contrary, is authentic, even now being dated to the time of Christ. Moreover, the Shroud of Turin gives us evidence that both quantum mechanics and gravity, i.e. General Relativity, was dealt with in the resurrection of Christ from the dead.

    Here are a few notes that go into a bit more detail of those claims:

    (April 2019) Overturning the Copernican principle
    Thus in conclusion, the new interactive graph by Dr. Dembski provides a powerful independent line of evidence, along with several other powerful lines of evidence, that overturns the Copernican principle and restores humanity back to centrality in the universe, and even, when putting all those lines of evidence together, brings modern science back, full circle, to Christianity from whence it originated in the first place.
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/bill-dembski-and-colleagues-create-an-updated-magnifying-the-universe-tool/#comment-675730

    I will reiterate my case for Christ’s resurrection from the dead providing the correct solution for the much sought after “Theory of Everything”.
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/bill-nye-should-check-wikipedia/#comment-671692

    (February 19, 2019) To support Isabel Piczek’s claim that the Shroud of Turin does indeed reveal a true ‘event horizon’, the following study states that ‘The bottom part of the cloth (containing the dorsal image) would have born all the weight of the man’s supine body, yet the dorsal image is not encoded with a greater amount of intensity than the frontal image.’,,,
    Moreover, besides gravity being dealt with, the shroud also gives us evidence that Quantum Mechanics was dealt with. In the following paper, it was found that it was not possible to describe the image formation on the Shroud in classical terms but they found it necessary to describe the formation of the image on the Shroud in discrete quantum terms.
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/experiment-quantum-particles-can-violate-the-mathematical-pigeonhole-principle/#comment-673178
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/experiment-quantum-particles-can-violate-the-mathematical-pigeonhole-principle/#comment-673179

    Supplemental notes defending the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin:
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/viruses-devolve/#comment-674732

    To give us a small glimpse of the power that was involved in Christ resurrection from the dead, the following recent article found that, ”it would take 34 Thousand Billion Watts of VUV radiations to make the image on the shroud. This output of electromagnetic energy remains beyond human technology.”

    Astonishing discovery at Christ’s tomb supports Turin Shroud – NOV 26TH 2016
    Excerpt: The first attempts made to reproduce the face on the Shroud by radiation, used a CO2 laser which produced an image on a linen fabric that is similar at a macroscopic level. However, microscopic analysis showed a coloring that is too deep and many charred linen threads, features that are incompatible with the Shroud image. Instead, the results of ENEA “show that a short and intense burst of VUV directional radiation can color a linen cloth so as to reproduce many of the peculiar characteristics of the body image on the Shroud of Turin, including shades of color, the surface color of the fibrils of the outer linen fabric, and the absence of fluorescence”.
    ‘However, Enea scientists warn, “it should be noted that the total power of VUV radiations required to instantly color the surface of linen that corresponds to a human of average height, body surface area equal to = 2000 MW/cm2 17000 cm2 = 34 thousand billion watts makes it impractical today to reproduce the entire Shroud image using a single laser excimer, since this power cannot be produced by any VUV light source built to date (the most powerful available on the market come to several billion watts )”.
    Comment
    The ENEA study of the Holy Shroud of Turin concluded that it would take 34 Thousand Billion Watts of VUV radiations to make the image on the shroud. This output of electromagnetic energy remains beyond human technology.
    http://westvirginianews.blogsp.....in-is.html

    Verse:

    Colossians 1:15-22
    The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
    Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—

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