Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Philosophy is dead

Philosopher Christopher Norris attacks Hawking:
Stephen Hawking recently fluttered the academic dovecotes by writing in his new book The Grand Design – and repeating to an eager company of interviewers and journalists – that philosophy as practised nowadays is a waste of time and philosophers a waste of space. More precisely, he wrote that philosophy is ‘dead’ since it hasn’t kept up with the latest developments in science, especially theoretical physics. ...

No doubt there is a fair amount of ill-informed, obtuse, or ideologically angled philosophy that either refuses or tries but fails to engage with the concerns of present-day science. One can understand Hawking’s impatience – or downright exasperation – with some of the half-baked notions put around by refuseniks and would-be engageniks alike. All the same he would do well to consider the historically attested and nowadays more vital than ever role of philosophy as a critical discipline.
I posted my review of The Grand Design.

Norris plugs his own quantum mechanics book that gets this review:
Norris is admittedly motivated to defend a realist interpretation of Quantum Mechanics (QM) largely due to his own past as a literary cultural relativist type. Having seen the light, he is now concerned to show the rest of the constructivists out of the cave of their own making. ...

Norris constantly relies on the notion that a "Bohm type of `hidden variables' theory," (a phrase found perhaps on every page,) would restore the classical physicalist picture and (dis)solve the so called "quantum paradoxes."
They are disagreeing over the Interpretations of quantum mechanics. Hawking likes multiple universes while Norris likes Bohmian hidden variables. Both claim that they are solving the quantum riddle and defending realism.

They are both wrong. There may be reasons to believe in the Bohm or multiverse interpretations, but realism is not one of them. Those interpretations are much more bizarre and counter-intuitive than the more mainstream interpretations.

There seem to be a lot of self-appointed experts who insist on telling us what is real and what is not. The British leftist-atheist-evolutionist Richard Dawkins has announced a forthcoming book titled, The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True. He does not know very much physics, so he may or may not give an opinion about quantum reality. I guess that he will, as he praised Hawking for kicking God out of physics. Both Dawkins and Hawking (and others) have just given their brief opinions on why they are atheists, responding to the believers.

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